If you choose to follow the dark hallway to investigate the odd noise, go to page 47. If you choose to read about Thaumistry: In Charm’s Way, an entertaining new text-based RPG, read on.
Longer ago than I care to divulge, I found myself in my Junior High School library, looking for something different to read. I was a very voracious reader and I had read all the Judy Blume books, the Paula Danziger books, and the Tolkien and C.S. Lewis books our little library had. When I say I was a reader, I mean it was an obsession. It was then that I spotted something new sitting on top of the card catalog cabinet — a set of thin paperbacks with bold lettering. Choose Your Own Adventure books. There were maybe ten of them altogether and I had never heard of anything remotely like them. Soon, I would be practically addicted to navigating through them, trying to get the best endings.
Later on as my hobbies expanded to include computers, AOL introduced me to Legends of Terris. It was like a giant Choose Your Own Adventure with other people! Oh how times have changed. Graphics have taken center stage and one no longer needs to imagine the deeds of their intrepid heroes and heroines played out. It is all there in front us in 4k glory. It’s a marvelous time for gamers, but sometimes, a heart yearns for the simplicity of the past.
Enter Thaumistry: In Charm’s Way. Thaumistry is a text-based adventure game from the brilliant mind of award-winning writer Bob Bates. Even if you aren’t familiar with his name immediately, you have definitely heard of his work: FrontierVille, Spider-Man 3 and Empires and Allies, to name a few.
Needless to say, I was excited to get my hands on Thaumistry and dive in. I am very happy to report that my anticipation was well rewarded with this title.
Science, magic and financial investors?
In this adventure we fill the shoes of Eric Knight, a brilliant — albeit currently uninspired — inventor. His employer has given him a last-chance deadline to get his newest invention up and ready to use. That’s bad news, because frankly things are not falling into place for him. The good news, however, is that they have sent him some fresh-faced assistants to choose from in order to speed things along. What he gets instead of a new assistant is Jack, a very quirky man who about to open Eric’s eyes to his real potential.
I don’t want to go too much further into the story because it really is full of well-written characters, strange situations and challenging puzzles. I am loathe to spoil even a second of what is in store for you. Let me just say there are magic spells, intrigue, bad guys and even an invisible dog.
No bells and whistles needed.
The mechanics of Thaumistry are very simple, obviously, this being a text-based adventure. Each scene is described as you enter the area. It’s up to you to carefully read the text and tell the game what you want Eric to do. Type in “look out the window” and if there is a window, Eric will look out of it and the text will describe what he sees. It seems simple enough, but any writer can tell you that the level of detail involved in coming up with a game like this is mind-boggling. There are countless Easter eggs hidden for the player to find depending on what they type.
Your objective is to successfully navigate the situations Eric comes across and figure out the best way to proceed. Each person and environment has the potential to be part of the puzzle. It’s not easy, by any means. I am about nine hours in and I would guess about halfway through the main part of the story. Luckily for me, there is a hint option that a person can use if they get too stuck. The hints are even arranged in a spoiler-free order so you can get as little or as much help as you need without giving away parts of the story. I appreciated this immensely! I was able to get through a trickier puzzle without feeling as if I had the answer handed to me.
Graphically, Thaumistry: In Charm’s Way is simple. It needn’t be too complex, of course, but there are some very handy additions to the text on your screen. Typing “Map” gives you a map of where you are and shows you where you have yet to explore. You do have the option to change the fonts and sizes of the text in the game and it is compatible with screen readers.Thaumistry is bursting with personality and charm. What it lacks in 4k resolution and orchestral soundtracks it makes up for with humor and excellent characters. The details are so easy to imagine thanks to the excellent writing and I felt as immersed as I would have been playing the newest Playstation or Xbox One RPG offering.
Available on Steam and through the game’s website, I strongly recommend you pick up Thaumistry and play it for yourself. It has Steam achievements and is compatible with Windows, iOS and Linux. As for me, I’m still stuck in a time paradox at the Quantum Leaps Booth. I had better get back to my adventure.