Saucers of Mud

October 16, 2009

IFComp Review: Interface

Filed under: IFComp — matt w @ 9:07 pm

I’ve been playing some of the games from the 2009 IF Comp. These are text-adventure games, arty to various degrees, meant to be be judged in under two hours of play. The games can be found here. My reviews will be categorized under “IFComp.”

This is a review of “Interface,” which can be downloaded here or played online here or here, if you’ve got the right plug-ins.

You know, I’ve been neglectful in saying that if you want to download these games and play them, you’ll need an interpreter. Some things about interpreters can be found here. I use Zoom for the Mac when I’m not playing online (and at least one of these games needs Zoom).

“Interface” is described as an old-school kind of game, conceived by the author as a 14-year-old. You go around, you pick things up, you use them to solve puzzles.

Specifically, “Interface” is a good old-school game. (Not that I actually played more than a few turns of any of those old-school games, and Victor points out that it avoids certain ways of sucking that actual old-school games tended not to avoid. [And you know, in the middle of writing this review I played a little of this online port of Zork, and Victor's right. Mazes suck.])

So “Interface” was nice and solvable — there was one puzzle that I might have needed hints for, except I had accidentally run across an allusion to it in another review — and though there were a couple of gaps in the scenery and a guess-the-syntax moment or two, it was mostly fun to play. One of the most pleasant experiences of the comp. As Jenni says, the hint system is excellent, and that really does help; one of the best games of the comp is going to get a stern look for this later. (Hmm, if I know the hint system is excellent, maybe I didn’t do so well at solving the puzzles as I remember.)

And as Emily says, even though there was a lot of unimplemented stuff, the NPC you have to deal with for the first part of the game, is entertainingly and believably jerky, and his house is a believable projection of his character. Of course, your mind has been transferred into a robot, so believability is relative here.

I also liked how most of the puzzles followed naturally from your plight, or from the NPC’s slobbiness, or from both.
The guess-the-syntax problem was that exactly one of “put towel on pool” or “put towel in pool” worked, I forget which. Since the towel and pool were obviously destined to end up together — they may be glaring at each other on the poster, but you can see that it’s really love, or at least that their names are before the title of the movie which is as much a sign of love as anything — it wasn’t too much trouble to try both alternatives. (I also think “clean up pool” failed while “dry pool” works according to the walkthrough, but you can’t think of everything.) The big problem with guess-the-verbs is when you think the solution can’t involve the model train, the flashlight, and the glue, because “glue flashlight to train” didn’t work, but in fact you needed to type “fix flashlight to train with glue” or something like that. And this was where I liked that Gilby’s slovenly housekeeping led naturally to the puzzle.

Ditto for the cabinet puzzle. Quoth Jenni:

Also, it’s smart of Gilby to put the cabinet blocking this secret alcove on casters, if he’s going to be moving it often, but it’s too bad he hadn’t thought of that before the hardwood floor got all scratched up. Either that, or these are really shitty casters.

But that’s exactly the kind of caster a guy like Gilbey would have. (There was a pun on “caster” here that was so bad I deleted it. If you know me, you know that it was a very bad pun.)

The inventory management puzzle felt gratuitous, though. It didn’t have much impact on gameplay, since you could always go back for whatever you’d dropped, and it was justified in-game by the robot’s limited number of pincers, but c’mon! Couldn’t Uncle Floyd have designed the robot to keep unlimited inventory in a bucket? Sure he could!

The game seemed to end a little abruptly though, perhaps because I had my eye on my score and saw it wasn’t close to the maximum. It might have been kind of nice to implement something upstairs — like maybe those fake puzzles that were in the hints but not the game. But again, a fun little game, and nothing wrong with brevity.


  1. [...] why I was so positive about Interface and even about Gleaming the Verb. Interface sets you up in a situation, lets you know some of the [...]

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  3. [...] game like Interface is a bicycle. Earl Grey is an out-of-control jetpack. When Yoon-Ha Lee asked of it, “Please [...]

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  4. [...] below. Rover’s Day Out: 10 Resonance: 9 Byzantine Perspective: 9 The Duel in the Snow: 8 Interface: 8 The Duel that Spanned the Ages: I’ll be submitting a 7 because that’s where I was [...]

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