There are surpisingly few interactive fiction games based on wordplay, and the ones that do exist (“Nord and Bert Couldn’t Make Head or Tail of It, “Ad Verbum,” “Suveh Nux,” “Counterfeit Monkey,” etc.) are largely remarkable, memorable games. Adding to that list is “Ailihphilia,” which involves using palindromes to progress through a series of puzzles.
Gameplay: The game was simply fun to play. The puzzles were clever and used the palindrome shtick well. (It did seems like the puzzles were written to the palindromes rather than the other way around, but that’s probably inevitable for a game like this.) There are also enough standard set-piece puzzles in the game that playing it wasn’t a matter of just choosing the right palindrome to fit the words on screen. Even though the game is large, I didn’t feel overwhelmed with open puzzles at any time, and the puzzles weren’t difficult enough to be frustrating or simple enough to be uninteresting. 9/10.
Mechanics: The game perfectly takes advantage of its medium; it just wouldn’t be possible for a game like this to exist in a different medium. Its palindrome mechanic is strong, but it would be nice to have more variety in the puzzles. (“Ad Verbum,” for example, is a fraction of the size of this game but uses about a dozen different kinds of wordplay. “Suveh Nux” sticks to a single idea, but it’s a one-room game.) There are some use-key-on-door or give-item-to-NPC puzzles to avoid overusing the mechanic, but the game is quite large for an IFComp entry. I did encounter a fatal error in the game (trying to THINK at one point) after quite a bit of play time. 9/10.
Presentation: The author put considerable effort into the game, and it shows. It’s filled with anti-frustration features (e.g., hints and an in-game map), and the distribution includes a walkthrough. There are also several Last Lousy Point items in the game, which are explicitly noted as such and are fun bonus features rather than annoyances for completionists. Most unhelpful but reasonable palindromes are recognized; in fact, there’s a running tally of them. 10/10.
You might be interested in this game if: You like games based on wordplay. You’re looking for a long parser-based game that has a lot of anti-frustration features.