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About the Story
A traditional fantasy quest in which you and your village have been cursed with a slow transformation into various animals. The only way to stop the curse is to retrieve the Pendant of Elinor from the mysterious island of the Goergs.
A short fantasy with a theme of illusion and an interesting substitute for a scoring system. Your town is subject to a curse that is turning people, bit by bit, into animals. The closer you come to meeting the demands of the wizard responsible, the more your wolf's paw turns back into a hand. (Of course, you don't really wind up appeasing an evil wizard, but I'll spare you the plot twists.) Sparse and linear, but with good detail and a couple of well-done magic items. If there were more to it, it would be one of the finest of its type. Features a hint menu.
-- Carl Muckenhoupt
I'm torn with this one. Using the changing hand as a marker for the player's progress is very imaginitive, but this doesn't quite mask the game's overall linearity. (C.E. Forman)
Those who genuinely dislike fantasy probably won't make an exception for Wearing the Claw, as it doesn't really push the boundaries of fantasy all that much. As fantasy IF goes, however, it's both thoughtful and imaginative, and manages to entertain consistently--and for those who weren't around for the 1996 competition, it might be worth going back to check this one out. (Duncan Stevens)
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The game is easily finishable in about two hours, even without resorting to the help facility, but short and easy does NOT mean quick and boring in this case. Location descriptions are detailed and evocative without being overly long - the beach locations in particular are beautifully described, giving the game depth and atmosphere.
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Number of Reviews: 5
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Wearing the Claw is everything I look for in a fantasy game and more. The premise is simple enough, but contains a lot of interesting twists and turns. You are a young man from the cursed town of Bex. Apparently, an evil wizard has placed a spell on the town's people that slowly has them turning into animals (you included). Now, you must journey to the island of Georgs and stop the wizard. (At least, that's what your task seems to be at the start of the adventure.)
There is no out-right scoring system, but there is a very original method of checking whether you're on the right path. The wolf paw that has replaced your hand will either continue to become...more wolfish or start to change into a human hand once more. I liked that feature a lot, as it managed to relay some sort of scoring information without bringing me out of the story's atmosphere.
Speaking of atmosphere: Wearing the Claw is set in a well-described, if slightly under-implemented setting. A mixture of detail and use of sensory information manages to immerse the reader in the story. The prose is well-written and has some really poignant moments when I could almost feel the wind or the water droplets on the PC's back. In the later part of the game, the setting draws on the mythological perception of Hades. And while that interpretation of hell has been used in IF many times before, Wearing the Claw puts a new spin on it.
The puzzles are very well-clued and I don't believe I've ever had to refer to the in-game hints. Once I finished the game, I did take a look at the hint system and I was pleased to find that the hints are well-paced and give away just the right amount of information at the right time. There will be times where you might inadvertently put yourself in an unwindable position, but the game will hint at the fact right away and a simply UNDO will ratify the problem. But even if you do play ahead for a few turns without realizing you've done something wrong, it won't take you all that long to restart and play the game again. Actually, that's my only problem with Wearing the Claw: it's too short. I would have liked to spend much more time solving puzzles in each location, but the story seemed to rush me on. Some of the puzzles are quite clever and bring about descriptions and sensations that can only be described as magical.
Yes, there are a few glitches, but there are so nonessential that they do not take away from the game's overall feel. Yes, it could have been more descriptive, featured more items, more locations, and more NPCs. There's a lot of things that could be done to flesh out and improve Wearing the Claw, but I liked it for what it is - a smooth, well-written game with fun puzzles and a great story. If you want a solid fantasy game with none of the long dungeon crawls and endless puzzles of so many epic IF games, give Wearing the Claw a try. I guarantee it will be worth the download.
In the design notes revealed at the end of the game, Paul O'Brian tells us that one of his goals was to experiment with a more natural scoring system. On the one hand, he says, having a numerical score breaks the fourth wall; on the other hand, without a score players may feel lost, since they do not know whether they are on the right way. How to resolve this tension? The problem was discussed in the newsgroup, and Wearing the Claw presents a possible solution.
This scoring mechanism is only a tiny aspect of the game, but I bring it up to show how big the gulf is between 1996 and 2011. The tension outlined in the previous paragraph will strike nobody as a serious problem, because nobody expects to have a numerical score anymore. Progression through the game can be shown in so many ways -- most simply by just having the story continue -- that implementing a magical claw that changes as the player succeeds or fails seems like an attempt to solve a problem that doesn't exist. So much has changed: when Galatea came out in 2000, people complained that it wasn't clear how you could "win" it. Such a complaint would now be unimaginable.
Wearing the Claw is a short, solid game, but one that would not do well in a competition in 2011. It is a string of more or less random puzzles, most of which require at least some experimentation. The NPCs are schematic. The locations are sparse. The story is -- well, there, but that's the most you can say of it.
On top of that, you can easily get the game into an unwinnable state. This makes the game seem very cruel to a modern player, even though the author probably did not design it that way: in 1996, the message that one of your objects was destroyed was a big warning that you had done something wrong, whereas in 2011 it sounds like it is part of the story. What was once obvious is now obscure.
This game, then, would have scored quite well fifteen years ago; but it has aged badly.
(If this is how we look back on games from 2011 in 2026, I will be one happy critic!)
This game was a lot better when I played it ten years ago. Or is it I who have come to expect better?
Wearing the Claw is a very traditional fantasy adventure. It's played completely straight. No tongue in cheek, no subtle (or blatant) irony.
I really like traditional fantasy played straight. A lot.
After "The Testing", you are chosen as the worthy young man to find the Pendant of MacGuffin, ahem, Elinor, to lift the curse beset upon your village by an evil wizard. You are to gain entry to the Fortress where it is held and bring it back. No objections from me here. More than half the fantasy stories and games I know start off like this.
But then the game falls short on many points.
Apart from a longish text dump-introduction and a similarly long epilogue, the actual story is hurried. There's not enough attention to tempo to let the player sink into the story or the character. Everything seems to happen one thing after another at the same just-a-bit-too-fast pace.
The view of the magical island across the sea raised expectations that weren't fulfilled. After a literally linear path (one east-west dusty road) I had hoped for the map to open up and become more complex upon entering the fortress. Instead I found one north-south path.
The first puzzle sets a good theme. It's about deception, and one hopes that this will be explored more fully in the rest of the game. The other puzzles do indeed repeat the theme, but they do not widen it. They're similar variations on the theme without becoming more difficult or complicated. As such, they also do not become more rewarding, rather the opposite.
The story itself has the same problem. If only it had broadened in scope to weigh some of the personal or moral implications of deception... Perhaps by adding alternative ways to overcome the obstacles...
Maybe your character could also have become a more three-dimensional person then.
But these are "if"s and "maybe"s that cannot be changed.
The game as it is still has its good qualities. It's competently written. It has a ton of optional responses to unnecessary actions. You can greatly add to the fun in this game by trying many things that are outside of the main quest.
There is a magical gadget that changes the way you view the world, so there's some fun in re-exploring there.
All in all, this is a fine, uncomplicated adventure. It's just that it seems to promise so much more...
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