IFComp 2009: “Spelunker’s Quest”

This is a game from the 2009 IFComp.

Uh-oh. Interrobangs and waking up in a cave with amnesia. I would
imagine this is the kind of thing Richard Bos was going on about in
his rant against submediocrity in Comp games, except Richard Bos
also has his protagonist wake up in a cave with amnesia, so,
uh, maybe I missed his point.

Does falling and hitting your head and formulating a desire to
escape constitute a “quest”? The other two games which describe
themselves as “Quests” in the competition, for all their other
failings, actually involve quests. Even adding in the situationally
inappropriate treasure-hunt aspects, this isn’t actually very

This one actually lists beta testers, which is a good
sign. Certainly straight off I see a pretty good implementation depth
and competent writing. What’s being implemented may be a different
matter, though. This game is old old-school. Rooms and objects
with no real rhyme or reason, unprompted instadeaths, combat
(mercifully unrandomized). Add a maze and you can party like it’s

So, datedness aside, how does this stand up? Not bad, not
great. The writing’s pretty workmanlike, but at least it’s literate,
and it’s generally actually descriptive (although don’t tell me a room
is “crudely furnished” if it contains a sofa, a recliner, and a
table. That’s more than most graduate students have in their living
rooms). However, that’s kind of it. The puzzles are highly bimodal,
ranging from trivialities like “use this key on a chest one room away”
and “stab the monster with the sword” to read-the-author’s-mind bits
like “search an item you have no reason to believe you should even
look at too closely”. None of the individual parts of this game are
particularly exciting, and it’s too trifling for those non-exciting
bits to actually be part of an impressive whole. The obvious games to
compare this to are “zork, buried chaos”, to which it is far superior
but with which it shares inspiration and old-school pretensions, and,
more relevantly for judging purposes, “Eruption”, in that it is a
slight, flat game which achieves fundamental technical competence.

One major mystery: I can’t carry the helmet. I can wear it, I can
take it off and drop it, but apparently tucking it under my arm and
carrying it around is not an option. This isn’t a technical error,
since it was coded to behave this way and does so consistently, but
it’s a head-scratcher as to why.


About Jake
I'm a mathematics professor at the University of Louisville, and a geek.

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