One of my favorite things about interactive fiction is the medium allows itself to creative experiments in interface design. “En Garde” involves a protagonist whose moveset expands over the course of the game, starting with rudimentary abilities indexed by colors and progressing to a slate of full English commands.
Gameplay: The clever idea behind the game is that the protagonist becomes more intelligent through certain plot points. Not only does his moveset become larger and more well-defined, but his descriptions of the world and his understanding of the objects in it become more precise and clear. It’s an interesting approach to exploration, and it makes figuring out exactly what’s going on a fun puzzle. 8/10.
Mechanics: Gameplay is straightforward: the protagonist takes actions by clicking on the list of available commands on the side of the screen (with any necessary arguments automatically inferred). There really aren’t any puzzles in the game, at least until its last stage; the challenge of the game is figuring out how to use the limited descriptions offered by the narrator to build a model of the world. 7/10.
Presentation: Having spent quite a bit of time and effort coming up with different room and item descriptions for the different protagonists in my last game, I’m impressed that the author put so much effort into making revisited locations feel and behave differently as the protagonist changes. Each of his stages of cognition has a unique, characteristic tone to it, and it feels like an accomplishment to move up to the next one. 8/10.
You might be interested in this game if: You liked “Suspended” or “Flowers for Algernon.”