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IFCOMP 2006 - Sisyphus

Game #14: Sisyphus (by Theo Koutz)
Played: November 4th (20 minutes)
Platform: Inform 7 (Zcode)
Unofficial Score: 3

     Gameís Blurb:
     You are Sisyphus, a Greek king who is being punished in the underworld by being forced to push a huge boulder up a hill for all eternity. Can you figure out a way to weasel out of your predicament, escape from Hades, and get your job as king back?

     XYZZY Response:
     That's not a verb I recognise.

     Hmm. Just... hmmmm.

     I chose this game next (I only needed to skip one more on my randomly-ordered list), because it has already been identified in other reviews as a joke game. Iíve tried to just skim for scores (so as to maybe minimize the influence of these other opinions), but when the reviews of Sisyphus are only a line or two, thatís not easy.

     Still, I hoped to find something more here Ė something the others overlooked. I have failed in that, and I can only agree with them. I see three possibilities, though, instead of just two. Itís either a joke game, or a larger game that fails in its very first puzzle so as to appear as nothing but a joke game, or itís neither. In that case, maybe itís exactly what it appears to be. Maybe itís intended to show the endless futility Sisyphus endures as his punishment in Hades, by hinting that Sisyphus believes himself clever enough to escape from just another unfortunate encounter.

     In my brief quest to answer the question posed by the gameís blurb, I tried a number of actions. Most donít work or give default responses, but a few pay off. Since none of this seems ďspoileryĒ in a game that goes nowhere, here is most of what I found to work: x hill, search hill, x me, die, x boulder, look under boulder, push boulder, pull boulder, wait, pray, get boulder, n/s/e/w/etc, help.

     I also tried looking to the story of Sisyphus (I searched the internet) for the details I lack in my prior understanding of this Greek myth. Plenty leads up to Sisyphus and the boulder, but nothing comes after it. Sisyphus doesnít weasel out of his predicament. This is his final, everlasting punishment, and as such, it suggests no way out.

     I want to believe, even now, that maybe Theo Koutz (an alias, I think) has built a bigger game that just hides behind a hard-to-guess introductory puzzle. I think itís unlikely, though. Even though not much is implemented, what is here seems solid and well-written to the point that it would be an unbelievable lapse in judgement for the author to have designed this in such an unhelpful way. Also, the actions that might hint at alternatives donít, instead suggesting that Sisyphus resume his toil. Doing this (even dozens of times) offers no variation. Itís all worded in such a way that the task seems unavoidable and inescapable, yet the idea of escape lingers.

     It could be a ď1Ē, and it might be a ď2Ē, but to me, it has a peculiar charm. Itís a little like looking for buried pirateís treasure where thousands have failed before you. Itís almost certainly as pointless as it seems, yet the possibility that the author has devised some way for Sisyphus to escape is a tough idea to shake. Eventually, somebody will probably decompile the .Z8 file (if such a thing is possible, and I donít know why it wouldnít be) to find out for sure.

     My theory, as absurd as it might be, is that this is a joke, but a very particular one. I think the author hopes to make a point in wasting our time. Maybe we keep hunting for an escape that doesnít exist, or we write scathing reviews. Either way, the jokeís on us. I think the author knows the community, and Sisyphus is his middle finger. If so, I donít mind that. Itís not an enjoyable game, but Iím not offended. Itís oddly fascinating, but still just a ď3Ē on my scale.

     I hope the author, whoever he may be, claims it after the competition.

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