IF Comp 2013: 'Captain Vedeterre's Plunder' by Ryan Veeder

The 19th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition is underway.  This year, I plan to review the games that I finish within the two-hour time limit for open judging.

Captain Verdeterre's Plunder uses the turn-based time system of the traditional text adventure to create a small but clever treasure hunt.  The game feels old-school, and the concept would probably not work in any medium other than parser IF.  Still, the streamlined efficiency with which the game uses the mechanic of turn-based time puzzles and the convention of treasure hunting feels innovative.  I imagine that all this has probably been done before in larger and better games, but maybe these specific mechanics have been done so effectively and elegantly.

Although designed to be played and failed repeatedly as the player learns the mechanic and memorizes the map, the game rewards the player for modest success.  It would be logical for a crueler game using these trial-and-error mechanics to disable the UNDO command.  However, UNDO appears unhindered, giving the player some ability to change strategies in the middle of the short individual sessions.

The gameplay is based around a central time-management mechanic.  Within that framework, there are a handful of traditional adventure-game puzzles, probably of varying difficulty.  One puzzle combines a lock-and-key with the time mechanic, forcing a choice between solving the puzzle and taking advantage of easier ways to score points.

The missing element that might have made the gameplay truly excel would have been randomization, perhaps randomized placement of some of the treasure objects.  Going over the small map again to try to get the better treasures faster offers little new content or experiences on repeated playthroughs.  The final breakdown of the score at the end makes this game feel like it wants to be something like a roguelike, featuring a simple achievement system.  A better comparison might be to the classic resource simulation game Hammurabi.  In either case, the partially random gameplay is what makes the statistical reporting at the end more meaningful.

The story and aesthetics are pleasant and vaguely humorous.  The premise and writing seem to be targeted toward a young audience, although the cuteness factor is not exaggerated to annoying levels.

Set entirely on a ship, the world is accurate and sufficiently detailed, although austere.  There is even a command to enable notes about the nautical terms that come up in the text; but even without the notes, the nautical language does not overwhelm the description or detract from their effective understandability.

Due to its focused simplicity and its small map, Captain Verdeterre's Plunder probably can't sustain interest for very long, despite being designed to be experienced in multiple playthroughs.  Still, it seems to be a well-crafted text adventure, utilizing the medium in a strong and relatively unique way.


Popular posts from this blog

The Anomalous Archive, Part V: 'Ley of the Minstrel' by G.L. Francis.

IntroComp 2014: 'The Cuckold's Egg' by Veronica Devon (Daniel Ravipinto)

Interactive Fiction Comp 2015: 'Grandma Bethlinda's Variety Box'