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About the Story
When he fears that a reclusive neighbor’s weird ministrations are leading the locals astray, an old cowboy takes it upon himself to amble back up to Hill Ridge and set things a-right.
The Breakfast Review
I got pretty interested in solving the puzzles to move the story along. I believe that personality and character of the setting was a big part of what kept me interested; I think it might be as well that the puzzles often seemed just clear enough that you could guess what to do next, and just hard enough to make it a challenge.
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In last year's comp, Jeremy Pflasterer gave us Koustrea's Contentment, an intriguing, atmospheric, very large, and somewhat underclued game that initially lacked a walkthrough, leading a lot of players to give up on it. This year, Pflasterer has submitted Hill Ridge Lost & Found, which is similarly intriguing, atmospheric, and still a little underclued, but also about the right length for the comp. And the walkthrough, thankfully, appeared much earlier (though not on day one).
Hill Ridge is an off-kilter modern western, mixing familiar tropes with alien but relatable elements. We're the Ambler, an old cowboy gone to discover the fate of a long-unseen neighbor. Like with Koustrea's Contentment, proper names are all askew -- there's a Langle Olk and a Mrs. Vumfarr, and the missing neighbor is Lonon. There are cows and barns, but also jiller vines and vorairs, huge temperamental armadillos. The weirdness is pleasingly low-key, and the writing is understated and effective:
It's not good to sit still with suspicion. Better to carry it somewhere, quick and careful. But it ended up being somewhat late in the day that Sunday when you set out, after all manner of procrastination had run its course. And that, for you, was unusual.
The gameplay is classic text adventure stuff: explore the mostly-abandoned site, take all the things, fix what needs fixin'. It begins with an imposing wall of text, but it does give you a clear initial goal -- find Lonon -- that I thought was lacking in Koustrea. Once I achieved that goal, though, I was at a loss. There were clearly puzzles to be solved, but I didn't have any idea what my PC was trying to accomplish. The inference I was meant to draw after visiting some of the game's locked-away areas, and the action I needed to trigger the endgame -- these are leaps I wouldn't have made without the walkthrough. Hill Ridge also has a couple of misleading responses, especially with the (Spoiler - click to show)bicycle/lamp (the game reads UNSCREW LAMP as an attempt to open the bottom of the lamp for some reason, rather than unscrewing the screw that holds the lamp to the bike).
Overall, I liked Hill Ridge pretty well, more than Koustrea's Contentment, and I think the author has made a more accessible game this time around. With a little better cluing and a clearer motivation for the PC I think it might be excellent.
This mid-length TADS game has a strong writing style and uses various colors. It has unique, alien world-building and an interesting map.
It also has puzzles that can be hard to guess. Using the walkthrough is fun, though, to get the whole story. There is one strong profanity, for no real reason, but it won't happen if you follow the walthrough.
I really enjoyed the setting and backstory here, it really is unique.
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