The Wand: The title says it all. This story is about the wand, figuring out how to use it and then doing so. There’s minimal setup and character development and almost no dialogue, but it’s a darn good puzzle game. Players looking for emotional conflict, societal commentary, and flowery prose should move along, but as an almost pure game, I really enjoyed playing this one.
[Some spoilers follow beyond this point]
The author does not make any pretenses — in the introduction, the player is trapped in a castle and a sort of pre-recorded message informs him that to leave, he needs to figure out how to use the wand. An undefined reward is also promised.
The wand is operated by dialing in colors on three segments of the wand, so using it involves setting the colors and then pointing it at various objects. The game provides a welcome shorthand for these manipulations, and it becomes second nature very quickly.
The introductory scene could be considered to be a short tutorial as the player needs to use the wand to move beyond it. To ensure that everything else that happens in the game is performed by means of the wand, the player soon learns that touching anything yields an electric shock. This doesn’t really harm the player, but since nothing can get done that way, the player soon learns to see everything through the lens of what he can do with the wand.
Through necessity, the player builds a list of spells – to move through doors, unlock them, translate coded messages, and so on. Each spell builds on previous ones, and while the game is mostly linear, it also builds complexity. Later scenes require the player to envision strategies that involve a series of spells.
The clues are well described and fair, some are easy, some are more involved. Earlier in the game, the clues are more word play, but later they involve more interaction with objects and time-sensitive sequencing of spells. The whole game can be played within the two hour judging period, but I found it helpful to play a bit, take a break to ponder, and come back at times.
I found the ending a little abrupt. I got a pat on the head and some silver, and that was it. I had hoped that the game was front-loaded with puzzle content and that there would be some explanation of back story as it concluded. As it is, the player walks away a little richer, but despite demonstrating his magical aptitude, will never have another chance to use the wand.
Story: 5. The framing story is minimal, but rooms and their contents have good descriptions and implementation.
Technical: 7. The author traded off some parser complexity with need to customize a wand system. Insulating the player from usual parser interaction also required some work. Turn-based timing had to be tracked for some puzzles.
Preliminary Score: 7.2