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About the Story
You remember fire and smoke when the raiders invaded the town, chasing you until everything went dark, but now you are alone, and Aurel is missing. You have to rescue him, no matter the cost!
18th place - 27th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2021)
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Number of Reviews: 5
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This is a fantasy parser game where you play as a human/fox creature that can switch between forms at will. You are a guardian to a young human who has been captured and you have to rescue him.
Gameplay is centered on switching between forms to your advantage. This is done very well: your animal form can speak with other animals, has heightened senses and can fit into tight places, while your human form is stronger and can use tools.
The parser could use some work, and the opening scene is where it struggles the most. Going up or down gives a blank message, and trying to apply the bandages is really rough when it comes to guessing synonyms (things like PUT BANDAGES ON ____ don't work).
The cast of characters is described well, although the raiders stick out as weird (they use strong profanity, where the rest of the game is more at a YA level, and they seem fairly dumb). The animal characters are great.
The main feature of Finding Light is immediate and very appealing. You can change between a human and a fox with the help of a gem, and you need to switch between forms to rescue your master, Aurel, who has been captured by bandits. It's done quite well. FL rejects rejecting physically impossible stuff and balances fox tasks with human tasks quite well and even hints the player special verbs to do or type without force-feeding them.
The game starts with you (Ezra) waking up, lost, in a forest. And it's pretty clear you need to become a fox to escape, but the problem with foxes is: they're color-blind. So this creates problems later. However, you, as a fox, can also talk to animals. You'll need to, to get into the bandits' fortress. The puzzling here is pretty clear but not trivial. There are two horses to talk to. One wants something before really helping you. Along the way, you need to change back to human form to handle a certain item. But one thing I really enjoyed was the game letting you open the gate as a fox-–putting the key in your mouth and finally getting it right. That is attention to worthwhile detail.
Then inside the fortress you find other obstacles. Ezra can't read and needs an ally who can. Ezra meets a rat who wants shiny objects and whose brother is missing. Eventually Ezra finds a secret passage that lets him infiltrate the inside of the fortress, but there's a maze, and I think it's well-done, especially when you go off-course. It tells you you've missed information without saying "go back and look for more," and while many of us (rightfully) hate mazes, I really enjoy seeing one more way the whole "big maze" trope is successfully subverted. This mechanic was, in fact, used independently in two other entries in the Comp. So maybe in 2022, it will be stale. But for now, it's something good, and each of the three games treated going off-course in the maze substantially differently. Here, the first time you go off-course, an animal will help you back to the start, if you found an optional item. FL is the strictest about getting the path through the maze right, though, as you'd expect. And it pretty clearly signposts things.
Crossing the maze seems to trap you in a final fight with no way back, and it's possible you might be locked out of the best ending. There's one item with a clear purpose that isn't used to get deeper into the fortress, but it plays an important role. FL is replayable and memorable enough to patch this up. And so you can hit all the endings. Some were sad, of course (you can sit and do nothing during a big fight,) but they felt emotionally right.
One thing I didn't try was changing forms around animals. I definitely have my testing side while I play through comp games, but I certainly felt "hey, my friends might react unfavorably," which speaks very well for the immersion factor. As do some choices you make (mostly interacting with other animals) that don't affect whether you can get through with the game: they're there, and they're real, and I didn't care if they were practical. They were worth thinking about.
I'm not surprised that a first-time effort like this would do well. Its goal is clear, the mechanics are intuitive and relevant, and the puzzles are smart without forcing you to pull your hair out. My major worry throughout this game was that the human/fox switching would be thrown to the side, but that doesn't happen. Each form gets approximately equal screen time. I took a transcript as I went through, and when I found a nitpick to comment on, I felt like a bit of a bum noting it despite all the fun I had. On replaying, I still enjoyed it a lot. And I think you will too.
This was a well-written, enjoyable parser game set in a fantasy world. It had a fun game mechanic where you have to switch your character's form depending on the puzzle you are working on. I thought the puzzles were low difficulty, as it seemed clear what was needed in almost every situation. The exception was (Spoiler - click to show)the maze. I used the walkthrough. I still don't know where in the game you find out how to solve it. When I got the most successful ending, I was hoping for a little more story as to what happened afterwards. My favorite part would have been (Spoiler - click to show)finding out that all the rats in the game are related. When I delivered bad news to one of them, I was wishing the story had more moments like that. I would probably have liked a little more description in some places. For example, the villains are known as "The Raiders." For whatever reason, I pictured them as some kind of creatures, like maybe Gamorrean Guards or something. When they finally appear, they still are not described, but since it is possible to infiltrate them, I guess they must be human? However, I appreciated that there was a way to get some backstory, including details on the boy you are trying to save. So, I would say there is a lot to like. I wouldn't mind a follow-up game set in this world.
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