IFcomp 2016: Thaxted Havershill and the Golden Wombat

Who’s up for some two-fisted pulp adventure? “Thaxted Havershill and the Golden Wombat” is next on the playlist….

“Thaxted Havershill” is a rather silly take on the pulp adventure genre as exemplified by Indiana Jones. We have our ruggedly virile hero and we have our ancient MacGuffin artifact; the story begins with our hero being shut up in a cell, having purposefully allowed his capture in order to get inside the villain’s lair. From there on, it’s two-fisted CYOA to the confrontation with the villain and the end of the story.

I like the tone of the story, for the most part. There’s a certain sense of “gentleman adventurer” about it. I’ve never actually heard someone use the phrase “old chap” in real life, though my reading assures me that it’s normal for a certain sort of British adventure story of a certain era; that, and a few other stock phrases help to put me in mind of those stories. They’re faintly ridiculous, but comfortable.

Death can strike at any time: near as I can tell, every choice node includes at least one option that will lead to instant death; a few have only one option that will not kill you. This could be exacerbated by a random element, but thankfully it’s possible to turn off the randomness before you begin. The final choice node, though … it’s a choice of four highlighted words in the text, three of which will kill you and one which will lead to victory. I confess I don’t really see the logic behind the choice. An argument could be made for each word as the key to victory.

Thankfully, the game is short enough that replaying to the point of death is not an issue.

That final scene also demolishes the fourth wall, which seems to be a stock trick when aiming for a mannered, but silly, poke at the tropes and conventions of a genre. It’s amusing, sure, but I don’t know that it’s telling me anything new. We knew from the beginning that this was going to be about laughing at the tropes and treating the format as an artifact. Once we’ve accepted the premise, pointing out the nature of the adventure doesn’t make us laugh any harder.

Baked beans on toast with a side of sausages, and thick, black coffee to fuel the day.

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