Spoilers ahoy. I recommend you play this game before you read this review.
I tend to approach Arthur DiBianca’s games with caution and not a small amount of trepidation. There is no doubt that DiBianca is an absolute master of the complex puzzle box. I love the way that he takes the parser game and turns it into, effectively, a command line interface with a limited set of commands that provide all the tools the player needs to solve some excellent textually presented puzzle systems. All DiBianca’s games I have played have been superbly implemented, well-realized, streamlined, and impossible for me to complete.
Either my brain works in a different way or I’m just not smart enough. It’s probably the latter. I tend to start out doing well, and then, as the author ratchets up the difficulty, my brain starts leaking out of my ears, my eyes cross and I leap onto the walkthrough. Maybe I give up too quickly – but then again I’m supposed to be able to do this in 2 hours, dammit!
I wish it were just DiBianca’s games that affected me so, but Andrew Shultz’s games – master of the mind bending word-play – also have the same effect.
It makes it awkward to do a review of Temple of Shorgil. I’m not far in and I’m already stuck. What am I missing? Why can’t I do this? I go to the walkthrough….
This is a thing, I think. The competition has a 2 hour time limit, and for some – people much smarter than me – this is probably a perfect amount of time to complete Temple. If I didn’t have the walkthrough, 24 hours in and I would be still wandering around putting random figurines onto random pedestals and wondering why doors aren’t opening.
And this is the basic premise of the game. As a Pirothologist, you are here to explore the temple, built by the ancient civilization of the Pirothians, and discover its secrets. The plot is a thin wrapper around a game that is unashamedly a puzzle-box. It’s so polished, it shines. All clockwork and exactness.
The main mechanic is the interaction between figurines and pedestals in many of the rooms – each pedestal has a number of depressions each one of which can hold a number of figurines. You have a simple set of commands to allow the two to interact – PUT 3 for example will put three figurines on the room’s pedestal. It’s super slick. Then, depending on where you’re at, putting a figurine on a pedestal will have an effect – usually opening or closing a door. Then it gets complicated.
One of the things that impresses is the, what I would call, rewards for the player. There are images and fragments of a legend that slowly builds up through the course of the game – it gives a little more depth to the narrative, and rationale for continuing – as well as providing clues for the player.
But now various pedestals have more than 4 depressions and 2 hours is up. Just from an implementation perspective – this game is excellent. There are some very cool features here, and I didn’t find any issues. In particular, the little ascii maps – the whole system can’t have been easy to implement. 7/10.