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Murphy's Law

by Scott Hammack

Slice of life

(based on 17 ratings)
3 reviews

About the Story

Thing are looking up! After decades of scrimping and saving, you've finally pulled yourself out of debt. The only thing left standing between you and financial independence is one last mortgage payment. What could possibly go wrong?

Game Details


15th Place - 18th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2012)

Editorial Reviews

Sparkly IF Reviews
The desire to create a painstaking simulacrum of reality is a common pitfall for beginning authors, whether writing interactive fiction or not, with the resulting work running the risk of all too well recreating every day tedium. Murphy’s Law takes on this cliche head on with a twisted and satisfying depiction of the banality of paying one’s bills. [...] While I enjoy experimental IF, Murphy’s Law is more like a good pop song: concise, cohesive, and fun.
-- Zach Samuels
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Number of Reviews: 3
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Not enough goes wrong., July 18, 2016
by Wade Clarke (Sydney, Australia)
Related reviews: Inform, IFComp 2012

(I originally published this review on 8 October 2012 as part of my blog of IFComp 2012. This was the 12th of 26 games I reviewed.)

Murphy, that loveable rapscallion of misfortune, strikes again all cobra-like in this light-hearted adventure about a man trying to post his last mortgage payment to the bank in the face of a phalanx of obstacles. Games along these lines are ubiquitous in adventuredom and thus tend to make players of even a little experience wary, in spite of the ebullience the games themselves typically bring. This one starts out quite well with some amusing descriptions and puzzles. The trouble is that ultimately there aren't enough obstacles or puzzles to generate the sense that the fates really have it in for us today, which is what the premise promises.

The first hazard sets the silly and harried tone well: a paper cut from an envelope must be bandaged quickly to prevent death. Next, my interactions with the cockroach blocking my path to the garage made me laugh, starting with its description:

A cockroach lurks on the wall near the exit to the garage, waving its antennae menacingly at you.

When I noticed that bug spray was listed on the shopping list attached to the kitchen wall, I started to enjoy the anticipatory sense of Babel Fish like pain which was developing. Would I now have to find a way to get in my car to get to the store to buy some bug spray to spray the cockroach paradoxically blocking my path to the car in the first place? It turned out that... (Spoiler - click to show)I would not, though I was impressed that I came up with the solution of putting a glass over the cockroach myself, and that it worked, just because I do this a lot in real life.

Once I made it to the garage, the problem with the obstacle of the car not starting was its lack of humour. (Spoiler - click to show)It really did just hinge on the hassle of having to read the instructions on the jumper kit then finding the right commands to execute them, boringly attaching the cables to the correct terminals on the battery. I don't enjoy doing this kind of thing in IF where everyday items are concerned; it's just not fun.

The joke of the bank robbery is that in spite of its high drama, it doesn't stop you from giving your check to the teller in the end. And dynamically this is a good fakeout before you drive home and crash into your house due to that annoying kid from next door. (Unless there's an ending where you don't crash – I only got 17/20 points.)
I didn't find the game's destructive finale as funny as I would have liked, probably because the grandness of it demands a bigger and longer build up. The PC should have suffered more first in order to fully milk the pathos. I can read the sketch of the intended dynamics of the game, but basically Murphy's Law needs a bigger, funnier and more drastic middle part for the dynamics to work, and to live up to its title. Though it's also possible that due to the overabundance of this kind of game in IF, no game can live up to this particular title.

The game is decently implemented in general. The only bona fide bug I found was that I was able to pick up the medicine cabinet. The score system could probably use an overhaul, as its structure contributes to the sense that not enough bad stuff happens to the protagonist over the course of the game. The score is out of 20, and your first minor triumph gets you 1 point, making you suspect there may be 19 more hurdles to overcome, but this isn't the case. (Spoiler - click to show)You get 10 points for paying your bill and 3 (I think) for drinking a beer.

Given the premise of Murphy's Law, I mostly wish there had been more of it to bolster its premise.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A series of unfortunate events in your house, August 14, 2016

This game is a short-to-mid-length parser game about trying to send a check to the bank. As you try to do so, things go terribly wrong.

This game felt a little bland and under implemented, but then great moments were sprinkled throughout that would make me want to play it again. A cockroach and a young child provide some memorable interactions, and unexpected events at the bank add to the story as well. But it overall feels a bit unpolished or unfinished, as if the author ran out of time.

It has a timer puzzle early on, and a couple of sticky points verb-wise later on.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A babel fish puzzle, October 6, 2012
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)

I played Murphy's Law for the IFComp, so a couple of the minor problems I had may be worked out in subsequent versions.

This game reminded me of some old school Infocom in a good way. The descriptions are relatively terse, but the author did a great job implementing pretty much everything described,(Spoiler - click to show)(except for the robbers in each corner of the bank) and little details abound. The writing is full of very subtle humor; your goal is to pay your last mortgage payment so you will own your house free and clear. In the process of doing so, things go wrong, and the whole affair becomes more complicated. It reminded me quite of bit of BUREAUCRACY, the infuriating puzzler by Douglas Adams, but isn't nearly as complicated as one would first think given the concept. I was never unsure of what to do except during one major bug:

(Spoiler - click to show)
>get in car
You get into your station wagon.

>close car
You close your station wagon.

>start car
You'll need to get inside first.

>get inside car
I only understood you as far as wanting to get inside.

>enter car
But you're already in your station wagon.

>start car
You'll need to get inside first.

>put keys in ignition
You put your keys into the ignition.

>start car
You'll need to get inside first.

>enter car
But you're already in your station wagon.

>get out
You can't get out of the closed your station wagon.

>start car
You'll need to get inside first.

>open car
You open your station wagon.

>start car
You turn the key, but the car only makes some pathetic whining noises before falling silent.

This type of game setup is a classic babel fish puzzle - All you have to do is press the button to get a babel fish, but it falls through an unseen grate. Blocking the grate causes cleaning robots to steal the fish...and so on. A simple task turns into a picaresque affair.

That said, I didn't think the game went far enough with it's machinations. There is one timed puzzle (boo!) at the beginning where you can die. The finale seems to set up an uber-puzzle that is thrown away by going nowhere. (Spoiler - click to show)You stand in a relatively short line at the bank and when you get to the window, masked men enter and stage a robbery, setting up would could be an intricate DOG DAY AFTERNOON type scenario, with four guards each in one corner of the bank, prompting me to think I would need to work out a four-way manipulation puzzle, or that each one would need me to do something for them to give up on the lead robber - IE the situation is rife with possibility and I could see how your mounting frustration through the game could wind up in a comic catharsis as you attempt to thwart the bank robbers...(Spoiler - click to show) but all you need to do is wait and the robbers are paid, they leave, and the bank continues normal operation. Even if this resolved as it does, I would have loved to have seen the bank teller report "All our money and paperwork is gone, so I can't do anything with your payment..." sending you off on another branch of the adventure, perhaps to a wacky post office. As written seems just a tad short and anticlimactic. However, I thought the denouement was great and just right, I just wasn't *frustrated* enough by the game for it to pay off like it seems it should.(Spoiler - click to show) The protagonist is pretty unfazed by this, and I believe the "frustration" is supposed to build up in the player. If there had been a little more backstory about how you've grown to *hate* this house and through the process something better had opened up, say a way to escape to the robbers' hideout in the Cayman islands with your wife and live happily ever after...or something.

That said, it's a great short game that shows promise and has lots of room for expansion into a moderately longer game.

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