Number of Reviews: 3
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Unmagical Wizardry, March 3, 2021
After your worldview has been shaken when the Wizard Dumbledore appeared in your flat and offered you a job, you wake up the next day with a hangover and a signed contract to teach "Muggle Studies" at Hogwarts Academy. When you arrive there, the halls and corridors are abandoned because of a spell gone wrong. You must set things straight without resort to magic.
Muggle Studies is set in Hogwarts Academy, that grand fantasy-medieval castle in a hidden part of England. You start off in Dumbledore's office and must make your way down a tower and back up again after gathering what you need.
Although a tower with its limited room for branching hallways and side-rooms makes for a good setting for a straightforward text-adventure, it is also very narrow and linear. The gamespace feels cramped because of this. It is easy to forget that you are supposedly in this great building with all sorts of corridors , halls and other towers, let alone that it stands in a wide landscape with dark forests. A few windows with lush descriptions of the shingled roofs and the towering walls outside the tower would have pulled the space more open. Maybe even a view of Hagrid's cabin or the living tree in the distance to remind players of the universe they're in. The one window I could look through gave a very generic description of green woods and a glimpse of water outside.
The puzzles in Muggle Studies are good, but nothing too imaginative. This is beginner-level IF, where exploring and TAKE x WITH y suffices for the most part. The puzzles are very well hinted, without too much handholding. The game has one room where you have to figure out the answer to four riddles, a puzzle device rarely seen in modern IF, but which fit very well in this setting. A puzzle that does not work so well is a coded magic book (Spoiler - click to show)where the cipher is a simple ROT13. I decided to decode it manually to get some sense of achievement out of it, but I would have preferred if the author had invented a simple code him/herself (? I can't tell from the name.) and put a deciphering book somewhere hidden in the tower.
There are a good number of books and notes around that give clues and entertainment. I especially liked the Book of Herbs, where you can LOOK UP a large number of magical plants from the index, most of which are of no importance to the game.
Another nice touch like this is the file of misbehaviors and punishments in Mr. Filch's room, where you can read about some of the misschievous plans of Hogwarts students.
The game handles conversations through TALK TO menus, which fits perfectly with the difficulty. There are always some fun options to talk about next to the important topics.
In keeping with the beginner difficulty level, there is a tutorial voice that gives advice on proper syntax for commands. Unfortunately, it sounds very pedantic to anyone who has played IF before.
The best part of the game to me is the slowly unfolding backstory involving your grandmother and your ex-girlfriend. It gives an emotional dimension to your character in this otherwise standard gathering-magical-objects quest.
A nice diversion for a few hours.