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by David Welbourn

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The Hidden King's Tomb

by Joshua Fratis


(based on 13 ratings)
6 reviews

About the Story

Built beneath a lake dark and deep, The Hidden King’s Tomb was once well protected against would-be thieves. Between its only marked entrance was built a labyrinth of locked doors and false vaults. All ways were sealed, save one which remained for the king’s foretold return.

But in the centuries since, a sinkhole has revealed a new route to his treasure.

You and your adventuring partner have come to The Hidden King’s tomb like many before you, in search of fame and fortune. You stand over the sinkhole, planning your descent.

But you’ve been tricked! Your former friend has pushed you from the precipice into The Hidden King’s Tomb, plotting to take the treasure for himself. Now you must escape the catacombs, or this tomb may become your own

Game Details


60th Place - 28th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2022)


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Number of Reviews: 6
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Most Helpful Member Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A bland first game with glimmers of promise, December 13, 2022
by Mike Russo (Los Angeles)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2022

(This is a lightly-edited version of a review I posted to the IntFiction forums during 2022's IFComp).

There’s a bit in the British sitcom Extras where Sir Ian McKellen, playing a parodic version of himself, goes on an extended monologue laying out his acting method – which in this case means he explains, at length, that he is not actually a wizard, but he pretended to be one, and people wrote lines for him in a script, which he said, while he imagined that he was actually a wizard and acted the way he pictured the wizard might act.

(The bit is funnier when Ian McKellen does it).

I was put in mind of this skit by one of the pieces of introductory text in The Hidden King’s Tomb:

"The goal of this game is to escape the dungeon. You’ll do this by exploring, gaining an understanding of the dungeon in order to find and navigate towards the exit, and clearing any obstacles that stand in your way. These obstacles can be thought of as “doors” opened by “keys,” though these “doors” and “keys” are usually disguised as other objects entirely. For example, a key could be a secret password used to gain entry to a thieves” hideout, a rope used to climb a cliff, or a lantern used to light a dark room. These are puzzles."

This is hard to gainsay, but also seems to be belaboring the obvious. That maybe holds true for the game as a whole, which is about as straightforward a piece of extruded text-adventure product as you’re likely to see. There are some hints of more distinctive writing, as well as some implementation issues albeit nothing you wouldn’t expect to see in something from a first-time author, so I’d definitely play another game by him. But as for this one, it left me asking myself “well yeah, this is how this kind of game works. Is that it?”

Partially this is due to the game’s tomb-raiding premise, which goes back at least as far as Infidel (though the instant piece lacks that game’s ironic bite; the graverobbing is played straight). While that’s a trusty old setup, it’s not going to set the world on fire – it all comes down to the quality of the traps, the cleverness of the puzzles, and the splendor of the treasures to bring the setup to life. But what’s here checks the minimum of each box. There are three tombs to loot, but they’re all completely unguarded; there’s a little flooding mechanism and a secret passage that provides a bit of a gimmick, but it’s very straightforward and that’s the only actual puzzle; and as for treasures, well, here’s an excerpt from my transcript:


You are carrying:

fourteen lit candles (providing light)
three treasures
The Book of the Dead
The Hidden King’s sword
some wrappings
some bones

>x treasure

You see nothing special about the treasure.


Beyond the bland writing and design, the coding, while competent, could use some polish. The treasures aren’t the only thing lacking a description, and there’s lots of unimplemented scenery in most rooms in this small map. Sometimes default reporting rules aren’t suppressed when there’s a custom one that should take priority, and the corpses of the royal family – at least one of which you need to loot in order to complete the game – are implemented as containers, leading to awkwardness like this:

> open coffin

(first removing the lit candle)


Resting in the coffin is a rag-wrapped skeleton.

You open The Hidden King’s Coffin, revealing The Hidden King (wrapped).

> search skeleton

You can’t see inside, since The Hidden King is closed.

> open king

You pull the wrappings from The Hidden King, revealing The Hidden King’s sword and The Book of the Dead.

Again, this is all quite forgivable for a first game, and there were some descriptions I quite liked – beyond the Hidden King, the tomb is also the final repose of the Furtive Child and the Secret Queen, and something about those proper-noun titles carries an evocative hint of mystery, for one thing. I’m guessing the author learned a lot from making it, and entering it into the Comp, so I wouldn’t be surprised if their second game is worth checking out; sadly, Tomb of the Hidden King isn’t.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Gloomy tomb, April 29, 2023
by Rovarsson (Belgium)

(this review is for the IFComp 2022 version)

Your backstabbing fellow archaeologist/explorer/graverobber pushed you down a catacomb. Find the exit and grab all the loot.

This game brings back the classic text-adventure tropes: explore and steal. Apart from the framing story I summarized above, there is no plot or character development. This means you are only limited by your own conscience (and let’s face it, adventure players haven’t got one) while you unleash your kleptomaniac and grave violating tendencies in the poor old King’s tomb.

The descriptions are rich, they capture the gloomy-tomb atmosphere very well. There were several rooms with vivid and memorable images, emanating an old and foreboding feeling.

Until the very end, puzzles are nowhere to be seen, except maybe looking in a few less obvious places. The final puzzle is simple but nifty, providing a nice little >click< in the player’s head.

Unfortunately, The Hidden King’s Tomb is woefully underimplemented. In a creepy crypt like this, it misses so many opportunities to reward the explorer with detailed descriptions of the ominous scenery to establish a bit of backstory (the murals and reliefs are a first obvious example). Customizing the responses to unnecessary actions would also help in bringing more life to the game world.

Indeed, I would love to see this game expanded into a near-puzzleless exploration of the history of this long-buried mysterious King. The focus could be not on the gathering of loot (which will always be cool, come on, it’s a text adventure, right…), but on the slow and gradual unraveling of the tale of how the King came to be buried here, and of his great or horrible deeds during life.
The medium of IF is extremely well suited to such piece-by-piece discovery of a backstory.

A nice exploration/looting excercise. I really liked the final puzzle. The first atmospheric layer of the tomb is nicely painted. The author just needs to go down a few layers beneath that and implement all the juicy details.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Speedrun Grave Robbing, November 22, 2022
by JJ McC
Related reviews: IFComp 2022

Adapted from an IFCOMP22 Review

Extremely short and small parser-based exploration game. Escape the Tomb you’ve been pushed into! The opening is very efficient, immediately setting stakes and goals, then turning you loose. You are piloting a blank slate protagonist, which is fine as this is definitely not a character driven game.

This one feels like a learning exercise more than anything. It is a very small 6 room tomb (not counting connecting hallways). It does have more than its share of objects to collect and to lesser extent manipulate, but almost none of those objects do anything useful even for scoring purposes. You can move them around, admire them in your inventory, and mostly be told “you don’t need to” when trying to apply them to the environment.

The text is serviceable enough, mostly descriptive, although insufficient for mapping. For example you are told there is a crack in the wall through which you can see something interesting, but nowhere are you told WHICH wall, should you want to explore that direction. In the end the map is small enough not to matter, but it does interfere with your ability to hold it in your head. More distressingly, where the room descriptions are more fleshed out, the nouns are not implemented. So you can be told “there is a river here” but when you try to examine it “there is no such thing here.” That feels like a pretty quick and easy rule of thumb: if you mention a noun, have a response when the player examines the noun. It doesn’t impact the gameplay, but definitely adds polish to the product.

There’s really only one puzzle to solve, and it's reasonably straightforward, befitting the scope of the piece. The geometry of the tomb doesn’t immediately suggest the answer, but is imprecise enough that it doesn’t contradict it either. As you progress in solving the puzzle, the descriptive text could be more state aware. (Spoiler - click to show)When water runs through the tomb, only some of the rooms acknowledge the presence, and depending on the room, the volume of water is inconsistent.

As a coding exercise, I would call it functionally complete. No major bugs, no unwinnable states I could observe, consistent object behavior. Would definitely recommend fleshing out the noun space. The most bang to buck would come from polishing the descriptive text to make the thing internally consistent and clear. As is, a Mechanical excercise.

Played: 10/17/22
Playtime: 20min, finished
Artistic/Technical rankings: Mechanical/Mostly Seamless
Would Play Again? No, experience seems complete

Artistic scale: Bouncy, Mechanical, Sparks of Joy, Engaging, Transcendent
Technical scale: Unplayable, Intrusive, Notable (Bugginess), Mostly Seamless, Seamless

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On Monday, November 28, 2022, I published new walkthroughs for the games and stories listed below! Some of these were paid for by my wonderful patrons at Patreon. Please consider supporting me to make even more new walkthroughs for works...

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