“Birmingham IV” is a game evoking the style of game in the first generation of independent text-adventures that involved solving puzzles in a familiar, mostly realistic setting (often a university campus) with some of the author’s friends and inside jokes thrown in. Its opening notes indicate that it’s a conversion of a late-80s game, and that seems to be true (or, least, played straight, unlike “I.A.G. Alpha”).

Gameplay: Unfortunately, those embellishments from the author’s own life makes the game a bit difficult to get into. The text refers to the protagonist as “the Phil” throughout with any explanation given, which is presumably some private joke of the author’s (and it seems like the character is based on an acquaintance of his). The map is a bit confusing, especially given the scope of the game. 6/10.

Mechanics: The puzzles seemed a bit opaque to me (though, in fairness to the author, it may just be puzzle fatigue at this point in the competition). It wasn’t clear why showing a photo to the troll would solve that puzzle, for example, or how I would know to give the bowman a dead rat (which he later explains he can use to bait traps) when his conversation involves asking about feats of strength. The game enforces a low carrying capacity, which is very inconvenient in a game of this scope and doesn’t serve any purpose beyond annoying the player. 6/10.

Presentation: The text of the game is well-written, even though it makes nods to what I assume are private jokes of the author’s (e.g., “the Phil”) throughout. I encountered an odd reponse to BREAK WINDOW WITH BRICK, which proceeded as expected and then added the default, “Violence is not the answer to this one,” response afterward. Aside from that minor problem, though, the text was polished. The author provides a list of hints, although a map would also have been useful. 6/10.

Tilt: The protagonist has a pet raven that can be interacted with and used to solve a puzzle. +1.

You might be interested in this game if: You want a long game in the style of an late-80s/early-90s puzzlefest.

Score: 6

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