I have always loved fantasy worlds and spend way too much of my free time doing things for my weekly Dungeons and Dragons campaign, so when I came across an Interactive Fiction (IF) game with orcs and gnomes that had won the 2007 Annual IF Competition, I knew that I had to play it. I was not at all disappointed. Lost Pig (And Place Underground) was created by veteran IF author Admiral Jota. The game features you as Grunk, an orc tasked with retrieving a runaway pig. Both you and the pig fall down a hole and you have to solve various puzzles and interact with the gnome NPC and the pig before finding the exit and finishing your task. The game uses standard IF mechanisms, such as “examine pig”, “go northeast”, or “ask gnome about exit”. Everything is very straight forward with enough clues hidden in the text to allow you to solve the puzzles on your own, and with a handy Hints feature that guides the player towards solutions without revealing any more spoilers than the player wants to see.
This game is humorous from start to finish. It is written in Grunk’s point of view and while he is not the most articulate creature alive, he’s not completely dumb. In terms of D&D stat points, I figure that Grunk has very low Intelligence but an average to slightly above average Wisdom score. Grunk talks in third person and I enjoyed his unique voice throughout the whole game, though I can see how it might get annoying to some people. You can interact with pretty much everything in this game in unusual and unconventional ways. For example, if you type “lick pig” twice you end up eating him and failing the mission. You can set your pants on fire, sing a song with the pig, and attempt to put the pig in your pants. One of my favorite things to do during the game was to just type absurd commands and see what happened. I tried to have Grunk catch the pig numerous times before solving a puzzle that allowed me to successfully capture the pig and the text during these antics was incredibly amusing.
The game got tedious in a couple of ways. For example, one puzzle you had to figure out was finding a coin in one room, then putting into a slot machine in another to retrieve an item. You need to do this whole combination about four times and it got boring to type the same thing over and over. There is probably a way to redo your last couple of actions, but I couldn’t figure it out. I needed a couple hints to figure some things out (such as using a found hat to haul water, or setting a pole on fire to make it sticky so it can reach something far away) but loved how some options were open ended. To wake Gnome, you could sing (“La la la! It like Grunk tell a story!”), scream, attack the shadows, or any other reasonable possibility that I didn’t test.
One part of the game that lead me to believe that Grunk has a somewhat high Wisdom score was the interactions he has with the gnome. Grunk will ask the Gnome about various topics and seems to kind of follow along, even if he calls Gnome’s objects “things” due to not having the proper vocabulary. Gnome is the only other speaking character in the game and offers some cryptic clues and a piece of equipment that you need. Grunk and Gnome can have an endless conversation about everything from the army to science to pontificating over naming and identification. The game gives suggestions on what questions to ask Gnome, though it makes a point of mentioning that Grunk can ask Gnome about anything. I managed to make the game suggest so many questions to me that poor Grunk’s head couldn’t handle making any more suggestions.
I did some research on this game and on Admiral Jota, and during my time searching around the internet for some of the best quotes or hidden things that I hadn’t thought to make Grunk do (like burning down the forest or feeding the pig a glowing orb to be used as a flashlight) I came across an internet forum discussing the game. Evidently, one of the moderators for the forums emailed Admiral Jota, who then joined in on the conversation to talk about his game. It was great to learn that Lost Pig won all sorts of awards, including best IF game of 2007, Best Game, Best Writing, Best Individual NPC for the pig, and Best Individual NPC for Gnome. I sincerely believe that it deserves all of the accolades that it has received. It’s a quick play and has some replay value just to see what other absurd things you can get Grunk into. There’s a lot of flammable items and I’m sure that something exciting would happen if you used your torch to set fire to them.
Over all, this is a fantastic little game. It’s witty and incredibly fleshed out. Even if a lot of the commands (like dance, urinate, or thinking about anything) don’t yield any real reactions, the flavor text for all of these is hysterical to read. Admiral Jota really nailed Grunk’s mannerisms and speaking patterns. I think that I’m going to use Grunk, pig, and Gnome as inspiration for a D&D session to run for my party. I won’t tell them about this game until after session, though, so that they don’t spoil things for themselves. I highly recommend this game for everybody, even if IF isn’t your usual cup of tea. I promise that you’ll be entertained by Grunk’s wild antics. While playing, keep in mind Admiral Jota’s advice: “And remember, don’t let pesky things like common sense prevent you from attempting the implausible, asking the unsuggested, and eating the inedible!”