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From the Database of Home of the Underdogs




Copyright 1998, Taro Ogawa

A well-deserved 5th place winner in the 1998 Interactive Fiction Competition, Enlightenment is a fun but tough one-room treasure-hunting puzzle fest set in the Zorkian universe. Duncan Stevens’ comprehensive review at SPAG says it all:

Enlightenment is proof positive that one-room games need not be one-joke or one-puzzle in style; in fact, they can be quite diverse and difficult. In a competition with several of them, Enlightenment stands out as the most accomplished: there is a certain unity to the puzzles that justifies the one-room framework, and they are difficult enough to tax the player’s mental energy, even within the confines of the room. The game also features a take-off on the Infocom “feelies” of old, with an HTMLized excerpt from Popular Enchanting and several silly but amusing tidbits. The excerpt reproduces the goofball feel of the Infocom manuals, and fits with the game’s persistent tweaking of Activision (the darkness is inhabited by g***s, notably, and being eaten by one is “both g***ling and g***some”). (The prologue also refers to Frobozz Magic Napalm and a Frobozz Magic Tinning Kit, so there’s not much ambiguity about who we’re imitating.) The game blends traditional fantasy elements with anachronistic bits like battery-operated appliances in a way that likewise recalls Infocom; one of the familiar objects is a aerosol can of g*** repellent.

The puzzles, though the solutions are sometimes silly enough to recall Steve Meretzky, would qualify as among Infocom’s more difficult: several turn on realizing the physical properties of some of the objects you’re holding, properties not at all obvious to the unscientifically minded. Still, the puzzles are inventive and require some lateral thinking–and some combining of objects in several cases–to solve; the difficulty stems less from unfairness or obscure facts than from the one-object or one- property conventions of most IF puzzles. The real fly in the ointment is the hint system, which seems badly broken–one must go through the hints for the concept of the game as a whole in order to get to those for specific puzzles, whether or not one has already grasped the goal. There may be a reason for that–the headings for the individual puzzles might give the game away for the player who hasn’t picked up the point yet–but surely there must be a way to avoid that problem without such a maladaptive system. At any rate, in a game this difficult, the hint system is essential–and beyond the initial glitch, the system works well.

Enlightenment is a short but extremely solid game: the puzzles are challenging enough that solving them feels rewarding. If it feels less like a game than a small section of a larger game, that’s presumably the intent, and while it might be more satisfying to play a full-blown game, this sort of entry is ideal for the competition. With enough Infocom references to make fans nostalgic, and some of the feel of early Infocom, Enlightenment is an unabashed puzzle-fest that boasts some of the more challenging puzzles you’ll come across in a game.” Whether or not you are a Zork fan, this underdog comes highly recommended.

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