I did a lot of things on the weekend, like baking muffins, getting my hair cut for the first time in at least seven months, and watching roughly seven thousand episodes of Steven Universe. However, since this is me we’re talking about, I’m going to write about a video game I played instead of any of those other things.
The game in question this week is The Count Lucanor. A spoopy, retro-styled adventure game that is available on several platforms, I of course chose to play it on Switch. Not that it made much of a difference, because I finished the game in a single three-hour sitting. Thimbleweed Park, this ain’t.
The game opens on the tenth birthday of our main character, Hans. He’s a spoiled little brat who leaves home to be a treasure hunter because his mom could’t afford ingredients for a birthday cake. Right off the bat, Hans is a dick. Sure, he’s a kid, and kids typically are dicks, but you’re supposed to be endearing me to my main character, not making me want to let bad things happen to him.
The first part of the game just has you walking up a road into the mountains. Along the way you can encounter a number of people, each of which ends up asking for one of the items you started with. I only acquiesced to one of their demands, because she was a little old lady. Several minutes later, when you get into the meat of the game, you learn that helping everyone gets you some different reward. For my money, I picked the right one, as the old lady gave me an item that helped me in many different situations.
So that meat of the game, is the castle of Count Lucanor. Here, you’re tasked with exploring the place and finding a number of macguffins, which will possibly let you inherit the castle and all the riches it contains. At first it seems fairly easy; there are nine rooms around the castle, each apparently containing a macguffin. So the goal is to solve a puzzle in each room, but it’s not always that easy. The rooms all have colour-coded locks, and keys are doled out slowly as other characters arrive at the castle, and quite often you’ll need and item from one room to solve another. In fact, there was at least one that I don’t know how you’d solve without the item from the old lady, aside from a long session of trial-and-error.
There’s also a third section of the game where you’re stuck in the castle dungeon and need to solve a few more puzzles to escape. You also may or may not initiate a sort of “boss fight” depending on your actions. And to that end, I should note that in all parts of the game, there are so many little events and triggers that are/seem to be optional. It seems to me like even in what I felt was a fairly thorough playthrough, there were so many things that I’ve left uncovered. Some more than others.
For example, what would I get for giving away all of my possessions at the start? I got a super handy item from the old lady, but would the other two have given me good items as well? Could my adventure have been even easier if Hans had been a little more generous? Also there was a donkey that I fed an apple to, and he showed up later. Would he have not appeared if I hadn’t fed him? Who knows!?
At one point in the game, monsters start appearing in the castle. It seems to be based on playtime, but I’m not sure. What I’d like to know about this is how much would I have actually been able to accomplish before the monsters started prowling around? Could I have made certain rooms easier by doing them before there were threats lurking about? And speaking of time-locked events, there’s a mirror in one of the upstairs rooms that said he would have given me a hint if I’d talked to him sooner, but what kind of hint?
Finally, near the end of the castle segment, I needed to somehow coerce a character to give me the last macguffin. I had an item that he wanted, but he refused to actually trade for it. Instead, he requested that I kill another character. I didn’t want to do that, but I didn’t know how to get it out of him otherwise. In the end, a short sequence of events lead to me getting him killed (as well as the other character) and then plucking the macguffin from his corpse. I didn’t really like this outcome, but had no idea how to do it peacefully, so I just pressed on. I would like to find out what happens to the ending, should I find a way to keep both of them alive.
And so, while I did find myself very satisfied after playing The Count Lucanor, I can’t help but feel that I need to replay it. Usually I don’t bother to replay games that lean so heavily on story, but the game left me with so many questions that I’d definitely like to go back and try to answer some of them. I’ve also caught wind that there are more alternate endings that I didn’t find (I saw two), and I would very much like to! Like I said before, it’s a really short game, which absolutely helps the likelihood of me actually replaying it. That and I took notes on how to solve all the puzzles so I’ll probably be a The Count Lucanor speedrunner in no time.