Uncle Zebulon's Will

by Magnus Olsson


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Snack-sized, well-written, puzzly, April 24, 2020
by Henck (Mozambique)

Uncle Zebulon's Will is an excellent puzzly adventure game. It takes about an hour to solve it and the ending leaves the player wanting more (it also hints at a future sequel that never materialized, unfortunately). The game contains only 12 locations, something that you're even told when giving the SCORE command, so you know how much there is left to explore, and each of those locations are well described. The world is static: there are no NPCs to speak of, save one which isn't more than a door guard, and the author uses room descriptions to describe what isn't in the room rather than what is, but manages to create a great atmosphere.

In this short game, there are few puzzles to solve, but they are all interesting and go beyond the find this, give that variety. There's a bit of searching, some transmutation and some mythology (which requires no previous knowledge on the part of the player). It does feel like the author grabbed themes from a rather mixed back, combining remote magical worlds with classical mythology, but then the game is so short that it would be hard to tie it all together into a more coherent story.

The game offers a few quality-of-life niceties: in some rooms, when you go into a direction you can't go, the game will helpfully tell you where you can go. There is also a hint system that is part of the game world (as opposed to a HINTS command). Finally, room descriptions change when things happen in the room. These are things you'll find in smaller games (although I'd love to see them in a game of any size) and they work well.

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Solid puzzle game with humorous bits, September 2, 2016
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: sanguine

[Time to completion: 45-60 mins]

Your Uncle Zebulon has died, and while you're sure you were his favourite nephew, he bequeathed you just one item - it can be any item from his house, but you can only take one out. Your relatives have been all over the house, though, so will there be anything left?

This game is one of the games I've played this year with longer parser puzzles. One of the reasons I have stayed so far from these is because I am very bad at visualising and manipulating machines in IF - I do better when I can actually move things with my hands, which is a bit of a feat in IF. The puzzles here, however, are well-hinted. As befits an old wizard's house, Uncle Zebulon's Will makes use of some simple mechanics which work once, but are consistently implemented.

The writing is enjoyable, and I know some have called it terse or economical. This was typical of the time, but it felt natural to me; also, as others have mentioned, the one NPC that you get to talk to feels convincingly bored, with in-character 'error' messages when the player breaks the game's rules (most notably being the one object restriction when exiting the house).

A very solid game with good implementation and enjoyable writing. Would safely withstand the so-called test of time.

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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
An early star with spotty implementation but ingenious puzzles, February 3, 2016

This game was the cowinner of the first IF Comp with A Change in the Weather by Andrew Plotkin.

This game has some very ingenious puzzles. It focuses on alchemy, metals, and a bit of mythology. There was a puzzle with bottles that I thought at first might have been like Emily Short's later bottle puzzle in Savoir Faire, but then the solution was very different.

I didn't really enjoy the middle of the game. After exploring all the areas, including the tower, I was overwhelmed by the number of items and possibilities, and just felt like moving on to a different game. However, I've been wanting to finish games, in case there is better material at the end, and that was the case this time. Following the walkthrough, I accessed the end puzzles, which were really good; it almost made me wish I had just stuck it out and experimented more.

The story was not that great, but it's not a bad story; I feel like the very first and very last scenes got the most work, and the rest were pretty unmotivated. The rooms are sparse; there is an in-game reason for the emptiness of the house, but it felt forced.

Puzzle lovers will love it; story lovers should just use a walkthrough to catch the best bits.

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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful:
Solid game that strikes the right balance., February 27, 2008

(I should preface this review with a note that a three-star rating from me means it is a good game; I reserve four stars for something special, and five stars for something truly amazing.)

Light-hearted in tone, traditional in style, "Uncle Zebulon's Will" finds that elusive balance between implied scope and actual delivery that many winning Comp entries miss. In short, it doesn't bite off more than it can chew in two hours of playtime, so it doesn't leave you disappointed when you reach the end.

I particularly admire the way in which the author provided descriptions and responses that are just enough to convince you of the reality of the game world. At no point was I disappointed by the lack of a particular programmed response: Even the game's bored and disinterested NPC was believably (and appropriately) bored and disinterested.

This economy of writing is one of the hallmarks of classic IF, and so perhaps it should not be a surprise that Activision included this entry in a 1996 re-release of classic Infocom titles. Other than the abbreviated length and the copyright date, you might never realize it isn't from the "Golden Age" of IF.

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