Hard Puzzle 2 : The Cow, The Stool and Other Animals

by Ade McT profile

Episode 2 of Hard Puzzle Trilogy
Science Fiction
2015

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
the only game, ever, that has made me cry., September 5, 2022

Before I begin this review, I would like to make it clear that I HAVEN'T FINISHED THE GAME YET. Therefore, my review isn't a full evaluation- only a recount of my experience with it. I also haven't played the original Hard Puzzle, which might also have affected my perspective of this.

To begin: I love this game very much. However, I also have to admit that this is the only interactive fiction game I've played that actively made my life worse, so it's kind of a mixed bag here.

I began playing this game because I was intrigued by the first Hard Puzzle, but when the puzzle itself was revealed I immediately lost interest (my number one dislike in interactive fiction is overly fiddly puzzles). And then I discovered its sequel.

Hard Puzzle 2 is a game that gives you more questions than answers. You're on a farm after an unspecified incident called the Event, and some people (?) called the Family are telling you to bring them some milk. You've got a stool, a bucket, and a host of interesting animals with distinct personalities. You've also got a time limit, tracked by the sun in the sky.

The goal in this game is simple enough to keep you playing- get a bucket of milk. However, the steps to that goal are unclear.

The worldbuilding in this game feels rich and vibrant, and the writing is some of the best I've ever read (my favourite line is the description of the sun setting). However, I still have little to no idea what any of it actually means. But that's not as important.

In my title, I mention that this is the only game that has ever made me cry. That's true. During my playthrough I hit a point in the game where I was lying half-conscious on the floor of my room, typing in verb after verb while praying desperately that one of them would do something. And when one of them did, I sobbed of joy. And then fifteen minutes later I sobbed again, but of grief. I don't think there are very many other games that could have made me feel such a range of powerful emotions.

Honestly, I don't have much to complain about, with this game. Yes, I gave up on the puzzle, but I don't feel like that was necessarily the game's fault. However, there were a few moments where I did things that would be physically impossible- for example, (Spoiler - click to show)putting the stool in a stall while outside the stall and then sitting on the stool, so the game said I was outside the stall while I was also sitting on the stool inside the stall. I can't tell if this was intentional or not. Either way, it didn't really take much away from the experience.

Someday I will come back to this game and maybe finish it. Today is not that day. I feel like it has shortened my lifespan by about a quarter, but it's all worth it in the pursuit of fun, or milk, or whatever.