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Requires a TADS interpreter. Visit IFWiki for download links.
Mac OS Application (Compressed with StuffIt. Free StuffIt Expanders are available for most systems at www.stuffit.com.)
original competition entry
Requires a TADS interpreter. Visit IFWiki for download links.
correction of error in in-game hints for original release
Walkthrough and map
by David Welbourn

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Small World

by Andrew D. Pontious

Fantasy, Travel, Surreal

(based on 13 ratings)
4 reviews

Game Details


Winner, Best Setting; Nominee, Best NPCs; Winner - The devil, Best Individual NPC - 1996 XYZZY Awards

4th Place - 2nd Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (1996)

Editorial Reviews

Baf's Guide

A small game set in a tiny solar system, where the mechanism that powers the rotation of the Earth (approx. diameter 8 feet) has broken down and must be repaired. Has an excellent sense of humor that derives more from the absurdity of the game mechanics than the prose, as you wade through oceans and leap to other planets. Puzzles are simple but numerous. A lot of the standard TADS verbs are disabled to make the game easier. Features adaptive hints.

-- Carl Muckenhoupt

What really makes this game is the way that everything is so neatly tied together. It all makes a bizarre sort of sense, and responses are almost always appropriate. My favourite game of the competition.
-- John Wood

After my getting about 18% of the point, plot advancement abruptly ground to a screeching halt
-- C.E. Forman

What's interesting about Small World is that it doesn't appear to take itself seriously, and yet the conflicts on the world you inhabit are rendered as actual conflicts rather than as humor.
-- Duncan Stevens
See the full review

Good idea for a game, you're trapped on an eight foot diameter world. [...] Things quickly start to get confusing. This is soon followed by things getting progressively more confusing, and that rapidly leads to banging your head against a wall stage!
-- Graham Raven
See the full review

It's the sort of game to savour, and wander through slowly. There are only 16 locations in Small World, but it's a far bigger game than one suspects. This is due to the many different actions available to you, and the intricacy of many puzzles. The main fascination of the game though lies in its brilliantly original storyline, and the strong ideas behind it.
-- Bev Truter
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>INVENTORY - Paul O'Brian writes about interactive fiction

I really enjoyed this game a great deal, and it definitely gets points for originality. The literalized version of the game’s title made for a charming premise, and because the premise was so heavily based on setting, the brand of fantasy which resulted was perfect for interactive fiction. Wandering through the miniaturized world was really a treat, although sometimes I found it difficult to retain my suspension of disbelief, especially since some of the obstacles to my progress seemed just a little too arbitrary.
See the full review


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Member Reviews

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Number of Reviews: 4
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Most Helpful Member Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful:
How is there not a review for this awesome game?, April 27, 2012
by Rymbeld (Greensboro, NC)

What a cute game is this! What a nice little thing! Small World is not a "deep" game, and it doesn't tackle any big issues like fate or death or heartbreak. Nope. Small World is just a nice fun diversion, not too hard, not too long. Just a short ride. On the other hand, this is a game with great narrative potential. I think it fell short, though, but I can easily imagine a larger story. With just a tad bit more hashing out of the game, this would be among my favorites.

In Small World, you play a fat boy getting ready for a hiking trip:

You hear the bus horn beeping as you, with misgivings, cram the last few items into your backpack, close it, and shoulder it on. It's Saturday, time for the first trip of the Junior Hikers your parents forced you to join. Short, chubby, and extremely shy, you've kept to yourself since your beloved, if eccentric, great-aunt died over the winter. As is your wont, before leaving, you spin the globe she gave you for your tenth birthday.

But it's stuck.

What happens next is great fun: you suddenly shrink, smaller and smaller, until you are in the globe, but a giant. You go from being a little fat boy to a big skinny boy! And in this small world you meet St. Peter, the Devil, Adam and Eve, and little green Martians, in an homage Gulliver's Travels. You job is to fix all the screwed up things in this little world and to get the globe spinning again. And in so doing, you regain your self-confidence and no longer fear a simple hiking trip. Pretty neat!

So, here's where I think the game could have done better: give us more of the set-up. Let us play as a fat, shy kid for a little bit. It doesn't have to be much, but we could roam the house a bit, play with our globe some. Maybe the globe actually got stuck because someone else messed with it, someone who intimidates us. If we had a little more time with the kid, we'd get a better feel for his character and this transformative adventure of his would have more meaning for us. This would make the end more meaningful and triumphant, I think. The basic frame is already in place, and all we as player-readers need is something more concrete, more showing, to really hook us in.

The writing in the game is already wonderful. Small World won the 1996 Xyzzy award for Best Setting (which I think it probably deserved) and Best NPC (probably for the Devil; he's hilarious), but to be honest I think it should have also been nominated for Best Writing. So Far won that one, and Tapestry was also nominated. But you know, Small World is solidly written. It isn't "beautiful," but the writing is solid and clear and Pontious maintains a consistent voice which fits the game perfectly. It's light and humorous and conveys a tone appropriate to the setting. I think it is at least as well-written as So Far.

I think this is a great little game, with very few flaws. It probably isn't the best game if you want very challenging, mind-bending puzzles. It would be suitable for children and people looking for a nice little adventure. Honestly, it has a bit of a Katamari Damacy vibe to it. Play it!

(reposted from my blog--totally surprised that this award-winning game had no reviews and few ratings.)

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A very cute mid-length game set on a tiny world with 10 portions, February 4, 2016

In this game, you walk around a literal "small world". You are a giant that can grab things from space, get shot at by missiles and not care, and do other giant things. The world is not spinning, so some parts are perpetually hot, some perpetually cold and dark.

The game is packed with tiny details, and a blending of big and small. The writing is plain but descriptive.

The puzzles are a mixed bag. It's mostly "guess the author's brain", which is easy to do some of the time and hard other times. The world is so small that you can just try everything on everyone and it will work out.

This game was nominated for many XYZZY's, and won best setting.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Neat premise and good game for kids, May 29, 2013
by Andromache (Hawaii)

This was a cute game. Much like "Threnody" and "Sunset Over Savannah," fantasy and American cultural references are blended in a sensible way so that things work in realistic ways even if appearances are mythical. This made puzzles feel natural. The final puzzle gave me a tough time, but after some nudges with the hints about what to do, I was able to execute it myself. There was another puzzle that completely eluded me until once again, after some prodding, I worked out what I was supposed to do in that location.

I enjoyed the various environments, the different civilizations through history in each place. This time around, I was able to catch the Star Wars references. They are blatant but made me smile. The only thing I really didn't like about the game was a tiny nitpick about (Spoiler - click to show)lizardskin shoes. But that is just a personal blip to an otherwise excellent game that has a nice ending and a somewhat wacky feel. This game deserves more attention.

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Small World on IFDB

Recommended Lists

Small World appears in the following Recommended Lists:

Best fantasy games by MathBrush
These are my favorite games that include some sort of magical or fantastical element. Games with mostly horror or sci-fi elements are on other lists, as are surreal games, fairy tale/nursery games, and religious/mythological games. I've...

Noteworthy T2 Games [Formerly: Which Can't Be Played on the Web] by Walter Sandsquish
This list was created because TADS 2 didn't have a Web-based 'terp for a long time. It's still here because these games, from long ago, are good enough to not be forgotten.


The following polls include votes for Small World:

forgotten gems by Marius Müller
I'm looking for games that don't show up in the IF histories or recommended lists, for what reason whatsover. Old games that maybe weren't boundary-pushing or noteworthy, but still give you a fun play experience. If you ever thought...

What are your favorite games? by Christopher Caesar
I was wondering which games are worth playing, as I haven't found any games that take a while to complete that are worth playing

This is version 5 of this page, edited by Paul O'Brian on 5 May 2022 at 1:03am. - View Update History - Edit This Page - Add a News Item - Delete This Page