Ka


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KarlKa.pngWhen we're kids, Egypt seems like the wondrous land of delights that it was in the eyes of Victorian England. Given the chance, we'd all gleefully use mummy spice on our fries, because it's not as if we'd ever get the chance to do it again. As we grow older, for many of us Egypt retains its splendour in our minds, retaining the glitter of gold funerary masks, exquisite organ jars, and baroque gods waiting for us to reach them after a Lord of the Rings-esque quest.

What we never expected is how claustrophobic the sarcophagus would be.

Dan Efran's title Ka, an entry in our interactive fiction and escape themed Casual Gameplay Design Competition #7, starts in decidedly close quarters, with your royal spirit crammed in next to your corpse. Most text adventures struggle to some degree with pacing, but in Ka, at least, your initial goal is clear: leave. After that? Well, you're dead. You have to come to terms with it sometime.

Like other text adventures, Ka is played through a command-line interface, where the player types simple sentences like >EXAMINE COFFIN and the game responds appropriately. On the user-friendliness scale, this one tips more towards classic fiction than Alabaster, which means that brand-new users might have a bit of difficulty with it. Although there is an "about" command for new users, it doesn't help with the restrictive first scene. Most puzzles are solved by singing ritualistic songs that you've brought to the afterlife, so a tutorial on that mechanic would have been welcome.

Ka is light on story and long on puzzles. If you're an aspiring Mensa member, or just someone who likes doing the crossword, this one will intrigue you. Some of the puzzles are quite ingenious; one, involving a mechanical beetle, was a lot of fun, although my head spins at the thought of trying to code it. Technically, Ka is impressive: considering that the main element of play involves a lot of custom vocabulary and verbs, the lack of bugs is commendable. The writing can be sparse at times, but on the whole the image of an Egyptian afterlife is well realized. One standout character is the game-playing automaton, who I found very vivid despite his lack of dialogue and constrained movement. The puzzles share a basic structure and ramp up in difficulty gradually. At first the songs you'll need to sing to proceed are clear, but eventually you'll need to use your ingenuity to make it all the way to the end. Although I was sometimes stuck, I was never frustrated.

All in all, Ka is a fun excursion into Egyptian myth, and well worth a try.

Play Ka

Walkthrough Guide


(Please allow page to fully load for spoiler tags to be functional.)

Ka Hint-through/Walkthrough
I enjoyed this game; so I've tried to write a walkthrough that will hold your hand through the puzzles, not simply tell you to do this, and do that.
Don't read further ahead than you have to; the joy in games like this is reaching the solutions yourself.
Finally, I don't spoil the final riddle. Somebody else will probably do that, but I won't. I guide you up to the point where you should be able to get it on your own. I spell out solutions to the other puzzles, but I try to walk you to the answer so that you realize it before you read it.

Part 1: To sleep, perchance to dream

Singing in the dark

Your first challenge is to leave your sarcophagus. But before that, you need to see what you're doing.

It's pitch black, and you can't see anything. But fortunately, you've got a cheat sheet with you.

You're carrying a scroll. Smell it, taste it, feel it, examine it.

It seems that you 'almost feel you can read it', which is fuzzy logic for 'I know you shouldn't actually be able to do this, but you actually can.'

Reading the scroll brings back a memory of the a song about seeing in the dark. It doesn't hurt to try to sing it?

Sing Cat Eyes, and you can see where you're at.

So now you can see... that you're trapped with your body, and you aren't in it any longer.

You also don't have an obvious way out, and you don't want to be around when your body goes gamey.

You're also in there with your copy of the Book of the Dead.

Nothing else to do, so you may as well read it.

So, you've got a bunch of spells - er, songs you can cast - er, sing. Maybe one of them can help you get out of this golden tomb.

A song about seeing in darkness lets you see in the dark; perhaps a song about handling gold will help you move gold?

Try singing the Gold Digger song.

Now that gold 'seems like such a yielding material', perhaps you can simply exit?

If that was too subtle, type 'exit'.

Now you've left your coffin to encounter... another coffin. Great.

Maybe another song will do the trick?

A glazier is somebody who works with glass.

Sing Master Glazier, then exit.

Egyptian nesting coffins, eh? This one is made of cypress, covered with gilt.

Third verse, same as the first?

Well, not exactly. Different song, same idea.

Sing Golden Forest Runner, then exit.

If it's feeling gilty, you should forgive the coffin.

Geez, how many coffins does one person need?

Fortunately, this is the last one, but it should respond the same... to the right song.

Sing sandstone sifter, and make your way out.

And now you're in a shrine. Great, and you left your fez behind.

You can't simply muscle your way out of your shrine. That's for grave robbers, and that's beneath you.

Perhaps a song will do the trick?

Sing Silent Supplicant, and exit.

And exit again.

And again.

And again.

Explore your tomb

Now that you're free from your final resting place, you should see what you can do.

Examine the walls, to see what you should be doing here.

The exit to the west isn't actually a door.

Yet.

The exit to the south is blocked by yourself. Well, statues of yourself, but it's got the same effect.

The east leads to your treasury.

Though you're buried with it, you can't take it all with you.

The only things that matter are you, and your symbols of office.

Try taking the shrine, or opening it.

That won't work. Once your insides are outsides, they aren't that useful to you.

Try opening the case.

Go ahead and take them all. It's a text adventure; if it's not nailed down, it's yours!

And if you've a big enough crowbar, it's yours even if it is!

Examine each of the items.

Your coronation flail is a fake! Your spare crook is an unwanted gift! Your Paternal relics are prized heirlooms!

That fake bothers you, right? It bothers me, at least...

But why? Why can't you remember why it bothers you?

Maybe you should try remembering.

And there's a song that will help you.

Sing Lost Memories, and it will come rushing back to you.

Remember your past

Also known as, Epic Flail!

You remember an incident from your coronation. Your nervousness has condemned an innocent attendant to death. You cannot show weakness, but you need to correct your mistake.

Unless you're a complete monster, you should try forgiving him.

But forgiveness is for lesser offences. Touching your relics, at this time, in this ceremony, is a mortal sin.

He should have known better! Let him be an example to those who doubt the pharoah!

But that's not kingly. You're better than that, right?

Perhaps you can show your affection for him, that you cherish him?

Try hugging or kissing the man.

It helps, but not much. Not nearly enough.

Throw a temper tantrum. It's not fair!

Unfortunately, Ka doesn't recognize 'Ragequit' as a verb

This is one of the better puzzles, in my opinion, so I should give you fair warning that the next few steps will spoil it for you.

Don't go further than you need to in these; it'll ruin your experience.

Why is the man condemned? What did he do that is so wrong?

You cannot undo the past. He touched YOUR flail, your royal flail, and touching the royal flail can only be punished by death.

But wait, in the tomb, you didn't have your flail. You had a replacement.

What happened to the original flail, the one you hold now?

The clues are all laid out for you. The answer awaits within the next spoiler.

It's better to replace a flail than a loyal servant.

Break the flail. Decry it as false, and not yours. There is no punishment for touching a false flail.

And with that, you're back in your tomb; your replacement flail no longer inauthentic.

By hook or by crook

Now, you need to find your coronation crook. It's not with the rest of your goods; it must be around here somewhere

Can't be in the treasury or the burial chamber, so it must be south.

But you're blocking yourself. Stop blocking yourself? Why are you blocking yourself?

Maybe you should reread your songs again.

Letting Myself Come Through sounds about right for the occasion.

Sing it, and you can let yourself pass.

There, in the dust! Why's it there?

It doesn't much matter, any more, to be honest. You have it, that is enough.

After exploring left and right, head back north.

YOU SHALL NOT PASS!

Unless you sing again, Gandalf.

Head back north, before the mood passes again.

You can go anywhere you want, but you can't stay here.

Reexamine the walls, if you need a suggestion to do next.

You need to pass through the false door to the west

And you've got just the song to open the door, Gozer.

Sing the song, and head west.

Well, it turns out that you can't take it with you. Or at least, not all of it.

Maybe you should only take what's important to you.

That means leaving behind your Impolitic crook.

And your paternal flail and crook. They're your fathers, not yours.

Part 2: The final frontier

The globe and the cage

Take your time, examine everything.

Did you investigate:

The mosaic?

The obelisk?

The scarab?

The cage?

The mechanism inside the cage?

Your Crook and Flail?

Once you've seen everything, you can solve the puzzle here.

Your first task is to investigate that mechanism closer.

To do that, though, you'll need to get inside the cage

The golden cage.

Yep, there's an ap- er, a song for that.

Now that you're inside, investigate the mechanism again.

So there's a strap you can pull, and a bellows you can push. Try it!

There's also a suspicious square hole in the spool.

Holes were made to be filled, but with what?

The answer you seek lies outside the cage

That obelisk would do nicely... but how can you get to it?

So you need to get to that obelisk. It's not nailed down, after all.

But how can you get to there? It's too high!

If only you had some way to get up there

A staircase would do nicely

Or an elevator.

Think about it, all the clues are laid out for you.

What would happen if you tried exiting the cage when it's going across the top of the room?

Once you have the obelisk, the rest of this room should be trivial.

Repair the mechanism, and light up the sky

The Senet Master

Also called, Con-Senet-tration!

So here, you need to find best the Mechanical Turk. He's good; very good at what he does.
He knows the game like the back of his hand.

Literally. Check out his hand.

Try playing a few rounds against him.

He's unbeatable when he plays as the Jackals.

Maybe you should try playing as the Jackals?

No dice. He's impossibly good playing both sides.

Think about it, all the clues are laid out for you.

Why does the game stop, just before the Clockwork Sage beat you?

Senet's not fair, but neither is life. Or death, for that matter.

So go ahead and cheat. Turn the tables, steal his victory, and take his advantageous position.

The flood valley

Once again, examine everything.

Did you examine:

The flood plain?

The ceiling?

The quicksilver?

The pumping mechanism?

It appears to consist of a water wheel and a shadouf.

Your crook and flail?

Once you've examined everything, you can begin to solve this room.

You're almost at the end of your journey. Your royal insignia no longer seem that important to you.

But you simply can't toss them away like yesterday's toys. They must be retired properly.

There's too much activity happening; the flooding and reflooding break the mirrorlike stillness.

Try finding a way to stop this.

Holding the wheel and the shadouf will let the quicksilver pool, and stay pooled.

Which will reveal some writing. Read it.

Then sing it. Whoopsidaisy!

Now you're on the ceiling.

Those flames look promising, but how can you get to them through the shell?

The quartz shell?

Quartz is a type of sandstone...

Sing sandstone and enter

Once inside, offer your flail and crook to the flames. You don't need them where you're going.


The Riddle of the Sphinx

Also known as, probably the reason why you're looking at these spoilers.
Trying to leave the chamber, you encounter a great and terrible clockwork lioness, who, as any good sphinx should, has a riddle for you.

Because Dan implemented my idea, I'm not going to outright spoil it for you. I'll walk you up to the edge, but the final step will be yours.

First, try improving your memory - multiple times. You have a song for that.

If that doesn't do it for you, consider what you've done since your death.

You've started your reign at dawn, fought a battle of logic under the midday sun, and retired your relics in the evening.

Each of these rooms share a common thread

Reread the riddle; if you don't remember it, try to pass again, and the lioness will repeat it.

Correlate the legs - 6, 5, 4 - to each of the rooms. What do all those objects have in common?

That common trait is what you need to say. If nothing else, try examining the example you have in front of you for potential traits.

28 Comments

DJBlayde June 9, 2010 2:57 PM

So, in case anyone can't figure out how to even start...

Try reading something...

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Anonymous June 9, 2010 4:46 PM

Yay - I love IF! Thanks!

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Not too bad. I had to cheat to get the answer to the final riddle, and I still don't understand it, but I was able to figure out the rest. Fun, mildly atmospheric.

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I can't get out of the gilt cypress coffin. Ideas?

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I'm going to replay this later; I played the first version of it, and left a lengthy comment about the pros and cons on the game page. From the author's comments, it looks like most of the cons have been addressed.

Even though Ka is light in story, I found it to be the most immersive of the games I played for the competition. Examine, feel, smell everything. It's the little details that make a game for me, and Ka is full of them.

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Tracy:
The coffins let you practice the main problem-solving mechanic in the game, singing. Try rereading your songbook and see if something in there can help you.

You're looking for the song that deals with wood.

Specifically, the Golden Forest Runner.

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Ahh, got stuck on the scarab puzzle. I think I should be getting the mechanism in the ball, but I can't seem to figure out what to do. Help?

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I cant seem to get the mechanism inside the golden cage to work... any hints?

To get into cage, sing Gold Digger when it says the scarab is pushing the ball so it will soon be within reach, then say 'ride ball.' after that, look, then examine mechanism and push bellows- don't know what to do after that.

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Anonymous June 9, 2010 6:18 PM

having trouble with the childhood memory and the mistake with the flail...

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Wildbreeze June 9, 2010 6:34 PM

TT_TT I'm officially a failure. I can't do anything here. :(

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Zumahon June 9, 2010 6:37 PM

stuck at the childhood memory ..with the attendant.

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Wildbreeze June 9, 2010 6:47 PM

I feel awfully stupid...

I kept putting 'sing' and not 'sing cat eyes'.

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Anonymous June 9, 2010 7:04 PM

stuck at attendant as well

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Zumahon June 9, 2010 7:23 PM

ok I figured out the part with the servant..

think about the "real" cause of the problem with the servant and try to resolve by manipulating it.

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Zumahon June 9, 2010 7:51 PM

yep, now stuck at the mechanism.

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Can't solve the scarab puzzle... How do you

put the square obelisk into the spool? I can't reach the obelisk.

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Figured it out:

You have to exit the gold ball when the scarab is pushing it across the top of the sphere. Then you'll be sitting on the globe, and you can take the obelisk.

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Stephen June 9, 2010 8:19 PM

Any help on the riddle of the lioness?

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@Stephen: The answer to the riddle hint:

The answer is something(s) you've seen in the game.

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What endings are you getting? In mine

my heart exactly balanced the feather.

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I got so far as

the riddle being about the "machine" that has been through all the scenes, first as a scarab on 6 legs, then as a sage sitting on a 3 legged stool (2+3=5) and now as a lioness, standing on 4 legs. Still, I can't find the right word to it.

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@Voodoo Smile, re: the riddle

The word "clockwork" worked for me

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Ka Hint-through/Walkthrough
I enjoyed this game; so I've tried to write a walkthrough that will hold your hand through the puzzles, not simply tell you to do this, and do that.
Don't read further ahead than you have to; the joy in games like this is reaching the solutions yourself.
Finally, I don't spoil the final riddle. Somebody else will probably do that, but I won't. I guide you up to the point where you should be able to get it on your own. I spell out solutions to the other puzzles, but I try to walk you to the answer so that you realize it before you read it.

Part 1: To sleep, perchance to dream

Singing in the dark

Your first challenge is to leave your sarcophagus. But before that, you need to see what you're doing.

It's pitch black, and you can't see anything. But fortunately, you've got a cheat sheet with you.

You're carrying a scroll. Smell it, taste it, feel it, examine it.

It seems that you 'almost feel you can read it', which is fuzzy logic for 'I know you shouldn't actually be able to do this, but you actually can.'

Reading the scroll brings back a memory of the a song about seeing in the dark. It doesn't hurt to try to sing it?

Sing Cat Eyes, and you can see where you're at.

So now you can see... that you're trapped with your body, and you aren't in it any longer.

You also don't have an obvious way out, and you don't want to be around when your body goes gamey.

You're also in there with your copy of the Book of the Dead.

Nothing else to do, so you may as well read it.

So, you've got a bunch of spells - er, songs you can cast - er, sing. Maybe one of them can help you get out of this golden tomb.

A song about seeing in darkness lets you see in the dark; perhaps a song about handling gold will help you move gold?

Try singing the Gold Digger song.

Now that gold 'seems like such a yielding material', perhaps you can simply exit?

If that was too subtle, type 'exit'.

Now you've left your coffin to encounter... another coffin. Great.

Maybe another song will do the trick?

A glazier is somebody who works with glass.

Sing Master Glazier, then exit.

Egyptian nesting coffins, eh? This one is made of cypress, covered with gilt.

Third verse, same as the first?

Well, not exactly. Different song, same idea.

Sing Golden Forest Runner, then exit.

If it's feeling gilty, you should forgive the coffin.

Geez, how many coffins does one person need?

Fortunately, this is the last one, but it should respond the same... to the right song.

Sing sandstone sifter, and make your way out.

And now you're in a shrine. Great, and you left your fez behind.

You can't simply muscle your way out of your shrine. That's for grave robbers, and that's beneath you.

Perhaps a song will do the trick?

Sing Silent Supplicant, and exit.

And exit again.

And again.

And again.

Explore your tomb

Now that you're free from your final resting place, you should see what you can do.

Examine the walls, to see what you should be doing here.

The exit to the west isn't actually a door.

Yet.

The exit to the south is blocked by yourself. Well, statues of yourself, but it's got the same effect.

The east leads to your treasury.

Though you're buried with it, you can't take it all with you.

The only things that matter are you, and your symbols of office.

Try taking the shrine, or opening it.

That won't work. Once your insides are outsides, they aren't that useful to you.

Try opening the case.

Go ahead and take them all. It's a text adventure; if it's not nailed down, it's yours!

And if you've a big enough crowbar, it's yours even if it is!

Examine each of the items.

Your coronation flail is a fake! Your spare crook is an unwanted gift! Your Paternal relics are prized heirlooms!

That fake bothers you, right? It bothers me, at least...

But why? Why can't you remember why it bothers you?

Maybe you should try remembering.

And there's a song that will help you.

Sing Lost Memories, and it will come rushing back to you.

Remember your past

Also known as, Epic Flail!

You remember an incident from your coronation. Your nervousness has condemned an innocent attendant to death. You cannot show weakness, but you need to correct your mistake.

Unless you're a complete monster, you should try forgiving him.

But forgiveness is for lesser offences. Touching your relics, at this time, in this ceremony, is a mortal sin.

He should have known better! Let him be an example to those who doubt the pharoah!

But that's not kingly. You're better than that, right?

Perhaps you can show your affection for him, that you cherish him?

Try hugging or kissing the man.

It helps, but not much. Not nearly enough.

Throw a temper tantrum. It's not fair!

Unfortunately, Ka doesn't recognize 'Ragequit' as a verb

This is one of the better puzzles, in my opinion, so I should give you fair warning that the next few steps will spoil it for you.

Don't go further than you need to in these; it'll ruin your experience.

Why is the man condemned? What did he do that is so wrong?

You cannot undo the past. He touched YOUR flail, your royal flail, and touching the royal flail can only be punished by death.

But wait, in the tomb, you didn't have your flail. You had a replacement.

What happened to the original flail, the one you hold now?

The clues are all laid out for you. The answer awaits within the next spoiler.

It's better to replace a flail than a loyal servant.

Break the flail. Decry it as false, and not yours. There is no punishment for touching a false flail.

And with that, you're back in your tomb; your replacement flail no longer inauthentic.

By hook or by crook

Now, you need to find your coronation crook. It's not with the rest of your goods; it must be around here somewhere

Can't be in the treasury or the burial chamber, so it must be south.

But you're blocking yourself. Stop blocking yourself? Why are you blocking yourself?

Maybe you should reread your songs again.

Letting Myself Come Through sounds about right for the occasion.

Sing it, and you can let yourself pass.

There, in the dust! Why's it there?

It doesn't much matter, any more, to be honest. You have it, that is enough.

After exploring left and right, head back north.

YOU SHALL NOT PASS!

Unless you sing again, Gandalf.

Head back north, before the mood passes again.

You can go anywhere you want, but you can't stay here.

Reexamine the walls, if you need a suggestion to do next.

You need to pass through the false door to the west

And you've got just the song to open the door, Gozer.

Sing the song, and head west.

Well, it turns out that you can't take it with you. Or at least, not all of it.

Maybe you should only take what's important to you.

That means leaving behind your Impolitic crook.

And your paternal flail and crook. They're your fathers, not yours.

Part 2: The final frontier

The globe and the cage

Take your time, examine everything.

Did you investigate:

The mosaic?

The obelisk?

The scarab?

The cage?

The mechanism inside the cage?

Your Crook and Flail?

Once you've seen everything, you can solve the puzzle here.

Your first task is to investigate that mechanism closer.

To do that, though, you'll need to get inside the cage

The golden cage.

Yep, there's an ap- er, a song for that.

Now that you're inside, investigate the mechanism again.

So there's a strap you can pull, and a bellows you can push. Try it!

There's also a suspicious square hole in the spool.

Holes were made to be filled, but with what?

The answer you seek lies outside the cage

That obelisk would do nicely... but how can you get to it?

So you need to get to that obelisk. It's not nailed down, after all.

But how can you get to there? It's too high!

If only you had some way to get up there

A staircase would do nicely

Or an elevator.

Think about it, all the clues are laid out for you.

What would happen if you tried exiting the cage when it's going across the top of the room?

Once you have the obelisk, the rest of this room should be trivial.

Repair the mechanism, and light up the sky

The Senet Master

Also called, Con-Senet-tration!

So here, you need to find best the Mechanical Turk. He's good; very good at what he does.
He knows the game like the back of his hand.

Literally. Check out his hand.

Try playing a few rounds against him.

He's unbeatable when he plays as the Jackals.

Maybe you should try playing as the Jackals?

No dice. He's impossibly good playing both sides.

Think about it, all the clues are laid out for you.

Why does the game stop, just before the Clockwork Sage beat you?

Senet's not fair, but neither is life. Or death, for that matter.

So go ahead and cheat. Turn the tables, steal his victory, and take his advantageous position.

The flood valley

Once again, examine everything.

Did you examine:

The flood plain?

The ceiling?

The quicksilver?

The pumping mechanism?

It appears to consist of a water wheel and a shadouf.

Your crook and flail?

Once you've examined everything, you can begin to solve this room.

You're almost at the end of your journey. Your royal insignia no longer seem that important to you.

But you simply can't toss them away like yesterday's toys. They must be retired properly.

There's too much activity happening; the flooding and reflooding break the mirrorlike stillness.

Try finding a way to stop this.

Holding the wheel and the shadouf will let the quicksilver pool, and stay pooled.

Which will reveal some writing. Read it.

Then sing it. Whoopsidaisy!

Now you're on the ceiling.

Those flames look promising, but how can you get to them through the shell?

The quartz shell?

Quartz is a type of sandstone...

Sing sandstone and enter

Once inside, offer your flail and crook to the flames. You don't need them where you're going.


The Riddle of the Sphinx

Also known as, probably the reason why you're looking at these spoilers.
Trying to leave the chamber, you encounter a great and terrible clockwork lioness, who, as any good sphinx should, has a riddle for you.

Because Dan implemented my idea, I'm not going to outright spoil it for you. I'll walk you up to the edge, but the final step will be yours.

First, try improving your memory - multiple times. You have a song for that.

If that doesn't do it for you, consider what you've done since your death.

You've started your reign at dawn, fought a battle of logic under the midday sun, and retired your relics in the evening.

Each of these rooms share a common thread

Reread the riddle; if you don't remember it, try to pass again, and the lioness will repeat it.

Correlate the legs - 6, 5, 4 - to each of the rooms. What do all those objects have in common?

That common trait is what you need to say. If nothing else, try examining the example you have in front of you for potential traits.

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phdavoid Author Profile Page June 10, 2010 12:03 PM

The issue for me is that I cant read all the songs. I see the first 3 and then when I scroll down it jumps to the last 3, I cant read the name of the one for wood and I cant read the words of the one for glass. i have no idea how many other ones I am missing.

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ottoman Author Profile Page June 10, 2010 1:54 PM

I just loved this game from the competition! I admit I had to resort to the walkthrough when I got to the Sphinx, but it was in part because I couldn't scroll back far enough on Parchment to glean hints from my prior gameplay. (I really recommend playing all IF games through a program like Spatterlight, not through the browser, especially if you purge your browser cookies regularly.)

This is one of several amazing games that stood out to me. Thanks for sharing it again!

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tinyflames Author Profile Page June 10, 2010 4:24 PM

I can't figure out what to bring west with me. Halp? :(

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Phdavoid: Do you have a scroll bar on your window? An earlier version of the Javascript engine didn't have a scroll bar, which led to the problem you're having. If you still have that problem, you might want to think about switching to the Flash engine (there's a radio button below where the game screen is).

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I think the last puzzle is a little obscure, but in retrospect the answer does make sense.

I found myself having trouble visualizing things, particularly in terms of scale--how big things were, if they were small containers or things that I could enter, etc.

Still, it was a fun game, and well written.

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