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A Thing of Wretchedness.gblorb
Post-competition release.
Requires a Glulx interpreter. Visit IFWiki for download links.
A Thing of Wretchedness.zip
Contains A Thing of Wretchedness/A​_Thing​_of​_Wretchedness.gblorb
The version current when IFComp 2023 ended.
Requires a Glulx interpreter. Visit IFWiki for download links. (Compressed with ZIP. Free Unzip tools are available for most systems at www.info-zip.org.)

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A Thing of Wretchedness

by AKheon profile

Horror
2023

(based on 11 ratings)
5 reviews

About the Story

A lonely farmstead... A troubling situation... No easy answers.

This is a parser-based sandbox horror adventure with multiple endings. It takes place in the setting of Ascension of Limbs, but it's intended to be a stand-alone story that doesn't require any foreknowledge. Contains scenes some may find disturbing.


Game Details


Awards

53rd Place - tie - 29th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2023)

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Number of Reviews: 5
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Most Helpful Member Reviews


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Unsatisfying ending(s), December 16, 2023
by manonamora
Related reviews: ifcomp

A Thing of Wretchedness is a horror ďsandboxĒ parser, set in an empty farmstead in the middle of winter, away from any life, some time around the 70s(?). You play as an older woman, who having lost her husband recently(ish), deals with griefÖ and a wretched thing roaming the house. You want (need?) to get rid of this things, but how?
The game includes an external walkthrough with general guidelines on achieving one of the 3 endings.

The start is pretty intriguing with a more mundane take on horror, by having an indescribable thing roaming around your house, not actively hurting you, but also not letting you feel at ease either - you canít bear to look at it. It is made pretty obvious there is some sort of relationship between you and the thing, in that it wonít hurt you and you kind of take care of it. Exploring the different rooms and its items may help get an idea (nice details there!).

For some reason, after months - or maybe years - of being tortured by its presence, you want to get rid of it now. Your first idea would be to poison it, as the introduction explains, though you are not too keen on hurting the thing eitherÖ In this regard, the games gives you multiple paths to take care of the thing, with some options more violent than others. This is the sandbox aspect of the game.

Some endings, especially the one which supposedly gives the most context, rely on timing and RNG. You set up an action that requires the thing to do something, but it may take a while or the thing may end up doing something completely useless, or hurt you. This becomes frustrating pretty quickly, as resetting the action sometimes takes so loooong.

I was also a bit disappointed with the endings too, as they donít really answer anything at the end - the open-ended-ness leaving you with more questions than answers, especially if you donít get the ending that provides some information. I still have no idea what was that box aboutÖ

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Systems of oppression, December 5, 2023
by Mike Russo (Los Angeles)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2023

(This is a lightly-edited version of a review I posted to the IntFiction forums during 2023's IFComp).

Thing of Wretchedness bills itself as sandbox horror, which is a phrase I read in the blurb then promptly forgot about; now, though, as I turn over which parts of the game worked and which didnít work for me, Iím realizing that label is key to the whole experience. The horror elements are clear enough: you play an older woman, living in an isolated, snow-bound cottage, whoís desperately writing away for help dealing with a big, awful thing too terrible to describe thatís taken up residence with her Ė while they coexist uneasily at first, the threat of future violence is omnipresent. The sandbox elements are well-defined, too Ė there are several different paths you can pursue, each flagged with greater or lesser obviousness, from attempting to deal with the thing yourself to looking for external aid to trying to plumb the mystery of its existence. And the major gameplay challenge isnít so much the simple puzzles as it is solving said puzzles while managing the thingís semi-random behavior; ToW feels more open-ended than the typical parser game as a result since no static walkthrough will guide you to the end.

While each of these elements is well-done, Iím not sure they fit together all that well, though. In particular, while I enjoyed the gameís presentation of Lovecraftian tropes, I didnít find it the least bit creepy. Partially this is down to the decision not to describe the thingís appearance or behavior in any detail, but I think thatís partially motivated by a desire not to have the thingís repetitive, system-driven actions clash with a more literary prose style. And of course the tension in horror depends almost entirely on pacing, which is hard for an author to manage when so much of what happens and what order it happens in is out of their control. Sure, there are other horror video games that use semi-emergent behavior to get scares, like your Amnesias and what all, but Iím not sure these techniques translate well to the text-based context, without audio and visuals. Lastly, I didnít get much sense of the protagonistís subjectivity; I think this was intentionally done to try to conceal a twist that she presumably knows about but the player doesnít, but the downside is that because she rarely felt all that concerned about the thing, neither did I (it also doesnít help that I guessed the twist about thirty seconds into the game).

Meanwhile, the sandbox-y gameplay is pretty engaging Ė while I was several steps ahead of the plot, it was a fun reveal when I started to understand the rules for how the thing worked and figured out how that would help me achieve some of my goals. But in practice, the playerís tools for manipulating these systems are limited, so I wound up spending a bunch of time banging the Z key to wait for the thing to do exactly what I wanted; thatís no big deal in of itself, but again, slight boredom is antithetical to any mood of real horror.

The gameís endings are fortunately among its best elements, so while the middle section did sometimes drag a bit, it finished strong. The actions you need to take in several of them are bleak and intense, making up for the slacker pieces that came before. I also enjoyed the crossover with the authorís previous (and excellent) Ascension of Limbs Ė itís not anything that a new player will miss, just a slight bit of added context to a small frame-story, but it puts a cute button on the game while hinting at the events that happen after the formal action of the game is done. So while A Thing of Wretchedness definitely feels like a minor game, it very much has its pleasures, even as it demonstrates that marrying a horror story with sandbox gameplay is a hard nut to crack in IF.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Dealing with an indescribable horror in your house, procedurally, November 22, 2023
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This was a fun little game about an unfun situation.

I think I experienced this game in the best way possible, as I am a fan of the game it is connected to (Ascension of Limbs) and I got the most interesting ending first. If I had experienced it any other way, Iíd probably have not liked it as much.

You play as a woman in a house that has been tormented by a thing for a long time. Years, maybe? Maybe not.

Something is in your house, a wretched thing. The game doesnít really expand on what that is. I imagined something like a mix between a baby, a Slitheen from Dr Who, and a silverfish from Minecraft.

Most of the action in the game is generated on the fly as the wretched thing performs various gross deeds. There are a few keys ways to interact with it, but other than that thereís not much to do.

Thatís probably the main thing I didnít like. Tons of items are in the game, but almost all of them have a message like Ďthatís not important nowí or Ďyou donít need thatí. That makes sense from a scoping point of view, but I felt a little sad every time an interesting item turned out not to be usable.

But I liked the writing. And the Ďgoodí ending really explained a lot about one of Ascension of Limbsí main mechanics, so thatís what I liked best about this.

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A Thing of Wretchedness on IFDB

Recommended Lists

A Thing of Wretchedness appears in the following Recommended Lists:

A timeline of Lovecraftian horror by MathBrush
Lovecraftian games are oddly overrepresented in IF, both among IF in general, and among great IF games. They seem to be a good fit for the exploratory form of parser IF. Most of these games hit up all of the big-ticket Lovecraft items:...

Polls

The following polls include votes for A Thing of Wretchedness:

The dark, the bleak, and the tragic by OverThinking
Send me your downers, your bummers, your wretched games that leave the player feeling like they've been kicked in the teeth.

Microparsers by Tabitha / alyshkalia
The discussion in this thread, from which I've borrowed the term "microparser" (thanks Pinkunz!), led me to want to collect small parser games. I'm thinking of ones that fit what's described in the thread--generally taking less than 30...




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