Baluthar (IF)

Chris Molloy Wischer, 2003. Release 1. Inform 6.


This one is a bit different than your standard horror IF. Most take their cues from Lovecraft, a couple have referenced King. A good number of the rest approach horror from either a humorous, or classicist, point of view. Baluthar feels unique in that its horror is more in line with Carlton Mellick III's "Earwick Flesh Factory". Dark purple leafed plants with white, bulbous veins stretching over the character. A statue of a god, made by the character, who eats its own flesh. A ghoul raised by necromantic arts from a zombie child. Floating images. Tons and tons of black, crawling beetles.

The game starts with the nameless character in bed, eaten by a depression. His son is gone (unsure for how long) and he is unable to get up. From the first, brief, puzzle to inspire the character to face life again to the last couple of puzzles, the answer is not too hard to get to as long as you just look around and pay attention to the prose and the mood. There is enough need to dive into the world to creep you out as a ghoul is described as moving due to beetles in and out and a later creature's hanging teats are part of its basic description.

There are a lot of beetles, by the way. That's why I mention them so much.

If anything hurts this game, it is going to be the sheer density of horror. This room has a narrow ledge. This room has a ghoul. There is a ghost. There is an episode of Mr. Wizard the Necromancer gone awry. Here is a slavering pile of rotting flesh. There are 15 rooms. There are, if you included encounters that might "follow you" or affect more than one room, 7 encounters. There are also, depending on your count, 9 puzzles (most of which involve one of the aforementioned horrors). This roughly comes down to you having to face some horror and/or solve some puzzle every other room. It works, because it is a short game. A longer version could be served by spreading out some of the tasks.

An interesting fact about this game was exposed by me playing around with the "take all" cheat. While some items are hidden, typing "take all" is a good way to see what objects are active in the room. I suppose a designer could get around this, but when an object is given detail it tends to show up at the command. Most of the time, it tells you to stop it. But, anyhow. Walking around typing "take all" in this game showed a huge number of objects. Beetles are multiple objects. The charcter is multiple objects. A surprising number of scenery pieces are defined objects. Hints at a game that has lots of room to grow and a designer on the right track to expanding it.

I think it is finished, insomuch as it starts and ends where Wischer wants it to start and end. It could use a bit of fluffing ni the middle. I also think it could make a good start to a longer game or a series of games. The world could go just about anywhere.

Double or triple the room count, spread a few puzzles out, tweak some of them to feel less like remodeled Zork II puzzles, and include a couple of harder ones, keep the monster count, and touch little else about the game and it will be probably the strongest piece of short IF horror I have seen. It avoids several of the "stretch it out by making puzzles obscure" traps that annoy me and generally keeps the syntax in perfectly reasonable terms. The monster-centric puzzles are more about accepting the grim reality than overcoming, which enforces the world for me. Easily one of my favorites in its subgenre, now, and probably the most unique in flavor I've seen.

I'm giving it a 82/100 (50=average) with some points deducted due to overall ease of puzzles and just a bit too many events for the number of rooms. I'm going to give it a "definitely try" rating, though.


My Score

There is no score to the game. I beat it. Don't think there was anything else I could have done.

Enjoyed it, for what that's worth.

Hints, Suggestions and Mild Spoilers (for what they are worth

This game rewards you for playing IF by the book. If something is mentioned, look at it. Try it out. Search it. Pick it up. Put it on something. Put it in something. Read it. The "cardinal" verbs are the strongest here.

Written by W Doug Bolden

For those wishing to get in touch, you can contact me in a number of ways

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

The longer, fuller version of this text can be found on my FAQ: "Can I Use Something I Found on the Site?".

"The hidden is greater than the seen."