IF Comp ’09 – Owen Parish’s The Grand Quest!

October 12, 2009

Let’s see, what have we got left?  Wow, kind of a lot.  An invisible man, two “The Duel”(s), two more games with caves in ’em… oh, what has Riff played that I haven’t?  Wow, what a slacker.  Guess it’s The Grand Quest time!

RSS buffer time too.  I remember when I was satisfied to repeat the word “gorilla” a few dozen times and leave it at that.  Man, those were the days.  Also, WordPress informs me that someone found this blog through a search for “pissy fanny pants,” which I realize is their particular filthy nasty kinky very very serious fetish probably but I can’t not giggle, I mean, come on, “pissy fanny pants?”  It sounds like a Benny Hill character, or a small English child spewing vaguely dirty words more or less at random.  (Speaking of which, have you seen the Buffy swearing keyboard [NSFW]?  I have no idea what Buffy has to do with anything, but I recommend hitting a few keys to get the feel, then typing Z.  You may not find this as funny as I do, since I am Not A Real Grownup and other things I find hilarious include the sale of fish tacos and the existence of the word “slot.”  J.M. Barrie must have edited out the part in Peter Pan where the Lost Boys are trading swears and giggling and snickering and talking about poop and Wendy, drunk on all the excitement, blurts out “Tits!” and makes such a surprised face that no one is able to stop laughing and many of them are eaten by the crocodile.  Because there is absolutely no way that shit did not go down.)

Mostly Spoiler-Free Upshot: I almost wrote “walkthrough” instead of “upshot” here, probably because of how many times I cheated while playing this game.  It’s a puzzler, it could really use some sort of integrated hint system, and it sort of pissed me off.  Spoilery details of how it pissed me off are after the jump.

[pissy fanny spoilers begin pants]

You’ve spent the best part of your life as a man dreaming of the goblet.
Wow I’m boring.  Wait, how old am I, and how long have I been a man?

Oh, man, the nouns in the room have descriptions!  It is sad how exciting that becomes after you’ve played a certain number of comp games.

A mysterious voice tells me I can say “zikzak” to abandon the quest at any time, but not to start thinking I’d be allowed another go, making it sort of an in-character quit function, I guess?  Will this be useful?

Oooh, a riddle!  I haven’t seen this one before, either.  Let’s see, a worker or monarch in a fortress of sixes has to be a B.  The worst of all places is probably hell, although I think there are many mythoses (what’s the plural of mythos?  mythii?  mythices?  just plain mythos?) that include worse.  Royal water I have no idea, nor the drink in art, nor the water in cat.  The last two sound sort of cryptic-crosswordy.  I only ever encounter cryptic crosswords at the Mystery Hunt, and when I do they merely serve to remind me I’ve never learned to solve them.  A tableau is a unit of art, right?  And “eau” is French for water.  If “gateau” were French for cat instead of cake, life would be easier, although the inside of our mouths would be all scratched up and furry, as though we’d been eating Beaver Berry Cap’n Crunch.

Thinking is fun sometimes.  I’m enjoying this.  For now.

Many scholars have recorded them, but noone knows their significance.
Rule for life:  Whenever you spell “no one” as one word, some snarky bastard makes the Peter Noone joke, as in “Really?  Peter Noone knows the significance of these runes?  Why don’t the scholars just ask him, then?”  It may or may not be funny, but it happens, and it’s very real for everyone involved.

I am starting to wish there were hints.  This is the thing about hints:  they provide middle ground for people who can’t get your puzzle but don’t want to cheat, and not including them strikes me as tantamount to saying “If you are not clever enough to solve my puzzle, then fuck you; you do not deserve to solve my puzzle.”  Most people do not want to have to look at the walkthrough – in fact, I would go so far as to say that when a player consults a walkthrough, it is a sign that something has gone wrong with your game – but they also lack the patience to sit in the dark for hours awaiting the necessary insight, which may or may not come.

I’ll tell you what, The Grand Quest.  It’s 8:17 in the morning.  I will sleep on you, then shower on you, then sit at my desk and hmm at you for a bit, and if I haven’t solved your first puzzle by then, I’m so totally cheating.

…oh, it’s the drink in art, not the water in art!  That might help.

Oh, duh, the drink in art would be tea.  And the water in cat would be sea.  I still have no idea what royal water is, but L_BRA should be easy enough to guess.  I don’t think I’m going to bed anymore.

Hmm, I went under the gate that was falling shut, and therefore didn’t get to check out the library.  Wonder how that’ll work out for me.  Labra claims to be impressed by my quickitude, but I get the sense he’s a sneaky-ass bastard.

Okay, he wants me to divide an odd number of coins into two equal-size stacks.  Now I am going to bed.

Good morning!  I still have no idea how to divide an odd number of coins into two equal-size stacks, but my breath is fresh and minty!  Twelve points for me!

“Divide all the coins in this room into two piles of equal size, one on each table,” he says.  Hmmmm.

Asked Riff for a hint.  He says this is lateral-thinking bullshit and the puzzle as presented is not solvable.    That’s great.  I’m excited.  I’m thinking seriously about cheating.

I’m cheating.  “Look at the floor to find a loose stone?”  Fuck you.  Fuck you hard.  You want to know why fuck you hard?  Because having the thought “are there more coins hidden in this room?” and searching the immediate surrounding area yields nothing, the exact same kind of nothing that would exist if the puzzle designer were trying to send the message that no, there were not more coins hidden in this room.  That is why fuck you.  “Well, I searched the sacks and I looked at the gates and I tried to move the tables and I looked under everything and so I thought that-”
“Ah, but when you looked under the tables it said there was nothing there but the floor, did you then examine the floor?”
“What?  No.  Fuck you.”
Anyway, two extra 1-jin coins won’t help me make a stack of equal size, since I still have an odd number.  What it will help me do is make a stack of equal value. I take umbrage at this entire puzzle.  All the umbrage.

For some reason, “throw all coin down hole” drops all the coins except for the 5-jin one.

“Now, a test of your listening and speaking skills.”
“If you give me an incorrect answer, I’ll leave the gate locked and you’ll have to magic your way out of here.”
“What answer to this question is not correct?”
Huh?  What the hell are you even talking about?  “What answer to this question is not correct?”  My brain hurts even thinking about that.  It’s like staring at a Klein bottle.

One reason players don’t want to have to look at the walkthrough is that once their walkthrough cherry is popped, it is popped for good, and each subsequent act of cheating carries less moral significance, until they’re consulting the walkthrough for every tiny single thing and the game is just ruined.  I’m very tempted to look this one up too, but first I’ll ask Riff for a hint.

“That one is also bullshit,” he says.  Yeah.  I’m cheating.

…don’t say anything, just wait for the door to open?  What the fuck?  I don’t get it.  I don’t get it at all.

Hmm.  Labra wants to know if I give my word that I won’t take hold of the rung in front of me.  I suspect this room is going to fill with water and I will drown if I don’t figure out whatever this particular bullshit is, or look it up.  Let’s try saying “no.”

Well, that didn’t work.  Lemme scope this bitch out before I agree to anything.

Uh.  The correct thing to do in that room is to take hold of the rung, then swear that you’re not going to.  I don’t get how this Labra dude’s brain works.

Huh.  There’s a crystal dome with a key in it, a piece of chalk, a knife, a whistle, and a metal sheet.  Well all right then.

Y’know, every time I read “Violence isn’t the answer to this one,” I am skeptical, because very often this default message is left as a failure notification in places where you’re simply using the wrong kind of violence, or on the wrong thing.

A brass whistle.  Didn’t you own one as a child?
Yes, but mine was plastic, and responded to verbs such as BLOW, or, in a pinch, USE.

I have tried to cut everything and been told it would achieve little, thus making me wonder what this knife is for.  My metal sheet does not seem to bend.  My whistle does not seem to blow.  My chalk does not seem to make chalky marks.  I am not allowed to shatter this crystal dome by throwing a heavy flagstone at it.  Okay.  I give up already.

Take the knife and sheet, put the sheet in the gap under the north door, put the knife in the keyhole on the north door, grab the key from the gap, unlock the north door, go north.
Wait, what? Oh, I see, this is a classic poke-the-key-out-of-the-keyhole-and-catch-it-on-a-thing puzzle with a giant crystal key-filled dome as misdirection.  I can’t actually get upset at this one.  You know what would have been better, though?  An actual solvable way to get the silver key out of the crystal dome, then when you stick it in the keyhole you hear something go *clunk* in the north room, then you discover you have the wrong key.  Yes, that one would require UNDO, but so did the impaled-on-sticks-for-telling-the-truth room, so I don’t think this game much cares.

I’m pretty sure that wasn’t actually my son I sliced in two just now, since that’s generally how these sorts of tests go down.  Also, had I not examined the locket I’m wearing, I would have been all “James?  Who’s James?” and some of the, y’know, tension or whatever would have been lost.

I have two playing cards, a sealed box with a slot in it, an openable box, and instructions to produce two completely different playing cards. Um.  What?  Cheating.  It’s sad how reflexive that’s become.  This game would be much improved with a good integrated hints system, the kind that starts with really vague hints and offers you stronger ones if you feel you really need them.  As it is right now, I feel like the author is really getting off on being a cleverer fuck than the player, which is a motivation better ascribed to Labra, the evil bitch puzzlemaster character.

Oh, okay, if I put cards in the left box, different cards come out the right box.  I think I’ll actually try this one.  This could be fun.

Seems like if I put the card with the smaller number in first, the card numbers move one closer to each other, and if I put the card with the larger number in first, they move one away.  How do the suits work?  And wait, shit, which cards did he want again?   I should have written that down, because there’s probably no way to get him to repeat it.  Let’s figure out how suits work, then reload a save.

> put king of hearts in slot
Which do you mean, the King of Clubs or the King of Hearts?

I still have no idea how suits work.  Let’s reload and just futz with it.

Oh, shit, I seem to have saved after he told me what the hell cards he wanted.  This is not good, The Grand Quest!  This is a rough spot in your design!

…oh, man, they’re also affected by whether the right box is closed or open?  That’s… yeah.  I don’t even really feel like typing all this shit out straight from the walkthrough, but I’m going to anyway.  Sigh.

Okay, there’s the goblet… what’s the catch?

Oh.  A giant snake.  Is this the point where I decide I don’t really need the goblet, because it was in me the whole time, or some bullshit?  I the player don’t particularly give a shit about the goblet, so it’s not any harder for me to leave without it than it was to slice my son in half.  In fact, that last one was the easiest puzzle in the whole game.

Yeeeeah.  I can achieve victory in death, or victory in freedom.  Neither ending feels particularly victorious, especially since I never felt a connection to my character or his weird goblet obsession in the first place.  There’s no real way to score this game except as a puzzler, so, hmm, let’s see… first puzzle wasn’t bad, mostly solved it and enjoyed it.  Coin puzzle pissed me off by being cheap, if not actually unfair.  Incorrect answer puzzle I still don’t get.  I think I understand it, but I just don’t get it.  Rung puzzle what the fuck.  Key puzzle – fair enough I guess.  Card puzzle could have been really cool with friendlier implementation.

Eh.  I’ve kind of stopped caring about whether I think this is a good game or not.  That’s probably a sign of some kind.

Put in a damn hint system.  End transmission.


  1. Wow, it sounds like you and I had the same exact problems with this one! (I just finished it). I’ve really enjoyed reading your reviews.

    • I’ve been enjoying reading yours too! We are of the same mind about ye flask.

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