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Two games in one: solve a logical puzzlefest and write a story, December 6, 2018
What new can one say about a game that's been reviewed ten times already? Not much, perhaps, but Delightful Wallpaper is such a delight that perhaps reviewing it will bring it to other folks' attentions.
The most important thing to know about Delightful Wallpaper is that it is two games in one. The first game is basically a shorter version of Inside the Facility. (Well, Delightful Wallpaper predates Inside the Facility by ten years, so perhaps it's more accurate to say that Inside the Facility is a longer version of the first half of Delightful Wallpaper.) The puzzles all revolve around movement: Visiting certain locations or traversing certain passages triggers various doors to open or close in the mansion. You must learn and keep track of these in order to figure out how to reach all of the rooms. It's a logical puzzlefest of the kind I particularly enjoy.
You're assisted greatly by the fact that the game keeps "notes" for you that you can review. If something interesting happens when you visit a room or traverse a passage, the game records it in your list of notes, perhaps along with a question mark. When you discover what that particular action did, the game updates that entry in the notes. It makes the puzzles much easier than they would be otherwise: You don't have to worry about having missed something important in the text. It also means that the game records some solutions in your notes before you've completely figured out what's happening. I have a mixed opinion on the notes: I think they make what would likely be a fiendishly difficult game into something much more reasonable, but they also tilt the game a little too far to the easy side for my taste. However, I appreciate the challenge the author faces here, and I also can't think of a better solution for hitting the difficulty level "sweet spot" than the one the author has chosen.
The second game is very different. You have to collect "intentions" (these are sort of like motivations or actions different characters can take) and place them around the mansion. You're essentially creating a narrative for the characters. You don't have complete control of the narrative, though: There's a definite end state for each of the characters, and there are plenty of restrictions on which intentions you can place where. All in all, the second half of Delightful Wallpaper plays like a story that you're writing. It's interactive, in the sense that there are choices that you make for the characters, but you're not actually one of the characters. Instead, you're more like an author, deciding what each character does. While I think different interpretations are possible here, I felt like I was (Spoiler - click to show)Agatha Christie writing a sequel to And Then There Were None.
If I could have one wish about the second half, it would be to include a puzzle where you must put the intentions in a particular logical order in order to make the narrative work. In retrospect, the set of intention placements that I came up with did result in a narrative that made logical sense, but I would have liked to have seen the intentions constructed such that this was a bit harder to do.
So, what we have here are two games in one. And the games are very different. They're like two classic IF archetypes: the logical puzzlefest to be solved and the interactive story to be written. I suppose you could also say that in Delightful Wallpaper the opposing sides of Graham Nelson's "narrative at war with a crossword" description of IF have declared a cease-fire, with each side agreeing to take half of the game.
All in all, a delight to play.