The Four Eccentrics

We are, apparently, having a happy little dream about chasing our dog when we somehow trip and fall through the very fabric of dreams into a sort of whimsical backstage world where the people live on poetry and your limbs snap on and off like Lego pieces. Foremost among the citizenry are the four Eccentrics, one of whom is the Dream Architect. She's a woman made up entirely of flowers, and it seems likely that the reason your dream fells apart and dropped you here is that she's got a weevil stuck in her brain. But fixing things with her is only half the story: the Ancient Expert, the Eccentric who essentially governs things in this place, has also suddenly ceased to function, and the latter half of the story revolves around her. (The remaining two Eccentrics have nothing wrong with them; they're more like supporting roles in the story, though I wonder if the author originally had something more planned for them.)

There are some really cool ideas going on here. For instance, the two people you can trade with in the Night area will accept multiple different objects as long as they fit a certain criteria, which means you have multiple ways of getting what you want there. That said, I feel as though the general implementation has fallen somewhat short. While some of the beginning areas, like the Dream Architect's pavilion and the Rhomboid Square, feel well fleshed out with multiple scenery objects implemented, the Ancient Expert's tower feels somewhat less so. I was rather peeved to be told that this experimental array had space for a specific object I was carrying, and then to find no way of actually putting that object into the array. Also, it got a bit annoying, having to constantly switch back and forth between night and day in order either to access the Night area or to leave it; I'd have much preferred to do this only once and leave it at that.


The ending forgets, I think, how and why we ended up here in the first place. Zork III and Zork Zero both end with the player character taking over as the dungeon master in charge of the game's world, and there's a similar thing here with our character being asked to take over as the Ancient Expert. I'm not entirely sure that we don't have a choice, but it does feel as though the game expects us to say yes to the offer. But ... whereas the adventurers in Zork III and Zork Zero committed to the journey well before the games in question and have nowhere else to go back to after that, we, in this case, have only just stumbled into the world by accident. It's as though Dorothy, after questing to find a way home, accepted the role vacated by the Wizard without a single glance back. It turns out that even our minimally characterised AFGNCAAP has something in the way of wants and desires, and this was a sacrifice of that character in the interest of plot.


I will say, though, that this game struck something of a nostalgic nerve with me, putting me in mind of the sort of thing we were all doing back when Inform was young: modelling alien worlds with alien rules, that everyone accepted without so much as a flicker of an eyelid. It's like fairy bread for breakfast -- or a variant from my own childhood that used coarse granulated sugar instead of sprinkles. It's sweet and it's festive, it's got a delightful crunch, and it's a bit of a shock because you'd forgotten this sort of thing ever existed. We've got a fairly substantial stack of it, enough to keep us going for a while, and yet it somehow feels a bit on the lightweight side. You just know that if you had more time, you could have had some sort of French pastry instead.