IF Comp 2014: And yet it moves

 yetitmovesAnd yet it moves (Orion Zymaris) is a parser game made in Inform. The player, a student of the house-arrested Galileo, must smuggle the manuscript of the Discourses out of Italy and get it to a publisher in Holland.

You knock gently on the door. It swings open, and you see a monk, standing in its place. A woman enters the room behind the monk and looks at you.
“Good evening Virginia”, you say to the woman. “I am leaving to go to Holland, and wanted to see him before I left.”

Wait wait what. Isn’t she meant to be in a convent? To Wikipedia! …yes. Yes, she should be long cloistered from the world at this point. Or dead: the stated date of 1630 is substantially too early – Galileo’s house arrest began in 1633, and Virginia/Maria Celeste died the next year.  I guess the deal is that this is based specifically on the Bertolt Brecht play, hence the Andrea Sarti character.

The game’s world is rather larger than is strictly required to contain its narrative. Rooms in and around Galileo’s house and in Florence are implemented despite having no direct bearing on the story. On the one hand, the enthusiasm for setting is obvious; you have the sense that it’s aiming at the kind of setting that it’s just nice to wander around and experience, and I really like that kind of game. On the other, it often doesn’t follow through on this enthusiasm. Sometimes there are lots of details but the main description is lacking; often the details are presented as a jumble of objects, and some of the choices are kind of odd.

In particular, it is really, really fascinated with produce. After you retrieve the manuscript from Galileo, there’s a section of the plot where you have to buy provisions for your journey, but this feels like an excuse to depict a town with a whole lot of tradespeople and goods.

a bustling room filled with fresh produce, and a large crowd of people. the exit is to the south.

You can see water vessel, fourteen carrots, twelve noranges, four corianders, three pumpkins, one hundred apples, ten lamb chunks, seven veal slices, cow and sundial here.

> x cow

So, to be fair, I am very much in favour of depicting a culture through its food and trade goods, but this feels as though it needs less focus on lists of exact numbers and a lot more on texture and specific detail – wait, what’s this ‘norange’ thing?

c.1300, of the fruit, from Old French orange, orenge (12c., Modern French orange), from Medieval Latin pomum de orenge, from Italian arancia, originally narancia (Venetian naranza), alteration of Arabic naranj, from Persian narang, from Sanskrit naranga-s “orange tree,” of uncertain origin. Not used as a color word until 1540s.

I was sceptical, but the game is right about this – while English never had the word ‘norange’, Italian effectively did. So, Stuff I Did Not Know, good work. More of this kind of thing, please.

I got hung up on the final action, for some reason – I think that by not immediately opening the door I prevented the event from being triggered. Other than that, the game was pretty playable, with the exception of the puzzle that requires you to find where the bank is; it involves talking to an otherwise not-very-responsive NPC about a fairly specific subject. It’s definitely a game interested in puzzles as a light pacing/motivation mechanism rather than a challenge: that’s perfectly legitimate, but it requires puzzles which hit a certain sweet spot, not completely trivially-solved but also not stumping the player for very long. The puzzles in And yet it moves fall on either side of the sweet spot without quite hitting it.

This has a strong idea about the kind of experience it wanted to deliver, but needs quite a lot more implementation to make that come together, both as a story and as an interactive environment. And the two principal things it’s interested in – the story of Galileo’s persecution, and the setting of a Renaissance home and city – seem as though they should be complementary, but aren’t quite wedded up. That’s a velocity issue, though, and as such relatively difficult to address. A more straightforward improvement would be to get the implementation and copy-editing up to a consistent standard.

Score: 3

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