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About the Story
A puzzle game about committing acts of financial skulduggery and exploiting ridiculous magical items. This game is the complete version of the one that appeared in IntroComp 2011, where it won second place.
Nominee, Best Individual NPC; Nominee, Best Implementation - 2012 XYZZY Awards
Sparkly IF Reviews
The game is gleeful about the amoral nature of its protagonist, and resoundingly silly. My favorite solutions involved elaborate ways of deceiving other characters, from playing on momentary inattention to setting up the NPCs for complex misapprehensions: the puzzle designs use the NPCs in ways that go well beyond executing standard fetch-quests or dispatching hostile guards.
-- Emily Short
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Number of Reviews: 2
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Speculative Fiction is an extremely sharp, witty game. I'm glad the authors completed it, after placing second in 2011's IntroComp.
At its core, the game is just a straightforward puzzler, but it handles the player/PC/parser divide in very entertaining fashion. You are a wizard whose mind is trapped in the body of his familiar: W.D., an uncompromisingly gluttonous raven who's not entirely thrilled to be sharing his body. You command W.D., and he describes the world and performs actions in a more-or-less ravenly way; the parser's voice is (almost) entirely his. In that sense, the game's structure bears a small resemblance to Suspended, I suppose. However, unlike the robots, W.D. has his own will, and can thwart you from time to time. He's also hilarious from start to finish.
Your wizard has recently looted the kingdom's treasury and replaced the gold therein with an illusion. Acting through W.D., you must find a way to replace all the stolen money before the treasurer gets hold of the king and you are executed. Replacing the money involves committing many more crimes. Some of these are sly, subtle jabs at recent financial industry malfeasance, like one involving a robo-signer. Others are a bit blunter and crueler.
W.D. is the game's great creation. Calling him a wisecracking bird would reduce him to an animated Disney sidekick; he's much better than that. It's tempting to list out dozens of great lines, but I'll restrict myself to just a couple:
A poorly-executed forgery of the treasurer's signature. I suspect his name is not actually "The Treasurer." I also suspect he knows how to spell "treasurer." I wish your Spelling Wasp had caught on, boss. That one should have made us millionaires. Anaphylactic shock is a small price to pay for proper spelling.
He's got no eyeballs. Man, that's the best part of the human.
Even if you solve none of the puzzles, you should have a pretty good time just reading W.D.'s descriptions (as well as an excellent fake-terrible disambiguation message in the Stock Market).
The game is structured so that it's possible to get a decent ending by solving only the easier puzzles. The more puzzles you can solve, the better an ending you can open up. This would seem to make it newbie-friendly, except that the puzzles do become very challenging, verging on underclued, including one I didn't even realize was a puzzle until I read ABOUT HINT (which does not actually dispense hints, but simply lists the primary tasks).
The implementation is decent with a few hiccups. The authors have replaced most of the default responses with W.D.-appropriate ones, and they're terrific. However, there are occasional missing line breaks, a repeated word or two, some unimplemented objects, and a couple of bugs (one of which which allowed me to short-circuit the game's cleverest puzzle, albeit in amusing fashion).
But frankly, it doesn't matter. W.D. is so ingenious that you should play Speculative Fiction just for the writing.
In this game, you play a wizard commanding a crow familiar. It is one of many long games set in a Zork/Enchanter-like world with light-hearted but increasingly difficult puzzles (such as Frobozz Magic Support, Augmented Fourth and Risorgimento Represso). In these games, I usually start out delighted, and solve some puzzles, then slowly get weary of it and give up, turning to the walkthrough and enjoying the ride. I think that one reason they lack the magic of Zork or Enchanter is that those old games had a real sense of decay and loss around them, and of personal growth. It's like the difference between milk chocolate and semi-sweet chocolate: a little bitterness goes a long way.
Anyways, this game is great for having its own magic system, for for allowing you to beat the game with only having solved 4 out of the big puzzles, and for making the first four easy. I smiled at the first bank puzzle. The last 3 puzzles and the endgame involve the old standbys of alchemy and complicated machinery that you have to experiment with.
Overall, this game is better-written and more funny than Frobozz magic support, and its two-tiered puzzle structure makes it more accessible and likely to be beaten than most such games, so I think this will be my go-to game to suggest to people in this sub-genre.
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PollsThe following polls include votes for Speculative Fiction:
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