I have fond memories from my childhood of playing “The 7th Guest,” a game that combined abstract set-piece puzzles (e.g., swapping white and black pieces on a chessboard while only making chess-legal moves) with an ongoing frame story. “Instruction Set” is like a mostly-text adapation of it, using a sci-fi narrative but still keeping the central gameplay idea of alternating between solving a classic puzzle and then watching a cutscene. Unfortunately, technical problems and uninspired puzzles make it difficult to enjoy the game.

Gameplay: The first real puzzle of the game is the classic 3-gallon and 5-bucket problem. It’s hard to have any positive reaction to that, especially when it’s followed by another bucket puzzle and a 3×3 number slider puzzle. The other puzzles are variants on mazes that are more creative but tedious to solve, and there’s also a third bucket puzzle. The frame story might have made the game more compelling, but my browser froze up while playing through them. 2/10.

Mechanics: The game lags significantly throughout, both in the puzzles and during the cutscenes; my browser froze up for about 15 seconds while playing each of the latter. The author mentions that the game is written in the visual programming language Scratch, which doesn’t offer much support for keyboard input and text. While it’s an impressive technical feat to get the game working in that kind of system, it’s clearly not a good tool for the job, and the game suffers as a result. The cutscenes lag so much that they’re almost unplayable, and the uninteresting puzzles are there simply as roadblocks dividing up the narrative. 2/10.

Presentation: The layout of the game is well-designed, and I like the simple aesthetics of the cutscenes. Adding some narrative content in the background while starting the puzzles is a nice touch. Still, the narrative is not enough to support the game by itself, and the lag throughout the game makes it hard to sustain interest in playing it. 3/10.

You might be interested in this game if: You like visual or otherwise unusual programming languages, and you want to see a project that takes them far beyond what’s normally done with them.

Score: 2

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