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The Gostak

by Carl Muckenhoupt profile

Wordplay
2001

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Reviews and Ratings

5 star:
(23)
4 star:
(19)
3 star:
(2)
2 star:
(4)
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Number of Ratings: 48
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- Greg (Los Angeles, California), November 7, 2017

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Amazing (In every way that matters), October 19, 2017
by Chase Entwistle (Blue Valley Southwest High School)
WOW HOLY SHIT WOW
That is how I would like to start off this review. In the world of Carl Muckenhoupt's The Gosstak, you play as the gostak, who distims the doshes and comes from the bewl. A word of clarification: This game is in English. However, it is rare find an English action verb (as in run and eat, not verbs like be) or English nouns (other than pronouns). The simple beauty of this game is that even though you don't understand what distimming the doshes is at first, you know that you are the gostak and that the gostak distims the doshes. After a while, you can draw inferences but they are only that. Inferences. No matter how many connections you can make between a word and its meaning, and how utterly obvious it may seem that this is what the author was intending, everything you know about these words is based on, well, other words.
REALITY COULD BE A LIE AND DISTIMMING THE DOSHES COULD BE THE MOST EVIL THING IMAGINABLE
In addition, there is plenty left to explore and contemplate even after learning all you need to know to solve the puzzles.
Though this may not be the best IF to start on, as the words add an extra layer of complexity, it is amazing to go to as an experienced Interactive Fiction player.

- ikdc, February 1, 2017

- Brian Kwak, December 28, 2016

- Oreolek (Kemerovo, Russia), October 20, 2016

- insufficient data, July 9, 2016

A game (in)famous for its main challenge: understanding a nonsense language, February 3, 2016

by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
The Gostak is one of those games that everyone hears about eventually. Some play it, some stay far away. I didn't get past the first room when I first played it, felt scared, and put it off for five years.

I finally completed it with the in-game hints and some of David Wellbourns dictionary.

So what is this game? It is based off of an old sentence a professor came up with, showing that you can guess a lot about words and their relationships just by their position in a sentence. That sentence was "The Gostak distims the doshes".

In this game, you are the Gostak, and you do have to distim the doshes. You have to learn how to navigate, to examine, to take and drop, and so forth. The help menu, also written in nonsense, is vital in understanding the language.

The hints were actually very helpful, although it might be possible to beat the game without them. The last hint is purposely vague.

The game has two npcs, one who is quite helpful, and one who is not. There are a variety of other objects, though.

After finally beating it, I love this game, but it sure was hard, even with all hints and a dictionary.

- Matt W (San Diego, CA), March 20, 2015

- Thrax, March 11, 2015

- Molly (USA), February 14, 2015

- Janice M. Eisen (Portland, Oregon), November 22, 2014

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A rorm and snave halpock, October 23, 2014
by Sobol (Russia)
It's tavid to doatch about this halpock without fargishing scurm-brolges; let's just doach it's very snave, rorm and dobbly... if somewhat dunmile.

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
The map is not the territory, March 26, 2014
This is a game for experienced players, not just because it practically requires knowledge of genre conventions, but because the way The Gostak obfuscates its output is pushing directly against an old-school drive: the player's desire to construct a mental model of the game world. For old-school games, this often also means drawing an actual map on paper. Here, there are only a handful of rooms, but you have to start taking notes and make your own little dictionary before you can start connecting any of them, let alone visualize what's supposed to be in them. Understanding the language is the main puzzle of the game, and it's a great one. As you build your vocabulary and your understanding of objects and the relationships between them, descriptions that were impenetrable nonsense at first glance become more and more sensible until you're reading fairly naturally and typing back commands that would seem like crazy talk to anyone looking over your shoulder. It's extremely satisfying.

Of course, you have to constantly remind yourself that your model is only a model. The world of The Gostak is an alien one, and although there are many terms that seem to have close analogues in our reality or other games, there's never enough information to really know what anything is like. To some extent this is true of all text games, with many details left up to the player to fill in mentally, but in The Gostak you're painting with broad strokes. Abstract splatters, really. And no matter how vague and fuzzy you try to keep the picture in your head, you'll almost certainly over-imagine things and make assumptions about concepts that lead you astray. A particular term can turn out to be dual-purpose in a way you wouldn't expect, or a physical action may be only superficially similar to whatever you were thinking of as its equivalent. In a longer or crueler game, this tension would be infuriating. Here, the push and pull is a dual pleasure.

I do have gripes about two puzzles. One relies on a word that I felt was too obscure (it was barely present in any of the output, as far as I could tell), and another has a solution that doesn't match well with the information provided (there are sufficient clues to reach the solution through experimentation, but it was not clear to me why that particular action was necessary or why it would be that effective). I regret being so late to the party for this game--it would be interesting to play this one at the same time as someone else and see which details stuck out to them, and to have them describe the particular way they imagined this weird world in their head.

- shornet (Bucharest), March 23, 2014

- trystero, February 13, 2014

- lisapaul, January 9, 2014

- Galena, September 12, 2013

- DJ (Olalla, Washington), May 9, 2013

- Tortoiseshell Bat, March 25, 2013

>VERBOSE -- Paul O'Brian's Interactive Fiction Page

I was shocked at how quickly and easily I found myself typing commands like "doatch at droke about calbice". However, the whole experience was completely cerebral, with little of the emotional catharsis I associate with successful storytelling. I felt this effect when I played Dan Schmidt's For a Change, but it's ten times stronger in this game, where words aren't simply rearranged but actually replaced wholesale. Consequently, while playing The Gostak was a strange and memorable experience, one which will surely elevate the game to the rarefied level of For A Change, Bad Machine, and Lighan ses Lion, I found it a somewhat strained sort of fun. Great for a puzzle-solving mood, and certainly worth trying if you're a cryptography buff, but not terribly involving as a story.

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- Steven Watson (UK), December 24, 2012

- rec53, June 9, 2012

More a metagame than a game, March 14, 2012

by Jeff Zeitlin (Greater New York Area)
The game itself isn't much, in the sense of having an extensive world, but I found this not to be a detraction. For me, the attraction was in the solving of the language puzzle, and led to quite a bit of reflection on my own thought processes and on language acquisition through immersion. (Spoiler - click to show)I can't recommend this for someone who is not familiar with the 'Zorkian' response conventions; I don't believe someone lacking that familiarity will be able to get a reasonable foothold into the game. For someone with that grounding though, I strongly recommend it.

- Relle Veyér, March 1, 2012

- E.K., January 10, 2012


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