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About the Story
One day, travel guides will talk about this "masterpiece of the Pirothian architect Kitral" -- but only if you, the first person to visit it in over 1,000 years, can find out what's inside.
Nominee, Best Puzzles; Nominee - The last Flower Child puzzle, Best Individual Puzzle - 2018 XYZZY Awards
20th Place (tie) - 24th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2018)
The Breakfast Review
We're an archaeologist, and we're investigating an ancient temple. There's backstory that would clarify the ending, but only if you ask for it. Otherwise, it's basically a puzzle quest without any story to get in the way.
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Number of Reviews: 4
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This is a masterclass in new-school puzzle design. Old-school games had many puzzles, but they were all unrelated: solving one of them did not help you with the next one (except perhaps by providing you with new tools). Playing the game, you are not building up expertise. Did you get the items from the demijohn in Curses!? Nice! But it doesn’t teach you how to retrieve the attic key from the cellar.
New-school puzzle design, on the other hand, is all about teaching the player to think in certain ways, to consider certain possibilities. As you progress through the game, you become better and better at understanding how the puzzles in this game work and hence you become better and better at solving them. This allows the author to make the puzzles more difficult as time goes by, to compensate for the increased expertise of the player and keep the balance between frustration and achievement at exactly the right point.
Temple of Shorgil is, as I said, a masterclass in this kind of design. It does it perfectly. First of all, it restricts the players actions to movement, taking statuettes and putting down statuettes. Except for some information gathering, that is all you ever need to do. Every puzzle then revolves around taking and putting down statuettes. The first few are very simple, teaching us the basics; we are then slowly introduced to the idea that the plaques are useful; and before we know it, we are solving some quite complicated riddles with, if not ease, at least a modicum of skill. Very nice.
(Spoiler - click to show)The hardest puzzles are semi-optional, since they involve the ‘secret’ rooms that a player might never find – although the ending you get if you haven’t solved the secret puzzles isn’t too positive, so that might clue you in that there is more to discover. But even these are utterly fair.
If there is a price to pay for the razor sharp focus on efficient puzzle design, it may be that the game feels somewhat sparse and clinical. The completed legend and the story of our archaeological rivalry are both nice, and the sketches help to bring some life to the world. But the protagonist remains a blank and most of the game world is described in the most utilitarian terms. This is inevitable; anything else would have spoiled, at least to some extent, the masterclass. And yet it makes me feel that for all its faults, a game like Curses! had more charm.
That may be an unfair gripe; or maybe it is merely a statement about my personal tastes. Whatever may be the case, Temple of Shorgil is highly recommended.
I might as well state my bias up front: I love puzzle-focused games, and I think Arthur DiBianca is among the most innovative puzzle designers in IF these days. He tends to write parser games where only a few commands are allowed. Some folks in the IF community dislike that approach, but I am not one of them. In fact, I think restricting the verb set for a game heavy on puzzles and intentionally light on story is an excellent design move: It keeps the game focused on the puzzle-solving.
The Temple of Shorgil is another such puzzle-focused, limited-parser game from Arthur. The setting is that you are a scholar studying the ancient Pirothian culture. You've discovered their fabled Temple of Shorgil, and the game consists of you exploring it to uncover its secrets. But the experience of playing the game is mostly of figuring out how to place a set of figurines on pedestals in different ways. This may sound like there's not much to do, but once again (see, for example, The Wand and Inside the Facility) Arthur has taken a simple mechanic and transformed it into a large number of puzzles ranging from easy to much more difficult. The result is a unified game experience that nevertheless provides a varied, complex set of challenges. It's great design.
With the placement of objects being the mechanic, The Temple of Shorgil has some shades of his game Excelsior. It also reminds me of Inside the Facility, in that gaining more figurines unlocks new areas (in Inside the Facility, you collect higher-level keycards).
The Temple of Shorgil also features a collection of illustrations by Corinna Browning, which aren't necessary for solving the puzzles but add some nice atmosphere. The various map settings range from helpful to extremely helpful with respect to orienting yourself and solving some of the challenges.
Highly recommended for puzzle enthusiasts.
This is a fairly lengthy game (including bonus material) that uses the limited parser format. The majority of the game involves compass movement and TAKE-ing and PUT-ing.
The overarching theme of the game is that you are in a temple filled with stories, each of the stories relating to a puzzle. The puzzles are all based of a single simple mechanic, probably simpler than anything DiBianca has used before. However, it quickly becomes more complicated.
It's almost like a testament to the power of binary. TAKE/PUT, like 0 and 1, can become anything in combination, including language, numbers, etc.
The only thing keeping it from being a perfect game to me is the way that the game is so divorced from emotional investment. This is a game for philosophical and logical contemplation.
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