Byzantine Perspective


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Emily Shortbyzantineperspective.jpgByzantine Perspective, by Lea Albaugh, is a tight little heist game from this year's annual Interactive Fiction Competition. You're a student with less-than-legal plans for how to fund your education: get into a museum of Byzantine artifacts, get the valuable antique chalice, get out again. You're rigged out in your best cat-burglar clothes, with your best cat-burglar tools — some of them borrowed from an acquaintance, which raises never-answered questions about what sorts of company the protagonist keeps.

The museum is sparely described, but what's there is pleasingly authentic and non-generic: this isn't a random Hollywood-style Museum of Nothing in Particular with the Venus de Milo in one corner and the crown jewels in another. The contents are all things you might plausibly find in an exhibit on Byzantine art and culture.

Your character can even read ancient Greek, a detail that I found instantly endearing.

The setting aside, though, the core of Byzantine Perspective is a single puzzle — but one that's entirely novel and only possible in the medium of text.

If at first you feel mystified, give it a little time and keep exploring. Anything strange you encounter is likely to be intentional, and using a walkthrough for this one is not nearly as fun as figuring it out for yourself.

Important note: unlike most text games, this one really needs a visual aid — this map, designed to accompany the work. I recommend having it open in another window while you play. (It's conceivable to win without the aid of the map, but it will be more difficult.)

To say much more would be to spoil it. Byzantine Perspective makes the perfect lunchtime game: quick to play and very satisfying to work out.

Play Byzantine Perspective (online)

Download Byzantine Perspective (from the IFDB)

54 Comments

I'm a bit confused... the story starts out in a "vault" with "only one exit, to the south," which is corroborated by the map.

However, if I start the game by going west as the first input, I'm taken to the Room of Mosaics.

Is this part of the puzzle? That the map and narration is unreliable? Or am I just confused?

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I guess I should have taken the "anything strange you encounter" a little more seriously.

So as an additional warning, as the reviewer points out: anything strange you encounter is probably intentional!

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Is the multitool just a red herring? I solved it without using it.

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This game is utterly confusing, even with a walkthrough. The walkthrough, by the way, is:

nab chalice
east
south
drop paper
north
read paper
west
west
push button
push button
read notice
south
west
south
east
east
enter [code from the notice]
north
nab chalice

There's obviously supposed to be something about the goggles you're wearing that I'm not getting. Would someone smarter than me care to explain?

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I'm getting a little frustrated with the syntax--maybe somebody can tell me if I'm simply phrasing things wrongly, or if I'm actually attempting the impossible. Spoilers are for the map/layout only, so I'm not using tags.

Say I'm in the Icons room. To the east is the Room of Metalwork, and when I try to go there, it says, "Though you can see the Room of Metalwork in front of you, you are stopped by an invisible wall."

How can I peer through the invisible wall and see if there's anything interesting from this vantage point? All commands along the lines of "Look east," "look eastward," "look through east wall," "look at/through/into Room of Metalwork/east room/arched doorway," et cetera, aren't working.

In general, I'm running into a lot of trouble with the game describing room features, particularly room architecture, that it doesn't recognize when I ask about it specifically. Doorways, arches, a glass box that is apparently suspended between two rooms, et cetera. I've got the place pretty much mapped out, but I haven't discovered anything interesting yet aside from

seemingly all of the items are holographic, and there is a panel inside the south walls south of the Metalwork room.

Could somebody give me a nudge in the right direction, please?

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Argh! I'm really trying to give these type-y adventures a go, but I'm so frustrated! Could someone please tell me

how I'm supposed to find the paper? and how I'm supposed to read it?

I didn't want to read the walkthrough, but needed a shove in the right direction. However, that walkthrough was sooo not helpful.

My question is, how do I know when there's stuff to pick up? Does it hint at it, or do I need to run my hands over every surface?

Thanks for any tips!!!

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Erik Temple November 18, 2009 3:52 PM

The title of the work refers to a specific art-historical concept, which is the key to understanding the puzzle. (Google will help.)

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Unless I miss my guess, the deal with the goggles is thus (possible BIG spoiler):

They store a map of the museum, so they aren't "night vision", they're "virtual reality". You may actually be in the museum, but you're seeing the stored map of the place, not the place itself. However, the goggle's internal map is offset from the real place, so you might be in the vault but SEE the icons room. Pushing the button resets the alignment of the goggle map somehow, but I've not yet figured out if it's possible to properly align the VR map with the actual museum.

At least, that's my theory, for now.

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If you're confused about the puzzle and afraid to use the walkthrough: don't be.
Even after finishing the game in the hope to find a hint, I'm now as confused as I was before.

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The most useful hint for beginners probably would be to type

"Examine self".

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Bloatedsack Author Profile Page November 18, 2009 4:12 PM

Expanding on Chairman's spoiler

Every time you hit the button, the view shifts to an adjacent room to where you are (clockwise?). If you are on the end then it becomes "inside the walls".

Now I'm going to try to get to the chalice room and get it w/o the view being correct

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Bloatedsack Author Profile Page November 18, 2009 4:13 PM

Wow, I should double up the spoiler tag on my last post.

Viewers beware! big spoiler!

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OK, even after I figured it out (see my comment above) I still found photoshop's layer transparency tool VERY helpful. ;)

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Jonc, it's not particularly fair to judge a game based on its genre. Sturgeon's second law and all.

That said... I fumbled around the game for a long time without using the walkthrough, tried to pick up the walkthrough midway through and found that it doesn't work unless you're starting from the beginning, then started the game over and followed the walkthrough by-the-letter to success.

I think ChairmanMUHC has the right idea, and theirs was the same conclusion I arrived at after-the-fact, but the game gives you almost no clues to point you in the right direction. Unless I missed it, there is no clue pointing you to

drop the paper, and then pick it up and examine it again, when it had been unreadable the first time you looked at it.

Even if you manage to stumble into doing that, there's no way to

predictably determine what the button does, and be able to use it goal-mindedly instead of randomly

without massive trial-and-error.

The writing was good, and the conceit was clever. However, the execution as a playable-without-help game is a disaster, and as I mentioned earlier, the very limited syntax didn't win any points either. This is a good cautionary-tale game for the upcoming IF competition.

[Edit: jonc's comment was spammed for being insensitive, useless, internet junk. -Jay]

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Bloatedsack Author Profile Page November 18, 2009 4:27 PM

After a lot of bumping around I finally stood still and did

push button
a bunch of times while referring to the map

That helped me put 2+2 together. In other words it isn't random.

Though,

I agree about the paper. That is a small leap to make.

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Yeah, the leap to the knowledge that (see my original spoiler) has very little to point to it. Photoshop helped (although pen and paper would work just as well) in that...

... I drew the map as it appears in the pdf file, then drew on top of it a map of where I could actually go. That's when I noticed that the two were identical but offset.

Once you've got that figured out, the rest is easy. As for reading the paper...

... the paper is real, but the VR representation of it is offset just like the real map. So, you've got to actually drop in in the actual south atrium, then go to the VR south atrium to read it. (Or any room, for that matter, as long as you can keep the real from the VR straight.)

What I want to know is, who develops equipment *that* advanced and then makes it work that way?

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I found that

it's not necessary to align the rooms to solve the puzzle, but it probably helps.

I did not solve this without a walkthrough, mostly because I didn't get the underlying conceit. I had a mental image of what was going on, and I was pretty wrong.

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Ah, got it, finally. I understood the pretense but it took a while to figure out how to exploit it.

a hint:

Draw your own map, and compare it to the one provided.

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I thought it was much more fun when I thought I was a ghost, and that's why I couldn't touch the chalice =(

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I found this game to be extremely confusing, even with the walkthrough. I could not understand how you supposed to figure out what you were supposed to do.

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Hey again,
Okay, I get it:

the goggles are making it all wonky

But could someone please tell me

how am I even supposed to know there's a paper to read and drop and read again? Is this something I find in a room and if so, could you give me a hint of the command I'm supposed to type in? I try examine, feel, touch, etc. but nothing leads me to a piece of paper!

And also

I haven't come across any button to push! I feel like I'm supposed to find it in a room, but again all these commands I try yield nothing!

Thanks.

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Seems like I'm one of the lucky ones, in that the main schtick just clicked with me early on, so I didn't need the walkthrough. I started walking E, S, S, W, N, at which point the idiosyncratic door and the long hallway tipped me off. I guess if I had gone counterclockwise around, things would have been much more confusing.

I hadn't noticed the map the first time I played (I was just drawing my own as I saw/felt my way around), so it took me a while to figure out what was going on with the bathroom/security office messing up the square lattice. It would've been nice to have the office somewhere else, so those of us drawing our own maps ended up less confused. Alas.

Still, fun puzzle, definitely my favorite of this year's comp's smaller offerings.

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look and go arent the only commands you can use, you can also try touch and feel

i'm only partway thru the game but i figured out the map by touching all the walls... it clicked in my head after i touched one of the walls and felt

braille lettering and generic bathroom symbols

after that i knew exactly where i was

i havent used the walkthru yet but im not done yet either

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@ Alexa: a quick text adventure primer.

i = inventory, a list of everything you've got on hand
l = look, used with "at object"
read object = read a thing, once you can see it
n = go north
e, s, w = east, south, west, respectively
push object = well, this one is easy enough, but you have to know the object is there, first.
take or get object = also obvious
unique to this game is "feel object" i.e. "feel the north wall"

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Thank you ChairmanMUHC!!

Inventory!! I had no idea and that is SO helpful!!

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Black Drazon Author Profile Page November 18, 2009 6:51 PM

I worked out the big puzzle, but because of something I misread before I did, I never found

that the door to the security room was unlocked

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An addendum to ChairmanMUHC's excellent list of IF commands: "look" or "l" by itself gives you a description of the room or location you're in -- it's basically "look around you" (which probably won't work). Usually you'll have already seen the description when you first entered the room, but "l" is useful for seeing the description again.

If you want to look more closely at an object, you can type "examine chalice" or "x chalice" instead of "look at chalice." (Actually, I'm not positive that "look at" will work in every game.)

In some games "look east" or "examine east" will give you a description of the room east of you, but it doesn't in this game.

It's usually a good idea to start by looking in your inventory, in case you already have something important. And it's often a good idea to examine everything mildly interesting-looking that you see.

Black Drazon (pretty big spoiler):

It isn't. And you can't unlock it. You need another way to find out what's in it.

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I quit after I accidentally

typed "press button"

when trying to get the

button panel

to work
After that, i just couldn't figure out where I was.

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How do you find the map within the game? (Rather than from the JIG review)

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OKAY! :D Here is how i solved it without a walk thru, for the people who thought the walkthru was unhelpful :D

First I tried to TAKE the chalice, which obviously didnt work. Then I tried to FEEL the chalice, which didn't work either. I also tried various things like GO SOUTH (I ran into a wall) FEEL THE WALL, LOOK AT stuff, eXamine room, and a few other random commands, and I was completely confused :P

Then I decided to see if I had an inventory, so I typed "i" and it said I had a multipurpose tool and a piece of paper. I tried to READ the paper, but it said I couldn't see the paper, I could only feel it.

Then I wandered around hopelessly lost, LOOKing at things and FEELing something there that was completely different.

Then I finally figured out that the nightvision goggles didn't work right and there was a pattern of everything being shifted to the south. So I figured out the path to the Metalwork Room and I felt around the walls and found the vault door and a keypad in the North Wall. Then I realized I had no password :P

So then I thought maybe the password is on the paper? So I tried again to read the paper, which didn't work. It said I could feel it but not see it. Finally I figured out that if I put the paper down in one room, I could see it in another room. So I DROPped it in the southwest corner room and went North and there it was on the floor where I could read it :D

And it didn't have a password :( It had goggle diagrams with a picture of a button on the side of the goggles. Ok fine, so I PUSH BUTTON. Oh man, then I was all confused again!

So I wandered around and looked at all the rooms that I didn't see before. Nice scale model of the Hagia Sophia, by the way, very impressive :D Then after a while I found the cheap office door again, the one that was locked and should lead to the security office. I tried to pick it with my allpurpose tool but that didn't work. Then I realized I was being dumb... all I had to do was keep pushing the button on the goggles until I could see the inside of the office :D

So I did that, and yep sure enough the guards had the password written down. So I went back to the vault door, ENTERed the numbers and badabing, I had the chalice :D

the end.

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Robert -- you can't find the map in the game. It only exists as a file that you can access from outside the game. (Which means it isn't cheating to look at it. You can think of it as a map of the museum that you looked at before breaking in.)

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ahh its no use. I have done everything I needed to get the chalice but I can't figure out exactly how I'm supposed to attain it.

I got into the security office and got the code. Entered the code for the vault. Heard the vault open but was unable to actually go inside the vault. I even tried going back to the Chalice room thinking it may of appeared but nope...I'm thoroughly comfused with how the goggles are working.

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I really, really liked this.

My thoughts:

1) Hiding hints in the descriptions of objects is the IF version of pixel hunting, and this game skips that almost entirely. I was so relieved when the parser said "are you going to sit here and look at the exhibits all day, or what?"

2) Cool map, dude. It would not be hard to make a page including the map inside which the text game would display, so that you automatically had the map open whenever you were playing the game. I don't think I would have ever figured it out without the map.

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Having finished the game, I am intrigued by one thing:

What's up with the goggles? Goggles that show everything around you as if you were in a different place nearby... who is this friend of hers? Does he work for the Men In Black or something? I felt like that was the most intriguing part of all, and I was disappointed that it just ended without any hint as to what the goggles were.

Yeah, the puzzle was ingenious, but if you're a story freak like I am, it just makes you wonder "But THEN what happened?"

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An IF entry already??? I'd better get my butt in gear.

[Edit: Byzantine Perspective was an entry in the IF Comp 2009, an annual interactive fiction competition the results of which were just announced this week. -Jay]

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woop! This time around I knew what I was doing and was able to finish the game within minutes.

It's quite simple as long as...
(this is a big spoiler, only read if you've given up on figuring it out yourself)

you know where you're at. As mentioned before, "push button" changes where you're at. Are you wondering why you're able to walk through walls and keep running in to invisible walls? It's because you're not really in the room you think you are. Depending on which direction your goggles are set will determine which rooms you can see.
Being able to navigate knowing this will ensure stealing that Chalice and affording Art school.

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I didn't get too far before being forced to resort to looking here (I'm impatient)... I'll try playing again later.

I did, however, try a few random verbs. The most entertaining of these was "scream". :P

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garcia1000 November 19, 2009 6:17 AM

Your goggles see an adjacent room.
When you press button, the view rotates 90 degrees.

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pskilla:

If you are in the right room (ie, you opened the vault and then went north), the chalice is there, but you can't see it. Just trust that it's there and take it

Also, apparantly I still did't understand how the goggles worked, until garcia1000's post...

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I entered "fix goggles" and got:

"What do you want to fix goggles <illegal object number 3089>?"

Spoilery comments:

The game starts you off in the Maps and History room. It would have been easy and made much more sense to start where you came in, under the skylight, and still appear to be in the Chalice Room, which would sweep away the nagging story question of "how did I GET here without knowing what's going on?"

It would have been better than "inside the walls" to see such rooms as Screens, Lacquerwork, and Embroidery as shown on the map. What building, even a museum, has ten-foot-thick walls of solid marble?

Completing the game makes me want to see if there's a way to do it without leaving fingerprints (There isn't; you have to fondle the vault door to know it's there. And "enter 0000 with multitool" doesn't parse). It stretches credulity a bit, even for a novice, that your "cool cat burglar getup" doesn't have gloves. I think it would be amusing, though, if there were a different ending if you do something such as leave the scrap of paper behind, like police detectives track you down four months later.

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Frustrated at first, but rather liked this one in the end, especially the subtlety of the hints. Mentioned earlier, but Google does help; I got the idea, and then got ridiculously excited when I finally

was able to map where I was by the description of the unlocked door that I had to push or pull open -- of course that's the bathroom!

Also managed to get a losing ending by

pulling off the goggles twice.

In that ending, the character

gets dizzy, drops and shatters the goggles, and presumably gets caught by guards...

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I really enjoyed this. An excellent idea, since I'm so used to using the 'x' command in IF.

I did have to use the walkthrough for a bit, though to realise

how to actually read things

but an excellent piece of IF.

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I love these kinds of games, but this was soooo unsatisfactory. nothing makes sense on any level.

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the thing that was most infuriating was that I could find the button on the goggles when I asked to 'feel' the goggles. That simply doesn't make sense.

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@Cerulean:

I entered "fix goggles" and got:

"What do you want to fix goggles ?"

The "illegal object number" bug is apparently an issue with Parchment, the program (client?) that we're using to play the game online, rather than with the game itself; it shows up in several other games played through Parchment. The Parchment folks are aware of the bug. Also, the default in most IF games is that "fix" means "attach" rather than "repair," presumably because you're more likely to attach something to something else in IF than to repair something immediately (if you can fix your broken time machine by typing "fix time machine," it's not much of a puzzle). Anyway, you can't fix the goggles.

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phda -

I like to think that the button is flush with the goggles so that it doesn't stick out and get too dirty on being pressed.

I love these little puzzles. Once you figure out the trick it's not long before you get it finished, but it's that little cleverness that makes me feel excited to figure it out.

Also, I was surprised that a lot of people had trouble with

The paper. It seemed pretty obvious that if you were unable to see it where you currently were, you should have left it in a place you could see it.

But that was just me. In any case, this was pretty clever! I only hope my entry into CGDC 7 is even close to the quality of something like this.

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can someone please explain to me what the name of the game has to do with the twist of it? I tried googling it but haven't really found any correllation as of yet...

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I enjoyed this game very much because of the discrepancy between what we see and what we feel.

After we figure out that what we see is offset because of the goggles, we have to go by our sense of touch in order to confirm where we are located, and base our navigation on that information.

Complaints regarding the logic of the game should remember all other games with faulty logic, such as escape games where we can't randomly climb or break stuff in order to get things accomplished. We have to navigate within the parameters set by the author. Also: Willing suspension of disbelief! :)

Keep on sharing these great IF games!

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I found the 'trick' to the goggles pretty quickly, then spent 20 minutes faffing about trying to read the paper and eventually had to go to the walkthrough :(

Serious question: the solution to the paper puzzle would never have occurred to me because

I can't read a piece of paper on the floor without picking it up

- how did everybody else rationalise this?

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Greg:

The character only needs to be able to bend down to look at the paper - There's nothing to suggest that the paper is folded over or unreadable when it's not being held.

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@ s.co:

I haven't Googled it, but from what I remember, a Byzantine Maze is like a labyrinth. Has something to do with the catacombs under the city and how you could get completely lost wandering them, or something like that.

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The Great Dane November 22, 2009 6:25 PM

I thought it was a great game, though a little too short. It took me less than ten minutes to get through it. I figured out the problem almost immediately

when I examined the goggles and was told that something was wrong with them. I spent a couple of minutes drawing a map, and it was all easy after that.

I was really surprised to see that so many people had difficulties, because I'm not usually faster than others in these games. But I guess the twisted logic just resembled my own twisted brain.

I definitely enjoyed it.

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The Great Dane November 22, 2009 9:09 PM

BTW

I did find lots of clues to what was going on. When I first discovered that

I wasn't in the room that was described, I started feeling my way around. Like anyone probably would have done when they discover that walls are not where they seem. And the description of what I felt answered to the room north of me. (Like when youre in what's supposed to be the musical room, and you feel "the inside of a bathroom door" on the south wall - in stead of feeling the outside of a bathroom on the northwall. Another giveaway is the door of the vault.) That could only mean that I saw the room south of me.

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I also thought the bit with the paper was a bit convoluted. I spent a few minutes trying to figure out how to access my inventory before I started moving (SOP for IF), so other than discovering that the chalice was a hologram, I had no clue what was going on. And, frankly, when I have a paper in my inventory, and typing 'x paper' gives 'you can't see that', that sounds like bad programming to me. In this case, it's not, but I think it's very important to make sure players can tell the difference, and this game didn't do that very well.

For such a small-scale game, it wouldn't have been that much more work to give more verbose - and non-standard - replies for that sort of thing. For instance, if it had said

'You can feel the paper in your hands, but you can't see them'

that would have been a better clue.

Of course, that changes the experience of the game, when you realize

you can't see yourself, even if you look at your hands.

But, then, I guess that's really my issue here - when it's the interface of the game that makes it difficult, it's not as satisfying to solve.

If I take a paper out of my pocket, with my magic offset goggles, it should be pretty obvious right away that I can't see my hands at all. Hell, walking north should let you see your own back.

The puzzle would be trivial if not for the limited information the format allows.

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