IF Comp 2014: And Yet it Moves (Orion)

Galileo cover

And Yet it Moves is a parser-based puzzle game based on an incident in the life of Galileo. I played it to the end.

This game sets out to dramatize the outcome of an event in Brecht’s Life of Galileo, in which Galileo’s student Andrea Sarti smuggles his book away to be published despite the strictures of the church.

And Yet it Moves begins with a scene almost at the end of Brecht’s play. Sarti, who had been disillusioned by Galileo’s capitulation to the church, is relieved and overjoyed to find that Galileo has secretly continued to write and has finished a new volume, the Discorsi. He wants to believe that Galileo’s recantation was a strategic move, fooling the church about his intentions in order to be able to pursue the study of science in secret. Galileo wearily assures him that it was nothing so noble, that he was simply afraid of being tortured.

In the game, Orion has preserved part of this situation, with Brecht’s characters and some verbatim dialogue, particularly around Sarti’s arrival. Almost all of the conversation about Galileo’s intentions is gone. Instead, we have a small puzzle centering on getting rid of the monk who is spying on the occasion, and finding where the Discorsi are hidden. From there, the game largely diverges from the play to show us the continuation of Sarti’s journey, the smuggling of the book north to a country where it might safely be printed.

Holding the game up to the original play gives an inevitably bathetic effect: the original is a powerful exploration of ethics and intellectual honesty, which reads beautifully on the page and is arresting when staged; the translation involves searching for a key in a potato patch. At the same time, “you failed to capture the essence of Brecht in the form of parser IF” is a criticism up there with “you failed to sprout wings and fly to Belgium.” I’m not sure anyone can, nor that the author even expected to be able to.

What does come through is a powerful enthusiasm for the source material. Orion seems fired up about the story, about the importance of the text being saved.

Unfortunately, the descriptions are on the sparse side; sometimes things like EXAMINE SPOON get responses like “A spoon.” This seems like even more of a pity given how much fun well-described historical settings can be, and 17th century Florence is sufficiently well-documented that choice details are relatively accessible.

There are also a number of implementation errors and infelicities. For instance:

>give note to tellers
You walk up to the nearest teller and hand over the note. They ask for identification, which you provide. You tell them you want 20 Florins. They go into a back room. Shortly after, he returns with a large bag of gold, which he hands to you.

(first taking Galileo's note)
That seems to belong to the bank tellers.

This does advance the game, but leaves behind some extra text. I would guess the author coded the “You walk…” bit as a before rule but did not specify that it should stop the action, so that the rest of the action rules continued to process afterwards (but then failed because the note was now in a new location).

Elsewhere there are descriptions that ring false for reasons to do with historical viewpoint:

>x desk
An ancient wooden writing desk, with drawer handles that wouldn't look out of place on an archaeological dig.

In 1630, the concept of “archaeological dig” wasn’t fully developed. Though people have sporadically been discovering buried remains since ancient times (Herodotus mentions the supposed discovery of the bones of Orestes, for instance), professionalized digs weren’t common until rather later. Or are we supposed to understand that the narrator is speaking not from Andrea Sarti’s perspective, but from Orion’s? Either way, this sort of thing was a bit jarring.

And finally, we have a number of spots where plausibility has to step aside to make for easy gameplay:

There is a sign on the desk saying "Place books for publishing here".

Alas, it’s never been quite that easy to get something published.

Despite all of these points, though, the author’s good will and obvious enthusiasm shone throughout the game and inclined me positively towards it. There are instructions, and a hint system, and a number of player-friendly touches (like the bolding of exit names). The money system also works fine, and that’s something that some authors stumble over.

I’m guessing that the author is young and/or that this is their first piece of IF. Whether or not that’s true, I’d like to encourage them to continue. If their skills grow to match their ambition, they will be quite impressive.

Also reviewed by Jason Dyer, Jason Lautzenheiser, Jenni Polodna, and Magicswordsman.

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