IF Comp 2014: Ugly Oafs (Perry Creel)


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.

This game was also reviewed by Herr M, Jason Dyer, and Sam Kabo Ashwell.

7 thoughts on “IF Comp 2014: Ugly Oafs (Perry Creel)”

  1. I expect many of us who end up playing that game found that same (or a similarly high-Google-ranked) website! Although I “got” the wordplay mechanic in the first half, I could never quite wrap my head around that of the second, or find non-brute-force (ie, longhand) ways to employ it. Hence I mostly relied on the hints from there on…

    1. I had to look up how to do the second half, but then I made a thing with some graph paper and the alphabet written a bunch of times. It was kind of brute forcing, but relatively fast. I still didn’t work out all of the things I was supposed to work out, though.

      1. Now I see what you mean. I figured out the ROT-n thing when it said “Abjurer, nowhere”, but actually having to try and figure out the ciphers wasn’t really something my brain was down for, and I wasn’t sure how to actually use this knowledge to interface with the game — kept trying to figure out a verb. Ah, well!

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