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By Chris Conroy
Played On: November 10th (35 minutes)
Platform: Inform 6 (Zcode)
Merk’s Score: 7-
An IF interpretation of a classic puzzle.
The shortest game of this year’s IFComp (rivaled only by Wish) follows what is probably the longest on my random play list. In Fox, Fowl and Feed, an interactive realization of a well known but simple logic puzzle, players must transport the three titular things one at a time in a rowboat across a river.
I can imagine it being a little tougher to anyone who hasn’t already solved this particular logic puzzle, but it smartly introduces twists to the traditional answer. The first is that the rowboat isn’t initially ready to make the first trip. That’s easily solved. The second is that the first thing taken across won’t stay there (and here, I must have smiled and nodded to myself, realizing that it wouldn’t be quite so simple after all). The solution to this isn’t hard to guess, and it requires remembering what you did to get the boat ready. This is a good primer for the rest of it, because no part of solving the game is as simple as the logic puzzle on which it is based. It requires working with much of what’s around in creative ways.
Perhaps the most surprising thing about a game this short is that it does have bugs. Well, it has a couple of inconsequential but odd ones. The game attempts to drop scenery objects as though you’re holding them, if the rope is tied to one and you drop the rope. I also tripped over a strange quirk where picking up the fox says “taken” even though the fox remains on the ground.
Although not bugs per se, I noticed a few areas that might merit attention in a post-comp update. When sitting in the boat, what’s there is listed after the room description as being “in” the boat. What’s outside is listed simply as being “here.” When outside the boat, what’s in it isn’t listed at all -- just what’s on the ground. That’s okay and intuitive as described, except when sitting in the boat and nothing is there, it’s easy to forget that what is listed is actually not in the boat. It also seems that the game assumes you intend to drag an object behind the boat (“you won't be able to maneuver properly”) even if it’s inside the boat (although it’s possible I’m just not visualizing what the author intended). I also saw no reason that the river needed to be three locations wide (one might have worked just as well), but maybe the author has worked it into some of the timing. I would like to be able to “tie x to y” (where neither “x” nor “y” is a rope), and since I’m holding the rope, have the game imply that this is what I intend to use.
The game is cleverly written, where the PC’s role as a delivery driver and the destination itself give flavor to its simple story. It’s short, yes; but it’s fun to play and read the whole way through. It doesn’t strictly fit the definition of a “7” on my voting scale, but since it’s not nearly as ambitious as games that take full advantage of the allotted two hour time limit, it’s hard to justify a higher score than this. It’s a well written, well designed, fun little puzzle game. I recommend it highly, as a short but entertaining diversion.