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The Magpie Takes the Train

by Mathbrush profile

Episode 2 of The Magpie

(based on 38 ratings)
7 reviews

About the Story

A millionaire guards a fabulous ruby in her private train car. Countless thieves have failed to steal it. But they weren't the Magpie!

Game Details


Nominee, Best Setting; Nominee, Best NPCs; Winner (Tie) - The Parrot, Best Individual NPC; Nominee - The Magpie, Best Individual PC; Nominee, Best Implementation - 2020 XYZZY Awards

5th Place overall; 1st Place, Miss Congeniality - 26th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2020)

Editorial Reviews

Doug's World
Magpie Takes the TrainĒ shares several features in common with its inspiration: an entertaining detective farce involving frequent costume changes; dialogue with an amusing cast of upstairs-downstairs society figures (but curiously set in the states). Both games have a well implemented full parser interface.

This game differs from ďAliasĒ in its scope. Whereas Alias was a full length game, with multiple rooms and individual scenes, ďTrainĒ is an elaborate one-room puzzle box....

A delightful addition to the Magpie canon.
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Newcombís IFComp 2020 Reviews
However, itís Informís broken implementation of darkness that really irritates me. Suddenly I canít continue the conversation Iím in because it got dark. The PC is suddenly deaf and forgetful in addition to blind. I have never understood why. Iím sure Iíll need the darkness for a later puzzle bit, so I Z Z Z a lot until it goes away[...]

An NPC barks at me for touching the radiator Ė fine, Iíll wait until itís dark to fill the room with steam or however this is supposed to change matters Ė but when it gets dark I canít do anything again.

Iím done.
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Stianís IFComp 2020 reviews
Having, as one should, duly enjoyed ĎAliasí The Magpie, I was very excited to see this sequel among this yearís IFComp entries. To my further enjoyment, it turns out this sequel is almost just as good! Not that there is anything particularly wrong with it; I just wish it was longer and slightly more challenging, matching the length and difficulty of the original. Completing The Magpie Takes the Train took me 45 minutes.
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Viv Dunstanís IFComp 2020 Reviews
Ultimately this is a logic puzzle, albeit a very forgiving one, without a time limit that I could spot. So you can try different things without penalty. Though in the end I switched to the walkthrough, to polish things up. I was pleased to see that some of the different commands i tried (different from the exact versions in the walkthrough) worked. And ultimately it was an extremely satisfying ending.

So good stuff, albeit for me some niggles over the conversation mechanism (that is never easy to handle smoothly), and some under implemented bits. But it was extremely competent, and good fun. Thanks!
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Anssiís IFComp 2020 Reviews
This game is a perfect example of how the player, through trial and error, and through experimenting with the various possibilities that the setting offers, learns more and more about the environment and finally arrives at the goal. Even if this is just one scene, taking place basically in one location only, it is enough of a game due to the careful implementation and the multitude of things you can try. The humor is good - for example the ways in which the Magpie, in the different outfits, compliments the millionaire, cracked me up.
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The Stack
IFComp 2020: The Magpie Takes the Train
You have the aid of a suitcaseful of disguises, enabling you to pass yourself off as anything from an aristocrat to a maintenance worker to a parrot groomer ó the Magpie is easily capable of changing costume in the time it takes the train to go through a tunnel. I frankly donít think the game took good advantage of this. The main way it affects you is that some actions are only available to certain personae, which means you have to wait for the train to go through a tunnel and change before you can do them. This is amusingly novel at first, but the dependencies feel more constraining than enabling, and itís basically a puzzle solution that has to be executed multiple times without variation after youíve figured it out.
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Number of Reviews: 7
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Most Helpful Member Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful:
A Prize of a Game!, December 14, 2020
by J. J. Guest (London, England)

The Magpie Takes the Train was written for me, as my chosen prize for winning IFComp 2018, and what a prize it turned out to be! I definitely made the right choice. It is a sequel to my competition game, Alias 'The Magpie', and stars the same player-character, the sauve, irreverent and somewhat audacious gentleman thief Sir Rodney Playfair, otherwise known as the 'Magpie'.

This delightful almost-one-room game centres around a second heist for the eponymous jewel thief. This time he's after the Gavinchian Rose,†a valuable ruby brooch. Rushworth captures the Magpie to a tee. The dialogue is wittily hilarious, the puzzles are clever, logical and well clued, and the characters are as disreputable a bunch of blisters as you could care to meet. There's the haughty and overbearing Cornelia Hogg, her talkative parrot Horus, her waspish personal attendant Beatrice Foxtrot, and the Marquis, who, well, to say any more would be to give the game away, so to speak! Much fun is to be had from interacting with the characters whilst adopting various guises.

The game's features include an innovative, inventory-based conversation system and a bunch of amusing Easter eggs. There's a tonne of fun to be had from trying silly things and you can even try your hand at mixing drinks - with somewhat questionable results!

The Magpie Takes the Train is everything I could have hoped for in an authorised sequel. It's a lovely tribute to Alias 'The Magpie', a smashing game in its own right and a wonderful bit of fun!

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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
Clever and fun one-room game, October 1, 2020
by RadioactiveCrow (Irving, TX)
Related reviews: About 1 hour

"The Magpie Takes the Train" is the authorized sequel to "Alias 'the Magpie'" by J.J. Guest. You once again assume the role of the eponymous gentleman thief, this time riding a train in hopes of stealing a priceless jewel right off the lapel of an aging steel magnate. Pretty much the entire game takes place in a single train car, which had me confused at first as this was the first one-room game I've played. But once you realize that (or after reading this) you will get into the groove of the game's mechanics, which I found very clever and made the puzzles a joy to work out. I feel like there are enough hints along the way, plus a limited number of choices, that if you read carefully and try messing with everything in the usual IF style then you will have the satisfaction of solving the game without hints. However, the author has provided a walkthrough if you need it.

This game also has some features that make it extremely user-friendly and cut out some of the tediousness of other games that require (Spoiler - click to show)waiting for certain conditions to be right before a puzzle can be solved. I also thought the conversation system was good and fit with this size of game perfectly, no playing "guess the topic" that will advance the gameplay.

The prose is excellent and laugh-out-loud funny at times (particularly when you try the amusing things suggested after you beat the game for the first time). Mathbrush is a long time IF author and one of the most passionate and dedicated advocates for IF that I've encountered. So far I've only had the chance to play one of his other games ("In the Service of Mrs. Claus", available from Choice of Games, which will certainly give you a lot of bang for your buck), but I look forward to playing more.

This game is part of IFComp 2020, so if you are reading this in October or November of 2020 head over to ifcomp.org and sign up to be a judge. You can play this and other wonderful games and vote on which authors should win cash prizes!

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
All-time great parrot, December 9, 2020
by Mike Russo (Los Angeles)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2020

(I beta tested this game)

I have given the randomizer a lot of grief over the course of our five weeks together, bemoaning its feast-or-famine tendencies and bewailing its perverse glee at stacking like five sexmurder games right at the top of the Comp. But it did me a solid in the end, since itís hard to think of a better way to play off the comp than Magpie Takes the Train, which is about as pleasant a piece of IF as youíre ever likely to find. That word ďpleasantĒ can be double-edged Ė sometimes itís a way of sinking in the damning-with-faint-praise shiv Ė and sure, as a one-and-a-half room spinoff game, itís not aiming to be a barnburner or an epic. But when that one room is so cozily realized, lushly implemented, and entertainingly peopled, thatís not much of a complaint. MTT is great fun, from the main event Ė a satisfying, multi-step jewel heist Ė to the smallest incidental detail.

As mentioned, this is a spin-off from 2018 Comp winner Alias the Magpie Ė that was by J.J. Guest, but the present author offered an authorized sequel game as one the prizes that year, so here we are. While if you know the respective authors, you can definitely tell the difference Ė MTT uses the conversation system employed in many of Brian Rushtonís other games Ė and thereís no specific plot continuity, the writing and overall vibe are definitely of a piece with the earlier game. Which is great, because Alias the Magpie was delightful! Just so here, where the eponymous master-of-disguise is bent on infiltrating the private railcar of an American magnate and lifting an enormous jewel right off her lapel.

Of course, itís not as simple as all that Ė there are somewhere around half a dozen sub-puzzles that need to be solved before youíre able to successfully lift the rock and abscond, including foiling a rival's disguise and making friends with a cantankerous parrot. Almost all involve some quick-change artistry, as youíve cleverly brought along a suitcase full of disguises and the occasional tunnels offer just enough lightless moments to change from your professorís togs into, say, a waiterís getup, or a maintenance manís coverall. The various characters in the car react to you differently depending on your garb, and certain actions that would arouse suspicion if performed when incorrectly attired can be easily accomplished while wearing the proper uniform.

None of the steps involved in solving the puzzle are that challenging to work out Ė and in fact thereís no penalty to simply trying to take the jewel, which will prompt you with a hint towards the most immediate barrier to your larcenous designs. But nor are they too simple, either, or too wacky. I generally felt like I was half a step ahead of the puzzles, which is a very pleasant (Öthat word again) state to inhabit, as I usually had an idea of what I should be doing, but hadnít fully worked out every step such that implementing the plan was drudgery. And in fact you miss out on most of the fun if you just rush for the win Ė thereís lots of entertaining dialogue to be had with the other characters if you try talking to them in all your various outfits, thereís a whole drink-mixing system that leads to entertaining combinations, and thereís tons of incidental detail that rewards poking about with some fun jokes.

Unsurprisingly given the legion of testers Ė I was among a nigh-numberless host Ė the implementation is as smooth as butter. There are lots of thoughtful conveniences, such as allowing the player to skip to the next moment of darkness if theyíre too impatient to wait for the next chance to change outfits. The prose is typo-free, and just about every strange thing I tried was anticipated. Itís possible to make the game unwinnable, but itís kind enough to tell you that and end, and I think a single UNDO will always retrieve the situation. Indeed, given its compact length, inviting setting, and robust implementation, MTT could be a nigh-perfect game for bringing new players into the IF fold Ė but itís certainly got a lot to offer veterans as well.

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The Magpie Takes the Train on IFDB

Recommended Lists

The Magpie Takes the Train appears in the following Recommended Lists:

Favorite IF Authors (represented by games) by Denk
This list does not include authors, where I have only played one of their games. Thus great games such as Anchorhead and Blue Lacuna are currently not included.

Crime and Heist games by MathBrush
I've played a lot of these recently, so I'm making a list. A contrast to my Detective and Mystery games list and similar to my Espionage and Spy game list, where I put Spider and Web, for instance.

Short/Sweet by Cryptic Puffin
No time? No problem!


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