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Steal 10 Treasures to Win This Game

by spaceflounder profile


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(based on 3 ratings)
3 reviews

About the Story

Want a quick castle crawl? Find all 10 treasures and victory is yours.

You've probably played a ton of castle-based text adventure treasure hunts, but nothing like this. Steal 10 Treasures to Win This Game is a single key parser game—type a key on the keyboard, and the game decides what your input means based on context. Care to match wits with the griffin? Can you endure the harmonious machinations of the murderous invisible barbershop quartet? And, most importantly, what is a crocodile dentist?

Game Details


2nd Place, Freestyle - ParserComp 2023


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Number of Reviews: 3
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Hunt and peck, September 22, 2023
by Mike Russo (Los Angeles)
Related reviews: ParserComp 2023

Judging from the title, you’d be forgiven for thinking this game would be a forgettable throwback, puzzler where you wander around an ersatz fantasy environment, solving simple puzzles and looking for valuables to hoover up for no reason other than that they’re there, all the while enjoying/enduring various wacky scenarios and overenthusiastic jokes. And Steal 10 Treasures isn’t not that, certainly; yup, there’s a castle; no, there’s rationale for you to be raiding it; yes, the first puzzle involves refusing a poisoned ice cream; no, it doesn’t get any less silly from there. Still, it’s anything but generic, and merits inclusion in the freestyle category by dint of its interface: you type commands just like a regular parser game, sure, but it only recognizes actions that are a single letter long.

To give an example of how this works, instead of writing out a full command, you just type, say, A which if you happen to be in the dungeon would get interpreted contextually to ATTACK CLAM (I told you about the wacky scenarios). Or S might get you SMELL CLAM PLEASE; meanwhile, since there’s nothing to move around down there, pushing P just pops up PUSH ANYTHING, which unsurprisingly accomplish much when you hit enter. Navigation, meanwhile, is handled via the arrow keys.

This is a limited parser game, in other words – something I’ve had on my mind of late 5 – but a peculiar sort of one. Outside of navigation and out-of-game commands, there are about a dozen actions on offer, running the usual parser-puzzler gamut (including LICK, as I understand is becoming the style), and while the help screen doesn’t tell you all of them, since it only takes a minute to try out all the keys on the keyboard to learn the “secret” commands, the player generally knows exactly what their options are.

That’s the theory, at least – in practice, I often found myself at a bit of a loss for what to type. There are too many possible actions to be easily held in the head at once, and because many of the commands start with the same letter, the keyboard mapping sometimes felt about as intuitive as that of an early Ultima game (Ztats, anyone?) If P is push, then Y must be pull – so that means B is yell? C for climb is intuitive enough, as is T for turn, but then you’ve got V for converse. And sometimes the game seems willfully perverse: G isn’t mapped to anything, but rather than using that, you need to type a period to get an item. The result of all of this is that when I entered a new room and was confronted with a new situation, my first instinct was to just start hammering out QWERTY and continuing from there until I found an option that looked good.

I ran into the lawnmowering problem, in other words, where the player turns off their brain and tries to make progress by mechanically trying every choice until they hit on one that works. As I discuss in my Rosebush article, there are various strategies limited-parser games can use to make this approach less appealing – it’s a little gauche to keep flogging it, but I feel like you, specifically, would really enjoy it – like timing puzzles, actions that are contingent on the presence or absence of different NPCs, or concealed second-order actions, but Steal 10 Treasures doesn’t employ any of them.

This is a real kick against it, but I’m compelled to note that in practice, even as one part of me was cataloguing the ways the design didn’t quite work, another part was just enjoying the ride. Sure, silly treasure-hunts are played out at this late date, but the reason they’ve stuck around so long is that they can be a lot of fun. And the game’s gags and puzzles are solid enough to carry it pretty far – it’s just big enough to avoid being trivial without being so sprawling that it gets annoying, does a good job of clueing its puzzles and alternating big, multi-step ones with short, easy ones (I especially liked the decidedly non-standard way you deal with the dragon), and the jokes adeptly ride the line between wacky-silly and wacky-ridiculous.

As a result, the single-letter gimmick didn’t wind up being as much of a downside as I thought it’d be; it might have even wound up being a plus, making it easier for me to kick back and enjoy the ride. Not every game needs to be Hadean Lands: if all you’re after is beer and pretzels, isn’t it nicer to just lift a finger to signal for another round, rather than having to spell out your order every time?

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A 'one letter' parser game with some tricky puzzles, July 14, 2023
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game was kind of a rollercoaster experience for me.

I started it up, and it looked like a simple tutorial adventure, like a TALJ game intended to be succinct.

But I soon found that I couldn't type, as it looked like it was auto-completing everything I typed, and into weird things.

So I tried experimenting a while but just didn't get it. I saw that ? gave instructions, so I tried typing that.

It turns out that different keyboard keys are mapped to whole actions, and typing that key will give that action. It's not quadratic in complexity, it's linear (1 key 1 action, no nouns as they are context-dependent).

So overall it's an interesting effect, similar to Gruescript or other parser-choice hybrids. Some of the choices for commands were a bit odd, and some (like arrow keys) seem like they wouldn't translate to mobile well (which I didn't try).

Overall, the puzzles were clever and the game was polished. The interactivity definitely threw me for a loop and I'm pretty sure I'm not a fan, although it's hard to say if that's just because I'm not used to it or because it would be perennially awkward. I guess I could compare it to the text adventure equivalent of QWOP.

Overall the charming and complex puzzles are why I'm giving a higher score.

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Don't be fooled by the title. This has a lot new to show you!, July 10, 2023
by Andrew Schultz (Chicago)
Related reviews: ParserComp 2023

Self-aware games about looting castles and adventuring for its own sake and such are relatively common and generally do pretty well. Titles that pretend they didn't try, or at least you hope they are, but you're worried they actually didn't try. Some are forgotten, because they didn't try. Some, like Yet Another Game With a Dragon. Yon Astounding Castle (of Some Sort), obviously put effort into the title and wound up successful. Steal 10 Treasures quickly earned its way into their ranks, with the suggestion you're not a VERY heroic adventure, but it offers a new parser experience with the expected assortment of meta-humor and misdirections and efficient gags. My overall impression is that it should appeal to everyone: classic parser fans, people who don't like parsers, and people who are trying to learn parsers but don't want to have to memorize a bunch of commands.

S1T is the sort of game that puts its tongue in its cheek and keeps it there, all while being very intelligible. It's what I imagine the administrators of ParserComp hoped for 2023 when they created "freestyle" and "classic" divisions, and it paid off right away. I imagine the author felt very welcome to create this sort of work. Some of the one-letter commands step over themselves a bit, so there's a small learning curve, but the game's supposed to be a bit absurd, anyway, so it's easy to laugh off. For instance, P is push, but Y is pull, since P is taken and YANK works well enough. But then yell is B, for bawl. T is dedicated to turn, but the period sign is used for take, which I found really handy. C is climb, and V is conVerse. The arrow keys are used for compass directions (and there's a compass up top showing you which ways you can go,) since the letters need to be saved for other things, and it works terribly well, better than standard parsers where arrows are used to move around inside or between previous commands. Here, you don't need to tweak previous commands. There are even a few commands you pick up along the way once you found a few items. All are labeled in the help and thus eliminate guess-the-verb. So the parser organization feels like a huge success to me, with a small learning curve.

The plot is pretty self-explanatory. There is a castle (33 rooms, according to Trizbort) with 10 treasures. Some are hidden. Some are in plain sight, but you can't take them right away because you need a special tool. The first one I saw seemed way too heavy to carry, but the game's internal logic shortly rendered that worry moot. There are all the elements you'd expect for an adventure, with monsters and things that can kill you: a dragon, of course, and a griffin who gives you a trivial riddle you can't solve on your own, even though you've (quickly) tried all the reasonable guesses. Oh, there is a maze, too. Of course, this being the 2020s, you don't have to actually map it out. Once I saw the solution, I was surprised no other game had thought of it before. I was amused at the overconfidence the game makes you feel with the most direct try. Then it pulls the rug from under you. Then--oh, THAT's what you do.

But if S1T was just about meta jokes, it would just be a moderately fun corny time. The puzzles are legitimately interesting, where you have something in one room that affects another. And you have an NPC you must rescue who helps you later. It's pretty clear how, and even when he does, the conversation that ensues would actually be kind of annoying in real life. The author keeps that bit short, and it works.

Perhaps the most memorable bit for me is a puzzle that might feel like busy work, if it were thrown in with too many others, but because it is part of the game with a lot of quick jokes, it's a neat abstract exercise, and you feel smart doing it, even if you don't have to do any huge calculations. It reminds me of another Infocom classic game, but it's good enough that I don't want to spoil it. You'll know which one once you play it, and you find the treasure. It's technically impressive enough that we can picture the author thinking, hey, should I show off a bit like this, and the answer is, yes, they should have. The misdirection here is that the maze is quick to go through, but this is more involved. Yet at the same time, there's little or no painful trial and error.

Though some of the puzzles do force you to say, "can I really trust the author?" One such example is an NPC you can't defeat by yourself. At first I assumed I couldn't get past it, and attacking it meant death, so when I ran out of stuff to do, I thought "hmm, I'd like a funny instadeath." And I walked right past! Though actually there was nothing behind it, used to defeat it.

S1T also sands a lot of details down. I'd also like to give the author credit for what was a really nice soundtrack. I'm not a fan of soundtracks, usually, but the music was, well, sort of like elevator music wants to be. It changes up. It reminds you not to take things too seriously. And when I was stuck on a puzzle, at least I had the music to listen to. It also has a very nice hint system, where you can ask with just one key push, and it pops up, saying there's nothing more to do here. And the clues themselves don't completely spoil anything. And I also enjoyed how directions were implemented, even if you couldn't go a certain place. For instance, if you don't go north to the castle in the forest at the start, The Game says, oh, come on, there's treasure ahead, don't think out! This is something that I always bug writers about when I am testing, because I think it's a really easy way to round out the world and author has built without going into detail, and too often the restrictions on what we can do make you feel small. Here, it opens up possibilities, or it just has several variations on the quote hey, doofus, stop walking into walls. "

One thing I may remember most about this game, though, is that the blurb mentioned some rooms, and I missed one of them the first time through, and even though I saw the game, I wanted to see that special room. I wound up doing so, because originally I had just said, okay, I'll get through the maze.

I played S1t the same weekend I played Cheree: Remembering my Murderer. I wound up replaying them both in short order. They are the biggest successes for the new "freestyle" group. They're two totally different games but really show how we can do more with the parser than what Infocom or Scott Adams could, with their 64k limitations. S1T pays homage to the old games and seems to note their shortcomings. CRM tries for much more wide-open stuff, with a more serious plot, and contrasting them makes me feel the administrators' decisions were a success. They're not for every writer to do, or try. In fact, most of us will never get close, and some may find the classic parser better shows the world we've created. But seeing two radically different works that break the mold renews my faith in the community being able to find these new ideas consistently. There must be more.

The author has found an interesting way to give the parser experience without having to hit your head over a lot of weird and abstruse commands. Perhaps there is latitude for having, maybe, two letters for a command. And the parser can work that out. I don't think that would have worked here, because it would have interrupted the pace of the jokes, but for a more serious tone and bigger game, it would be neat to have that autofill so that people could plow through. So I think this was a success both technically and creatively. It reminds me of the best skits or movies of Cheech and Chong, which don't seem VERY clever, because it's just two idiots arguing, right? But they know what works, and they know why those idiots are funny and show us more than "geez, people are idiots sometimes." They want their absurdism to make sense and not have lots of levels of abstraction, and they know when to play dumb. So does S1T.

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