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by David Welbourn
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The Mystery of Winchester High

by Garry Francis profile

Mystery, children's

Web Site

(based on 7 ratings)
2 reviews

About the Story

Frederick H Winchester III was a rich man who lived in the city of Dunedin in New Zealand. When he died, his mansion was bequeathed to the city to be turned into a high school. Apart from the mansion, the remainder of Winchesterís vast fortune was never found and its whereabouts became known as The Mystery of Winchester High.

You play the part of a 13-year old student who sets out to solve the mystery and find the lost fortune after hearing that the school will be closed due to funding issues and you will be transferred to a worse school.

Game Details


1st Place - Text Adventure Literacy Jam 2023


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Number of Reviews: 2
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A high school mystery adventure, June 21, 2023
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game has a lot of the hallmarks of Garry Francis' work: puzzle-focused gameplay, polished responses, gentle hints on what to do next, short and easily digestible room descriptions, etc.

The idea is that you're a troublemaker at a school that's going under, and you need to find some treasure reported to be hidden in your school.

Gameplay is generally satisfying, the kind of thing like finding a can and later finding a can opener and using it (not the example in the game). There were a few times I had trouble with the interactivity: trying to leave the room early on (without the tutorial, I would never have thought to do the action, and even with the tutorial it took me a while to find it); and finding the right word for what to do with the (Spoiler - click to show)pencil was hard (I kept trying words like (Spoiler - click to show)rub and (Spoiler - click to show)shade). A couple of the phrases stuck out as odd (I was told many time I thought my teacher was ugly; I think the random chance might need to be lowered a bit).

Overall, I expected a polish parser game and I got one, so it was worth playing. I used in-game hints several times.

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Risk expulsion, find school-saving treasure, June 19, 2023
by Andrew Schultz (Chicago)
Related reviews: TALP 2023

I've played a lot of Garry Francis's games and enjoyed them. They always seem to have a general crowd appeal to them, relying more on the interesting puzzles than the characters. For instance, Kenny Koala is a fun game worth checking out if you haven't, and all the animals you talk with are fun and add to the environment, but you don't do much with them besides give them items to make them happy. MoWH seems to pay a lot more attention to the characters. They go places or restrict you. Maybe he's done this and I forgot, because he's written a lot. But I think the whole conceit of MoWH is very appealing: you are Ian McKenzie, and you get kicked out of class, as 13-year-old boys do, and lo and behold! You have the school to yourself. A perfect time to find missing treasure that will make it financially stable. Especially since this time, your stunt might get you expelled, unless you have evidence of good behavior elsewhere.

I was a bit worried when I read MoWH's summary, because if there is a lot of treasure, then perhaps the school is necessarily very, very big. Which means the game might be exhausting. Maybe you are worried, too. But thankfully, in the spirit of TALP, it's under control. I lost track between 15 and 20 rooms, because I was able to hold it in my head, and it was pretty clear some rooms weren't useful. (That, and I checked with HINT, which is handy for making sure you're done somewhere. Perhaps for future authors, another command that tells only if you're done here would be even nicer. Cragne Manor had its coffee cup. But for a z5 game, this is great.) It still feels big enough to be a school, though. Just stuff like having one hundred lockers in a locker room and needing to find the right one (twice) and some general hallways and a service elevator makes enough to hack through for a satisfying adventure, but you're not going to get stuck anywhere.

And I really like that you spend more time with an NPC than usual in one of Garry's gamesĖhere a janitor moves around impressively for a PunyInform-sized game and gets a lot of attention without seeming too wise-old-father-figure. There's a small part where you have to go back to ask him for more help, and he gives it, and it was surprisingly hard for me, not because one shouldn't repeat things in adventure games or be expected to, but because Ian generally has caused trouble and doesn't need to bug the janitor, and there's another adult besides his teacher who impedes you slightly. The 13-year-old awkwardness comes through!

The puzzles? Well, they seem more straightforward than usual in Garry's games, and that's appropriate given this is a TALP entry. There are a lot of tropes. There are locked doors and drawers and an apparent dead end in a basement, with a secret passage behind a secret passage. In a way, it's been done. There's a safe, too, and finding the combination is strongly hinted. Amusingly, it's one piece of information you do remember from class, so it all makes sense. You won't have to break your brain.

I think MoWH did a good job of establishing tension despite a generous helping of tutorials and hints if you want them. And one thing it reminds me of, too: a lot of Garry's games rely on puzzles that experienced adventures may be acquainted with, and yet at the same time I haven't noticed a lot of repetition or overlap between games, which is impressive in a general sense.

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The Mystery of Winchester High on IFDB

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