Kicks Condor

Reply: Curse of the Garden Isle

Jason McIntosh

Two years ago I played, enjoyed, and wrote about John Baker’s all-but-forgotten John’s Fire Witch. And last summer, I had the pleasure to play Ryan Veeder’s Curse of the Garden Isle within days of its release. In the year since, I realized I’ve mentioned the game again and again in different contexts to friends and colleagues as a wonderfully accessible and rewarding example of modern parser-based interactive fiction, a real stand-out work. And yet, I have seen essentially no other mention of it online, not even within dedicated IF discussion spaces. Let me try to help rectify this, examining why I find it a quiet exemplar of the form.

This review coaxed me to start playing the game.

I really appreciate this review! I’ve kept myself quarantined to mostly Twine-style clicker fiction—though I’ve sampled stuff like “Everybody Dies” and “Lost Pig”. But this review got me really intrigued, so I’ve started playing Curse. I’ve found it very simple to get into.

I like that you can type anything you want for the first few scenes and you gradually work your way into the story. Wresting the parser is (I’m sure) always an accessibility problem you deal with in IFTF, yes?

[A] very minor but still noteworthy facet of its in-browser presentation: the static text that appears around the main gameplay pane, linking permanently to helpful resources (including that Googel map), and in particular the text parser tips displayed in the lower left margin. Its just a short bullet-list of the most common parser IF commands, readable in a few seconds. But thats the thing: I cant think of another modern parser game with a browser-play mode that bothers to offer a tiny cheat-sheet like this, even though many might link to longer-winded how to play IF guides.

So I made the poor decision to start playing on a phone while I was waiting somewhere—and it worked great! I was kind of relieved that the game didn’t use Parchment or some standard theme—just because I like that it has its own look. (Although it seems that most highly-rated interactive fiction does this.)

Also, having been to that island before, it was nice to know the rough directions and envision the map mentally while I played. I’ve never experienced that before—it helped me stay aware of where I was without any effort.

Anyways—I also like that your IF reviews are tagged. I’m going to keep an eye on this tag and post further on /en/games when I finish Curse.

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