by Víctor Ojuel (parser-based, play here)
You are on a pilgrimage. Where to? It is uncertain.
I had mixed feelings about this game. On a micro scale, there is enough to make it infuriating, things which shouldn’t be there. On a macro scale, though, Pilgrimage is about the search for home and making things right again.
What I liked about this game was that the scale of travel in this game suggests sea voyages every time you go in a compass direction, painting the game’s geography in broad sweeps instead of tiny intricate detail. This was fitting, as the PC travels across the world, so giving a general, though evocative, impression of different countries worked better than focusing on tiny details.
Pilgrimage is structured in small scenes, typically set in a particular country. By solving a puzzle or doing the ‘right’ action, you get to the next scene, and so on and so forth. The challenge, then, is figuring out what the action is; this was not always intuitive.
When travelling, the people you meet for such a short time sometimes seem themselves to be temporary while you are the only permanent thing you know; so it is with Pilgrimage. The NPCs in this game are little more than tools to solve a puzzle- was this a good thing or bad thing? I’m not sure. It made sense that the PC never formed any long-term relations with anyone.
In the end, I relied on the walkthrough to bring me through the game, and I have to say that not worrying about getting lost or putting the game in an unwinnable state let me focus more on the writing – location descriptions is definitely one of the author’s strengths.
There were small niggles which would have infuriated me if I had not had the walkthrough: it has several implementation slips characteristic to parser IF. There is some confusion between definite and indefinite nouns when taking inventory and when you manipulate objects (“In boat is sailor.”), which made the prose read weirdly. The synonyms the game accepted (for objects) could be more extensive. Messages when I take objects are triggered whenever I take it again, instead of only when I take it the first time – which produces quite amusing messages without context. For a normal release, this would not have left a good impression. As an IFComp entry, even less so – but Pilgrimage is redeemed by its broad arc and quite lovely writing.