Elizabeth (runnerchild) wrote,
Elizabeth
runnerchild

[IFComp] Cold Iron

Cold Iron, by Lyman Clive Charles (a pseudonym), is an atmospheric little fantasy game.
  In Cold Iron, you play a farmer searching in the forest for his lost axe, which you suspect has been stolen by the "piskies". It's a very short game - I think I finished it in half an hour, including replaying to explore a bit more.

There wasn't a lot to it, but I have to admit that I really enjoyed it for what it was. The writing was evocative and the setting felt immersive. Even though a lot remains unrevealed at the end of the game about the characters and the story, it didn't feel unresolved so much as open-ended - like looking at a painting in a museum and wondering about the people in it. I enjoyed the experience of playing the game, and I'm enjoying thinking about it again today. (I'm behind on reviews - I played it several days ago.)

Some reviewers have criticized the mapping of physical locations in the game. Moving around in the forest doesn't follow normal rules about south being opposite of north and so on. Instead, no matter which direction you type, you loop through a series of locations unless you take specific actions that break you out of that loop. I actually liked this mechanic, though. It gave a feeling of being lost in the woods and stumbling over the same places again and again.

A few things would have strengthened this game for me, though. A minor one is that sometimes very reasonable synonyms weren't supported. The game hinted that I was to stick the knife into the oak stump, for example, but "stick knife in stump" didn't work. I had to use the more basic "put". Likewise, I wasn't allowed to "pick" the holly, only "get" it.

Another minor point that shows my etymological pedantry: the farmer-character refers to the local pastor as "the Reverd." I know this was an old abbreviation for "Reverend," often written "Reverd," but I'm unable to find out on the internet if it was a spoken or only written abbreviation. (No one pronounces "Mr. Smith" as "Murr Smith.") Overall I liked the dialect - "piskies," for example - but that one word let me wondering.

I also would really like this game to have multiple endings. What if the farmer, or the pastor you become at the end, had chosen not to believe the old tales and acted accordingly? The player wasn't able to continue past the stream into the gloom without first washing, then wearing, the holly wreath, but I would have liked the choice to do so. Would something dire have happened to the character, or nothing at all?

I must admit that I'm curious about the pseudonymic author's identity. It sounds, from the ABOUT text, that he/she intends to come out of pseudonymity after the comp. I'll have to remember to check.

Next up: Keepsake, by Savaric. I've already played this one, too, but I think I might go play yet another before writing more reviews.
Tags: if, ifcomp2011
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