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About the Story
It's the year 1987. As an undercover operative Sinus for the T.U.R.T.L.E organization, (Tactical Unit for Rapid and Thorough Lethal Espionage), you have recently been assigned to a task in Italy. A few weeks ago, your colleague, operative Onyx, was sent to Aurelia, a small village in Northern Italy. His task was to gather intelligence and uncover the dealings of the enigmatic Count Schwarzberg. Rumored to be entangled with crime organizations, including the infamous Italian mafia, the Count's activities have so far remained veiled in secrecy.
Your boss, Ember, has recently received a backup and assistance request from agent Onyx. So they need *you* now, operative Sinus, to be urgently redirected to Aurelia to assist and evaluate the situation.
NOTE: This game uses intentionally retro-style, small resolution images and limited color palette. The idea is to release a web-based (HTML) version of the game for this competition. But it has been developed in Adventuron 8-bit compatibility mode, so it would be possible to translate and release it also to the ZX Spectrum Next computer at some point later. I developed the very first version of the game back in the year 1987. but it never got released, in any form, because it became much too demanding for the ZX Spectrum 48K memory.
Content warning: While intended to be fun and recreational, this game does include some amount of kicking, and there is even one dead body. So, not suitable for small children.
21st Place - 29th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2023)
P.B. Parjeter at Intfiction.org
CODENAME OBSCURA is the second game that I chose to play during IF Comp. It's a spy game set in 1980s Italy by @MikaKujala. I enjoyed it overall.
I was mainly attracted to the game because of its graphics. The author notes that the images are low-resolution ... but they look great right now. I am looking at the opening shot, admiring the shadows on the bed and curtains. I’m also thinking about the amount of effort that probably went into making the apple recognizable in the blocky still-life painting on the wall. Even if this was not drawn from scratch, the pixel editing is top-notch.
As noted, this is a spy thriller. The story is played straight despite the fact that your spy agency has the slightly silly acronym T.U.R.T.L.E. There aren’t any twists or turns in the plot: you’re simply tasked with retrieving a diamond from a bad guy.
There is lots of flavor in the story, though, mainly in the form of set-pieces, one-time characters, and lots of Italian dialogue. There are also some references to religion, which actually serve as clues.
The author calls the game “fun and recreational,” but it’s nice to have those motifs/touches, even if there isn’t a grand message behind it all.
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There’s a tendency in interactive fiction for people to talk about ‘old fashioned adventures’ or ‘old school’ games , but it means different things to different people, usually ‘similar to games I played as a kid’.
I didn’t really get heavily into IF until I was in my thirties, so I don’t have a ton of feelings for older games. But I do have a couple experiences as a kid; one was trying Zork in my teens and failing to do much of anything (quit at the dam), and the other was playing some obscure text adventures with graphics in 6th grade (one called Hacker and another about rhymes in an Alice in Wonderland type world).
This game really evoked for me the nostalgia of those games, like Hacker. I know other Adventuron games are similar in appearance, but this also really got the feel of games of those time down well. It even reminded me of the feel of games like Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis.
Anyway, you’re a spy for a secret organization called TURTLE and you’re called in to rescue another spy who is in trouble. Your goal is to infiltrate the enemy’s secret villa and steal back his diamond while stopping his evil plan.
There are a lot of tropes here similar to the 80s and 90s and early bond movies. Some are a bit outdated, but it has a nice overall action vibe. It’s also very Italian (for me the most Italian moment was finding a monastery where the monks wouldn’t let you in without a crucifix). There’s a lot of Italian text in the game. While I’m not fluent, I could understand most of the Italian pretty easily, but it may be useful having google translate nearby (although you can’t copy and paste from Adventuron, last time I checked).
Puzzles were generally fair and well clued, and had fun features like a computer system and a money system. I had to check the walkthrough near the end about three different times.
Overall, I had a great time. Very fun.
Codename Obscura is a parser-based IF made by Mika Kujala, published during IFComp 2023. In this story, you are a secret agent in Italy on a mission to gather intelligence and possibly unravel a clandestine scheme or two.
The game has been made on Adventuron and is intentionally very retro in style. It's basically an old-school, puzzle-heavy adventure game with a fairly limited parser as well as some lovingly crafted low-res graphics which help set the atmosphere. You can have shrill PC speaker sound effects, too, if you enable them from the menu.
This title lacks many of the niceties of modern parser-based games, which raises its difficulty on occasion. The parser error messages are generic to the point of being unhelpful. The game is a bit inconsistent on verb usage - sometimes "use" works, sometimes it doesn't. There aren't many synonyms for common verbs either. You can't examine portable items before picking them up, which often leads to some redundant typing. There are a lot of contextual actions too, which only do what you'd expect in some specific room in the game and nowhere else. The puzzle design, likewise, can be a bit obscure in its reasoning, and I had to resort to the walkthrough more than once while playing.
I like the quaint charm of the 80's Italian setting, though. The graphics look nice, and the prose also uses some snippets of Italian to create an impression of visiting a foreign time and place. It's a kind of a pity that the implementation is not very deep and there isn't much to do in the game world besides general exploration and puzzles, but I suppose it makes sense considering the style of gameplay this title is going for.
Overall, Codename Obscura provides puzzles and intrigue for at least an hour or two. Retro puzzlers are not my favorite style of IF, but the game's terse writing and spirited atmosphere managed to leave a positive impression.
Another gem found. Appreciated the depth of exploration for a one-hour game, the beautiful pixelated old-school graphics(!), and the ease of gameplay (well I liked that you don't need a walkthrough for this; the in-game hint system was simple but sufficient to point you in the right direction when you need one. The difficulty was just right and that was a significant part of the fun). Was stuck at the very last part in (Spoiler - click to show) catching the main criminal but managed to figure it out eventually after a few failed attempts. Minor glitch encountered where (Spoiler - click to show) the turtle reappeared and I could take the turtle even though I had already done so, after revisiting the fountain the second time. (Spoiler - click to show)Wasn't quite sure what the microphone on the box in the villa was about though, and didn't manage to find the other puzzle piece for the mosaic wall either, but one could still complete the mission without these.
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