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Geist is an interactive fiction game. From what I have played I would rate it Merciful on the cruelty scale. That is you can't get stuck or die. In Geist your eccentric Uncle Scott has passed away and you have been left with half the will. That is not half of his estate but rather half of the document. And it is up to you to retrieve the other half from his residence, the haunted Alden Manor.

Geist is a throw back text based adventure game. There are no dexterity challenges or timing challenges. Rather you will be tested in your ability to solve puzzles, recall and understand clues and perhaps most importantly, to be persistent in your investigations of the house and its grounds. It is also helpful if you have a large vocabulary. There are puzzles where between two similar verbs one will solve the puzzle and the other will not.



In Geist nothing is handed to you. You begin the game outside Alden Manor and find the gate is unlocked. But it is electrified. From the very beginning you have to solve puzzles to advance in the game.

The number of individual rooms in Geist is not overwhelming. But navigating them is not the challenge here. The difficulty is that almost everything you are looking for is hidden under several levels. What I mean by that is what you are looking for will rarely appear in the initial description of the room. Typically you will have to examine some aspect of the room more closely to get another group of key words, and then manipulate or move those objects before an item of significance is revealed. Geist is not a game you can quickly scan through. You will have to be paying attention to the objects, picking up and interpreting clues and hints and using them to advance the game. I found many of these puzzles to be quite difficult, and I'm quite sure I would not have beat this game on my own. Happily there is a small crew of dedicated users willing to answer user questions. My guess is that answers will continue to be forthcoming even after the microbadge deadline of January 15 2014, but they might come a little more slowly. Also with previous site wide adventures a full run down of all puzzles was posted for the game. I can't guarantee this will be the case with Geist, but it seems likely.



The atmosphere of Geist is on the campy horror side. It will come as no surprise when you find a Scooby Doo reference. You aren't going to have to worry about being terrified or reading disturbing imagery. There is also a lot of activity in Geist. Most rooms are haunted by a particular geist. They will throw things at you, manipulate objects in the room, read books and talk to you, to name just a few. It will not be uncommon for the game to insert text on its own rather than simply responding to your actions.

Another distinguishing element is the large number of references to the Geek Board games, role playing games and video games are mentioned. A number of users on the Geek are mentioned and events associated with the Geek are referenced such as the Great Image Server Crash of 2013. There are also a number of pop-culture references which come up. As such Geist is not a game where I was lost in the immersion of the story, but rather I enjoyed solving the puzzles and reading the references. My guess is that the more familiar one is with the community of the Geek, the more they will enjoy Geist.
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Jonna
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Very nice review, thanks for writing it
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Dave Bernazzani
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Appreciate the review - thanks for writing it!
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No, thank you, and all those who worked toward making the game!
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Stopped playing because of the interface. Having to guess which verb and word combination to use is not my idea of a game and is contraty to the whole concept of puzzles.
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George Buss
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Harlekin wrote:
Stopped playing because of the interface. Having to guess which verb and word combination to use is not my idea of a game and is contraty to the whole concept of puzzles.


That's unfortunate. Usually it's not the word choice that gets people hung up, it's the lack of actually having the solution. This game is a ton better than some of the earlier Interactive Fiction games. You want real frustration, try playing Pirate Adventure. Now's that some Verb/Noun coupling.
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Phil
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But when the puzzle becomes to guess if it fails because of the lack of wording regarding the input or because the idea is wrong it is just no fun anymore.
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Looking at these stars suddenly dwarfed my own troubles and all the gravities of terrestrial life. I thought of their unfathomable distance, and the slow inevitable drift of their movements out of the unknown past into the unknown future. H.G. Wells
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I can understand where Phil is coming from. Guessing at words is probably my least favorite part of interactive fiction and being that Geist is probably a lot of folks first experience with IF it's not too surprising to see people complaining about the genre here.

My frustration with IF is that you can have a synonym to the word you are looking for and know just what to do but the game provides no feedback that you are so close. And as such as a player you don't know if you should keep trying synonyms or if you are barking up the wrong tree.

I think puzzle video games in general have trouble with feedback though.

Take platforming games. You know that if you die it is because you input the wrong commands into the controller. And you can see by the on screen result whether you should have jumped sooner or later or higher or lower or run faster or slower (to name a few possibilities).

Braid is a hybrid platformer/puzzle game. Generally speaking I really liked it. But some of the stages I had difficulty with and it wasn't at all clear whether I was dying because I was going about solving the stage incorrectly (puzzle) or whether my execution of the stage needed improvement (platforming skills). These stages were quite frustrating.

I think that designers of puzzle games need to pay more attention to feedback than designers of other types of video games because they can't take feedback for granted.
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George Buss
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You're absolutely right. Feedback is really crucial and makes the difference between a game I like and a game I love.

So for an IF game to give feedback, it needs to have considered 1) What a player might imagine as a solution and 2) synonyms of that imagined solution. That's really tough.

I've played full text adventures and graphic hybrids (like King's Quest) or full graphic puzzle adventures (like Myst). The graphics make it easier to know where the edge of the world is, and cut out the frustration of words. When you click something, it's pretty clear that the click is what you wanted. You trade off for that is some of the imagination though. You lose some of the player autonomy and wide world feel. The Text only games allow a feeling of a wider angle of solutions, IMO, even if its only solveable with one solution. I think that because I can try anything, be clever, and in a well developed game, get clever response in return.

So what's a solution for the feedback? I think that in game hints that are given in-game and not by asking for help. In Geist, that's the rustling note. In Lost Pig, it's the gnome. That way you can get just enough assistance for the game to remain fun and you feel clever for having solved the puzzle and deciphering the hint.

I also think a well done game has the words you need hidden in the description or at least well alluded to.

So not disagreeing. I see the frustration and even understand it/experienced it in other games. I think Geist is one of the better designs when it comes to helping the player along. The real frustration in geist is when you are trying I do something that isn't part of the puzzle
Spoiler (click to reveal)
like anything with the monocle or gazebo.
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Nice review!
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