IF Comp ’09 – Rob Dubbin & Adam Parrish’s Earl Grey!

October 22, 2009

I didn’t write an RSS buffer beforehand, like I usually do, because man, I had nothing.  I typed out, then backspaced, something about how I am a sucker for the kitty in our backyard, and bought her a little mousey, which she seems to have taken to her secret hiding place.  I wish she’d bring it back so we can play mousey games.  She is the least interested in a laser pointer of any cat I’ve ever seen.

But anyway.

Note:  there are complete puzzle solutions in here.  (I’m sort of making a point to type them out, in fact, in case people want them.  Careful, though, they’re sort of smushed in two or six at a time.)  I had a great time with these puzzles, and if they’re at all your sort of thing, I think you will too, so I’d suggest not spoiling yourself for as long as you can possibly hold out.

Mostly Spoiler-Free Upshot: I friggin’ loved this game.  Granted, I like word puzzles.  Some of you may not enjoy word puzzles, and will hate the fuck out of this game.  I thought it was bloody brilliant.

[spoilers begin here]

Oooh, the biggest tea party of the year?  I am excited!

I wonder what there will be more of – tea, or new friends?  Goodness, what if it’s a tie?!
I like this game already.

The internal monologue at the bottom is pretty damn cute.
Everyone knows how much more legitimate it makes a tea party to have monks there.
They do?  I didn’t!

Oh, neat, I can knock letters out of things with my runebag!  Presumably I will have to put them in other things to solve puzzles?

I like when games attempt to teach you how to play them, especially if they’ve got special new features like this runebag deal.  So far I’m really digging this game.

Eaves prevents you from descending, with a brusque “Not until you’ve finished your lessons.”
I thought I had?  Maybe I’m supposed to do something here?  Oooh, fragrant pants!

Um, okay, I guess I wasn’t supposed to knock his plants?  Or was I?  Oh no, the dread Earl Gry!

Uh… what am I supposed to do exactly?  I can’t go into town, and… oh, hey, should I go through this portal?  I’ll go through this portal.  Oh, no I won’t.  I’ll help this teapot.  Okay, that worked.

Know what this game could use?  Hints.  I’m having a hard time telling which words are fair game for knocking or casting letters into.  I can’t change the teapot’s spout into a pout, or… okay, I’m’a read every word in the description of the town, and…
> cast l into savaged
You point your runebag in the general direction of town, and it thrums with approval as it opens.
Whoo-hoo, got one!  That was satisfying.  I like this game again.  Oh, maybe it would be better if this boy were crying for his lost feather?  Ha!
It was a good feather, taken before its time.
Poor feather.  Hmm, out of letters.  I could take that T out of painted again, but I really hate to do that to the teapot.  Let’s see what internal monologue thinks.

Y’know, this must’ve been very tricky to write, what with the having to use very particular words and all.  It’s a neat game.  I’m very stuck.

Yeah.  To the point where I’m knocking everything in an attempt to brute-force it.

Oh, okay, the town was fine and I just had to go through the portal?  That could have been made clearer.

Not Old Rick.  Not now.
I love this game.

In one hand it holds a ten-foot halberd with a razor-sharp blade.  In the other hand it holds a fist.
Whose fist?

Oh, okay, the wary guardsman is better off as a wry guardsman, then the cave mouth should be a cave moth, then the U can go into this paper here, and… oh, the resulting pauper wants to give me an Ogresbane Dagger.  I feel pretty good about myself.

“Game ogre!” you blurt out before you can stop yourself.
That’s terrible.

Oh, man, Eaves isn’t looking so good.

Okay, the response to KNOCK CLOCK is great.  But… russet sea ions?  That’s sort of pushing it.  Actually, that’s really pushing it.  At least there’s no doubt what I’m supposed to do with this L.

…oh, man, I failed the sea lions, and they drowned.  Heavy!

I dunno how I feel about a timed puzzle in this game, especially one where sea lions drown. It reminds me of certain levels of Boom Blox where, if you fuck up, these little rectangular cows hit the ground and go poof, and “All baby cows are lost” appears on the screen.  Man, I hate those levels.

If you knock Eaves’ lice before investigating his condition, you get stuck trying to talk to him.  I’m not sure how necessary talking to him is going to be, though.

Oh, huh, now my favorite sea lion is named Jane instead of Sebastian?  Nice touch!  (Sebastian will always be my real favorite, though.)

A-ha!  Had to knock the crown into a crow, then a cow, which fell over and issued a plaintive moo, which I turned into a moon, which created a luster, which I turned into a cluster (of rock), which the sea lions moved onto and did not drown.

For the first time, Eaves looks at you like you are crazy.  “What?  Everyone knows that, it’s one of the first things they teach in school.  A froen is a gaseous blue creature that eats louse nits.”
And I thought sea ions were pushing it.

Hmmm.  Stuck again.  If I had an H, I could make this glass sphere permeable to sound and hair.

> knock r into moon
The runebag remains inert.
Oh, come on, a lazy moron hanging in the sky is worth at least a unique failure message.

Oh, duh, this pure needs to be a purse!
It’s like they say:  your keys are always in the last place you look on the observation platform of the glass sphere you’re inside over the ocean.
They are so right.

What, I can’t have been run through with an unforgiving lace?  Damn.

Oh, okay, there’s auto-undo when I die.  I had a save file anyway, but that’s nice.  An unforgiving glance would be better.  Where’s a G?  Ah, regal vinegar.

It’s probably not in my best interest to turn these sharp-looking frocks into sharp-looking rocks, but I’m going to try it anyway.
I wonder what made me try it.  Maybe I have survivor’s guilt about the lance.

Oh, I see, that was Earl Gry’s plan, and now I’m bleeding to death.  Hmm.

There are some weirdnesses here.  I get the “owing to the many wounds on my body” message before I have any wounds on my body, and ask the camel which of the frocks it likes before the garbsmiths are even in the room.

Man.  I have no idea about this one.  I’m pretty sure the camel is relevant, or, y’know, there wouldn’t be a camel, and… oh!  STEEP is a verb, I find out from reading the help!  I shall try it!

Oh, man, now they’re flinging corks at me!  Excellent!  What else can I… oh, camelid anagrams to “medical!”  Beautiful.

Okay, what was that thing I had to find for the prince?  A reignlog?  Oh!  An ogreling!  I like this game a hell of a lot.  It could be a bit smoother in places, but it’s friggin’ awesome.  Oh, shit, crow got my dagger.  Fucking crows.

Uh.  And now I’m in a like four-turn deathloop until I figure out what important thing the Earl left unprotected.  Which, y’know, could be a while.  Whatever thought you’re having, internal monologue, you could share it with me!

Yeah.  Tempted to cheat, but I haven’t yet, so I hate to ruin it now.

Oh!  Leaves!  Eaves!  Thank fuck!

“You broke the rules,” she says to Eaves, then to Earl Gry, “and you followed them in what was perhaps the most vile way I’ve seen in some time.”
That line is great.

Ended a bit abruptly, but man, I loved it.  Sure, it had a couple rough moments, but crafting all the prose with an eye for what words could potentially become other words… yeah.  That was nuts.  Giving it what will probably be a controversial ten out of ten.


  1. I thought this game had a beautiful premise, even if I got hung up on it, so I’m glad it worked so well for you.

    • Reading your take and others’ on it now. A lot of people seemed bothered that the solutions to the word puzzles didn’t always make real-world sense (what are sea lions going to do for you when you’re trapped in a glass sphere?) This sort of thing drives me nuts when it pops up in regular IF (“Well, I have no apparent reason to feed this salmon to the cat, but both the salmon and the cat are here – oh, hey, it pooped out a key”) but here I didn’t mind it a bit, since I felt I was solving the word puzzles and the real-world crap could take care of itself.

      Not that the game didn’t have ish – a hint system would have helped, as would better cluing that you needed to keep talking to people or whatever – but between the word puzzle gimmick and all the fricking work that must have gone into it, the internal monologue gimmick and how genuinely funny it was, and the just sheer imaginativeness of the whole thing… yeah. I’m bummed it didn’t work out better for everyone.

      • What do you mean you don’t have a reason to feed a salmon to a cat? The cat wants the salmon! Whose needs are you putting first, here?

        …yeah, I was one of the people for whom it didn’t work. But I’m going to tone down my rant because enough other people liked it that my reaction is more idiosyncratic than I’d thought it would be.

  2. > knock r into moon
    The runebag remains inert.
    Oh, come on, a lazy moron hanging in the sky is worth at least a unique failure message.

    Hey, you said knock instead of cast!

    >cast r into moon
    That would be counterproductive.

    I’m finding it hard enough to figure out my next move without some moron bawling suggestions at me from the sky.

    Yes this game was awesome!

    • Oh, man, punk rock.

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