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The Last Christmas Present

by JG Heithcock

Children's, Slice of Life

Web Site

(based on 12 ratings)
4 reviews

About the Story

"There was one present left under the Christmas tree, a wooden box with a tag that said 'I open at the close'"

When my daughter turned thirteen, I made a scavenger hunt to her last Christmas present using a Marauder’s Map of our house. Use the map to find the clues and discover how to piece them together to find her present.

Game Details


43rd Place - 28th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2022)

Winner, Outstanding Feelies of 2022 - Player's Choice - The 2022 IFDB Awards


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Number of Reviews: 4
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Most Helpful Member Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
A text memory of a real-life Christmas present with Harry Potter themes, October 25, 2022
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game definitely seems like a good contender for the Best Use of Multimedia XYZZY award specifically for its map 'feelie' attached to it, which is a complex map that folds and unfolds multiple times.

That map is an essential part of the game, since it marks the main treasure or objects you're looking for.

Those objects are Golden Snitches. The idea of this game is that the programmer made a real-life treasure hunt for his daughter, hiding four golden snitches in the house and creating a map that reimagined their house as various locations from the Harry Potter series.

The game itself is sparse in comparison to the lush map. Your father, Papa, follows you around, serving as a hint system, and rooms he doesn't enter are unimportant, as he feels no need to give you clues in them.

I was struck while playing with the casual, unaffected display of wealth. I've been both moderately wealthy and moderately poor in life; in my youth, my father was a video game executive and supported 7 kids in a large house with a big backyard. But his business went under, and years later after my divorce I've experienced food scarcity and can't afford a reliable vacuum or a washing machine. With that background, this house seems quite magical, with a balcony over a grand hall, a spacious backyard with water features, multiple secret passages and hidden rooms, and multiple rooms for the child, including their own bathroom. It feels like reading British books like Middlemarch (which I've been doing), seeing the life of the upper middle class or lesser aristocracy.

The game itself is charming and full of love. The two areas that I think are drawbacks are the sparseness of the room descriptions and the lack of implementation of several objects mentioned. For instance, when I first encountered the bookshelf, I couldn't X BOOKS.

As a final note, the Harry Potter themes are heavily prevalent, as a heads up for people that have strong feelings towards JK Rowling.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A well-done holiday treasure hunt for (cliche) the kid in us, December 25, 2022
by Andrew Schultz (Chicago)
Related reviews: IFComp 2022

(Trivia: with how I scheduled embargoed reviews, the original ETA was December 24, or 6 PM December 23 Central. I got behind, and not having this super-close to Christmas was a reason I considered shifting the chunk of reviews before it to after my review of the #1 entry. But then I figured, since it'd drop on December 29th, it'd be a sort of Last Christmas Present in its own way.)

LCP breaks a cardinal rule of parser games right away, but it does so for the right reasons. Which rule? The one about not forcing the player to examine more than once or use weird verbs or prepositions to search through something more than once. And why? Because you are a kid, excited to get presents, and you will probably look through things a bit carelessly and miss them the first time. (Note: I had trouble the first time figuring this, but then I got what the author was trying to do. This may be worth putting in the hints more directly, but I'm not sure how without spoiling it. Also, I may've missed clues. So technical purists may be upset, but on balance, I think it works well emotionally.)

And I'm not just saying this because games about Christmas presents are hard to hate, even if badly implemented, because who can give a thumbs-down to generosity and togetherness? LCP is well planned out on top of that. It's based on a real-life scavenger hunt which I also assume left all involved quite happy. Its Harry Potter-themed hunt for clues reminded me I disliked Harry Potter even before hearing JK Rowling's hot takes on certain issues. But it also reminded me the good parts of enjoying a story still endure, and of watching a cartoon I liked as a kid and recognizing its shortcomings but realizing they only mattered marginally. Maybe the main character in this story no longer enjoys Harry Potter, and that shouldn't affect their memories, or a player's enjoyment of LCP. It did not for me. It reminded me of things I grew too old for, and how I felt embarrassed at the time and don't any more.

LCP is a scavenger hunt, in a nice big house that isn't too big for a game, and I wound up wondering what the gift was eagerly enough, even though I've long since stopped caring about big gifts. I'm happier with a strategic Black Friday or December 26th bargain purchase, while still hating to see the horridness that is people fighting to be first in line to buy their own. And, yes, the final present is something I don't want to spoil, but it's neat to have that anticipation of what it might be. It's not anything terribly exotic, but it's something I couldn't have gotten as a kid, and that sort of filled a hole, that I was able to share in getting a gift. The end, where you're about to find what your gift is has some semi-obvious foreshadowing that is still exciting for the character, and I felt that through playing, too.

I also liked how the clues popped up. There are two kinds. One, you can ask parents for help--I was amused how this mirrored A Walk Around the Neighborhood, and I wish more games would do this, because you feel less like you are begging for hints. You can feel both worried you are disturbing your family and yet at the same time you want to show them you can figure things out! You also have to find four snitches (side note: I loathe Quidditch and JK Rowling's depictions of sports announcements in her books. It felt nothing like any experiences of sports fandom I know. There are better journalists and bloggers out there. None of this mattered while playing LCP. This may seem like a "oh don't let this bother you, I'm just saying" note, but I was impressed how LCP got me to like things I really should not have, or at least feel kinship with people who liked stuff I didn't) which, together, build a message. I was able to figure what it said after getting two, but I felt sort of guilty to the characters in the story if I'd have just gone and tried things based on what the message was. The puzzles aren't super tricky but don't need to be, and anyway, your family is there to give hints, which is clearly a lot more fun and immersive than poking at a hint menu.

There's a map, too, and sadly that's probably the thorniest of the implementations. Unfolding the flaps and folding them are probably great fun for the character, but for someone using a parser, there's a lot of disambiguation and such, so that's one part of the fun that didn't translate. The map was a pretty big part of the game, so sadly it dented my enjoyment some--but I think something as nice as LCP deserves a mulligan, even if it weren't the author's first game. This feels like a neat post-comp project, if the author is interested.

LCP took what the writer knew and did it very well. And it wasn't just something that's common experience but a unique experience that wasn't too private. I can imagine the main character, and the person the character was based on, maybe not liking Harry Potter any more but still having good memories of that Christmas. It's the sort of entry that should appeal to everyone. If you didn't get around to it during the comp, maybe try it during the holiday season, along with Garry Francis's Santa's Trainee Elf, which I always meant to get to. I'm more motivated now. There are other different Christmas-themed games, too. They may get more stars on IFDB, and they may deserve it. But I'm a bit surprised I've seen nothing like this yet, a more classical Christmas treasure hunt, and I'm glad LCP filled that void.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
You Do Not Have My Consent to Experiment On Me, December 8, 2022
by JJ McC
Related reviews: IFComp 2022

Adapted from an IFCOMP22 Review

And we’re back to the “What Do I Do With This?” Sub series of JJMcC’s Reviews Out Of Time. Today’s conundrum: an IF implementation of a real-life Christmas scavenger hunt!

Look, I could wax academic about the quality of the map - how sometimes directions get turned around, or exits not flagged, or verbs incompletely implemented so you struggle to (Spoiler - click to show)open a secret bookcase door. I could whine about how thrilled I was to use the nifty folding map player aid, only to realize after struggling fruitlessly for a half hour that I needed to also fold the map in the parser – that being the only way to unlock game state, so I could find what I was looking for in the places I had already tried to look. I could bemoan falling into the same trap later when I visually decoded a word puzzle, to then need to guess-the-verb to solve it again in the parser before I could advance. I could admire the chutzpah of implementing your own house in parser map, then more dramatically in a note-perfect Potter pastiche prop. There would be words about language choice, words about spare descriptions, words about lack of interact-able objects and NPCs, and words and words and words words words.

Then I’d have to score it.

I am becoming convinced that the entire concept of 'reviewing' is actually an elaborate social psychology experiment being conducted on me, and all of you ALL OF YOU are in on it. You seem to be testing the theory that any random person of good will, when given the power to pass judgement on another’s creative work, will inevitably become a callous monster, glibly making half baked pronouncements on hours on hours of truly impressive labors of love. Cold to the people behind the stories. Well I see behind the curtain IFDB, if that is your real name.

Today we have a work based on a real-life father MAKING MAGIC FOR HIS DAUGHTER ON CHRISTMAS! What’s next IFDB? Huh? A toddler writing IF to earn money for life saving surgery for his out-of-work single mom? A collective work by an orphanage trying to keep an opioid manufacturer from foreclosing the only home they’ve ever known?? An overworked animal shelter volunteer desperately cranking out IF because it is the only thing that distracts the puppy ward from counting days??? YES, ADORABLE, PRECOCIOUS, DOOMED, IF-READING PUPPIES!!!

I’m not playing your little game. Y’know what happened when I made an outdoor Christmas scavenger hunt for my wife? It rained. In a state where water from the sky is the stuff of myth, it rained. Screw this, I am rating this game 10 out of 10 for Father of the Year. Did you see the photos (The Last Christmas Present - Photos ) of that map he made?? Good lord who am I to shade on that?

Played: 10/28/22
Playtime: 1.5hr, finished with hints
Artistic/Technical rankings: Seriously, don't. (Spoiler - click to show)YOU HAD TO DIDN'T YOU?? Mechanical/Notable
Would Play Again? What’s happening to me???

Artistic scale: Bouncy, Mechanical, Sparks of Joy, Engaging, Transcendent
Technical scale: Unplayable, Intrusive, Notable (Bugginess), Mostly Seamless, Seamless

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The Last Christmas Present on IFDB


The following polls include votes for The Last Christmas Present:

Outstanding Feelies of 2022 - Author's Choice by MathBrush
This poll is part of the 2022 IFDB Awards. The rules for the competition can be found here, and a list of all categories can be found here. This award is for the game with the best feelies of 2022. Voting is anonymous and open only to...

Outstanding Feelies of 2022 - Player's Choice by MathBrush
This poll is part of the 2022 IFDB Awards. The rules for the competition can be found here, and a list of all categories can be found here. This award is for the game with the best feelies of 2022. Voting is open to all IFDB members....

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