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IF Comp ’08 Review – Joseph Strom’s Ananachronist!

October 6, 2008

Is an ananachronist the same thing as an achronist, or an anarchistic anachronist, or what? All I know is that I have a terrible urge to spell it with far too many “an”s, along the lines of banananana dakry, and that the subtitle is “a puzzle in four dimensions,” which intimidates me already. I hope the implementation is natural and not overly confusing.

[spoilers begin here and proceed in a linear fashion]

I am confused already and we’re only at the introduction. It’s interesting that bananananana dakries came up, since I’m getting a total Pratchett vibe. The introduction has a few nice clever bits but I’m finding the whole thing somewhat difficult to parse, so that by the time I figure out how clever the bits are, any chuckling I might have done has already been done for me by that part of my brain I don’t speak to.

I think I’ve figured out what’s so confusing: the author seems to be doing that thing – and I do this myself all the damn time – where there are a good four or five thoughts in the spaces between sentences that really should be sentences of their own, but somehow you don’t realize you’re not adequately conveying these thoughts in the sentences you do manage to write down, so you wind up with something like the Andy Rooney game. Probably the only cure for this is to have someone who isn’t you read your stuff and remind you that no one else knows what jelly donuts have to do with Susan’s pants, or the reason Bill will never love her.

I think I have to… well, I have three targets to smash. And “no special work.” I hope to be given more details about this when the game actually starts.

The walls (if you can call them that) are a featureless expanse of gray that seems to vanish into the distance.
I’m almost positive you couldn’t call them that, but it seems easier for everyone, so I’m willing to allow it. It’s a bit odd that I can’t simply be surrounded by a featureless expanse of gray without thinking of it as walls, though. Also how can the vortex be unused space in the universe if I’m using it? Isn’t I a people?

I am going to have to look up “octothorpe” now. My guess would be that it means “something with eight thorpes” but I don’t know what a thorpe is either. Oh! It’s a (#)! Also, I learn from World Wide Words that the international standards brigade decided to call it a square, on the basis that most languages have a word for “square,” therefore it could easily be translated, so the British Post Office started calling it a square and, later, so did British Telecom. Which is all fine and wonderful except the symbol is clearly and patently not a square. Does that not get confusing?

Anyway. It’s nice that we can all learn something from these reviews. I still have yet to perform an action in that game I’m playing. Remember that game? With the wizards and the time people and the things that aren’t walls? I’m’a go play it.

The workmanship is amazing more befitting earrings than electronics.
Right, ‘cause electronics you can just throw together any old way. But earrings? Earrings require a level of precision that most people will never achieve in their lifetimes.

I should be nicer to Joseph Strom. Joseph Strom you can at least tell is making an effort with these descriptions. Not every game I’ve played has even had descriptions. Shit, one of them didn’t even have objects.

It’s a shame that I didn’t set the destination locus of this portal back before the game started, when I was still presumably a competent ananananachronist who had some basic idea of what was going on. Sometimes I think that in my real life I should compose a manual explaining absolutely everything I know just in case a stranger somehow winds up in my body. Oh well, time to poke at shit.

TAINT MAGIC! *snerk!* I’m sorry, it’s just that I’m eleven years old and someone said “taint.” We shall all resume being mature adults now.

(Oh, I’m sorry, is there a dangerous spell on you? You must’ve come into simple contact with my taint… magic. eeeheeheeheehee okay I’m done. Promise.)

Ah, figuring out that I have this rune tracer on me is making this puzzle far more fun and solvable. I am beginning to enjoy this game.

Although, actually, if I’m going to be pointing this rune tracer at very many things it’d be nice if TRACE or RUNETRACE or something worked also.

Oh no, not illegal time magic! *ghasp!*

…I’m not exactly sure what I’m supposed to be doing. I shall walk around until something seems like it needs things done to it, and then I shall do those things. Ideally.

The fluffed fur of a cat or the low rumbling growl of a dog are clear signs to stay away. But what in the world does the flfflflflf of a horse mean?
It means the horse finds your onomatopoeic neologisms a tad jarring.

Things are getting bigger and sparser since I’ve left the portal, and seem to be falling into a pattern I associate with MUDs:

Room Name

There is a large chunk of text here but you can most likely get along perfectly well without ever reading it. It’s just, you know, where you are, and the description of where you are, but honestly, nine times out of ten it’s just interchangeable flavor text, wallpaper, and will have no real bearing on the puzzles or your progress through this game. Not that there’s anything wrong with flavor, games do need to be set somewhere, but there’s a conventional quality about it that makes it feel somewhat artificial and superfluous. If there is anything important in this room it will be below this paragraph, on a line of its own.

A really important thing is here too. Nothing above this line really matters.

I’m not sure if this syndrome always occurs when people go for a bigger world instead of a smaller, denser one, but it wouldn’t surprise me. As a general rule, I prefer to be given the illusion of a big spacious world, but actually contained in a small dense area, and I would have liked that over these big empty rooms where most of the things in the descriptions are unexaminable. I realize that’s not necessarily easy to pull off, though.

…hey, why doesn’t this Roman camp have any people in it? It’s sort of creepy.

The rune tracer elicits no reaction from the rune tracer.
This pops up whenever I try to trace any runes I wasn’t expected to trace.

Okay. I’m getting bored. The idea that things had spells on them and interacted in interesting ways and I would be using them to solve puzzles while time traveling was very exciting, but I cannot find the game. This might’ve been a good time, had I been given any indication of what I was supposed to be looking for or doing. Going to be hard to score it numerically… let’s see, one point for existing, one point for the lovingly detailed description of the chronometer, one point for the moment I found the rune tracer when I thought there were going to be fun puzzles, one point for cleverness, one bonus generosity point which I will confiscate immediately as punishment for everything I disliked, which hopefully has been suitably described above, and, oh, what the hell, one point for taint magic. Five. You can have a five.

Update:  I just read Riff’s review of this game, which was the first indication I got from anywhere that the three things in the vortex were the same three things the introduction mentioned in passing I was supposed to destroy.  You can have four points and no cookie.

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