The Magpie Takes the Train

by Mathbrush profile

Episode 2 of The Magpie

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Number of Ratings: 35
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- gattociao, August 24, 2023

- Edo, August 17, 2023

- Ms. Woods, July 26, 2023

- elysee, May 2, 2023

- sw3dish, October 13, 2022

- Kinetic Mouse Car, July 29, 2022

- dvs, June 8, 2022

- Vulturous, April 26, 2022

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
One room heist, April 15, 2022

The goal is to steal a jewel from a woman in a train car. The main mechanic is changing your disguise when the train goes through a (dark) tunnel. The characters and setting are pretty great. I found the puzzles kind of frustrating.

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- Ray Leandro (Philippines), February 3, 2022

- Cryptic Puffin, November 13, 2021

- Guenni (At home), August 28, 2021

- Prosilire (New York City), August 21, 2021

- William Chet (Michigan), May 26, 2021

- mrfrobozzo, March 6, 2021

- Irjowo99, February 16, 2021

- tekket (Česká Lípa, Czech Republic), December 20, 2020

7 of 7 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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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 it’s 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 you’re ever likely to find. That word “pleasant” can be double-edged – sometimes it’s a way of sinking in the damning-with-faint-praise shiv – and sure, as a one-and-a-half room spinoff game, it’s not aiming to be a barnburner or an epic. But when that one room is so cozily realized, lushly implemented, and entertainingly peopled, that’s not much of a complaint. MTT is great fun, from the main event – a satisfying, multi-step jewel heist – to the smallest incidental detail.

As mentioned, this is a spin-off from 2018 Comp winner Alias the Magpie – 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 – MTT uses the conversation system employed in many of Brian Rushton’s other games – and there’s 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, it’s not as simple as all that – there are somewhere around half a dozen sub-puzzles that need to be solved before you’re 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 you’ve cleverly brought along a suitcase full of disguises and the occasional tunnels offer just enough lightless moments to change from your professor’s togs into, say, a waiter’s getup, or a maintenance man’s 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 – and in fact there’s 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 (…that word again) state to inhabit, as I usually had an idea of what I should be doing, but hadn’t 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 – there’s lots of entertaining dialogue to be had with the other characters if you try talking to them in all your various outfits, there’s a whole drink-mixing system that leads to entertaining combinations, and there’s tons of incidental detail that rewards poking about with some fun jokes.

Unsurprisingly given the legion of testers – I was among a nigh-numberless host – 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 they’re 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. It’s possible to make the game unwinnable, but it’s 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 – but it’s certainly got a lot to offer veterans as well.

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- E.K., December 5, 2020

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
An excellent one-room puzzlefest, December 5, 2020
by Denk
Related reviews: Inform

In this game you play the role of Sir Rodney Playfair, a gentleman thief also known as the Magpie. The Magpie first appeared in the IFComp winning "Alias 'The Magpie'" which I have played but not completed. Having solved this excellent one-room game, I feel tempted to return to "Alias 'The Magpie'", which I probably will.

This game is fairly easy but highly entertaining. If you prefer very dificult puzzles, this game is probably too easy for you, but if you enjoy easy puzzles as well, you will most likely enjoy this game.

You cannot have a Magpie game without disguises, so of course there are several possible disguises. This is mixed with Mathbrush's own conversation system, similar to his "Color the Truth" and other games by Mathbrush. Thus, the game keeps track of relevant topics and it is sufficient to simply type the topic, no need to "SAY topic TO character" so the gameplay is very smooth.

The puzzles are fun and the writing is whimsical, though I didn't experience any laugh-out-loud moments (well, except for one "easter egg"). Still, it was a very rewarding game, which I highly recommend.

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- Karl Ove Hufthammer (Bergen, Norway), December 4, 2020

- seguso, December 1, 2020

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Elegant and excellent sequel, December 1, 2020
by Stian
Related reviews: ifcomp 2020

Having, as one should, duly enjoyed ‘Alias’ The Magpie, I was very excited to see this sequel turn up. 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.

Perhaps due to having played more IF than (most?) other humans, Rushton has managed to perfectly adopt the style of ‘Alias’ for this game. The language, the humor and the puzzles could all as easily have emerged from J. J. Guest, and are just as delightful.

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- Spike, November 30, 2020

Anssi’s 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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- Wanderlust, November 28, 2020

- Zape, November 26, 2020

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Cheeky, November 25, 2020

Characters deliver back-handed compliments, subtle put-downs, and blunt reminders of social station to each other in "The Magpie Takes the Train." They are so absorbed with maintaining their own class personas they can't suspect that someone right in front of them is changing his own social standing with disguises every time the train enters a tunnel.

This cheeky, class-based humor is plenty of fun, but a few implementation problems occasionally mar game-play. Possessives aren't recognized, so terms like "Horus' talons" or the "Viscount's neck" produce unhelpful responses. "Change into" isn't a verb, which is odd for a game about costume changes. Even stranger, "costume" isn't always understood, for instance "maintenance costume" isn't recognized, but "maintenance uniform" is.

Also, a design decision hampers the generally enjoyable game-play. The "say topic" conversation system results in awkward, unintuitive commands, the topics don't have synonyms, and the topic announcements are intrusive and reduce player agency.

Otherwise, "Magpie's" game design is remarkably enjoyable. It features a set of iterative puzzles, which reveal new puzzles, which disclose more about the amusing situation, all of which reinforce the stifling class-conscious world the Magpie happily exploits.

"The Magpie Takes the Train" is first-class game hampered only by an odd design choice and a few implementation oversights.

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- Pegbiter (Malmö, Sweden), November 20, 2020

- xkia, November 16, 2020

- Mr. Patient (Saint Paul, Minn.), November 14, 2020

- Durafen, November 9, 2020

- nf, October 7, 2020

- nosferatu, October 2, 2020

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 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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