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Cold Iron

by Andrew Plotkin (as Lyman Clive Charles) profile

2011

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Number of Reviews: 5
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1-5 of 5


Plotkin's contribution to the Hat Meta-Puzzle. A charming walk in the woods, February 3, 2016
Together with Last Day of Summer, Playing Games, and The Life (and Deaths) of Doctor M, this game was part of a meta-puzzle in IFComp 2011. The idea was that four games would have connections, and by pursuing clues in one, you could open more in the other games.

Cold Iron is Plotkin's contribution, and he has said that he rushed to get the smallest Plotkin game possible. It's charming; you are a bumpkin searching for an axe. By recalling stories, you progress through the game.

I felt like this game contained more of the hat puzzle than the other 3 games. Also, I didn't really understand what happened in the plot.

Playing all 4 games together is great. Doctor M is more independent and large, a real good game by itself. The other 3 are great en ensemble.

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
a short metacircular IF, January 13, 2016
by namekuseijin (anywhere but home)
I didn't know about this one until quite recently and was positively surprised to realize it's not just Zarf's easiest IF so far as it's also a good short story on its own: strong characterization and a puzzling narrative in the form of an unexplained ouroboros.

At the outset, it looks like a plain old-style text-adventure - despite the polished prose and implementation. It features a farmer going on an adventure after his lost axe. It's pretty straightforward and polite, the narrative voice of the protagonist giving hints of what to do next. Some actions may look like puzzles, but they don't demand much and I don't quite consider them as such. Compass directions in the game are pretty pointless except at one point.

See, our farmer is a bit of a superstitious guy given to bouts of imaginative speculation and often draws parallels between his deeds as he goes and past stories he's read on an old book of folk tales handed down to him by the Reverend Pearson. As his quest reaches the end when he finds an old axe-head, a subtle change of perspective takes place. Here the story shifts and meets its self-fulfilling ouroboros status that left some head-scratching. I enjoyed it.

As far as I can tell (Spoiler - click to show)the PC has always been the old reverend, wandering through the woods like a lost Dante, living his reveries as he pictures the simpler days of the past beforing commiting them to his tales book...

Left me at the temperature of the eponymous metal., December 16, 2015
by Wade Clarke (Sydney, Australia)
Related reviews: IFComp 2011, Inform, fantasy
I played this small IFComp 2011 game during IFComp 2011. I didn't get it.

The writing is good at creating the character of a muscular labourer who's a bit superstitious, and shy about using his imagination to solve problems. The game is obviously linear, and in that capacity does keep the player on track. It also demonstrates general technical polish.

However, it turned out either I was a dummy or the game was too subtle, because I didn't even notice when Something Dramatic Happened, to coin a phrase from amongst Inform's library messages while simultaneously avoiding any specific spoiling. I learned about what I'd missed by reading other reviews after I wrote mine. I was also unaware of a superstition involving cold iron, even though I used to play AD&D and so felt I should have known of it if it was a big enough thing.

Replaying the game armed with the knowledge of thing dramatis, it still seemed to me it was only mildly indicated.

I had been surprised (excited?) to see the game print, at one point, the library message "Because something dramatic has happened, the commands available to you have been cut down." I'd previously only seen this by poking around inside Inform on my own time. I then wondered: Was the point of this event (and the accompanying screen clear) that it tested whether I had been paying attention to recent content in the game, because at this point I could no longer scroll back to review the details of the story?

But then all I could do was go back to the chapel location, with or without having noticed thing dramatis. I was disappointed, both because of the possibility for excitement I'd anticipated that had not come about, and because the ending was so low key. (Spoiler - click to show)The first character had begun to flex his imagination, but not to much avail, apparently. Any ulterior purpose of the game was too obscure for me to discern. Whether I was careless or not it seems I probably was I didn't believe I was the only player who would miss thing dramatis, and since I expected thing dramatis to be bound up with the purpose, I felt the game was likely to undershoot a lot of people as it undershot me.

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Simple puzzles, satisfying twist, December 15, 2015
by verityvirtue (London)
You've lost your axe. Despite everything the Reverend might say about you being a lunkhead, you know where it is: the dark forests behind your cottage.

Cold Iron has a relatively limited scope for one of Plotkin's games, both in size and implementation. Even with my limited puzzle-solving skills, Cold Iron took me about 5 minutes to finish. The puzzles, however simple, are pleasingly quirky: the things you find are linked to stories in your book of tales. The items needed to solve the puzzles are highlighted by the writing effectively, so it should not take too much effort to figure out what's going on.

There is also a pleasing, if ambiguous, twist, which made the small puzzles that much more satisfying, even adding a bit of emotional depth to the otherwise straightforward story.

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Well-written, bite-sized head-scratcher, February 27, 2012
by JasonMel (Florida)
The hook for this game was the writing style. That was clear right away. I was immediately delighted, not just by the authenticity, but by the class with which the culture was portrayed. Another reviewer called the protagonist a caricature, but if there is a meaningful distinction to be made between a caricature and an archetype, I'd call him the latter. The text is not full of derisive contractions and phonetic spellings, but instead is made from playful constructions of a kind that I haven't often found in IF, and were therefore a joy to read. In fact, I haven't had this much fun acting out the narrative voice in my head since Varicella. (It may have helped that I happened to be eating applesauce at the time.)

All this only made the experience more disappointing, since the game as a whole is over before you know it, and the initial character even sooner.

Unfortunately, the game manages to squeeze some problems in before the end. One thing in particular confused me before the halfway point: Belief in the supernatural is fine, if it comes from a tradition of some kind. But if I watch a movie, say, and then develop a belief that those specific characters are waiting somewhere to interact with me -- to me that's not superstition, that's madness. Again, meaningful distinction? I think it is, and it's one that muddies the game's message, such as it is.

The other main objections I had were to what I saw as questionable design choices, which, to be fair, an experimental work like this risks freely. First, I noticed that the game seemed to be taking a page from Photopia's Red chapter when constructing the map. In other words, you'll find new locations in a predetermined sequence, no matter which path you take. OK, fair enough. But if the game is going to do this (and we're on, you know, terra firma and not Dimension X), the game should learn from its own protagonist and leave stuff where you put it. I don't want to loop through the same sequence of rooms in random directions. I did not notice myself feeling lost, but I did notice myself feeling annoyed.

Finally, the transition. Bing! You'll know it when you see it. Since I had already read the instructions for this section in the last section, all I had to do was follow them, without knowing why they were necessary in the new context. For this reason, and since this new guy wasn't half as interesting as the old one, I rushed through and missed most of the impact of the latter half (which, again, is over almost before it begins).

Cold Iron certainly does one thing well, though -- it employs the Zarfian mystique that I'm apparently such a sucker for. The fact that it can do so in such a small space is interesting in itself. This experiment will make you think, even if it ultimately leaves you scratching your head.


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