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Solution by Richard Bos
Solution by Garry Francis
Map by Garry Francis

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Ad Verbum

by Nick Montfort profile

Humor, Wordplay

Web Site

(based on 133 ratings)
8 reviews

About the Story

"With the cantankerous Wizard of Wordplay evicted from his mansion, the worthless plot can now be redeveloped. The city regulations declare, however, that the rip-down job can't proceed until all the items within had been removed.

As an adventurer hired by the demolitions contractor to kleptomaniacially clear out this mansion, you must engage in wordplay in order to gather all the items inside. It is not necessary to think of puns, cliches, or homonyms, however, as has been the case with previous logological interactive fiction. The puzzles in Ad Verbum are of a different -- and perhaps even unique -- nature." [--blurb from Competition Aught-Zero]

Game Details


Winner, Best Puzzles; Nominee, Best Individual Puzzle; Nominee, Best Use of Medium - 2000 XYZZY Awards

4th Place overall; 1st Place, Miss Congeniality Awards - 6th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2000)

22nd Place - Interactive Fiction Top 50 of All Time (2011 edition)

41st Place - Interactive Fiction Top 50 of All Time (2015 edition)

Editorial Reviews

Baf's Guide

A wordplay game reminiscent in some respects of Infocom's Nord and Bert Couldn't Make Head or Tail of It. Some of the puzzles work better than others--a few are just obscure--but there's one section of the game that's simply astounding. Specifically, there are alliterative rooms where the parser has been rewritten to allow only commands in which every word begins with a certain letter--and all the responses are likewise rewritten. For example, >EXAMINE EFFIGY elicits "Enemy effigy. Extreme enormity evident. Execrable evildoer!" The puzzles in this section involve figuring out the appropriate commands to take certain objects and get out of the rooms, but it's more rewarding simply to try to push the limits of the game's literacy (and it takes a lot of pushing). The rest of Ad Verbum doesn't quite live up to that portion of the game, but the alliterative section alone makes it worth trying.

-- Duncan Stevens

[...] The game itself presents the player with a seemingly simple stint: acquire all objects from a house and dump them in the Dumpster. The catch is that the house once belonged to the "cantankerous Wizard of Wordplay", so it's not as simple as going through each room and picking up the objects. You have to obey the rules. For example, in one room, you can only use words that begin with the letter 's', however the only way to leave it is to the north, which is a word you can't use. You also have to be able to pick up objects in those rooms, again only using 's'-words. [...] (Mark J Musante)
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Ad Verbum, as the name suggests, involves wordplay like Nord & Bert. [...] This game took some getting used to! (Dorothy Millard)
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>INVENTORY - Paul O'Brian writes about interactive fiction

Up until about halfway through Ad Verbum, I found that it was very well prepared to handle anything I threw at it. However, as I moved to other puzzles, it started to reject perfectly valid commands, which caused me to lose faith in the game with distressing speed, despite how impressed I had been with it up until then. After that frustrating period, I turned to the help and didn't try very hard to solve the rest of the puzzles, which is a shame because some of them were really excellent puzzles.

The problem is that because Ad Verbum requires such specific input, when it isn't prepared to handle what little input is valid under its rules, it seems much more broken than does a typical IF puzzle when it rejects alternate solutions. I can't say I blame it -- frankly, I'm astonished by how well coded it is already, even despite what it still lacks -- but that didn't make my experience any more fun when the game was rejecting correct answers.

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Number of Reviews: 8
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Most Helpful Member Reviews

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful:
Wisely wrought, wicked wordplay works well, September 22, 2010
by Victor Gijsbers (The Netherlands)

Ad Verbum is a great wordplay game, and one of the few works of interactive fiction that can claim to have been inspired by the work of Georges Perec. Its greatest claim to fame are undoubtedly the rooms where all descriptions, including all the library responses, are written in such a way that each word begins with the same letter (w, n, e, or s), and where only input in the same format is accepted. Try taking something and then going south when you only type words that start with an 'n'. These puzzles are excellent and wittily implemented. The same high quality is maintained in the library, where several other forms of constrained writing are practised.

It is really good to see some interactive fiction that takes the textuality of the work seriously, and that manages to craft enjoyable puzzles around it.

I do wonder why Nick Montfort thought it would be a good idea to add some puzzles that have nothing to do with wordplay. (I'm thinking primarily about a light source puzzle and a "bring an object to a person" puzzle.) It's not just that they lack the brilliance of the constrained writing puzzles; it's also that by the time you come to these puzzles, you are so trained to look for wordplay everywhere that you don't realise that these puzzles are not to be solved in that way.

My bigger gripe with the game, however, is that some of the puzzles seem to be excessively geared towards certain cultural backgrounds. To a certain degree this is unavoidable: one cannot play an English wordplay game without having a great command of the English language. But some of the puzzles required the use of what I presume are American slang terms that I had literally never heard of; and there was one puzzle which you cannot possibly even start to grasp unless you already have detailed knowledge of a language game which might be well known in the US, but which, again, I had never before encountered.

(Which ones do I mean? Here are the spoilers. Taking a certain object in the library: (Spoiler - click to show)you need to "rip" the wee writ, where this is apparently a synonym for "take". Exiting the s-room: (Spoiler - click to show)you need to "scram", or "split", apparently synonyms for "go". And the language game you need to know is of course (Spoiler - click to show)pig latin, a puzzle which is by the way made unintentionally difficult by the fact that (Spoiler - click to show)the pig doesn't understand "outhsay" but only "ogay outhsay".)

After encountering one such puzzle, the reader will start believing than any puzzle he cannot solve is such a puzzle -- in other words, the motivation to persist when things are difficult is greatly decreased.

All this might not apply for people who do have the right cultural background to understand the more obscure puzzles, but for me they lessened the fun of the game enough to have me drop my rating from 4 to 3 stars. Still, you owe it to yourself to play this game.

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
Witty Wordplay With Wry Whips, June 9, 2010
by tggdan3 (Michigan)

The game has no plot to speak of, which is fine. The puzzles are similar to Nord and Bert, where you use wordplay to obtain items, and to exit rooms.

Some of the rooms are obvious, such as the room where everything begins with S only allows commands and nouns that start with S. Which makes it difficult when you're trying to find ways to go north.

The parser is pretty smart, however, the nature of the parser forces you to think so far outside the box it might become frustrating. (Spoiler - click to show) Especially when you try "walk where west was" to go east and get no response. . Some puzzles are straightforward, like knowing more dinosaur types (Spoiler - click to show) Though I think "anything"saur will work, since it accepted "boobasaur" . I found what I believe to be a glitch that made the game unwinnable concerning the sofa (Spoiler - click to show) I was apparantly not supposed to be able to remove it from the upstairs room without the verbosifier, but I did, and the verbosifier wouldn't work in the other room .

All in all the game is great and different enough from standard IF games that it will keep you occupied beyond the "take all" nonsense. The included hints don't give the answer completely away, but do tell you what you need to know. Interesting is the fact that in some rooms "save/restore/undo/quit" don't work, but that's in the nature of the way the author redesigned the parser for each room.

Gives a lot for an aspiring player or writer to live up to!

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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
Clever puzzles based on wordplay, June 7, 2010
by Bernie (Fredericksburg, VA)

Ad Verbum is solely a puzzle game (no story or plot). Unlike traditional IF puzzles, the puzzles in Ad Verbum are word puzzles, mostly of 'guess the verb' form. In general, I detest 'guess the verb' puzzles, but this game succeeds beautifully by creating logical constraints for the verbs. While playing it, I found myself happily mulling over synonyms for 'take' and 'exit'. The writing in the game is very clever, and the author does an exceptional job of following the rules presented in the game, managing to give entire room and object descriptions using only, for example, words that begin with 'w'.

The game is relatively short. Most of the time you spend playing it will be spent thinking over puzzles. Ad Verbum is great for delivering the 'ah hah!' moment of a cleverly solved puzzle. It's also a terrific game for involving others in the puzzles. Normal IF puzzles are difficult to share with others, but it was simple to turn to my husband and say "I need a word that means 'exit' that begins with 's'." Indeed, my husband provided the necessary solutions for at least two of the puzzles.

This game is highly recommended as a diversion from more traditional IF, and is a must-play for any puzzle-lover.

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The following polls include votes for Ad Verbum:

Best games you've played in 2012 by Molly
The year of our lord Two Thousand Twelve is almost over, so let's reflect back on the games we've played this year and see which ones we liked the most. Note that the games don't have to have come out in 2012 to be eligible for this...

Games with extraordinary "wow" moments by J'onn Roger
If there is a moment in a game that stands out to you with vivid clarity, a moment of extraordinary beauty with writing that makes you really makes you see what is taking place, list the game here. Since surprise may play a part in the...

Games with Impossible-to-film moments by aaronius
I'm looking for games that demonstrate the power of text-based games. Games with sentences that would make developers of 3D games weep, like "The army of ten million robots marched over the liquid landscape," or "She concealed her anger...

See all polls with votes for this game

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