Ad Verbum

by Nick Montfort

Humor/Wordplay
2000

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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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- TheBoxThinker, January 28, 2022

- Titania Lowe, January 24, 2022

- tmack, October 14, 2020

- Xuan Li, July 1, 2020

- Zape, June 23, 2020

Aligning Alliterative Aspirations: Admirable. Accompanied Accoutrements: Average, June 7, 2020

I decided to give this game a try as it seemed right up my alley. Spurred by the positive reviews on sections with alliteration, I was excited for the ways my vocabulary might be challenged, and I'll tell you, those sections are every bit as engaging as the other reviews say. The effort put into the descriptions in these alliteration rooms was very impressive, and they meshed perfectly with the interactive fiction medium. I think it was worth playing just for those sections. Most of the other areas, with the exception of the library, were mostly a bit frustrating for me. There was a particular puzzle with a certain animal that gave me a headache, not for the core of the puzzle, but figuring out how to format the text to enter. In the end I did need to consult the hint sections for multiple puzzles, and part of it was the un-intuitiveness, thus the 4 stars. I would play an entire game of alliterative word puzzles any day though.


- Katrisa (Houston), May 7, 2020

- kierlani, March 30, 2020

- IanAllenBird, December 14, 2019

- querenthenna, November 15, 2019

Exciting English exercises, entertaining enigmas. Expect ennui expunged. Enjoy!, May 10, 2019

by deathbytroggles (Minneapolis, MN)

Like Infocom's Nord & Bert, Montfort created an essentially plot free game for Americans with a love for wordplay. Also similar to its predecessor, there is a built-in hint system that will ensure you don't get stuck.

While I adore Ad Verbum, its best puzzle is easily the first one you're likely to encounter, that being the compass rose rooms. The descriptions and responses to valiant attempts to escape these rooms are some of the wittiest I've seen in interactive fiction. I was delighted when trying to leave the south room when (Spoiler - click to show)"skedaddle" worked. I also rather enjoyed the library room. Like others have mentioned, I was disappointed that several puzzles have very little to do with classic wordplay (and aren't terribly interesting), and the Latin pig understands less than he should.


- elias67, March 12, 2019

- mrfrobozzo, January 17, 2019

- Spike, December 19, 2018

- Ploppy, December 16, 2018

- Vigorish (Bradenton, Florida ), November 15, 2018

- yaronra, July 16, 2018

- wisprabbit (Sheffield, UK), June 17, 2018

- ikkinlala, June 16, 2018

- DustyCypress (Hong Kong), May 19, 2018

- nosferatu, February 1, 2018

- Guenni (At home), January 26, 2018

- hoopla, December 14, 2017

- lkdc, December 1, 2017

- Wanderlust, August 3, 2017

- Smidge, July 9, 2017

- EngineerWolf (India), December 18, 2016

- alexvicegrab, October 28, 2016

- jeffhos, October 13, 2016

- kala (Finland), April 13, 2016

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Enchanting word-play game that starts very strong and peters out, February 3, 2016

Ad Verbum was one of the first IF games I played, and still a favorite. In this mid-length, story-lite game, you must collect and throw away various items by using constrained commands (commands that don't use certain letters, commands that only use the top row of the keyboard, repetitive commands, etc.)

The most enjoyable rooms are the rooms where you must use only words starting with a certain letter. The hardest part is trying to leave! How do you exit a room to the north if you have to start all of your commands with s?

The top few levels and the backyard are not quite as fun. And there are some puzzles that are just weird "guess which random object has the random property you need" puzzles.


- branewurms, January 1, 2016

- Aryore, December 13, 2015

- brian.j.sanders, September 29, 2015

- leanbh, July 30, 2015

- Lanternpaw, May 18, 2015

- Thrax, March 11, 2015

- Catalina, January 22, 2015

- Matthew Darby (London, United Kingdom), September 20, 2014

- Sobol (Russia), September 12, 2014

- shornet (Bucharest), August 28, 2014

- Indigo9182, July 1, 2014

- lisapaul, January 10, 2014

- Christopher Bogs, December 8, 2013

- DAzebras, November 28, 2013

- streever (America), November 26, 2013

- Adam Myers, September 19, 2013

- Christina Nordlander, August 5, 2013

- Sdn (UK), July 23, 2013

- dutchmule, July 22, 2013

- E.K., June 12, 2013

- KGH (North Carolina), June 10, 2013

- Shadow Fox (Texas), May 13, 2013

- Floating Info, April 3, 2013

- Destarex (Colorado), December 21, 2012

- Edward Lacey (Oxford, England), December 7, 2012

- Brianna, December 5, 2012

- Lingling (Perth, WA), November 20, 2012

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Unusual in such a good way, September 8, 2012
by Dida

I had a feeling Ad Verbum would be good when I realized it was all about wordplay. I absolutely adore logical puzzles! So this was right up my street.

The puzzles ticked pretty much all the boxes:
-- they were well-designed and well implemented (the vocabulary of the parser really did impress);
-- they differed from each other keeping the game fresh;
-- they were mostly well-clued, though there WERE some significant exceptions;
-- they started off easy to understand, getting progressively harder, but that was fair;
-- and yes, they were frustrating but in a good way because they were so rewarding once solved. The fact that the wordplay theme doubled as a constant clue certainly helped curb those frustrations.

There were two things I really didn't like: first, I didn't like (Spoiler - click to show)the inclusion of Pig Latin because this assumes that the player is familiar with it; second has to be (Spoiler - click to show)that pesky robodog puzzle which had NO apparent connection to wordplay which I thought was pretty unfair. The supposed explanation in the Hints section didn't explain it either.

All in all though, I really commend the author for making this and for doing it so well. It loses a star for the two issues I noted above but even with that factored in, Ad Verbum was brilliant fun!


- Molly (USA), July 17, 2012

- Andrew Schultz (Chicago), May 3, 2012

- Herr Rau (München, Germany), May 1, 2012

- Domaknitrix (Virginia), March 9, 2012

- Relle Veyér, March 1, 2012

- Bran Rainey (Windsor, Ontario), February 25, 2012

- Lazarus Long, February 12, 2012

- Hywel Dda, February 11, 2012

- dbigs, January 18, 2012

- trojo (Huntsville, Alabama, USA), October 4, 2011

- Jeff Zeitlin (Greater New York Area), September 6, 2011

- katz (Altadena, California), January 24, 2011

- The Year Is Yesterday (California), December 11, 2010

- Mr. Patient (Saint Paul, Minn.), November 12, 2010

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.


- Joel Webster (Madison, WI), July 26, 2010

- Celestianpower (Gloucestershire, UK), July 25, 2010

- SarahTheEntwife (USA), July 7, 2010

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!


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.


- o0pyromancer0o, April 24, 2010

- Danielle (The Wild West), April 22, 2010

- MyTheory (Missouri), March 25, 2010

- loungeman (Bilbao, Spain), January 4, 2010

- TempestDash (Cincinnati, Ohio), December 4, 2009

- tadjinar, October 9, 2009

- lupusrex (Seattle, WA), October 4, 2009

- Juhana, September 24, 2009

- GDL (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), July 1, 2009

- Mark V. (Madrid, Spain), June 2, 2009

- Ben, February 9, 2009

- Shigosei, January 22, 2009

- Otto (France), January 11, 2009

- Cheryl L (Australia), January 11, 2009

- Audiart (Davis, CA), January 3, 2009

- Nathan (Utah), October 25, 2008

- hywelhuws (Clynnog Fawr, Wales, UK), September 17, 2008

- madducks (Indianapolis, Indiana), September 5, 2008

- Wesley (Iowa City, Iowa), September 1, 2008

- NotVerySubtle, August 1, 2008

- Alizarin (Monrovia, CA), July 24, 2008

- alice-meynell, July 20, 2008

- Nathaniel Kirby (Pennsylvania), July 11, 2008

- perching path (near Philadelphia, PA, US), June 19, 2008

- tinroof, June 14, 2008

- felicitations, May 9, 2008

- brattish (Canada), April 8, 2008

- J. Robinson Wheeler (Austin, TX), April 3, 2008

- jfpbookworm (Hamburg, New York), February 25, 2008

- puzzler (Everett, Washington), February 10, 2008

- Ziixxxitria (California), January 27, 2008

- DJ (Olalla, Washington), January 24, 2008

- Matt Poush (Des Moines, Iowa), January 11, 2008

- Pseudo_Intellectual (Vancouver, Canada), December 31, 2007

- oddgrue (California), December 30, 2007

- Tyrog, December 14, 2007

- PSilk (London, UK), November 26, 2007

- Alan De Smet, November 12, 2007

- Emily Boegheim, November 10, 2007

- Hauston (Seattle, WA), November 3, 2007

- Sam Kabo Ashwell (Seattle), October 30, 2007

- Stephen Bond (Leuven, Belgium), October 26, 2007

- Pseudo_Intellectual (Vancouver, Canada), October 25, 2007

- Sami Preuninger (New York City), October 23, 2007

- Michael R. Bacon (New Mexico), October 21, 2007

- Corey Arnett (British Columbia, Canada), October 20, 2007

- Tracy Poff (Hamlin, West Virginia, United States), October 19, 2007

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

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