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The Last Mountain

by Dee Cooke profile

Slice of Life

Web Site

(based on 7 ratings)
5 reviews

About the Story

You're out on the mountain again for the Merrithorne Mountain Race, your friend Susan by your side as ever. But something is different this time. Susan is struggling, and your chances of finishing the race in good time are slipping away.

Run your race along the mountain route and see where it takes you. How will it end this time?

Game Details


3rd Place, Classic - ParserComp 2023

2nd Place (tie), Best Story-Focused Game; 23rd Place, Best in Show - The IF Short Games Showcase 2023


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Number of Reviews: 5
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Most Helpful Member Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Run for your life, September 22, 2023
by Mike Russo (Los Angeles)
Related reviews: ParserComp 2023

Here’s one of my pet theories of IF that I’m not sure I’ve written down before: there should be more parser games about sports. This isn’t due to any native affinity for them – more power to those who are into sports, I could care less about any professional teams, I only did a real sport for two semesters for all my high school and college years, and I’m the kind of schmuck who thinks it’s funny to respond “Interpol investigations” when the check-in question at a work meeting is “what’s your favorite Olympic event?”

No, it’s because of that old writing adage that action reveals character. We can get told that a character is clever or cowardly or chokes under pressure or what not, but until that gets on screen in some way – meaning, in a game, that they take some action that demonstrates the trait – it’s all theoretical. The trouble is, the sorts of character traits that can be revealed by the business of a typical parser game are fairly limited by the medium-dry-goods world model that tends to dominate: “resourceful” and “kleptomaniac” can only take you so far. Then consider that for a linear puzzle game, beyond the difficulty of coming up with and implementing multiple solutions to puzzles, it can also be a challenge for authors to invent reasons why different approaches might actually matter in narrative terms.

Sports offer a fresh way of engaging with these problems: beyond the fact that they create a rules-based framework that supports novel kinds of gameplay, their victory or scoring conditions also offer built-in consequences for a player’s choices, meaning that discrete, relatively-easy-to-implement physical actions can be freighted with narrative and/or thematic weight (This, by the way, is why my dark-horse pick for TV shows that totally should have gotten an RPG is Friday Night Lights). To be clear, I’m not saying that Madden 2023 would clean up at IFComp or anything – but that I do think there’s a lot of potential in parser games that use sports rather than conventional puzzles as their main gameplay elements.

Anyway, I wish that a) I’d written this theory down before playing The Last Mountain, and b) that I could count it as vindication of said theory, when the truth is that it could just be that a talented author like Dee Cooke can make any of their ideas look genius.

Yes, you might have lost track of the fact that this is technically a review somewhere in the previous four paragraphs of maundering, but I swear, these thoughts are relevant to understanding why this Adventuron game works so well, and feels (at least to me) so unique. The setup certainly isn’t one you’ve heard before: the player midway through a long-distance foot race with their running partner, Susan, who’s uncharacteristically flagging early as you tackle the last mountain before the finish line. You’ve got a water bottle, a flashlight, the race directions (there’s an orienteering component), and some walking poles, and with those you need to overcome a series of obstacles – getting tired, losing the trail, facing one last steep descent. Some of them are decision-points, some are inventory puzzles, and none on their own is that innovative – but again, the fact that they’re all happening in a race rationalizes the barriers, and adds a compelling urgency to solve them quickly.

Susan is the other part of the equation. The game deftly sketches your relationship with her – she’s somewhere between a friend and a mentor who helped bring you into this racing hobby – and presents her uncharacteristic fatigue as a central dilemma of the game. Again and again, you’re faced with the option (and Susan’s explicit prompting) to leave her behind so you can get a good finishing time. I’m guessing that most players won’t be tempted to ditch her, but still, the fact that the choice is there lends added weight to the individual puzzles.

The prose thus has to accomplish a lot of different things: create a sense of place, of course, while making sure to foreground Susan’s presence and give the player everything they need to engage with the game. It’s thankfully up to the task, and accomplishes all this with economy and without getting showy, too. Here’s a bit of mid-game scene-setting I especially liked:

"As the trees become denser, you realise how dark this forest can start to feel when the daylight isn’t so bright. You’ve never been here so late before. It makes it really difficult to identify the right path, even with Susan’s keen sense of direction.

"The forest has become really dense here. The smell of dry branches and the hooting of birds surround you, making you feel a little claustrophobic."

My one kick against the game is that I experienced a few guess-the-verb struggles, partially born of my own lack of experience with this kind of running, but also partially because the parser didn’t feel like it was meeting me halfway as I flailed about trying to figure out how to use the walking poles (yes, for those of you who have played the sailing sequence in Sting, I am aware of the irony of me of all people whining about this). Beyond that, I suppose one might complain that the player will guess what’s up with Susan well before the ending – but I don’t think that’s actually a fault with the game; the tension between the player’s suspicion that it’s serious, and the protagonist’s urge to do well in the race, is another piece of the engine that helps make it work so well. And for all that the reveal wasn’t a surprise, I still felt that it had emotional heft when it landed.

All of this is to say that I found The Last Mountain very good on its own merits, as well as instructive for the directions I think it suggests for future works, which is exactly the sort of thing one wants to come across in ParserComp!

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
ParserComp entry has choice-game feel, in a good way, August 28, 2023
by Andrew Schultz (Chicago)
Related reviews: ParserComp 2023

In The Last Mountain, you are on a multi-day mountain race with a friend, Susan, whom you've raced with before. You're doing pretty well. You might get a medal, which would be a first. But she's a bit exhausted midway through.

This immediately brings up a dilemma, as she says you should go on without her. But you can't. With the races you've run together before, it feels wrong. You can't read her mind, so you don't know what she really wants to do. And from here, there is a trade-off. She will slow you down. And some paths give adventures and realizations and accomplishments that others don't. (There's also a way to get lost!)

In essence, there are three main choices to make. This allows for eight endings. Some are similar, and some are different. I was aware of the walkthrough the author provided, and I planned to lawnmower through when I played it in-comp, but I didn't. It reminded me of other things, from a noncompetitive hike at summer camp where I and a friend started late but wound up getting to the destination first, to other challenges. This might be learning a programming language or getting through a computer game. Or, well, reviewing all the ParserComp games but getting distracted. Or maybe just reading a bunch of books in a short period of time, before they are due back at the library.

Or, one special in my case, writing X bytes a week to my weekly file. It's only a number, but all the same, it establishes something. That I've put in work and focus. And there's always the motivation to do more next week if I can, but that would break me, and I couldn't share my work or see what others are writing. It's a similar dilemma of "try for a medal or help a friend finish before the DNF (did not finish) cutoff." For me writing feels like something I can't give up, whether it's code for a new adventure or IFDB writing or maybe, one day, NaNoWriMo.

I got a lot out of the first endings, as I got the expected sliding scale from helping Susan versus achieving a personal goal. But as I played through them all, one noted that you gave up on racing for a while and came back to it. And it reminded me of other things I'd come back to, not needing to win it, and not needing to be super social. One of the big ones is/was chess, and hitting a certain rating. You want to do stuff by yourself, and you can probably hit a certain rating if you play a lot, but even if you get there, it might not feel good if you are playing to win. How you win matters. And breaking a new personal best rating feels much better if I win a good game instead of winning on time forfeit in a lost position. If I devoted myself too much to chess, I would ignore other things important to me, including sharing writing, even if it is not super-social. But TLM reminded me I still have goals to share, and they are worth sharing, even if I never reach the ratings stretch goals I once had.

Though the two entries that placed above it were deserving winners, TLM might be my favorite from the classic section of this comp, because it touches on issues of fulfillment in a subject and pastime I didn't know much about, but I can relate to it more.

The two above it were more swashbuckling and had flashier or cuter details, along with more humor, but TLM felt to me like it had more individuality, and it was the first of the three I replayed. It reminded me of the real-life adventures I wanted to take and maybe had given up on. It feels more like a choice-based or Twine game, with a relatively fixed plot and relatively few side rooms or things to examine. (You're tired. You don't have time for that!) And it could definitely be remade as one. But perhaps that wouldn't capture the essence of a mountain race as well, if you could just speed-click through. I mean, it doesn't slow you down with deliberate nuisances and annoyances, but the parser has a whole "don't sprint through this" feel which meshes clearly with what you're doing in the game.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A short, sweet Adventuron story about a mountain race and friendship, July 14, 2023
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This is an Adventuron game with a forward impetus: no UNDO, no going backwards on the map, only forward, often with a choice or two on how to do so.

The focus is a lot on your companion, a friend you've done many mountain races with who is not feeling as strong as before.

+Polish: The story is well-polished, free from bugs and typos as far as I could see, and responsive to commands.

+Interactivity: The inability to go back or UNDO is annoying in a puzzle game but thematically appropriate for a game about the march of time in our own lives. Good coupling of puzzle with theme.

+Descriptiveness: The locations and people were described in a way that I could easily picture it all in my mind. The changes in the weather and the passage of time were evocative.

+Emotional impact: It made me think of important events in my own life, like a funeral I attended yesterday where I didn't know the person who died but I did know some of their friends.

+Would I play again? Maybe, after a long time, but I think one time is best for now. But I would recommend it to others.

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The Last Mountain on IFDB


The following polls include votes for The Last Mountain:

Outstanding Underappreciated Game of 2023 by MathBrush
This poll is part of the 2022 IFDB Awards. The rules for the competition can be found here, and a list of all categories can be found here. This award is for the most underappreciated game of 2023. Voting is open to all IFDB members....

Microparsers by Tabitha / alyshkalia
The discussion in this thread, from which I've borrowed the term "microparser" (thanks Pinkunz!), led me to want to collect small parser games. I'm thinking of ones that fit what's described in the thread--generally taking less than 30...

Outstanding Adventuron Game of 2023 by MathBrush
This poll is part of the 2023 IFDB Awards. The rules for the competition can be found here, and a list of all categories can be found here. This award is for the best Adventuron game of 2023. Voting is open to all IFDB members. Eligible...

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