Lost Pig (IF)

2007 by Admiral Jota. Infocom 6. *.z8. Entered into RAIF 2007: 1st place. XYZZY 2007: Best game, Best writing, Best Individual NPC (the Gnome), Best PC (Grunk).

Where to Get

This game is available for free at Baf's Guide.


For the past six months, the only interactive fiction I have played has been the Brian Howarth early-80s series: Mysterious Adventures. While fun, to a degree, they are possessed of bizarre leaps of faith, twists of logic, a sparseness of description, and a tendency to turn upon one really horrifically devilish puzzle each and every time. While working through them (you can read my often tinted by despair reviews here: Brian Howarth's Mysterious Adventures), I became something like fed up. I remember it being about Escape from Pulsar 7. I wondered around for who knows how long, teary eyed and in pain from the crushed soul that was inside of me. I turned to a walkthrough, and what do I see? Turns out I was supposed to get in the bunk at one point in time and examine the ceiling, which kind of makes sense now that I write it out, but....well...sigh.

Somewhere about then, real life came along, and IF went to the wayside for a bit. I think a lot of non-interactive fiction also came along. I came back, later and did numbers 6 and 7--Circus and Feasability Experiment--and actually enjoyed them. But I was at a lost for what to play next of the hundred or two IF titles I have.

Lost Pig, written by Admiral Jota, who seems to have written mostly SpeedIF stuff prior to this, was picked out because it had won several awards. Not only did it place first in the RAIF 2007 If Comp (a few of the titles I had already played, but not this one) but it also ended up winning Best Game AND Best Writing for the 2007 XYZZY Awards. The game was recent, on the short end of medium length (a couple of hours long), apparently decent and press on it declared it had a sense of humor. I also seem to remember that, during the RAIF Comp, that it came sort of as a surprise winner. Which seems to say that people liked more than they even realized.

This game is complete in voce. The voice belongs to Grunk, who is an orc farmhand on a Warcraft II style pig farm. A clever, crafty pig has run away and the not so clever and decidely uncrafty Grunk must retrieve it. Shortly into the game, the game adds to this simple task the not quite so simple task of getting out of a seven room dungeon (give or take a twisty bit).

The dungeon, identified as a shrine, is kept small but quite colorful (pun intended). It has a roaring stream, crumbling staircase, a mess hall, a well-looted storage room, a bedroom, a broken fountain and a monument. These seven rooms work well together, and the layout is kept simple enough that nothing even approaching a map is needed. Descriptions are full enough to set the mood, but not so full as to drive out the flow of the game. There are a handful of objects around, most of which have at least some interactive characteristic.

The NPCs, there are two, are both well formed. In fact, probably the most natural feeling NPCs that I have played with in IF. It is not merely that the pig and the gnome (the gnome won the XYZZY award for Best Individual NPC) have a lot to say, which they do, or do, which they don't really. It is how they say it, how they do it. Admiral Jota takes the pig's random actions and makes them living and comical. "The pig stares into the fountain." "The pig looks behind the curtain, too". The gnome, largely a bank of information, fills in gaps of the game world's story (at least from a gnome's perspective), gives clues, and becomes part of a couple of puzzles. All the while in a voice that feels unforced and fits into the game.

Both the gnome and the pig have a wide range of "random room filler actions" that they cycle through, stopping them from just cycling through incessantly.

The puzzles, except one, all make sense. Though maybe not right away. You will have to go back and forth and experiment and take a few leaps of faith, but almost always in a way that is enjoyable. If, for no other reason, the responses when those leaps fail. The one I missed (for lack of a better non-spoiler name, I will call it the last bit of the Seventh Point puzzle) might have been clued better if I had asked the right question. It was at least hinted at, I just didn't realize the hinting meant anything specific. As it stands, my one complaint with the game will be me needed to use the in-game hint to get the final point.

The primary conceit of the game, that it is told in Grunk's only quasi-articulate voice, means that you have to induce what he is looking at sometimes. This is sort of like Zork 1's "plastic bit with a valve on it", just overall better. Funnier, at least. Requires you to try and eat some things, or break some things, or give them to the pig or gnome to see what is up. Some of the items and objects are solved by thinking about what it is he is describing and reacting more upon them. These word plays are mixed in with the more legitimate puzzles to make a good combination.

Everything is clued, most of it very well and in some ways redundantly. The first few moves may seem a bit slow to start but after this the flow goes fine. Everything fits, no random bits that do not help to fill in either atmosphere or puzzle solving. The game is aware of its IF history. Admiral Jota not only invokes a devilish play on the "twisty passages, all alike" scenes from Adventure and Zork but also cures the one bit about NPCs that hurts the most, the "guess what the hell the author was thinking made for good interactive combinations" game.

Admiral Jota gets bonus points for suggestion wrong or at least meaningless choices while talking to the pig. As well as bonus points for allowing a few easter egg commands. And, finally, bonus points for making an IF title whose automatic responses are a merit to the game instead of an annoying detriment to work around.

Well crafted, not too long, requires pleasantly clever choices, and written strongly through to the end. Excellent IF title. Going up there as one of my favorites.

Final Scores

(my ratings)

Interactive: Good

Fiction: Great

Reviewer's Tilt: Great

Final Average: Great


How I Did

Without the hint, I got 6 points. Probably two hours spread over about four total (as in, I was doing some other stuff off an on, and coming back to it). Solved some stuff right away, had to play around with some other stuff. Enjoyed the hell out of myself.

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

The only good hint I can say is play around with this one. Look at everything. Try doing everything. The game, at heart, is quite short. Most of the time playing is just getting into the game world. Give that a whirl.

Written by W Doug Bolden

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