Veteran writer Bob Bates is back with the charming text adventure Thaumistry: In Charm’s Way that harks back to the good ol’ days. The FingerGuns Review;
The text adventure game genre had taken a nearly 2 decade long hiatus until it began to resurface in earnest last year. Now they’re sprouting up all over the place. The latest text adventure to hit the market is from legendary writer Bob Bates, the mind behind Eric the Unready and Sherlock: The Riddle of the Crown Jewels. The result of a successful Kickstarter, Thaumistry: In Charm’s Way is an comedy adventure reminiscent of the classics.
Unlike the new breed of text adventures like The House Abandon or A Dark Room, Thaumistry is a traditional text adventure in as much as it is purely text based. There’s no accompanying images, no soundtrack, nothing but a wall of text and the occasional change in font. It’s a game that uses the same late 80’s, early 90’s text adventure norms and mechanics. The game tells the story while you explore the world using the points of the compass to move – N for North, S for South etc – and text based entries to solve a myriad of puzzles – “>Put Gum On Machine” for example – that you type in yourself. If you’re a text adventure veteran, none of this will surprise you but if you’re new to this type of game, Thaumistry does an incredible job of being as accessible as possible. Instructions occasionally lace themselves into the story and sometimes the game breaks the fourth wall to give you a quick description of what to do. There’s also a very generous hint system (which miraculously manages to nudge in the right direction rather than just give you the answer if you wish) and a map so you don’t get lost. As text adventures go, this is the most accessible and approachable I’ve ever played.
Thaumistry: In Charm’s Way is the modern day tale of Eric Knight, a child inventing prodigy that has grown up into a confused scientist that can’t get his latest invention to work. In steps the mysterious, eccentric Jack that reveals the secret world of magic using, accident prone “Bodgers” who fail into greatness. The meeting sends Eric’s world spiraling through bizarre conversations, outlandish locations and a threat against the Bodgers way of life. To say any more would spoil the story which would be a shame because it’s a real treat.
What I can say is that this game is funny. It’s full of absurdist humour and crazy characters that had me smiling for the majority of my 8 hours with it. The solutions to the problems have a very Monkey Island meets Monty Python feel to them. They’re not immediately apparent, from deep in left field with that comedy twist.
What’s most appealing about Thaumistry is that it’s descriptive while being very concise. There’s very little wasted text with this game but it still manages to paint wonderful mental images. There’s only a few moments during the game that I felt even mildly confused and these were short lived feelings.
If I had one criticism, it’d be that the supposed villain of the game isn’t very villainous. He’s a caricaturistic high powered business man and your interactions with him are minimal. It would have been nice to cross paths with him more often to offer a little more character exploration so we get to loathe him some more.
Text adventures are a bit of an oddity these days. Good ones come along once in a blue moon and I’m glad to say that it must be a blue moon because Thaumistry: In Charm’s Way is a good one. It’s wacky and absurd while being thoughtful and intelligent. It’s hard not to smile while playing it and it gave me an occasional belly laugh too. Thaumistry was a pleasure to spend time with and the worst moment was when it ended and I realised that there’s not much else like it these days. It’s accessible for newcomers and deep enough for veterans alike which means whether you’re never played on before or are a master of the InfoCom classics, you’ll find some lighthearted comedy entertainment here.
Thaumistry: In Charm’s Way will be available on PC, Mac & Linux via Steam (store link here) on the 10th of October, 2017.
Disclaimer: We received a code this game as a Kickstarter backer reward in order to complete this review. For more information, please see our review policy.