IF Comp 2013: Captain Verdeterre’s Plunder (Ryan Veeder)

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Captain Verdeterre’s Plunder is a parser-based, replayable game of challenge, light on actual plot and set in a roughly 1800s naval universe. It can be found among the other IF Comp games, and is playable online. Low-spoiler review after the jump.

I am a huge Ryan Veeder fan, so I was excited to see this one in the mix. It does indeed feature his distinctive narrative voice, and if you like Veeder’s narrative voice you will probably like this. The basic premise is that you’re ransacking a ship for anything of value while that ship is actively sinking. Various rooms become inaccessible due to water level over the course of the game. I like this conceit: it makes the map seem to change and gives the whole thing a feeling of urgency.

In addition, a lot of the individual items that you can plunder have amusingly implausible backstories associated with them. Most of them are not hard to get per se — this is not the sort of game where you’ll spend 150 moves trying to find the key to unlock the jeweled egg to get the spell to invoke the genie that can reach things down from a high shelf, and most of the time you can just pick things up that you want to take. The challenge is more about the bigger picture — you don’t have time to take everything, so how do you optimize your tour of the ship and get the most valuable artifacts before the water swallows everything?

So while it’s not trying to tell an especially grand or sweeping story, it seemed like it was going to be cheery, simple-object-puzzle fun, kind of reminiscent of To Hell in a Hamper or Enlightenment. The whole thing takes about ten minutes to play through once, but since the puzzle is optimizable, there’s room to revisit.

Unfortunately, the version I tried to play (admittedly right at the beginning of the comp) was pretty buggy. Several times when I loaded up the screen, despite the half dozen messages to the contrary, PRESS ANY KEY did not in fact function to bring about the rest of the story, and I had to reload. Weird things occurred with the water level. At one juncture I was told that I couldn’t go down because I would drown, and then (as far as I can tell) I went down anyway. I think. I’m a little unsure about what exactly happened there. At another point, I actually hit a message that said “this is a bug, it shouldn’t happen.”

So that’s a pity. I hope this gets a bit more polish: while it might not be a huge or sweeping game, or have quite the emotional heft I tend to look for in my top-scoring games, it has all the necessary elements of a charming diversion.

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