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Isle of the Cult, The Underdogs Hot

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Written by Underdogs     March 21, 2009    
 
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The Isle of the Cult is a fun puzzle-based text adventure from Rune Berg, first-time IF designer (as of Feb 2005). While the game is not the next Photopia, it is a well-designed traditional game that is well worth the attention of every IF fan, especially those who miss the heyday of Zork. As usual, Dan Shiovitz wrote an excellent, concise review of this little-known game: "It's always a pleasure to play a game by a new author which is not only fun in its own right but promising of even better things to come. The Isle of the Cult doesn't aspire to anything much beyond "ok, you're on this island and you have to collect the N magic whatsits because the introduction says you do", and this is fine by me since it pulls it off pretty well. There aren't a lot of fancy descriptions or complicated puzzles here, but there's also very little fat in the game.

Berg clearly grasps a number of fundamental principles of puzzle design. The puzzles are always fair (albeit simple), and as far as I can tell the game can't be made unwinnable. Furthermore, for the few multi-step puzzles, the game will automatically solve them for you if you need to do them a second time. The one place the puzzle design fell down was on giving guidance for nearly-right answers. This was a little surprising given that The Isle of the Cult did a really exceptional job on a similar task, clueing which items in the room/object descriptions are significant without being blatant about it. In general, the game has only a few rooms and objects which felt unnecessary: a good start, though I hope that in Berg's next game he manages to trim it down even more. On the other hand, I hope he increases the number of objects which are reused for multiple puzzles. This game has a few reused items (one of which is quite surprising) but I'd like to see even more, along with more complicated puzzles.

Overall I was very pleased with the construction of the game world, and, especially for a first-time game, The Isle of the Cult felt like it had great beta-testing. My only real complaint with the game is the backstory. Though normally that wouldn't matter in this sort of game, this has a few hints of some bigger story that fails to quite make itself clear, leading to a somewhat ambiguous and unsatisfying ending. If you have several hours to play and are looking for a good-sized but reasonably straightforward puzzlefest, The Isle of the Cult would be a great choice."

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