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The Only Possible Prom Dress.zip *
Contains The Only Possible Prom Dress/Prom​_Dress.t3
Requires a TADS interpreter. Visit IFWiki for download links.
Walkthrough and maps *
ZIP file containing walkthough (in PDF and RTF formats), and (partial) maps.
* Compressed with ZIP. Free Unzip tools are available for most systems at www.info-zip.org.

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The Only Possible Prom Dress

by Jim Aikin


Web Site

(based on 10 ratings)
7 reviews

About the Story

Ten years ago you had to burgle every store in Stufftown to get your hands on the sought-after doll called Sugar Toes Ballerina so your 7-year-old daughter Samantha wouldn't be heartbroken on Christmas morning. ("Not Just an Ordinary Ballerina," 1999.) Sam is 17 now, and tonight is her senior prom -- but her little brother spilled black ink (accidentally? maybe...) on her prom dress! The clerk at the fashion boutique in Stufftown said on the phone they have the identical dress in the right size, but most of the stores have closed up early because there's a parade downtown. So now it's back to Stufftown to try to get your hands on the Only Possible Prom Dress.

It's not going to be easy. "The Only Possible Prom Dress" is a parser-based puzzle-fest in the classic mode, packed with chatty characters and unlikely perplexities. For best results, the cross-platform QTads interpreter is strongly recommended.

Game Details

Language: English (en)
First Publication Date: October 1, 2022
Current Version: 1.0.1
License: Freeware
Development System: TADS 3
IFID: 429DD9B2-DB26-6F76-4E7A-C0E0288F6080
TUID: u4u57v2ggfcqvll7

Sequel to Not Just an Ordinary Ballerina, by Jim Aikin
Makes reference to Adventure, by William Crowther and Donald Woods
Makes reference to Colossal Adventure, by Pete Austin, Mike Austin, Nick Austin, James Horsler


8th Place - 28th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2022)


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Number of Reviews: 7
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Most Helpful Member Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
A lovely puzzle smorgasbord, January 11, 2023
by Mike Russo (Los Angeles)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2022

(This is a lightly-edited version of a review I posted to the IntFiction forums during 2022's IFComp. I beta tested this game and didn't do a full replay before writing this review).

I am not much of a braggart by nature, and crowing over accomplishments in the IF realm is an inherently absurd proposition, so itís saying something that I was tempted to open this review by not-so-humbly pointing out that Iím pretty sure I was the first person on the planet to win The Only Possible Prom Dress. Largely this was by dint of being one of the beta testers, of course, but still, there were other testers and this is a long game Ė Iím guessing I put in at least 15 or 20 hours, even after getting some hints, and I often had to put it down for a while to let the puzzles percolate so my subconscious could worry away at them and hand my conscious mind some new ideas. Getting to the winning screen after putting in a fair bit of sweat equity over two weeks felt like an accomplishment.

This is not, I hasten to add, because the game is formally cruel Ė itís I believe Polite on the Zarfian scale, with any game-ending events only a simple UNDO away. Nor is it because the puzzles are unfairly diabolical. Donít get me wrong, many are pretty tricky Ė and there are at least two, both involving codes, that I suspect most players will need a hint on Ė but save for that diabolical duo, they feel on the level. When I solved one fair and square, I felt satisfied; when I stumbled into an answer through trial and error, I immediately saw the logic; and when I needed a hint, I slapped my forehead because I realized Iíd missed some solid clues that would have gotten me in the right direction.

Funnily enough, the puzzle-solving is also rendered more pleasant by the size. The game starts with many areas locked off, then twice opens up a new, large chunk of the map after surmounting a key obstacle Ė but even from the get-go, you can go a lot of places, pick up a lot of items, and make progress on a bunch of puzzles. At any given time you might have half a dozen different challenges in progress, and if youíre feeling stuck, often just taking a circuit of the mall and messing around with all the new stuff youíve discovered will be enough to make progress on at least one Ė or give you an idea in the meantime. Thereís also a good variety in the different things you wind up doing; the gameís ultimately a scavenger hunt, but between foiling security systems, decoding anagrams, navigating mazes (all of which I think have workarounds), messing around with devices, cheering up NPCs, and the good old-fashioned medium-dry-goods business of pushing things around and climbing through holes and inserting thing 1 into receptacle A, youíll never be bored. The scale of the game also lends it a sort of logic-puzzle vibe, as I wound up keeping a running inventory of the different puzzles Iíd encountered as well as a separate list of the different items or other possible puzzle-solving things to try, cross-referencing them and deducing which solution went with which barrier as I went.

Atypically, Iím fairly deep into the review here without mentioning the plot or the theme or the writing. Thatís because this is definitely and defiantly a puzzle-focused adventure game, and the plot is honestly something of a shaggy-dog story Ė the blurbís setup, that you need to find a dress for your daughter, isnít exactly a lie, but the steps to retrieving it from the near-deserted mall wind up taking you to some wacky places, with weird technology and more than a bit of magic getting into the mix without the protagonist making much of a comment. But the prose is well done, and the cast of supporting characters, one-note stereotypes one and all, are written engagingly and enjoyably, so theyíre fun to interact with even if their role as flywheels to set some of the cogs of the puzzles in motion can never be ignored.

All this is to say Only Possible Prom Dress is an old-school puzzlefest as advertised (albeit more late-90s than late-70s), but a good one, even I think for folks like me who arenít inherently drawn to the form. Itís perhaps ill-served by being in the Comp, though Ė this is one to savor.

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
A complex and rich puzzle game in a mall with very large map, October 8, 2022
by MathBrush
Related reviews: more than 10 hours

This game is a sequel to Not Just an Ordinary Ballerina, a game a couple decades old. When I first played IF in 2010, I downloaded the Frotz app and played all the main games that come with it. After I found how fun big puzzle games like Curses! are, I searched for other games that were like it and found Not Just an Ordinary Ballerina. I ended up really enjoying the game a lot.

This sequel so far lives up to the original. Per IFComp rules, I've only played 2 hours, getting 20 out of 250 points and unlocking much of the map.

You play as a parent (I think a mother?) that is trying to get a prom dress for your daughter. There is a large mall that is mostly abandoned due to a parade. It's a 3-story mall, with many stores per floor and other areas outside.

It's a puzzle-based game, with a variety of puzzles, including conversation, codes, machines, animals, etc.

Like the original game, it has a huge map and is (eventually) very nonlinear. Unlike the original, it contains extensive in-game help systems and suggestions that smooth out the player experience. In particular, the (very mild early spoiler) (Spoiler - click to show)texts from your daughter help point you to the next available puzzle. I turned to the hints once, when I felt like I had a reasonable solution to something but it just wasn't working; it turned out I had just thought of it differently than the author, and the progressive hints gave me just the hint I needed.

The first two hours have been fun, and I look forward to the rest. I was just going to power through with the walkthru, but I think this is fun enough I'd like to take it slow later.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
An Enjoyable Soak In An Old School Tub, March 29, 2024
by Canalboy (London, UK.)
Related reviews: Parser based, Surreal, Large, TADS

The Only Possible Prom Dress was for my part a long-awaited sequel to Not Just An Ordinary Ballerina and showcases the author's admirable refusal to run with the modern interactive fiction herd. If you thought that long, puzzle-heavy parser games with subordinated plots were a thing of the past think again. While there's Jim Aikin there's hope for us old-timers.

I'd played Ballerina a decade ago and even then games of this type had of course become rarae aves. By the time of this sequel they had become as rare as right wing governments and pubs that take cash.

The diaphanous plot revolves around your efforts to buy your daughter Sam a dress for the senior prom as her kid brother has (deliberately or not) spilled ink on the designated apparel. A perfect excuse for another visit to the somewhat creepy and almost deserted Stufftown, Jim's ode to the excesses of consumerism. George Orwell once described advertising as "the rattling of a stick inside a swill bucket" and the author obviously shares these sentiments; I was reminded of Cronenberg's Starliner Towers as I wandered around this futuristic dystopia. The whole scruffy, pigeon-violated edifice of Stufftown is crammed full of shops, twenty-nine of them to be precise, selling everything from surreal-shaped birdbaths to microscopes; they are nearly all deserted as a local lacrosse game has made the people of Stufftown forget about commercialism for a day at least. Rubbish is strewn in passageways, stairways are broken, maintenance equipment is rusty and forlorn. The NPCs you meet along the way and with whom you will have to interact to win are as decrepit as the building in which they work - Betsy the chain smoking girl from the beauty salon has fingernails bitten to the quick and has obviously just been dumped by her boyfriend; the corpulent clairvoyant spends her days knitting; the art gallery owner is chock full of existential angst and stares fixedly at the floor. The two owners of this corporate monstrosity sit in their glass-desked ivory tower on the top floor and dream of the future and virtual tours of their world where money is spent on cutting edge technology and not on disinfectant or hammer and nails.

Woven into this depressingly naturalistic milieu are a number of supernatural elements. These are used sparingly and thus with deftness. A homeless man sees pixies flying around his head; an annoying purple dinosaur follows you around and two experimental protagonists must be brought back to life to complete your mission by dint of recipe collecting. As you progress the difficulty level of the problems facing you increases and the story naturally progresses as problems are solved. It is not, however the kind of game where you are stuck on one problem and thus unable to progress; often solving one will help with a problem that you have put on the back burner.

You can choose to play the game with hints on or off and I chose the latter. The former feeds you clues on your mobile phone when you reach certain points in the narrative and FULL SCORE will show your progress out of two hundred and fifty and itemise the obstacles you have overcome, much like Curses.

The problems themselves constitute a mixture of traditional tropes. There are doors and portable items to be unlocked, anagrams and mathematical posers, hidden passages to be revealed, machines to be brought to working order or vandalised, stores to be broken into and other characters to be cajoled/bribed/unmasked. Favours are very much bought with favours.

There are seventy-four portable items and all have at least one use. There are no tiresome inventory limits or daemons and the game will automatically jettison items that you no longer need if you pass a certain central location in the game which is a thoughtful and none to easy to program feature. Some items have multiple uses. There are mazes in the game, however all are outside the drop items to map variety, a subtle nod towards IF modernism.

It is pretty difficult to put the game into an unwinnable position although two particular puzzles do present this opportunity. Save, save and save again. I found the parser to be more than adequate and it will try to auto correct and interpret your typing errors. I came across almost no typos and very few other bugs, although one involving a locked gate stands out. This is not game breaking however.

In summary this is a well coded, well written puzzle-based diversion; if you are endowed with patience and like old style games with modern IF conveniences you will enjoy this. Just prepare to put aside a lot of spare time and read location descriptions very carefully.

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The Only Possible Prom Dress on IFDB

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The following polls include votes for The Only Possible Prom Dress:

Outstanding Game over 2 hours in 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 best game of 2022 with a playtime of over 2 hours (as judged by the voter)....

Outstanding Game over 2 hours in 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 best game of 2022 with over 2 hours of gameplay (as judged by the voter)....

CCTV cameras at the heart of it by Max Fog
I'm looking for a game that uses CCTV cameras (or surveillance of some kind) as an important part of the game.

See all polls with votes for this game

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