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Valpurgius and I

Valpurgius and I

Valpurgius and I


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Valpurgius and I , the first public game of Agustín Cordes, an Argentinean Interactive Fiction writer, puts you in the shoes of an unnamed character, with no biographical background; an effective narrative strategy since it makes easier for the player to project his/her personality onto the protagonist. Immersion into the game is also encouraged by the amount of details involved in the description of the different environments. The world you enter is quite strange and colorful: exotic flowers, funny smells and wild fauna give shape to an interesting and well-depicted setting. Without any doubt, the game’s writing quality is one of its highest points.

For being an unexpected visitor in this alien land, your main concern is quite mundane: your back is itching. No, I’m not joking. As the game informs you after a few turns, your back is really killing you and it’d be better to do something about it. This first puzzle sets the zany mood that will characterize the whole game. Humor is one of the strongest qualities of Valpurgius: puns and jokes are hilarious and carefully distributed throughout the game. Most of these amusing situations involve the participation of Stooge Valpurgius, a humanoid non-playable character (NPC) that not only gives his name to the game but is also an invaluable sidekick, crucial in the development of the story.

Now, let’s say a word about puzzles. Frankly, prior to any experience with the game, my only expectation was to find merely linear interconnected inventory puzzles (which wouldn’t have been a bad thing at all). Even though most of the puzzles are related to the utilization of the appropriate objects in the right places, a different approach is needed in a couple of situations. Without giving any spoilers, interacting both with the environment and with the NPC becomes a must to finish the game. My only complain about puzzles is that scarcity of hints makes many of them rather obscure. This also applies when it comes to the game goals. While the lack of directions helps to create the strangeness and wackiness of the game’s atmosphere, it also makes sometimes difficult to figure out what to do next. Very probably, the average player will often find himself disoriented and begging for a clue. In order to avoid this problem more hints and directions would have been welcome.

A very short game as it is, Valpurgius involves only a small number of rooms. This is not a surprise considering that it’s the author’s opera prima but may disappoint some players. An experienced IF gamer would be able to finish it in less than an hour. Nevertheless, it is quite clear that the developer chose to concentrate in the game’s quality rather than in its length. It seems that, for the author, quality beats quantity. 
Valpurgius was written using Inform 6.15. Although the first version had a couple of bugs, this aspect does not undermine the fact that the game is very competently programmed. In fact, these bugs were quickly fixed by the author in the second release, which also encompasses more text for the NPC as well as other minor modifications. The main technical drawback I noticed is that the game’s vocabulary is not very extensive and many times you have to enter an specific word to make the game progress, a situation that is evident in one of the last puzzles. Furthermore, interaction with the NPC requires a highly structured syntax. This wouldn’t be a problem, but no instructions are stated in the game to advice the player about it. Maybe using the commands “info” or “help” to create a short “instruction sheet” would have served well, especially for the inexperienced player.

In the end, the game twists and turns, revealing a strange, interesting final scene, which fits perfectly with the general aesthetic of the game’s atmosphere and will keep you thinking for a while. All in all, despite the above-described downsides, Valpurgius is a good piece of IF, with a remarkable writing style and many hilarious situations. Anyone interested in the genre will find this game enjoyable.

Final Grade: C+

Ricardo Pautassi

Ricardo Pautassi

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