Ugly Oafs is a parser-based wordplay puzzlefest. I did not finish playing because I ran out of time to do so.
Thanks to some experience with wordplay puzzle games in recent years, and a strong idea of who the author probably was, I had a pretty good idea going into this what it was likely to entail: little or no plot, a highly surreal setting, and a wordplay mechanic that would require me to start by figuring out what kind of wordplay transformation was going on.
This is a genre that I have to be in the right mood for — I find it causes a certain amount of friction on my imagination trying to envision all these improbable objects and unlikely landscapes, and I often find myself missing a stronger story arc — but it does have its own appeal at the right times.
And lo, I was right about those assumptions. There’s a big open map, with sparse room descriptions and a thin distribution of objects. There is a thing or two to do in each location. Figuring out what sort of thing is a good bit of the fun of the game, so I won’t spoil it here.
I also didn’t get all the way to the end of the game because I got a bit stuck and took a while figuring out certain parts. The game does come with hints, but I stubbornly refused to use them because I wanted to work it out on my own. In fact, I strongly suspect I only got to about the halfway point.
As it stands, I found the game enjoyable of its kind, though the particular challenge it presents made me do a fair amount of busywork, which contributed to my not getting done in time. I think there are some ways around that, but I’ll put them after the spoiler space.
It was cool to work out that these words were Caesar-ciphered, but irritating to actually perform: this is one of those puzzles where you have to do a bunch of work to demonstrate that you’ve solved it. I didn’t especially feel like going through the entire game counting out letter distances, though, so after solving a few puzzles counting through letters on my fingers, I looked up a Caesar-cipher-solving page online and plugged puzzle objects and numbers into that instead. I recommend this approach.
There were a few slightly buglike bits. The game explicitly tells you to type ABOUT, then pretends that’s not a verb it knows. The spacing on some of the THINK bits can get wonky.
I also would have appreciated it if THINK had listed the numbers on the markers in each location as well as the word contents there. That would have saved me a lot of time roaming around trying to find the right places to change props. I could also have done without the part where I had to run away from a tiger and get eaten and undo repeatedly before I stumbled back across where the nearest Odd Zoo was located.
I probably should have been making paper notes about this while I played — then I could have just mapped out the grid-to-number relationship, but I happened to have brought the game along with me on a trip this weekend, so I was playing it without my usual supplies.