Stuff of Legend

by Lance Campbell profile

Fantasy
2020

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Number of Reviews: 9
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Well-implemented and charming, December 12, 2020
by Mike Russo (Los Angeles)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2020

Stuff of Legend is just the kind of palate-cleanser I love to come across deep in the throes of working through my Comp queue. It isn’t trying to do anything revolutionary with a thought-provoking setting or intensive characterization or teeth-grinding puzzling or pomo narrative trickery; it just delivers a charming, funny, well-designed and well-implemented puzzlefest that doesn’t wear out its welcome, and sometimes that’s exactly what you’re looking for.

The setup here doesn’t go much beyond what’s in the blurb: as a village idiot who’s had his fill of idioting after being bullied by a drunken lout (idiots > louts), you limp your way home to the farm where you live. After commiserating with the farm family, you strike upon the idea of become a knight instead of an idiot, and engage in some light puzzling across a medium-sized map, getting outfitted with a knight’s equipment and then embarking on a quest or two (though most of these might be more appropriate to an animal-control officer than a paragon of chivalric valor).

The humor really helps this all land – the writing is full of malapropisms, and there’s lots of scenery and incidental detail that throw off good jokes when examined, though I think my favorite joke was the response to X ME (Spoiler - click to show)(”You have a face like a pile of mashed potatoes and a body like a much taller pile of mashed potatoes”). The player character is a fool, so many of the jokes are formally at your expense, but crucially, neither the narrative voice nor the other characters are ever cruel: they might sigh at your occasional foibles, but it’s all fairly indulgent and supportive, and after getting through the puzzles you’re rewarded with some clear victories. Games with this kind of humor can sometimes come off mean, like they’re not on the player’s side, but SoL never even comes close to hitting this flaw.

The puzzles also strike just the right note. They’re all cleanly set up through conversation with the different members of the family – each has a distinct puzzle chain, and offers some clues as to how to accomplish it. There’s usually a few different tasks to be working on at any given time, though they intersect and progress neatly enough so that things are rarely overwhelming. Most are of fairly gentle difficulty (especially if you take a few notes as you go), and it’s fun to poke and prod your way through some of the more involved ones (Spoiler - click to show)(I’m thinking especially of the pattern-recognition puzzles to get the horse’s blanket, where even once you figure out what’s entailed, there’s still a bit of pleasant business required to accomplish it – the cat-based navigation puzzle is like this too).

I did have to have recourse to the (well-done) hint menu to resolve one guess-the-verb issue (Spoiler - click to show)(breaking the coconut open using the sharp boulder: I tried CUT COCONUT WITH BOULDER, OPEN COCONUT WITH BOULDER, THROW COCONUT AT BOULDER, PUT COCONUT ON BOULDER… only CRACK COCONUT WITH BOULDER worked). But other than that, the parser is forgiving, the world is detailed and well-implemented, the menu-driven conversations are easy to navigate; Stuff of Legend goes down smooth, even as it manages to lightly tickle your gray matter on its way to a heart-warming resolution.