Recent discussions got me thinking about some rather substantial games that rarely get mentioned, and that I suspect a lot of people may not have played. Here are a few I liked but rarely hear people talk about:
First Things First, J. Robinson Wheeler. Many years in the making, this is a time-travel story — but unlike Moebius, All Things Devours, Vicious Cycles, and many other examples, it runs on a long loop rather than a short one. Instead of jaunting a few minutes back and forth at a critical time, you’re taking a leap of decades, seeing trees be planted and grow, seeing the building of a house and then what it looks like when completed, and so on.
Adventurer’s Consumer Guide, Øyvind Thorsby. One of my favorite games that not very many people seem to have played. An unabashed puzzlefest, but a highly enjoyable one: not too linear, with several interesting objects that have multiple uses. Thorsby has a theory about IF that doesn’t need the player to overuse the EXAMINE verb, which means that the feel and pace of this one is a little atypical — but it’s a strong design and well worth trying out.
Return to Ditch Day, Mike Roberts. A puzzle fest, and an extremely polished one, with lots of conveniences built into the gameplay. It was a flagship example of what TADS 3 could do, and its quality still outshines a lot of what’s out there.
Blighted Isle, Eric Eve. An expansive game about a shipwrecked man and a strange isle that seems somewhat out of time. There’s a lot to do in this one, and several possible paths through major plot points.
Want to see (or suggest) others? This IFDB poll for “forgotten gems” has more.