Enlightenment, by Taro Ogawa, is a snack-sized text adventure set in the general neighborhood of the Zork universe, with Infocom-esque humor, sly quotes and footnotes, and a wealth of entertaining but unnecessary actions. It doesn't play like an 80s game, though: it is short, polished, and focused, with lots of clues and guidance, and probably won't take more than an hour to play.
The premise? You're a successful adventurer at the end of a long quest (just check out your FULL SCORE to see how long). The only thing left to do is get past the giant troll blocking the bridge back to the rest of the world. He's too tough for you to kill with your sword, so you're going to have to think of another way to dispatch him. You've got a sackful of tools, treasures, and weapons... but some of them are more of a liability than an asset, under the circumstances.
The design of Enlightenment is wonderfully compact and efficient, and the puzzles themselves fresh and inventive. Because the game is set in a small space with a handful of objects, the author was free to make those objects richly interactive—and you should expect to use most of them more than once on your way to solving the game. This is a piece that rewards physical experimentation more than the average work of interactive fiction. If you've ever been frustrated because an interactive fiction game wouldn't allow you to break items, take them apart, or reassemble them in new ways, Enlightenment is for you.
Though Enlightenment was written in 1998 as a loving tribute to games from the 80s, it has aged remarkably well. Familiarity with the Zork universe is helpful, but not at all required: read all the game text carefully, and you'll find clues enough to help you through your predicament. There are also built-in hints to help you out should you get stuck. And though it's possible to do destructive things that make the game unwinnable, I never found a place where Enlightenment didn't at least warn me about that I'd just done something foolish. (If this happens to you, just UNDO a turn and keep playing.)
Analysis: Enlightenment is an early and excellent entry in the interactive fiction genre of the one-room game. The restricted geography means that the player doesn't have to spend any attention on mapping; meanwhile, the author has a smaller set of objects to work with, and can afford to implement their interaction and behavior more completely. Some of these games (like Enlightenment, or the previously-reviewed Suveh Nux) are focused on a set of neatly interconnected puzzles; others restrict themselves to conversation with a single character or offer a more contemplative experience.
The most common drawback of these one-room works is a tendency to go overboard, offering so many layers of detail that the player is forced to examine every part of every object, and search an assortment of highly-detailed furniture—which becomes just as much a test of patience and memory as mapping a large area. Enlightenment avoids that excess, and manages to offer a lot of interaction depth without turning gameplay into a chore.
The links above point to JIG's internally developed Flash-based Z-Machine interpreter (thanks asterick!), with the story files hosted here by kind permission of the game's author, Taro Ogawa. That means you can now play these games in your browser rather than having to download and run the game in a standalone interpreter.
If you would rather download the game, you may do so at the Interactive Fiction database. If you choose to download the game, you will need an interpreter to read the z-file, just like most IF games: try Gargoyle for Windows, or Zoom or Splatterlight for Macintosh and Unix.
If you like "Enlightenment," take a look at other Interactive Fiction we have reviewed here at JIG.