Varicella is yet another great work of IF from Adam Cadre who is quickly establishing himself alongside Andrew Plotkin and Graham Nelson as one of the true descendants of Infocom. |
The game, which takes place in an obscure, nondescript time and place, casts you as Varicella, a palace minister at the Palazzo del Piemonte. Your ambition: devise clever ploys and schemes to eliminate the competition one by one, all in a quest to win the position of regent following the mysterious death of the king.
Despite a confusing start in which you have no idea of what is going on, or even what you can do, the game gets much better as you explore the palace and talk to various characters. The game is quite a challenge because you must accomplish your goal within a time limit which isn't even obvious at first. Therefore definitely *not* a good game for IF newbies, as you will die multiple times, and have no choice but to grumble, restore and try a different method.
Varicella, fortunately, does have a lot of great elements that make this poor puzzle design almost forgivable. The NPCs are all very interesting and well-defined, each with his or her own personality and quirks. The plot is definitely original for an IF: a political intrigue full of mystery (you might discover how the king died as the plot thickens), evil mischiefs, and little twists and turns. Overall, a great game that's slightly disappointing given Adam's pedigree as the author of Photopia, but one that is still a very, very good game, especially for IF experts. Recommended!
Reviewed by: Underdogs