The Interactive Fiction Competition is back! Spoilers behind the break.
Ryan Veeder won the interactive fiction competition in 2011 with the highly amusing Taco Fiction. Expectations are therefore high when he enters the competition with a new game called Captain Verdeterre's Plunder. (That title sounds like he teamed up with Duncan Bowsman. Which he totally should.)
The expectations, unfortunately, are not met.
Not that Captain Verdeterre's Plunder is a bad game. It is quite enjoyable. But if that sounds like I'm damning it with faint praise, well, I guess that's because I am.
In this game, you play the first mate to a captain who is actually a rat. The two of you are standing on the lowest floor of a sinking ship, and your task is to grab as many of the treasures in the ship as you can and then get into the lifeboat. Each turn, the water rises; and since you don't have enough time to pick up everything, you'll have to make decisions about which items are worth more than others.
Three factors complicate this. First, you can't see how much items are worth; this only becomes apparent when you see your score at the end of the game. Second, items become inaccessible as the water rises; either because the entire floor is flooded, or -- for smaller items lying on the ground -- because they float away. Third, to get some of the items, basic puzzles need to be solved. For instance, there's a strongbox at the bottom of the ship, but the key is upstairs; do you run for the key, or spend your turns on other things?
All of this adds up to a moderately complicated optimisation puzzle, though it only does so after you've played the game several times and have seen the worth of every item in the score screen. By that time, however, Captain Verdeterre's Plunder has stopped being interesting; and I doubt that anyone has the patience to actually sit down with all the information and work out the optimal solution. There is a puzzle here, but Veeder doesn't do a good job of giving us the motivation to solve it.
So: an enjoyable game with some quirky and amusing writing; but not a great success as a puzzle, and even less of a success as anything else. Temporary score is 6 out of 10.