IF Comp 2015: The Problems Compound (Andrew Schultz)

The 21st annual Interactive Fiction Competition is currently on, through mid-November. Voting is open to the general public; the only prerequisite is that you not be an author, not vote on games that you tested, and submit votes on at least five games. (You emphatically do not have to have played them all! In a year with 55 entrants, it is very unlikely that most judges will get through anywhere near all of them.)

If you are looking for other reviews, this ifwiki page contains a list of places currently carrying them.

Cover art for The Problems Compound

If you’ve been following recent parser IF, the title and author name are probably a strong hint about how you’ll feel about this game. Andrew Schultz has written a whole series of games riffing on different wordplay ideas, set in surreal environments in which object and character interactions don’t always make logical sense as long as they conform to the linguistic game currently at work.

The Problems Compound actually slightly deviates from that expectation — though all the characters and situations are based on one inverted idiom or another, the actual gameplay is a bit more standard parser puzzle stuff involving manipulating objects. But the writing style, setting, sense of humor, and overall difficulty are all about where you might expect based on the author’s past work. The game is fairly sizable, and even though I sometimes resorted to the included walkthrough chart, I eventually ran out of time before finishing. This is also a somewhat unconventional review for me, and more than usually based on running notes rather than a considered retrospective after play. The reasons for that will become clear at the end.

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