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Spring Thing ’11 – Clara Raubertas’ Wetlands!

April 18, 2011

Man, I gotta get on these.  You can’t be all “to the Sausage Cave!” and then not go immediately to the Sausage Cave.  That is super bad form.  That is super bad form and I am sorry.

For today’s RSS buffer, I am going to ask you the readers for input regarding what sort of thing you would like to see in these RSS buffers.  If no one says anything, I will fill this space with shitty drawings of Peter Falk, or, if I get lazy*, the same shitty drawing of Peter Falk run through various Gimp filters.  This is not a bluff.

* Like that’s ever happened!

[spoilers begin here]


Wetlands is an interactive quagmire that leads you from the image of a fantastical city to a choice about the actual city’s future, via a collection of mechanical puzzles in a watery setting.

That sounds fun!  Or, at least, I enjoy the phrase “a collection of mechanical puzzles in a watery setting.”  I’m going to start adding “in a watery setting” to the ends of all my fortune cookies.

(Alas!  The mechanical puzzle you are eating is someone else’s water lily.)

>x pipe
Just about wide enough for you to put your arms around, if it weren’t mostly underground. It probably connects the pond with the building.
>hug pipe
You can only do that to something animate.
Aww.  No surprise hug for Mr. Pipe.

I could use a goal maybe.  Let me look around and see if I can figure one out.

An exultation of larks soars past you.
Nice.

The woman looks up and smiles at you. “Can I help you?”
>say yes
(to the Secretary of Water)
“Sorry, can’t help you.”
…the Secretary of Water is kind of a dick.

Huh, is it going to be important later, having my left and right coat pockets disambiguated?  Is there going to be some sort of fox-chicken-jelly puzzle?

Well, I’m still not sure what I’m supposed to be doing, but I have a pine cone now.  That’s progress, right?

Can’t find a coin in this fountain, which is sad.  I like these random bird flyovers, though.  I am learning so much about what groups of different birds are called.

>show pinecone to adriana
She smiles, pocketing the pinecone. “Thanks!”
Hey!  My pinecone!  That was my only indication of progress through this game, you jerk!

I have the sense that getting to Crystal City is supposed to be the really easy intro puzzle and the real puzzles start once I’m there.  I am so hosed.  (Watery setting pun unintentional.)

>throw pinecone at wind chimes
What do you want to throw the pinecone at: the sound of the wind chimes or the metal wind chimes?
That’s a rather metaphysical question.  Let’s go with the metal wind chimes?
Futile.
Oh.

…are there hints?
Sorry, this release of this game has no hints.
oh nooo we are doooom

>put pinecone in rusty pipe
The pinecone would get lost and never be seen again.
Oh, sure, this is a problem now, but it is fine for the Secretary of Hydration to just snatch it out of my hand without so much as a howdy-do?  (Continuity fans:  I picked up a second pinecone.  I suspect they’re infinite, but I’m reluctant to start testing that hypothesis, because if it’s correct, I’d never be able to stop.)

A-ha!  One hour later, I have managed to climb a tree!  Look out, world!

Okay.  So.  Let’s review the situation.  I want to cross the pond.  There is a train that crosses the pond, on which I could ride if I had a ticket.  Tickets are purchased by inserting a coin into a vending machine.  So, I need to find a coin.

What have I got?  A pair of boots, a coat, a watch, a train schedule, a pinecone, and some windchimes.  Oh, and an NPC who says she doesn’t have a coin either and to fuck off.  (She didn’t really say to fuck off.  I’m still bitter about the pinecone, is all.)  So, points to the game for presenting me with a concrete goal (it drives me nuts when games don’t do that), but, um, yeah.  Should I be screwing around with these pipes that are everywhere?  Should I try to find something to collect some sap in?  Where am I supposed to get a ladder?

>show chimes to adriana
“Oh no, you can keep that,” she says.
Someday you and I are going to have a talk about SHOW vs. GIVE, honey.  They’re really rather different.

[I]t’s obviously been here for years, accumulating witticisms like “Kate loves Marta” and “Trains rule!”
Nitpick:  I’m not sure either of those is a witticism.  (“I might be drunk, madam, but trains rule!“)

Man, I don’t know.  Is it me, game?  Am I dumb or are you insufficiently hinted?  I hate to pull out the walkthrough, but damn.

…climb fence?  Climb fence?  Okay, I can do that, sure.

Ha!  Got my ticket.  That vending machine needs way better slug detection.

>x flashlight
A heavy-duty waterproof model, with a powerful battery that should last all day.
This is exactly what I like to hear about an IF flashlight.

Hey, wait, wasn’t there a church visible across the pond?  Where did that church go?

Yeah, stuck again, even with this blueprint that tells me where all the pumps are.  What do you think, walkthrough… X SPLASH?  Really?

The problem I am having with these puzzle solutions is that you either think to do them or you don’t.  Well, no, to be honest, the problem I am having with them is I don’t think to do them.  (I totally thought the splash of water was there to indicate that the hut was somehow linked to the fountain, which is also shaped like a splash of water.)

>x square gizmo
A square gizmo with a janky bolt.
>x bolt
A bolt that looks pretty janky.
Sorry, could I have that again in layman’s terms?  I never could keep all this technical jargon straight.

>use wrench on janky bolt

You’ll have to be more specific about how.
Pot kettle black!  POT KETTLE BLACK!

Sweet, a magnet!  Thanks, metal detector!

I am having fun with this game, when I’m not stuck and frustrated.  The puzzles are mostly in my own personal difficulty sweet spot (“Yay, you put your pants on without explicit instructions, and no one died!  Here is a trophy and the key to the cake room!”) and having to go back and forth by train is a lot less irritating than it could have been (although I wouldn’t have known you could nap on it, if it weren’t for the walkthrough.  ETA:  Turns out you can also wait for it!  Excellent!)  Hmm.  I wonder if, by draining the Crystal City, I am killing all of its inhabitants?  That’d be a hell of a protagonist-you-done-fucked-up ending, huh.

Ah!  There’s the church!

Oh, man, sorry about your waterworks, guys.  I guess I’m the asshole in this game.

Hey, you know what’s awesome?  All the implicit actions and the keeping track of which key goes to what and the not asking me which one I want to use, that’s what’s awesome.  Good job, game!  (You could still use a hint system, but good job!)

Huh.  I wonder if I’m intended to be able to row a boat into the Community Center, because I totes just did.

>x island
What do you want to examine: the lumpy island or the weird lumpy island?
I may be a lumpy island, madam, but at least I’m not a weird one.

Huh.  There is all this exposition suddenly.  Pretty accommodating of the Crystal City people to agree to live underwater.  You ever try to eat astronaut ice cream underwater?  You pretty much can’t, is how that works.  And, y’know, eating astronaut ice cream is just about the only reason to exist on this planet of ours.

Oh, man, current comp-favorite sentence:  We all pretty much agree that the living underwater thing was a mistake.

There is a lot of exposition here in the endgame, and it seems you’re mostly held captive for it (stuck waist-deep in the mud while the Secretary of Moistness takes her sweet time hauling you out, on one occasion).  I know it’s pretty cliche to find expository documents along the way as you solve puzzles, but I could’ve maybe gone for some of that.

Huh.  Seems like I’ll get to choose who gets to not live underwater.  I’m sort of leaning towards Crystal City at the moment, but let’s finish exploring before we decide.

So, wait, these Pondsiders are such brilliant engineers that they can move an entire city underwater and invent breathing devices for its population, but they can’t figure out how to make a pond smaller without doing that?  Or they couldn’t, y’know, build their own islands next to the city, or build a bridge over it with a city on top? I am so not letting them live aboveground anymore.  I don’t want them taking all the oxygen and doing dumb things with it.

Oh for fuck’s sake.  Put the wrench in the cavity?  I think I left it on the floor of the waterworks so it wouldn’t interfere with the metal detector, and the waterworks had an um accident, so I believe we are looking at an unwinnable state here.  Well, in this game’s favor, I care enough to go back and type in the walkthrough.

Huh.  I don’t think I really did have a choice.  Vivian (you know Vivian?) had said that if I didn’t want to restore the city, all I had to do was swim back up, but the game wouldn’t actually let me do that because of um magic plot reverse buoyancy.  I don’t mind not having a choice, you understand, I’m just surprised because an NPC told me I had one.

Whee, city all dehydrated!  That was all right, as games go.  I feel like the story could have been told a bit differently (i.e. not in three or four big dumps near the end of the game) and also been more compelling (“I hate to bother you, but we’re a bit sick of living underwater, would you mind if-?” “Well, it’s a bit- no, never mind, we were just leaving.”  “Oh, thanks awfully.  Would you mind just solving this one last pump puzzle?”)  The Crystal City, which is super built up from the get-go, turns out to be shallowish backdrop to a pump puzzle and the last bit of exposition (“Hey, remember how much fun we used to have scuba diving before it became our whole lives?”)  But I did appreciate all the implicit-action business, and the puzzles kept me mostly entertained, so I am going to say that was not bad.

That was not bad.

4 comments

  1. I think dinosaurs is always a safe bet on the internet. It’s pretty hard to go wrong with dinosaurs. It took Jurassic Park three tries to screw them up, so that’s saying something right there.


  2. That comment seemed perfectly reasonable when I read your RSS buffer question and jumped down here, but after reading the whole post I saw my comment and thought, “What is this asshole talking about?” before I realized that I *was* said asshole. Yay, context!

    PS I still vote for dinosaurs.


  3. “Hug pipe” was my second command, too. And I just went east, or whichever way the fence was, and bam, over the fence. That was very satisfying.

    On the other hand, completely underhinted, though I looked at the walkthrough enough to see that I need to unscrew something which probably was obviously unscrewable when I examined it but which I had completely forgotten about by the time I got the screwdriver, which incidentally was a puzzle I quite liked. So I’m wandering around thinking, “I have a screwdriver, where the hell is the thing I’m supposed to be unscrewing?” which is not too unrealistic actually.


  4. I have now finished this game, and thus speak I:

    For the record, you do have a choice, but maybe not just then. When Vivian said you could swim up to the surface, you can, and then you can make your way back to Ye Olde Starting Location and go north twice. Which you can do even at the beginning of the game, with presumably graduated endings.

    It seems much less dickish to do this after turning on one pump or so, and the underwater people’s attitude kind of bugged me — dudes, wanting to find a neutral party to turn on the switches isn’t ethical, it’s passive-aggressive. Especially if they’re trapped by your reverse buoyancy thing. But I couldn’t help but feel that I was supposed to side with Crystal City because Vivian was hot.

    (Adriana is way too young, right? I was going to ask you how you knew her name was Adriana, but duh, “ask secretary about secretary.” This is why I never can make time with NPCs — other not-way-too-young NPCs, I mean — always chattering on about my stupid old quest and never think to ask her about herself a little. Maybe I was put off by being told to read the placard.)



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