One of my favorite genres of interactive fiction is that of word games, which uniquely use their medium to create interesting puzzles. Like last year’s “Ailihphilia,” this year’s “Very Vile Fairy File” is a light, puzzle-heavy game using a single word-transformation mechanic.

Gameplay: The fundamental mechanic involves replacing alliterative pairs of words with rhyming ones. In the first room, for example, you have to improve your skills by transforming WET WOOD into GET GOOD. (As the game explicitly notes, later puzzles involve spelling changes rather than just simple letter replacement). It’s a clever idea for a set of puzzles, and I went back and forth while playing the game about whether it was too easy or too hard to use the mechanic; that’s a good indication that it’s fair. Some of the transformations are definitely not ones the player would initially expect, but they’re clued strongly throughout the game. As a last resort, there’s also a map and walkthrough. 8/10.

Mechanics: The transformation puzzles in the game are well-implemented and clever throughout. Although they all use the rhyming mechanic, some puzzles have multiple solutions or involve small variations in that mechanic, such as manipulating a song that gets stuck in your head. The rhyming-transformation idea doesn’t entirely avoid becoming repetitive before the end, but it has a good run, and some of the puzzles are quite clever. The rhymes are also fairly short and simple throughout; adding longer or more involved rhymes would give the puzzles more variety. Word games involving rhymes also depend on the particular dialect of the player, and I don’t think all of the rhymes in the game would be accepted as such by all English speakers, even if you assume the audience is American (or British, etc.). 8/10.

Presentation: The text is pretty sparse, and there’s little narrative to the game (though there is an overall goal besides just solving all the puzzles you find). Despite that, the author added quite a bit of polish to the game. Incorrect or red-herring puzzle solutions are generally recognized and noted. To prevent the player from getting from frustrated, there’s a object that gives in-game hints (with a clever and more abstract puzzle about deciphering those hints, which the player can just summarily reveal if that also becomes frustrating) and a inventory of sounds and clusters in English. There were some typos in the game, however; most notably, many of the responses included an extra trailing period. 8/10.

You might be interested in this game if: You enjoyed “Ailihphilia” or “Ad Verbum.”

Score: 8

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