IF Comp 2009: Gleaming the Verb

GleamingAs has been my practice for the last few years, I’ve set my RSS feed to truncate entries so that I can post reviews without spoilerage. Within an entry, there is a short, spoilerless discussion (though the comp purists may want to avoid reading even that before playing for themselves); then spoiler space; then a more detailed discussion of what I thought did and didn’t work in the game.

I’m also pursuing an approach I came up with last year: I’m playing and reviewing games that have listed beta-testers, and skipping those that don’t. Last year that turned out to be a pretty fool-proof indicator of which games were going to end up scoring 4 or less on my personal scale. I’m hoping this will mean I have more time to devote to the remaining games, which in turn will (I hope) be of higher quality, and you, dear reader, will have fewer rants inflicted on you.

So without further ado, “Gleaming the Verb.”

You too can play it if you download the comp games, or even try it online.

A word-puzzle game deliberately free of story or setting or indeed much implementation beyond the parameters of what’s strictly needed for the game. Once you work out what’s going on, there’s about five minutes of play here, if that.









For me the biggest puzzle here is why the author cast something like this as IF (other than, perhaps, the relative ease of implementation?). “Gleaming the Verb” takes little advantage of the things that make IF development interesting: there’s little wiggle room to try verbs that aren’t part of the puzzle; there’s no setting to explore; there’s no viewpoint-character attitude; there’s no frame story (at least, none of any interest, as ‘you are abducted to a mysterious place to solve an artificially established puzzle’ is not a tale of great narrative subtlety or, alas, novelty). It’s not even clear that the verbs you eventually guess are actually things you’re “doing”, since there’s no description of the protagonist performing the actions, just of the cube giving the next clue. Overall, there’s no advantage here to having a full command parser rather than a text entry box to type one-word guesses, and I had the feeling this would work equally well as a very brief Flash game, perhaps with a cute illustration or two.

The puzzle itself is fine: I was adequately amused by it, don’t feel like the author was wasting my time, and don’t have any real technical complaints. There’s not a huge amount to it, but the game is so short that it doesn’t manage to overstay its welcome. But it didn’t have much personality, and I fear it may be one I’m destined to forget quickly.

In this respect it belongs to a tradition of works such as In the Spotlight, No Room, and Schroedinger’s Cat — though, unlike the last of that list, it does at least acknowledge when you’re done.

7 thoughts on “IF Comp 2009: Gleaming the Verb”

  1. How do you know if a game has beta-testers or not? Is there a definitive list? Wondering how you’re making this determination, since I’d like to do it too. :-)

    1. I’m taking the expedient of believing what the games themselves say: if about, credits, help, etc. turn up a list of testers, the game is in. If not, not. It’s always possible someone might lie and credit nonexistent testers — or have had testers but not credited them. But it’s a first approximation I’m happy with.

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