Delphina’s House (Alice Grove)

delphinaDelphina’s House is another of several ParserComp games that I didn’t have time to get to while the competition was actually in progress. It was widely liked by the comp judges, and came in 3rd overall and 2nd in the technical category. It’s the story of an imaginative little girl who is performing a sort of treasure hunt (mostly of the imagination) before moving out of her house for the last time. I found this premise mildly charming but not all that gripping; I was more interested in the puzzle construction, which was effective.

The core mechanic centers on shifting from one universe to another: an object that appears as tiny jinglebells in one imaginary universe might appear as a collection of marbles in another, for instance. This is strongly reminiscent of Dual Transform, but whereas Dual Transform requires you to move through and understand all its spaces, Delphina’s House uses the transformation strategy to make its game more forgiving. There are three major puzzles, each of which can be solved in any of the three universes: you can pick which variation you find easiest and solve it there.

That by itself is a fairly ambitious thing to do, and Delphina’s House has one other unusual feature: it relies more than most parser IF on sound puzzles, with several audio sections. I am not usually a huge fan of audio puzzles, possibly because my memory for tunes is not as good as other kinds of memory, and the sound puzzles in Myst and Riven were always the most frustrating elements of those games. The audio puzzles in Delphina were mercifully easy, however.

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Finally, the game includes built in hints, in case even this forgiving structure is too difficult.

I wasn’t sure whether this was meant as a game for children, or just a game about childhood: IF has a fair number of both (Child’s Play being a fairly difficult, for-adults game about being a baby, for instance). The puzzles, while designed in a forgiving way, still felt like they were intended for an adult (or at least teenage) level of lateral thinking and physical knowledge. The story, though, feels very gentle for an adult audience.

Ultimately, the combination of fluffy story, relatively easy puzzles, and lighthearted mood reminded me a bit of Tookie’s Song or Snack Time!. It’s well-executed comfort play material.

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