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PostComp Version with Bug fixes
Requires a Glulx interpreter. Visit IFWiki for download links.
What Heart Heard Of, Ghost Gues.gblorb
Requires a Glulx interpreter. Visit IFWiki for download links.
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by David Welbourn

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What Heart Heard Of, Ghost Guessed

by Amanda Walker profile


(based on 26 ratings)
5 reviews

About the Story

Margaret, are you grieving

Over Goldengrove unleaving…

Come home to Goldengrove, a beautiful old house haunted by a lost soul. Uncover the secrets of your tormented past in a tale of unrequited love, jealousy, violence, betrayal, and vengeance.

"What Heart Heard Of, Ghost Guessed" is a puzzle-driven, parser-based gothic horror story with a unique command set.

Game Details

Language: English (en)
First Publication Date: October 1, 2021
Current Version: Unknown
License: Freeware
Development System: Inform 7
Forgiveness Rating: Merciful
IFID: 465A9505-C9EA-4A2B-B091-B4A8F4E3F467
TUID: nob419tqvifcsqwd


Winner, Best Game; Nominee, Best Writing; Winner, Best Story; Nominee, Best Puzzles; Nominee, Best Use of Innovation - 2021 XYZZY Awards

4th place - 27th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2021)

Editorial Reviews

Jim Nelson
IFComp 2021: What Heart Heard Of, Ghost Guessed
Ghost Guessed takes one of the core assumptions of interactive fiction—the player’s ability to interact with the game world—and turns it on its head. You can LOOK and EXAMINE and glide from room to room, but otherwise, you appear unable to interact with the world around you. ... It reminds me of other Gothic literature from that time period. As you float through the house, a picture develops of a quiet country estate occupied by a moneyed family, where the secrets are locked away upstairs whilst whispers downstairs are exchanged over tea and cakes. The bulk of the dramatic arc has already occurred when the game begins, but there’s plenty of empty space within this hushed, reserved home for the main character to realize the totality of what’s happened, and to grow from it.
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Number of Reviews: 5
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Most Helpful Member Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
A long, polished parser game using emotions as verbs, October 12, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours

This game has a lot of work put into it. It has over a dozen testers (one of the best things you can see in a game), and draws inspiration from many other IF games.

You play as a ghost who cannot, at first, affect the material world. You also have no memories. As you play more and more, you unlock new verbs and new actions.

The story as it unfolds is one of torture and greed. You explore a big house and learn more about your untimely demise involving child abuse.

Here's my rating:
+Polish: The game is very smooth. With such a complex system, you'd expect a lot of bugs, but I found very few, if any. Parser errors were customized, as well.
+Descriptiveness: There was a spareness to the world. Some locations were described very succinctly. For instance:
"You are in a landing area at the top of a rickety staircase. There is a walk-in closet to the north."
However, the game was more descriptive with the emotions.
+Interactivity: Okay, I had some frustration here. Often, a new verb wouldn't lead to any progress in the room it was found in or the ones prior. This led to me trying the same verbs over and over again on everything with no success. It might have been worth adding a few more easy, early puzzles. For instance, I found no uses for (Spoiler - click to show)hate and love until long after I found both. However, the emotions idea was fun, and kept me persevering, so it was overall positive.
-Emotional impact. The story is not bad, and it reminds me (Spoiler - click to show)of the time I learned about 'the girl born without a face', which shaped my perceptions about physical disability and the love we should show to each other regardless of appearance. This story has a lot of good elements that would be ready to appeal to emotion, with a protagonist with mixed feelings about antagonists and a tragic backstory (similar, like the author said, to a story in Anchorhead, which worked a bit better for me). I think where things fell flat is that the protagonist is completely relatable and the enemies are clearly villains with little to no redeeming qualities. Our hero may have mixed feelings about them, but we, the reader, can clearly see them for what they are. This is kind of nitpicky, because this is a good story and I think I would like to read it again. I saw that this is the author's first game, and I'm reminded of a review that Emily Short gave of my first game (which I found quite painful at the time, and quite helpful now):
"I found [the game] least effective when it explicitly went for pathos in the writing, because[...]it hadn’t put in the time to build up that empathy. Similarly, the ending reached for an emotional point that it hadn’t done the work to earn, at least for me."

I think this is one of the better games in the comp overall and expect it to place anywhere in the top 15 or so. And if an author can do this well on the very first game, I can only imagine what games created with more experience will look like.
+Would I play again? Yes, I liked it.

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
Elegantly made, October 12, 2021
by AKheon (Finland)
Related reviews: Inform, parser-based, IF Comp 2021, horror

What Heart Heard of, Ghost Guessed is a parser-based game by Amanda Walker, published in 2021. It's a kind of a gothic horror adventure that takes place in Goldengrove, a grand old house with some dark secrets of its own.

The game uses a set of unique verbs, which is something explained quite shortly after you begin the game: (Spoiler - click to show)you are a ghost who is unable to interact with the physical world via regular means. However, your strong emotional responses can cause a variety of haunting-like effects ranging from mirror shattering to limited telekinesis. These new verbs give the game a bit of unique flavor and also make the exploration feel more fresh and exciting than in your average parser adventure game.

The overall gameplay feels pleasantly streamlined and accessible both because of the unique set of verbs that can be recalled at any time but also because of the compact world design. The compactness makes the game feel as if you always have some type of an idea on how to progress, even without the prose containing too much blatant hinting or tutorializing at any point. In a word: the design is elegant.

The writing is somewhat terse and possibly slightly more utilitarian than I would've expected in gothic horror, only dispensing enough details to create basic impressions of the scenery and drive the story forward. It's not particularly lavish or indulgent in any way, which I suppose is another thing that contributes to the game's exceedingly neat and elegant air. (Even the cover is elegant!)

The technical quality is fairly good, with almost everything making sense and working as intended. I did notice a few typos, but it's nothing major. The difficulty seems fair, although I did personally resort to using a walkthrough twice since I couldn't figure out how to get past one door and also missed an important semi-hidden object in one of the rooms.

If the game has some real flaw, it's that it's possibly a little bit too neat and compact. For instance, parts of the game world can feel like they're mostly there in service of the puzzles, although to be fair, this is a pretty common thing in adventure games which rely heavily on puzzle solving. Perhaps the subtle dissonance between gameplay and story necessities felt slightly stronger here since the game does bank a lot on an immersive setting and a solid storyline, and so it stands to lose more compared to a more casual adventure-puzzler that doesn't care about story.

Regarding the story, (Spoiler - click to show)the narrative is centered around various types of emotions as you discover the truth about yourself and Goldengrove, but the comparative simplicity of the execution and character motivations, etc. among other small details kept me from fully connecting. Although I found the story tragic and interesting, it didn't grip me on every level that the game's blurb and the prose might have intended.

The estimated play time of around 2 hours seems accurate, at least if you take your time exploring and avoid the temptation of using hints or walkthroughs. Overall, it's a polished and thoughtful parser-based adventure, and probably worth trying out if you like gothic horror.

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Surprisingly cathartic, with well organized custom verbs., November 29, 2021
by Andrew Schultz (Chicago)

WH2G2 may have the most innovation at the parser level as any game in the comp. It's simplified for most commands, but you have a string of verbs you acquire as you go along. They're emotional verbs, leading you to a journey of finding yourself and recreating how things happen. What has happened is pretty clear, without the title. You're a ghost, and you're not used to being a ghost, so it stands to reason you died recently. Not only are you a ghost, but you can't pass through walls. This, in fact, Means Something in the greater context of things and is more than just a way to keep the game small and manageable. As you move around, you see your old house in ways you never did before, leading up to several Big Reveals. And while it's billed as Gothic horror, these reveals were more than enough for me to face certain incidents from my past in a way a self-help book, even a good one, never could. It worked at least as well as some self-help book satires, too. So I found it very powerful. And yes, there were violent and disturbing scenes, but they weren't there for their own sake, and they were contrasted with more mundane revelations which were crushing in their own sort of way.

To start, all you can do is examine stuff, and there's not much to examine, but then you wind up with your first verb, learning to excite. This helps you leave the initial attic room, and later on, you wind up learning new emotions. Some of these seem harmless, but they become darker as you see things in new ways. Technically, you're snooping, and it feels quite nosy, but on the other hand, you didn't ask to be a ghost. Also, as backstory is filled in, you find you've been trapped in your own home. Your family is ashamed of you. Your grandfather, who is on his deathbed, treated you badly.

But the real reveal is this: your sister, Eva, and your step-brother, Ian, have done worse. The game narrates Eva as "being mean some of the time," eventually saying you're the reason she doesn't get out as much as she wants. Ian, on the other hand, has been complimentary of your artistic skill. (Your paintings are shown several places in the house. Sometimes you're even allowed to walk around and see it!) He recognizes you are a better artist than he is, though he enjoys woodcarving. You recognize Ian and Eva are lovers, but you appreciate Ian's kindness. But then you discover notes written between Eva and Ian, discussing you. Ian seems almost moderate and apologetic. Eva is not. The more emotions you reclaim and places you explore, the harder it is to stop being upset. You visit your grandfather on his deathbed, and there are some strong moments of trying various emotions on him. He has some realizations at the end, harsh ones for him, but it could have been worse. For someone else, it will be. Even in death, though, you feel blocked off from the living people chatting. They leave once you solve more puzzles, which sounds clunky on my part, but the game weaves this together seamlessly. The more emotion you learn, the more time passes, and people leave your house.

There are several climactic moments in the game. A good one was when you lost the ability to desire, once you notice proof that Ian was in on your imprisonment. It's not just emotional but practical. You could get overloaded with too many possible actions to perform, and while you could work them out, it would be thorny. Another is the implicit realization of how hard it is for you to get to your bedroom. It's the last of seven doors that you'll open, and even though it's a prison, it's where you could be you, and you realize how much worse it would've been if you hadn't had your art. Then you realize for Eva, that twist of the knife was not a bug but a feature. There's also facing the housekeeper, who herself deserves closure, as well as what's in the chest at the beginning, and finally Eva and Ian. The end is not pretty, and it makes sense and feels just. Once you get to the end, you'll realize (seriously! A potential spoiler is ahead, even though I tried to make it vague) why you wind up in the room you do, instead of the bedroom where you were imprisoned for most of your life.

On the technical side, WH2G2 has a lot of good responses to its custom verbs. There's a lot to keep track of, and my coding self was dreaming up ways to test things so that the game absolutely might not miss a trick in the post-comp release, or maybe I just wanted to see neat tries the author responded to. It's something where if a first-time author hit every instance, they may not have spent enough time on big-picture things. But it also gets so much cluing right, without screaming "Hey! I'm cluing you here! Isn't this nice?" An example that drove this home was in your sister's room:

(Spoiler - click to show)excite bottom drawer
The drawer rattles, but it doesn't open like curtains or a door. It really needs to be pulled to open.

You never do get around to controlling everything directly. But you can do enough to unlock the mystery of why you are where you are. It's not a straight-up amnesia game, as the denouement shows. You learn things about people close to you. To me it mirrored "hey, do I have a right to feel negatively about person X?" So verbs do get more emotionally charged than EXCITE, which only rattles things slightly. As mentioned above, a few are rejected as undoable as your character learns and grows. This is addition by subtraction. Having too many verbs near the end would have potentially made things much tougher and slowed the game pace to where the big scenes had less impact.

So I have a lot of good things to say about WH2G2. I'm very glad I got the chance to test it before it went to IFComp, and my only regret is that when I swapped games with the author, I somehow missed the email with the binary attached. Revisiting it a month later, I noticed a lot of things I missed the first time around. They were silly technical things that don't really affect the overall game, the sort of thing that's a good excuse for a post-comp release to get alittle more publicity. But I pretty much was worrying about the sort of coding details that thrill longer-time writers like me. And I think they balanced coding and story quite well. About the only thin I remember is something others alluded to: the colored-door puzzle felt a bit artificial. But really, I have no suggestions how I would've done it, and after all, if that had been a roadblock to WH2G2 entering IFComp, we'd all have lost out.

One tangential thing about WH2G2 is that when I went to ask Inform questions of my own, I noticed the author posting lots of good questions on the board. I don't remember them, or how they fit technically in WH2G2, but it enhanced the game for me as follows. I sadly met some Evas and Ians in computer science courses I had or even on the job. No physical restraint, of course, and it wasn't as radical as Eva and Ian. Maybe it was just brushing me aside, or explaining I really should know certain terms or conventions. (Later, I would google said terms and give these other people more credit than they deserved for expanding my horizons.) So these people talked over me and left me feeling I should really take a back seat. Many of them are long since gone, but the way WH2G2 unfolded allowed me to (far less dramatically) put several of these people in the rear-view mirror. And I do think that after saying "gee, why didn't I ask these sorts of questions years ago?" I sat down and asked a few good ones of my own. So that was positive. And I in turn appreciated the author's hard work and good questions for Fourbyfouria.

On replaying WH2G2 to write this review, I took notes and wanted to check another detail. It wouldn't be hard. Abstractly, you just plug in the right verbs, and the game's well-clued without holding your hand, so it's no problem to figure out. I had a few problems the first time through, which I chalked up to bad memory and having a bunch of other games to look at, as well as enjoying it. I had one more detail to check off, so I re-re-played. And I still bungled a few of the puzzles. Not due to my laziness or bad cluing, but because I realized it'd let me Think About Stuff in a positive new way, and the thought I put into things during and after the game replaced my technical memory. So it wasn't just something cool to solve. That's pretty rare and, I think, not something you can just summon at-will.

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