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Story file
Release 5
For all systems. To play, you'll need a Z-Machine Interpreter - visit Brass Lantern for download links.
Story file (original)
Release 4
For all systems. To play, you'll need a Z-Machine Interpreter - visit Brass Lantern for download links.

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Cold Iron

by Andrew Plotkin (as Lyman Clive Charles) profile


Web Site

(based on 35 ratings)
5 member reviews

About the Story

Your good axe has gone missing. Reverd Pearson would say you're a careless lunkhead who'd lose his ear if it wasn't nailed on. You figure he's right, a man of the cloth, but that doesn't mean piskeys didn't steal the thing...

Game Details

Language: English (en)
First Publication Date: October 1, 2011
Current Version: 5
Development System: Inform 7
IFID: 44CB5FD6-2293-4473-9784-6EC1CED280D2
TUID: x8ohk12d1a6f12ge


15th Place - 17th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2011)

Winner, Best Individual Puzzle - 2011 XYZZY Awards


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Member Reviews

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Number of Reviews: 5
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Most Helpful Member Reviews

3 of 3 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.

2 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...

2 of 2 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.

See All 5 Member Reviews

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This is version 5 of this page, edited by Doug Orleans on 18 May 2015 at 12:19am. - View Update History - Edit This Page - Add a News Item