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The Wand

by Arthur DiBianca profile

2017

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Member Reviews

5 star:
(6)
4 star:
(11)
3 star:
(5)
2 star:
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Number of Reviews: 6
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1-6 of 6


0 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Fun, good range of puzzles - could do with better vocab, February 11, 2018
On the whole, this was very enjoyable. The puzzles were mostly straightforward and fun with a good few trickier ones further in.

I have one particular gripe. Yes, I know it warns me it is a game with limited verbs ('examine' 'use' and very few others) but the key reason for having excellent modern parsers is to avoid parser-'don't understand'-Hell and give a rich experience to the reader/player.

For example:

I'm in a room, with a closed wooden door and a wand in my hand.

I try 'open door' and I get "That's not a command I recognise"
I try 'wave wand' and I get "That's not a command I recognise"

I nearly stopped playing at that point.

Yes, I can see the reason for limiting the verbs and, yes (without giving spoilers), it does eliminate a lot of wasted parser-Hell later but there were plenty of other examples of 'examine' not working with things described in rooms.

IF should try to give a reasonable response to everything that can be seen/described, so I think it needed a bit of work sorting that out.

In the end, though, I'm glad I stayed with it because it was a very good little adventure and I enjoyed it enough to give it an extra star.

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Two games in one, November 16, 2017
by Denk
Related reviews: inform
This was my favorite 2017 Ifcomp game. I don't see how to make a meaningful review of this one, without touching on the hidden content, which is more than half the game. If you cannot find the hidden content, check out David Welbourn's excellent walkthrough.

The Wand is a very polished puzzle-based text adventure, where the player seeks out a challenge at Bartholloco's secluded castle. The player is not allowed to touch anything in the castle, except from the wand, he/she is given at the beginning of the game. Luckily the wand is magical and can be set to 1000 different color combinations. The wand has different abilities depending on the chosen color combination. Unfortunately you do not know which combinations are useful, but clues to this are placed around the castle.

The apparent challenge of the game has a very nice level of difficulty and can be completed in approximately 2 hours. However, (Spoiler - click to show)if you restart and approach the game with your knowledge from your first play-through, you may find a much deeper and more involved challenge.

It is during this deeper challenge you will come to realize how well thought out the magic system actually is. Also, the ending of this deeper challenge is much better than that of the first challenge.


I don't think a pure puzzle game comes much better than this.

An intense minimalist puzzlefest with magical color combinatorics, November 16, 2017
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 2-10 hours
This is one of the large puzzle fest games out there in recent years.

You play an adventurer entering a strange castle where all actions are performed by a wand: you set the wand to a color combination, then you go on.

It has a fun feel similar to Grandma Bethlinda's Variety Box, by the same author. Slowly, more and more combinations are revealed to you, often allowing you to go back and do things that you've been wanting to do for a while, but were unable to do.

HIghly recommended.

Pared-down puzzling, October 27, 2017
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: sanguine
DiBianca's Inside the Facility won Miss Congeniality in last year's comp, featuring a huge in-game map, a pared-down parser and puzzles which involved not much more than the simplest object manipulation.

The parser in The Wand is similar, with well-circumscribed limits to what verbs might be used. This time, though, we have a much smaller map and a configurable wand to play with, which gives the player different abilities, paring down the parser further.

Puzzle clues are given abstractly, like Flash escape room games of yore. Object manipulation is more complex, since the player can do more with each object. Puzzle-solving in The Wand doesnít quite have the same snappiness as In the Facility, but thereís some nice framing of the central game premise here.

The Wand is overall a polished game, with a streamlined puzzle system. If you enjoyed this, you might enjoy Sub Rosa by Joey Jones and Melvin Rangasamy.

1 of 12 people found the following review helpful:
delete the wand, get my verbs back!, October 6, 2017
by namekuseijin (anywhere but home)
Related reviews: IFComp 2017, guess-the-color
here's this game's blurb:

"Explore the wizard Bartholloco's castle with the help of a versatile magic wand. Can you overcome his challenge? Can you levitate a rock? Can you slice a baltavakia?

(Puzzle-oriented and family friendly.)"

sounds cool, huh?

no, no it is not cool. At all.

You see, there's a whole generation of players, and now authors too, that have never played text-adventures before. And yet, they try to make one - perhaps for some kind of retrogaming kink. One or another author may however surely have played one of these cool CYOA things, where you just tap/click your choices away (if any, that is, instead of just a disguise for click-next) to move the story forward.

But still they try to make ye text-adventure of ole. So, the first thing they do is to get away with verbs - it's a depressing trend really. In this game, you can only go directions, examine stuff and point a wand at things. No inventory-management (taking stuff makes the PC receive a shock).

Now that it is constrained enough that even Grunk or cyoa players can play it, it's time for real meat of the "gameplay": the wand comes with 3 colors in the shaft and by changing the color-combinations you can really make things go exciting! You have a color combo for OPENING THINGS and possibly many other useful actions!

Now isn't that ingenious and original? Instead of boring the player out of finding some key to a door or something, you make the player tinker with the colors in the wand until they find a combo that works for OPENing a door! Wow, isn't that versatile wand something? It really made it worthwhile to delete all the standard verbs and make it so mindnumbly dull to make simple things happen! It is almost as ingenious and versatile and constraining as that char-removal device in Counterfeit Monkey, right?

seriously, get a grip...

so, not interested in the gameplay, writing is kids level, setting is as generic as possible, yadda-yadda-yadda. I'll give one more star because I feel it's written in good will.

BTW, I didn't enjoy DiBianca's walking simulator last year either... my suggestion is to play some real older parser IF (because new parser IF is all fucked up) and to get back to the drawing board...

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Whimsical, rock-solid puzzle game with a stripped-down Enchanter mechanic, October 5, 2017
by prevtenet (Texas)
It's become something of an IFComp tradition: the rock-solid puzzlefest by Arthur DiBianca, with a cleverly stripped-down parser and only the barest veneer of a story. Art's first entry was the unique but tepidly received Excelsior, followed by Grandma Bethlinda's Variety Box, which earned positive reviews and attracted so much traffic it nearly crashed the IFComp server. 2016's entry, Inside the Facility, was a novel movement-only game that won the Miss Congeniality award and received two XYZZY nods (Best Puzzles and Best Individual Puzzle).

So what did Arthur DiBianca put forward in 2017? The Wand, and it's pretty good. The Wand revisits Excelsior's seemingly bland milieu - "a wizard sets up puzzles in a tower" - but this time with far better results.

One of Excelsior's problems was that it wasn't always clear what the "use" verb would actually do. ("use statue"?) The Wand adopts the Enchanter mechanic, where you progressively learn spells that interact in interesting ways, but strips it down to *just* the spells with no other verbs except for movement. This creates a very effective experience where it's always clear what you're attempting to do, but the consequences of your actions can be unexpected.

Another of Excelsior's problems was the lack of a story or any real context for the puzzles; I kept wondering "why is this here?", and the ending felt like a disappointing afterthought. The Wand avoids this by being entirely upfront about its concept. I'm reminded of Emily Short's "Action and Interaction": "Iíve come to think that one of the jobs of a work of IF is to teach its player - constantly, in every kind of feedback - what sorts of interactions are appropriate to the game." This idea permeates The Wand, from how the concept is presented to how puzzles are hinted. The game continually and progressively teaches you what to expect, while offering some little surprises along the way. (Case in point: the brilliant way the game handles the "use" verb.)

In many ways this is the driving idea of the limited-parser movement, of which DiBianca is a vanguard: people are quite happy to play by the rules of the game you establish, but when there's a mismatch between their own idea of the rules and the game's idea of the rules, they can be disappointed. Thus, stripping down the parser and saying upfront "yeah, don't expect a story" can actually increase immersion. (Indeed, going into the game with no expectation of context or story made those elements pleasantly surprise me where they did appear.)

I must admit I am not a full convert to the minimalist school. The call of the verb is strong. But there is much of value in this way of thinking, and The Wand does it well.

Other strengths: DiBianca's writing is terse, but whimsical and evocative. (What is a baltavakia, and how do you slice one? I'm still not really sure I know, but the mental images that section conjured were fantastic.) Puzzle design is strong, mostly of the satisfying "oh! now I can do *that*!" variety. Puzzles are often "themed" and make sense within the context of their environment, which is small enough to keep everything nearby but large enough to offer a few different avenues to explore if you get stuck. Hinting is strong, with a mix of obvious solutions and head-scratchers - although I did have to check the walkthrough to realize I could (Spoiler - click to show)just walk past the dragon. The adorable, adorable dragon.

I do have a few minor critiques, e.g. I'm not sure about the wand mechanic. Spells take two turns to input, and wand settings are hard to remember without writing them down, especially since the color abbreviations can be unexpected. I do wonder if Enchanter-style magic words would work better, but as a mental concept, "one wand and two verbs" has its perks.

IMHO, what would have made this game even better is 1) deeper spell interaction, and 2) deeper worldbuilding. You can levitate rocks; what if you could levitate *anything*? The wizard has a pet kimpert; why? But I acknowledge that these thoughts are driven more by my personal affinity for games like Counterfeit Monkey than by any practical considerations.

Note: This game has hidden content that is not mentioned in the walkthrough.


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