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About the Story
You are a collector of rare antiquities, with a special passion for puzzle boxes. You've been searching for one particular box for a long time, but perhaps this box is better left unfound.
Entrant, Main Festival - Spring Thing 2022
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Number of Reviews: 5
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From the author of The Long Nap, written in Dialog, and The Lookout, written in Inform 7, comes The Box, written in Kreate. Mr. Polylingual! It's a demo game for the new language and does a good job at showing off that it has all the fundamentals for a solid parser and world model in place. There's nothing particularly taxing here: no conversations (the only NPC is a mouse), no ropes, no noun disambiguations, no complex sentences required. There is some burning, though it's only used once. It's a very straightforward, short escape-the-room game with entertaining puzzles and a tidy (but sluggish) web-GUI: click on a hyperlinked noun to "examine" it, which brings up some clickable relevant actions you can do with it, or just type at the prompt at usual. if you liked Fireproof Games' The Room, you'll certainly enjoy this.
Two minor bugs:
(Spoiler - click to show)
Sitting on top of it is an intricately carved wooden box. On the stone pedestal is a wooden box.
You set the panel on the window sill. It covers the window almost entirely, blocking out most of the moonlight. The panel is already on the sill.
The Box is a thin setup for a short puzzlebox-escape-the-room type adventure. Nothing necessarily against a thin setup, just go into this knowing that it's a puzzle-forward experience. The puzzles such as they are are none too difficult and can all be solved by prodding enough of the environment to find the next clue when stuck. They're largely not of a sort of puzzles to need several clues. At least a few are pretty much spoiled on finding a single clue. At least one of them was sort of artificially gated in a way that I felt resisted a logical secondary solution ((Spoiler - click to show)burning the ropes on the drawbridge), but I think I get it. (Spoiler - click to show)Highlighting the one solution is meant to reinforce in its own way that in Kreate the mouse is important (the bit of hardware symbolized by the creature implemented in the game... personally I found the mouse implemented in-game a bit too "talkative" for my tastes; especially considering how little it really contributed to puzzle solutions, it seemed a bit misleading and distracting for me to be hearing from it every couple turns). Only the mouse (the in-game creature yes, but also the bit of hardware) actually didn't turn out in my playthrough to be super important so much as it was handy in a couple given scenarios. Though Kreate has the advantage of featuring a hybrid input parser, mouse input salience was still overall pretty low for me as a player in this game. But then I'm also a practiced typist and not everybody will have the same automaticity in typing IF commands, nor will every game have the same level of keyboard-vs-mouse use. Its inclusion is welcome and I can see future games on the platform making even broader use of it.
The big advantage of Kreate's hybrid setup from the perspective of a player is in being able to use the mouse to interact more thoroughly with the story rather than typing commands into a parser. Maybe I'm being too repetitive here, but it seems a major point of both the game and platform. More specifically, in The Box the mouse (the computer hardware, not the animal implemented in the game) can be used to click links to perform commands (though the links automatically generated are not always immediately helpful, sometimes a distraction) or to operate some of the glyphs and dials on the titular box which might be more tedious if done entirely through parser commands. The drop-down menus for operating letter dials were a particularly welcome change of pace from what would have been a tedious exercise if typed into a parser. Inform has extensions for creating hyperlinks and buttons, but I've yet to see a drop-down menu implemented in Inform as far as I can remember (it probably has) although I don't see why that wouldn't be completely possible too.
I have to admit though that from playing this game alone, although I wouldn't say I disliked it, I'm just not totally clear on what Kreate's advantages as a development system are over its contemporaries. I suppose the success of the platform will come down to more people trying it out and The Box is at least an advertisement that it works. As a work of IF, The Box is a rewarding enough puzzler to spend your time on. If you're experienced, it won't take a lot of time anyway, and if you're new seems like it should be accessible enough to guide you through without too much head scratching.
I beta tested this game.
The Box is written in a new parser engine designed by Winters, which includes a hybrid form (like Dialog or Gruescript) allowing most of the game to be played by clicking links.
This is a literal puzzlebox. After a brief intro, you wake up in a cell with a mysterious box in front of you with 5 different puzzles or sets of puzzles belonging to each of the visible sides. Clues and aides are hidden throughout the rest of the room.
I found the puzzles generally fair and engaging. It includes a cryptogram which I generally find less engaging in IF, since they have standard solution algorithms that aren't directly integrated into game play, but I appreciated the smoothness of this one. I enjoyed the light-based puzzles and the numeric one the most, and perhaps the final puzzle.
The framing story is brief but well done. As a demonstration of language capabilities, it certainly seems like a strong parser engine, which is very difficult to do. It didn't capture my emotional fancy, but other than that it is a solid and well-done game.
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