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Delightful Wallpaper

by Andrew Plotkin ('Edgar O. Weyrd') profile

Surreal/Mystery
2006

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Number of Reviews: 10
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First part is like a Rubik's cube; second part like a creative writing workshop, February 3, 2016
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
The first part of the game is a completely technical puzzle. No moves can hurt you, and there are no characters or items. As a mathematician, I found this part of the game deeply enjoyable. Like a Rubik's cube, I realized that each element can be manipulated by a little "dance". These are the important "dances":

(Spoiler - click to show)Going n, e, s, w from the kitchen lowers the floor.

Going e, n, w, s, w from the kitchen raises the floor.

Going in a similar circle around the dining room changes the direction of the bridge. If the foyer is closed, go up twice through the kitchen first.

To go down or up, do a kitchen dance and approach the moving floor from w or e, respectively.


As for the second part, the idea was fun, and the implementation was fun, but the subject matter was not my cup of tea. I found it fun to explore everything, but used a walkthrough once I tried every item.

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Delightful IF, January 22, 2016
by namekuseijin (anywhere but home)
This is a thoroughly delightful IF that is at times charming, amusing, funny and horrific, all the while being quite a straightforward, polite and extremely polished game. I started playing it last weekend and finally finished it. I don't know how I've missed it all these years!

In fact, I do. When it first came out of IFComp 2006, by some guy named Edgar O. Weyrd, I wasn't too keen on the title or the unknown author. Then, I played for a very short while and wasn't too hot on the narrator's voice and quite clueless as to the purpose of the game. It seemed you could do nothing but wander around and have a few notes written in your notebook. So, I dropped it.

Now, the very first thing I did this time around, besides learning it to be by Plotkin, was to take a careful look at that subtitle right there: A Cozy Mansion Mystery in the Making. I did not notice it my first time around and it makes things a lot clearer.

Here's how this bright IF opens up:


Grey gravel crunches in the drive. Grey windows retreat behind wrought-iron balcony rails. Grey skies press down over the looming, shadowy edifice.

You /do/ enjoy your job, but the decor can become a /bit much/ sometimes. You shall hope that the inside of this mansion proves to be cheerier.


Let me tell you right away: the narrator as pictured above is one of the most effective I've ever seen in parser IF. It's voice will stick in your head. It's able to convey your surroundings with the same ease as it strongly characterizes the PC all along, besides bringing your attention to the important points in the narrative. Yet, when I first played, somehow I was under the wrong impression that it was about some home decor designer abated by the bad weather and bad conditions of the old house. :D I don't know if it was intentional, but it can be interpreted that way at first. This time around, I took a more thourough view of my surroundings and the protagonist and got a far grimmer picture of what was really happening.

Then, as I wander around the house, taking notes on this and that and commenting upon the decor, some unexplainable things begin to happen. Doors open and close, parts of the house spin, the floor comes to life and even some portcullis appears out of nowhere. Spooky, huh? It really is a cozy mansion mistery story after all, but with one hell of a twist.

The game is divided in two parts: exploration of the mansion and the "solving" the cozy mistery proper.

The mansion is in itself a puzzle: initially, only a few rooms are open and many doors closed so your puzzle away how to open them. The fact that the protagonist seems unable or unwilling to touch on things, you'll learn other ways to open the doors. This is done by simply going around, trying different paths. Passing under some kinds of archways or doorways will produce different effects on how the house "sees" itself. Understanding how to open the different regions of the house is the puzzle and it is highly engrossing and fun.

So, besides being a traditional cozy mistery story, it's also a traditional explorative text-adventure with puzzle-solving and a few treasures to hunt after. But it doesn't feel that way, it takes those genres and bends and distorts them until something very unique came up. While there is the exploration of a map, the map is not huge, it's not overly difficult walking around it. The difficult bit is observing the effects your paths produce. But, ultimately, even an unobservant player should eventually unlock all regions by simply traversing all possible paths. Sounds boring, so, yes, be observant and read all the notes. After you explore all the map, all doors are open and the protagonist finds the "treasure", which fits just nicely in the inventory and also makes it even more clear the nature of the protagonist.

Then comes the second part, when the "guests" arrive at the mansion. If you haven't figured out the identity of the protagonist so far, the way the narrator projects the doings of the many NPCs to the future should make it clear that the protagonist sees all their actions from out of time. Your task it to figure out their intentions and connect each one to the wheres and whens around the mansion. This last part plays sort of like Clue, but in an immensely more narrative-focused and fun way. The notes in particular are striking, resembling versing couplets from Edward Gorey, I guess.

After that, your job here is done.

So, this was my review of a very enjoyable piece of parser IF that is traditional and novel at the same time and engaging and puzzling without being overly difficult nor terribly long. It's just the right size. It's also polite in the cruelty scale and you can't get stuck or be put in an unwinnable state. Give it a spin and you won't be sorry.



Now that that is over, my spoilery opinions, be warned.

----------
(Spoiler - click to show)
You are the grimm reaper. Yeah, he does seem to have an eye for decor like one woldn't normally associate with him, but given he's so restless going around reaping the souls of mortals, one can't blame him for having some hobby, even if mildly appreciating the decor in the places he visits. It may be an old stone and pipes mansion, but at least the wallpaper is bearable enough.

His nature explains why the houses reacts to his presence: he's a supernatural being, a kind of a ghost bound to earth under perpetual grey skies, a poltergeist disturbing doors.

It also explains why he sees a portcullis in the middle of the foyer or the actors in the future or in all rooms: he sees all of it out of time, all at once - how it was in the past, how it is today. That's also why intentions look like a frozen explosion.

It seems the dual nature of the game got mixed reviews: some liked only the first part, others hated it but enjoyed the latter part. I enjoyed it throughout. I can't see how some likened the first part to a maze. Really? It's just walking around rooms, not even that many. Could it that the mention of the novel Maze in the About page did it for them? By the way, while certainly influenced by some of those, this is really one of a kind. Is it right that Plotkin came up with a fairly novel anagram for Edward Gorey? never heard of him, guess he had less exposure than Dr. Seuss.

I can see that people might get shocked and disturbed at scenes such as this:

Little girl with silver bell / Lost it down the garden well
Little girl she followed after / Trailing silver bubbling laughter

But the reaper is no murderer. He merely sees intentions and collect their souls after they themselves take their foolish steps towards their departure.

I though the finale to be in the same tone as the rest of the work:


Which brings this assignment to a timely, if somewhat exhausting, close. No rest for the messenger, of course. The next pack of cards is already being shuffled, and their road has yet to be paved.


not exhausting at all, very fun, very worthwhile. Yeah, I can see how achieving this level of polish might be exhausting for the game designer, but quite the banquet to guests of the house... delightful

1 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
The first half is absolutely despicable. , January 2, 2015
by Chai Hai (Kansas City KS)
I really enjoyed the second half of this game, but I must detract points for an unsolvable first half.

It was a maze of hideous design in my opinion, having to walk through the rooms just right or else you're screwed. I gave up and had to follow the walkthrough. Even then I was screwed.

One would think that if one has given up, all one needs to do is find the entrance point and then follow the walk through. NOPE.

You have to enter the rooms in some precise manner, and I had to completely restart the game so I could get the maze mechanics correct.I like exploring my surroundings, but when exploring becomes detrimental to a complex puzzle, you're doing it wrong.

Also, I found the game incredibly dull and boring at the beginning. You just wander through rooms, without realizing you're in some complex maze puzzle, and you can't pick up anything. To me, half the fun of CYOA games is the objects and what you do with them. Being told I can't do squat irritates me.

Not being able to open doors was infuriating as well. Ok, I must be a ghost. if so, then why can't I just bypass all the doors? Ok, I can't do that, so why are there unopenable doors? How the heck am I supposed to continue the game? What is the point of this game then? GBNGVERGER

I then decided to check the games home page to see what all the fuss was about. Reading reviews it seemed there was a second part that sounded fun. It was. I enjoyed the riddles and seeing the events unfold and deciphering motives, but sadly my frustration with the first part soured my fun with the second half.

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
What is it about mansion murder mysteries?, November 9, 2014
by CMG (NYC)
When you do a mansion murder mystery wrong, it's just another cliche. But when you do one right, you see why mansion murder mysteries are a thing in the first place. The medley of characters, the capacity for both realism and theatricality, the layered motivations, the rooms upon rooms each opening into more scenarios, expansive and yet bounded like a prison, and the wonder and horror and greed and lust and ego that naturally bubble up from the mixture.

And death. There's always death.

This game is two games in one. The first game is about the mansion itself. The second game is about the characters who inhabit it. In both games, you're initially presented with various obscure elements, but as you play along they click together to reveal totally logical underpinnings.

The mansion is mechanized. Its doors open and close, its floors raise and lower, and its tower bridge turns depending on which rooms you've entered in which order. It's not exactly a maze. You can't get lost. Rather, you have to explore your environment until you understand the principles behind its clockwork. After you've unlocked the mansion, then the second game begins.

The cast has arrived, suspended in tableaux in every room, stuck in time (which does not exist here in the usual sense). Now you aren't exploring the rooms but the characters by reading and rearranging their "intentions," which can be taken and moved like physical objects through the mansion. The intentions interact differently with different characters in different rooms. As you piece together who is really doing what to whom, and why, you're rewarded with humorous and grisly couplets describing each death that takes place. The couplets will rewrite themselves depending on how you organize everyone's motivations. It's a murder mystery in reverse, where the player doesn't solve whodunnit, but actually lays the psychological groundwork for "it" to be done.

My only disappointments with this game were that there was not a bedroom (what missed potential) and that one tower is ultimately irrelevant to both the puzzles and the story. It also would've been nice if the mansion had a plot-related purpose behind its mechanization.

It's true that the game is disjointed due to its distinctive halves, but each half is entertaining and I wouldn't sacrifice either. Although I do think the second half is where it really shines. The whole thing is a little like an interactive Edward Gorey book, which also makes "Delightful Wallpaper" about the best title I could imagine for it.

tough with a good story, November 2, 2014
The first part was dizzying. I almost gave up! After reading some other reviews, I finally settled on finding some help to get through it. The second part was much easier and ultimately made the game worthwhile. Check it out!

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
The wallpaper isn't actually relevant., June 29, 2013
IMPRESSIONS:
I though the first half of this game was really fun. A definite 5 stars for the first half.

If the second half was presented on its own, it might get a 3 or 4. It wasn't necessarily bad, but I didn't find it as interesting or captivating. And I felt like it required a lot of trial-and-error.

DESCRIPTION PART 1:
This is a puzzle-y game. The subtitle in the splash screen talks about a murder mystery, but the goal of this game isn't really to solve any mysteries or murders. Some people are describing it as a "maze" which I don't agree with. But the first half of the game is a puzzle based on how you travel through the rooms of the house, so perhaps that's the reason?

Once you accept the fact that you can't physically interact with anything (apart from walking over things), you have to figure out just what you can do to affect the world around you. I think this made for an ingenious puzzle, which involves traversing through the rooms of the house in the right order so as to achieve the effects you desire.

I wonder if those who were frustrated with the "maze-like" aspect thought to plot a map of the house as they went? I never once thought of the house as a maze since there was almost always a clear way to travel from one room to another. The key was just to make sure you travelled through the rooms in the correct order on your way to your destination. This isn't difficult as long as you have a map detailing the different entryways and you remember to keep the in-game notes in mind.

DESCRIPTION PART 2:
I didn't particularly dislike the second half, though I can understand why some people did not find it as enthralling.

In the second half you no longer have to worry about the house. Instead you focus on the guests that have finally arrived. The goal of the second half of the game is to place "intentions" onto the characters or object in the rooms in order to manipulate the characters into a certain action. This did not feel difficult but (for me at least) it required mostly trial-and-error to get a final result. The notes seem to hint at a specific configuration but I couldn't find a way to arrange the intentions exactly as the notes suggested.

PUZZLES:
They weren't difficult, though the second puzzle took a lot of trial-and-error.
The house puzzle was internally logical. The cause-and-effect actions were always consistent and the notes were indispensable for keeping track of them. The behaviour of the house never felt random or like the game was trying to trick me

I can see similarities between the two main puzzles of the game, since they are both in a similar vein of strategizing. In the first, you want to strategically plan your routes through the rooms so as to manipulate the house appropriately. In the second, you want to optimize your arrangement of the intentions to ensure everyone gets a conclusion. But it feels like two different games.

PROS:
A very helpful part of the first puzzle is that the notebook you keep on you will automatically update itself and help explain to you just what effects you have had on the house (in case you missed the alerts in the text as I know I often did).

The language is nicely stylized. It has a sort of Victorian flair that lends to the atmosphere about the game. The narrator seems to get distracted by wallpaper on occasion, though I still don't understand why.

CONS:
You aren't given an initial motivation to explore the house, nor are you given a goal at the start of the game. I assume the player is meant to eventually realize that they should be trying to open all the closed doors, but it isn't ever explained why. (You are eventually rewarded for your efforts with an item that you need that leads to the second half of the game, but I don't recall the game ever telling me I was looking for it, or even that I was searching for something at all).

(Also, though I say "all the rooms" I still never figured out a way to open the uninteresting doors).

STORY:
In regards to story, from my understanding the purpose of this game is to present the "mansion murder mystery" from a new perspective. While you are able to observe the guests while in the house, you know nothing of them outside their behaviour in the mansion, and you can not interact with them in any substantial way. However, once you reach the end and learn who (Spoiler - click to show)(or what) the player character really was, I think it helped that aspect of the game make sense (the house still wasn't explained but I'm happy to leave it to a willing suspension of disbelief).

Don't get your hopes up for a scientific or real-world explanation for what happened. There is an air of supernatural about the story throughout (the house responding to your movements, for instance; as well as the message you receive if you try to touch anything) which is reinforced by the short concluding blurb. Even though it was only a couple sentences, I felt like the ending conclusively explained the character's motivations (but I'm sure some people might not agree with the sort of "non-explanation" explanation that was given).

OTHER:
My biggest advice is make a map. And label the types of doorways or arches or entrances. It will make this game immensely easier than if you don't. (I use Trizbort for maps, and there is plenty of other map-making freeware out there).

3 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
Only for masochists and extreme maze-lovers (RR #5), October 7, 2012
Delightful Wallpaper by Andrew Plotkin is a fantasy/mystery puzzle game that is as much removed from being fun as possible. The minimalist, fragmental story does not provide much of an incentive to figure out maze puzzles so hard they put diamond (which is as we all know the hardest metal known the man!) to shame.

The interactivity is very limited in this game. I found myself trying to pick up objects time and again, only to be foiled by the protagonist's (who initially comes across as some kind of gentleman burglar) smug unwillingness to "manipulate gross material substance". Using your inventory in this game is mostly limited to your trusty (telepathically controlled, then?) notepad, which, of course, only serves you baffle you even more how to progress in the ever-changing maze scenery. Moving around your protagonist opens and closes pathways and doors (generously, no map is provided. Hint system? Nope.), inevitably sending you around in circles and engendering frustration-induced headaches. The difficulty in wrapping your mind around a multitude of sometimes-connected rooms is painfully juxtaposed with how utterly uninteresting it is being a nameless character exploring an empty house of immovable objects with no real goal or mission in the first place!

In fact, there is really not much needed to be said about Delightful Wallpaper. (Spoiler - click to show)By the way, the wallpaper - you guessed it - serves no purpose in the story whatsoever. The ending is brief and does not reveal any additional information that would justify wasting your time on a game that should be used only for testing interactive fiction auto-solving programmes.

Good coding? Definitely.
Fun to play? Not at all. Not at all.

No rating due to the fact that after one third of the game I got helplessly stuck, but couldn't be bothered to put too much effort into progressing on my own and instead finished the game by following the walkthrough.

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Round and round, October 1, 2011
by Deboriole (San Diego, CA)
Admittedly, at the beginning of this game, I wandered around in circles. I read my notes over and over and by the end of the game I knew my way around quite well. My only real gripe came in the second half. (Spoiler - click to show)two of the intentions - coral and crimson - were to be merely dropped, when all the others went into or onto something in particular. I found this to be annoying as I had the right place and recipient, yet could not figure out how to stage the crime. I had to look at the walkthrough.

Other than that, I really enjoyed the navigation puzzles and the 'poetry.'

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
The wallpaper has promise..., November 27, 2010
by The Year Is Yesterday (California)
This is an exceedingly difficult game to review. The writing is wryly Victorian and often amusing, the mechanics are quite transgressive, and the "story" is ambiguous enough to allow for several satisfying interpretations. You can't die, but it's fiendishly difficult at times, while at others it's ethereally simple. Despite the fact that I despise the first half of it, the second is brilliant enough that I can't bear to rate it below four stars.

One of the conceits of Wallpaper is that the setting reacts to your presence: passageways will open or close depending on your movements. This is not very friendly for somebody like me, who can barely keep track of the relative position of moderately complex rooms when everything's standing still. And, for reasons that will hopefully become clear as you play, nearly all non-movement verbs other than examine have been disabled, so if you don't like mazes you ought to go home now. Or you could, like me, take advantage of the walkthrough to get through this obnoxious section: after spending a frustrating half-hour trying to solve it on my own, I eventually followed the walkthrough to the letter, barely paying attention to room descriptions.

If you do manage to make it to Wallpaper's second half, you'll be rewarded by one of the most fantastically innovative chunks of gameplay IF has produced. I won't spoil anything, but you'll be dealing with potentialities and motivations rather than physical objects, and the puzzles are simultaneously mind-bending and logical, sadistic and satisfying. If you get stuck in either section, the command "read notes" will help; here, it provides some rather illuminating hints, both to the puzzles at hand and the larger story. Helping everything fall into place is an unrivaled joy.

While I can't support the migraine-inducing maze, I can say this: Delightful Wallpaper is the most paradigm-shifting half of an IF I've yet encountered.

10 of 12 people found the following review helpful:
Fiendish Mechanisms, October 17, 2007
by Trajectory (Edinburgh, UK)
The player character enters a mansion, anticipating a party which is to occur there later. He cannot interact with the environment in the usual way - however, the mansion reacts to his presence, reconfiguring itself depending on his actions.

This is a fascinating game - especially at first, when trying to work out exactly what is going on. The lack of the ability to pick up or manipulate objects in the normal way seems frustrating initially, but it's easy to adjust to. One great feature is a notepad that tracks what the player character has discovered about the workings of the mansion - a nice touch.

The second part of the game has split reviewers more. This takes place in the same mansion, while aforementioned party is going on. The events of the party are fractured in time: the same characters appear in different locations simultaneously, to indicate their participation in events at different stages of the evening. The player must collect "intentions" and unite them with the appropriate person. In doing this, a murderous (albeit poetic) tapestry is unravelled.

I thought both parts were intriguing and original. The first is indeed a stronger concept and more satisfying to solve, but the second part is startling (and, in places, baffling) enough to make it distinctive.


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