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Tribute: Just Another Fairy Tale
Author: Finn Rosenlov
Date: 2020

Reviewed by MathBrush

Related reviews: about 2 hours

I suspect that this may be a pseudonym, after I had a panic-inducing moment where something I posted in the authorís forum was liked by someone who I didnít think was an author and who would write a game like this.

This was the first game on my personalized list, but I thought it was charming and wanted to take it slow.

This is an ADRIFT game, which means it comes with that ADRIFT style where precise verb noun combinations are needed and Informís and TADSís automatic feedback systems arenít in place. So you have to poke around.

This is a fantasy pastiche (with an especially funny moment where the game loads music by Peter, Paul and Mary and invokes the wizard Google) where you are teleported to another world and asked to bring a compass to a wizard.

While the storyline resembles a fantasy teen novel, the game itself is well-adapted to parser fans. It has traps you can fall into without knowing for sure if they are traps, and requires careful experimentation and searching, but it also has multiple puzzle solutions.

I had hoped to do most of the work on my own, and asked a few early hints, but ended up heading to the walkthrough around the bank segment. Given more time, I probably would have just left this open for a month and poked at it.

I definitely donít prefer ADRIFT or Quest games for their systems, which often frustrate my gameplay style, but I have grown accustomed to their style, and they work remarkably well for menu-based systems (ADRIFT more than Quest).

This game was charming overall, and I had a good time playing it.

-Polish: The eternal bane of most ADRIFT games.
+Descriptiveness: I thought the game was well-described.
+Interactivity: I was often frustrated, but when I took it very slowly, it was fun.
+Emotional impact: I found it charming
+Would I play again? Why not? From the other scores I can see this early on, I might be in the minority, but I got a kick out of this game.

Reviewed by  Mike Russo

Much like Hansel and Gretel, this one needs a bit more time in the oven, I fear.

The overall setting and structure for JAFT are nothing close to original Ė the player character is a ten-year-old whoís contacted by a wizard and transported to a fantasy land to save it from a wicked queen Ė but some good old tropes are good and old for a reason. Entering the world is at first like entering a warm bath, as you pick clean a homely cottage in the woods and then enter a dark forest for some light adventuring. The writing is undistinguished, but fits this high-fantasy story with a pre-teen protagonist just fine.

There are a few things that distinguish JAFT from the countless other stories with similar premises. First, thereís a note of whimsy and humor Ė Iím thinking especially of the puzzle involving the trolls (theyíre from Poland, so of course when theyíre turned to stone by the sun, they transform into poles made of petrified wood) and a punny bit of business involving a magic clock. Several puzzles also have alternate solutions or offer multiple paths through the game, which is very helpful given that I found the difficulty level of the game quite high.

On the negative side, there are two primary issues I had with JAFT that wind up reinforcing each other. Many puzzles rely on what Iíd call pixel-hunting design in a graphic adventure Ė there are many progression-critical objects that can only be found by methodically examining every single word thatís mentioned in a description, and even some that arenít (for the former issue, Iím thinking primarily of the sprig of thyme, where you need to examine one specific piece of the hedge despite there being no reason to think to look there; for the latter, all of the hidden spots on walls that donít draw any attention to themselves).

The related issue is that ďnear-missĒ solutions donít wind up generating helpful nudges to the right track, but rather parser confusion. I had to go to the walkthrough to get through the aforementioned bit with the trolls, because something I was expecting to be there wasnít, and the responses to trying to interact with it didnít lead me in the right direction, even though what was going on should have been obvious to the player character (that is, I kept trying to X TROLLS or X STATUES to no real effect, even though apparently there were a bunch of undescribed giant troll-shaped wooden poles lying in the clearing). Dialogue with characters similarly felt very fiddly Ė there was one puzzle (talking then listening to the wind to get the dragonís name) that I couldnít get to work even when I was trying to just type in the walkthrough commands. And there were several guess the verb/guess the noun issues that stymied progress.

Combined, these two issues meant I felt like I was groping my way through JAFT, unclear on what I should be doing or how I should be doing it or whether I was close to a solution or miles off. Again, I think the basic concept is solid, and some of the puzzles do have some promise, but thereís some significant polishing to be done to make the experience of playing the game fit the charming, winsome mood the storyís trying to create.

Reviewed by Mike Spivey

(Here be spoilers Ė light ones in the third paragraph and getting more explicit starting in the fifth paragraph.)

Two old-school text adventures in a row! Much of what I said about the last game I played, Return to Castle Coris, could also be said about Just Another Fairy Tale: large (well, larger than most IFComp games), somewhat sparsely-implemented, lots of puzzles, fantasy world. Just Another Fairy Tale has more of a plot than does Return to Castle Coris, but both feature an eclectic mix of traditional fantasy elements. (For what itís worth, the largest game Iíve played in IFComp this year, Little Girl in Monsterland, also contains an eclectic mix of fantasy characters and locations.)

With Just Another Fairy Tale we also have a traditional fantasy plot: An evil queen rules the land, and a good wizard has reached out to you in a dream to ask for your help. Youíre only a child, but you set out on a quest to return a magic compass to the wizard and save the land.

An interesting early aspect of Just Another Fairy Tale is that it explicitly acknowledges Tolkienís influence in establishing this sort of setup as a standard fantasy plot. The first dangerous area you enter is actually called ďMirkwood,Ē after a huge forest in The Hobbit. In addition, some of the characters you meet in this forest are straight out of The Hobbit, the descriptions of the trees sound like the descriptions of Mirkwood in The Hobbit or the Old Forest in The Lord of the Rings, and the magic rope you begin the game with has the same properties as the elven rope in The Lord of the Rings. Just Another Fairy Tale isnít Tolkien fan fiction, though; besides Mirkwood and the rope I didnít see anything that reminded me explicitly of Tolkienís work. In fact, later thereís a very non-Tolkien reference to a certain dragon in American pop culture.

Players should be aware that you can lock yourself out of victory in this game, although sometimes when I thought I had locked myself out of victory I had merely just made things harder for myself. (This I discovered after checking the walkthrough.)

The puzzles arenít too hard; generally when I got stuck the problem was that I hadnít carefully examined everything in my location. The primary exception to that was the solution to getting across the river, which requires making an object that isnít there. I generally donít think of MAKE (something) as a solution to a puzzle in a parser game. Iím pretty sure thatís because Iím so used to the Inform world model, which generally only allows you to verb nouns that you can see or touch or that are otherwise ďin scopeĒ in some sense. Getting across the river in Just Another Fairy Tale is not an unfair puzzle, especially since itís clued by a phrase with a double-meaning, but I think a lot of players used to Inform games will have trouble with it.

Speaking of game design systems, this is the second Adrift game in a row that Iíve played, and once again I found myself struggling with the Adrift world model and parser. For example, I couldnít put water in the wineskin when it was in my backpack (reasonable enough), but GET WINESKIN failed; the game told me I was already carrying the wineskin (and I was, in a sense Ė it was in my backpack). I had to drop the backpack and then take the wineskin out of it in order to fill it with water. A more serious problem for me, as Iím starting to realize, is that Adrift just doesnít parse like Inform does. For example, one of the puzzles in Just Another Fairy Tale requires you to SHOOT (something) WITH PEBBLES. This works just fine when ďsomethingĒ is the right thing to solve the puzzle. However, everything else I tried to shoot with the pebbles resulted in a response of ďI donít know what you want to do with the pebbles.Ē That had led me to believe, mistakenly, that SHOOT isnít a verb understood by the game, since thatís what would have been the case with Inform. (In Inform, any verb you want the player to use tends to be given its own custom default response. So itís generally quite clear when the game doesnít understand a particular verb.) Thus, Iím learning that when I play an Adrift game I need to come at it with some different expectations about the way the game responds. (I now think this was also at the root of some of my difficulties with Return to Castle Coris, the Adrift game I played right before this one.)

I also noticed that the set of authors and testers of Return to Castle Coris and Just Another Fairy Tale appears to be a set with only three people in it, all of whom seem to prefer Adrift when creating their games. Thatís fine, of course, but Iíd suggest that for subsequent games they consider recruiting some additional testers who are used to other systems like Inform, testers who could help them see how lots of IFComp players not accustomed to Adrift will approach playing their games. (Perhaps they tried and nobody offered to help; I know finding testers can be difficult. There is, though, at least one Inform 7 author who is generally eager to test anything. I will not put him on the spot by naming him here, but placing a request for testing help on intfiction.org might produce a response. Also, if I have free time I might be willing to test.) I think this would not only help players like me understand more how Adrift works; it would also help Adrift games be better-appreciated by a wider collection of players.

Two more specific comments on Just Another Fairy Tale: There are some places where the implementation could be better, places in which I donít think the problem is the parser. (For example, CLIMB ROPE at one point gave me the response ďYou are currently holding on to the end of the rope. Maybe you should tie it to something sturdy.Ē Then TIE ROPE TO HOOK produced ďYou are not holding the rope.Ē)

Finally, the ultimate punishment in Just Another Fairy Tale fell rather flat for me. Since Iím a math professor, being forced to do mathematics for a long time is rather like throwing Bríer Rabbit into the briar patch. 🙂

In sum, I think fans of older-style fantasy IF with lots of puzzles will like Just Another Fairy Tale, especially those who are comfortable with Adriftís parser and world model.

Reviewed by Anssi

This adventure starts pleasantly enough. An old man, presumably a wizard, visits the hero of the story in the middle of the night, and after this visit the hero is not sure if he was awake or dreaming. But when he wakes up in the morning, he is in different surroundings from his usual one. He has been transported to a magical kingdom. When the wizard appeared to him earlier, he asked him to save the kingdom from an evil queen, so that is obviously the quest he must embark on. The wizard we encountered in the beginning helps us along the way.

Playing was often not that smooth: there were some places where the walkthrough had to be consulted because of guess-the-verb issues (for example only Ďremoveí is accepted as a solution in one puzzle; Ďtakeí does not work). Sometimes, even the walkthrough does not work properly. For example in the forest we hear voices coming from the east, and the solution, according to the walkthrough, is to listen - fair and simple enough. But listening at that location does not bring the game forward, we have to go round to the south of the said location, where no voices are described as being heard, and then listening there triggers the plot forward. There was no clear reason for this. There was also an incongruity with the magic rope: . There were some language-related puzzles which were not readily intuitional: . There were also some linguistic errors here and there, mainly with the 3rd person -s appearing or not appearing in the wrong places. I stopped playing when I had been caught in a prison cell (with math books), and even if managing to . For some reason, going ďinĒ in the prison cell is possible, and when looking , the room description is ďnothing specialĒ. You have to come out again to be back in the cell. Going up in the prison cell, Iím suddenly ďInside the snakeĒ (!) which was not at all referred to previously, and going down again I am back at the prison cell. This snake is not also referred to in the walkthrough at all, as far as I can understand, it seemed like a leftover code that was not intended to be in the final game.

The puzzles in the game were mostly fair, and the story charming enough, but due to the various rough spots, guess-the-verb issues and incongruities, the gameplay was not as ideal as it could have been. 6

Reviewed by Stian

This is a classic style fantasy adventure, seemingly written for young children, but much too hard for me. I picture the boy from Time Bandits as the protagonist, taken from reality and inserted into a fictitious world filled with magic and fraught with danger, but nothing a young boy canít handle.

The reason I did not get very far in two hours is mainly down to the verbs. Perhaps Adrift has a different set of standard verbs than Inform and Tads; a lot of the ones Iím accustomed to were not recognised, and when I finally gave up and had a look at the walkthrough, the solutions surprised me. I was reminded of the challenges Jason Dyer writes about when playing very old games 3. In these games, you need to forget any expectation you have about which verbs will work and which will not. In a sense, Inform games have made me very comfortable with a certain way of interacting with parsers, and Iím not really equipped with the lateral mindset for something completely different.

As far as I came, I found the story to be quite okay. Itís very stereotypical, but also cute in a way. The moments in which it shines are whenever it is obvious that you are a little boy, and a rather obedient one at that. A feature I enjoyed Ė which sometimes was necessary, but only occasionally implemented Ė was being able to examine elements over a distance. In the end I think I might have enjoyed it more if I had consulted the walkthrough earlier and gotten a bit further, though that would also have been counter to my instincts.

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