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Lesson of The Tortoise, The

From the Database of Home of the Underdogs




Copyright 1997, Gary Wilson

The Lesson of The Tortoise is an enjoyable introductory-level IF game based on Chinese folktale of the same name. It’s short, easy, and tells a wonderful story– an ideal starting point for anyone new to the genre. Bonnie Montgomery, author of Firebird, another folklore-inspired game, wrote a fitting SPAG review of this little-known gem by Gary Kevin “Whizzard” Wilson:

“You’re an unlikely IF hero: Wang Lo, a small but persevering and prosperous Chinese farmer. Your adversaries: a serpent, your faithless wife, and a disloyal farm hand. Your allies: a tortoise, your strapping son, a trusting servant girl, and a ghostly ancestral apparition. Quite a story ahead of you, wouldn’t you think? Would you believe that the game can be won in only 30 turns and contains only 9 locations? With the economical prose characteristic of a folk tale, Whizzard drops you into the Chinese folkloric past, sketches out characters and plot, and delivers a moral, all in a very satisfying 30 minutes or so of play.

Whizzard has streamlined his game in several ways: One is to simplify interactions with NPCs; verbal interactions are limited to “talk to NPC” and giving them commands. Carryable objects are few, and ones that have served their purpose are tidily moved out of the player’s reach.

Even with these simplifications, the game does not feel sparsely inhabited. The game understands most nouns that appear in room descriptions. Default responses have been nicely handled, often changed to reflect a more Confucian approach (“That action seems unlikely to save you, wise one.”) than the epistemologically challenged standard TADS parser responses (“I don’t know how to X the Y.”).

The puzzles are sometimes a challenge, but Whizzard provides a progressively more explicit hint system. The game therefore appeals to puzzle fans and story fans. Puzzle fans can tough it out without the hints. Story fans can breeze through the puzzles using hints, which is a nice way to allow the story to flow easily, a great pleasure in this game.” Highly recommended!

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