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About the Story
It's the latest model, and it would really like to play with you.
21st Place - 21st Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2015)
Rock, Paper, Shotgun
Bemusing puzzle box in the form of interactive fiction. Slap it, whack it, look at it. Eventually some stuff will happen. It is like the intricate and complex box in The Room except you have to use your imagination. Your filthy, filthy imagination.
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Jay Is Games
Congratulations! You've found Grandma Bethlinda's Variety Box! Why, what does it do? You haven't the faintest idea. But when curiosity killed the cat, satisfaction brought it back, so start poking around. All you can do is discover and have fun in this interactive fiction puzzle game by Arthur DiBianca. It starts off with a simple, plain looking box. But the more you poke, pull, crank, and solve, the more entertainment arrives out of it.
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well this is new
This game is entirely textual and even uses a text parser, but its only real commands are USE / U, WAIT / Z, and X / EXAMINE. (Another synonym for USE is UNDERTAKE TO INTERACT WITH. Very funny. Itís USE. Youíll be typing U though.) Thatís right, itís a game with three verbs, and the only verb that actually does things to things is USE, scoffed at as deeply unserious by verb nerds everywhere. Can we make an actual game like this, complete with extensive (but fair) puzzles and a interlude involving a botanical usurpation? Of course we can. These people did.
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Number of Reviews: 7
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You're in a room with a box and that's all there is in the room. Your object is to manipulate the box until you've triggered all the little bells and whistles attached to it. And also the horns, buttons, ropes... you get the idea. It has secrets and surprises and you want to find them all.
This game has an extremely streamlined verb system. "Examine" and "undertake to interact with" (abbreviated "u") are its two primary actions. This is so smooth and prevents so many potential problems. The box is totally stuffed with weird contraptions, and if you had to worry about turning or pulling or tapping them, etc., etc., all but the most patient players would throw a fit trying to figure out what syntax to use. But "u" covers everything while still preserving the need for players to think about how they should manipulate the box.
I could see some people saying, Well, with so few verbs, why isn't this just a Twine game? Click the equivalent "u" or "x" hyperlinks and be done with it. But that wouldn't work, again because the box has so many components. In a hypertext game you'd have to click each component, click components within components, and then return back to previous screens to see what's changed or hasn't. It would be a headache. The parser allows everything to be right out in the open so that you can interact with anything at any time.
Since this game is a pure puzzle and descriptions are brief, I could also see some people overlooking how good the writing is. It's very good. It manages to give you clues, reward you for solving puzzles, and paint a clear description of the box (no matter how complicated the box gets) all within the same snappy little sentences. A tone, a personality emerges from the game that's perfectly complementary to the bizarre Variety Box itself.
Haven't finished this game yet, but I keep laughing aloud and clapping with delight as I play with it, so I'mma give it five stars.
Others have noted how well-written it is. Being a writer myself, I marvel at the craftsmanship! Writing clear descriptions is a hard trick for some of us to pull off, but the writing in GBVB's practically invisible, a window into the world of the box. Add in the ingenious use of "U" and you get all the delights of physical puzzle-solving minus the annoying fiddly bits.
In short, this game is the philosophical opposite of Hard Puzzle.
Arthur DiBianca; quirky, imaginative, witty, innovative, minimalistic (in the sense of the interactiveness if not of the writing). The philosophy presented here, as far as IF design is concerned, seems to be "less is more"; and he makes a strong case for it. As streamlined as ever, his three verb interface (x,u,z) makes for a straightforward, frustration-less experience (aside from forgetting and actually trying to use a traditional verb). This is DiBianca merely hinting at the scope of his design space and world-building capabilities. While a few of his signature puzzles are sure to delight most IF fans, solving this puzzle box does provide a bit of tedium towards the end. Even still, I was able to solve the box without a considerable amount of trouble, and without needing to consult the walkthrough (that's always a good thing).
With that said, I'd be torn between giving this a 6 or a 7 in the Comp, so 3.5 stars here would be nice if it were possible. I guess my bias toward his inventive, unique style will have to dictate a four then, even though DiBianca's more recent entries are sure to impress to an even greater extent!
Games Centered Around Devices/Machines by Amanda Walker
I'm looking for games that heavily feature learning how to use a device or machine. For instance, the machine in Emily Short's Savoir-Faire, Art DiBianca's devices in the Grandma Bethlinda games, or the box in Paul Michael Winters's The...
For Your Consideration - XYZZY-eligible implementations of 2015 by Brendan Patrick Hennessy
This is for games released in 2015 which you think might be worth considering for Best Implementation in the XYZZY awards. This is not a zeroth-round nomination. The category will still be text-entry, and games not mentioned here will...
For Your Consideration - XYZZY-eligible NPCs of 2015 by verityvirtue
This is for suggesting non-player characters from games released 2015 who you think might be worth considering for Best NPCs/Best Individual NPC in the XYZZY awards. Leave the name (or namelessness) of the NPC (or NPCs) in the comment on...