Welcome to the Game Grrlz blog! Today we’re discussing one of our favorite games of all time, the interactive fiction (IF) game Counterfeit Monkey by Emily Short. This game is just a must-play for anyone who likes wordplay or puzzle games. I don’t want to give away much about it, since discovering who you are and what world you’re in and how it works is one of the joys of IF, especially this one. But it is set in a dystopian society where language is highly regulated and objects are physically malleable according to the letters they contain (a tube can become a tub simply by removing an “e”). Your character is really new and interesting, and the gameplay is long, with many locations, puzzles, other characters, and plot twists. This is a game that takes days, if not weeks, to play.
For those unfamiliar with IF, these games are text only (although Monkey does have a map graphic) and require you to type in commands (like “get book,” or “drop carrot”). There’s shorthand for many commands (like “e” means “go east,” or “x desk” means “examine desk”), but by and large you need to figure out what to do and type it in correctly, which can be frustrating. This game’s parser reads many commands very well and almost always understands you, and has rich descriptions that allow you to examine and use just about everything in the long and vivid story.
Monkey is written beautifully, with an entirely new world created that is absolutely believable. I was totally absorbed and never felt bored or overly frustrated. Best of all, the game consistently feels as if you are really exploring and living this story- it never feels as if you’re being just dragged through someone else’s story. It’s as rewarding as a great book, only you are actually participating in it. And it has a socially relevant message that kept me thinking for a long time, not just about the world in Monkey, but about my world.
When it comes to this game, all I want is a Men in Black neuralyzer so I can stun myself and play it again and again and again. The world Counterfeit Monkey takes our minds to not only is a fantastic puzzle, but has a sheen of social satire and commentary. Words have so much meaning in Counterfeit Monkey and can be morphed in their value and meaning… it’s a profound experience. It trains you how to play early in, with a good learning curve. I loved its quirky solving style and I felt satisfyingly challenged and entertained, just as I would with a page-turner of a book. If you are going to play, get a good notebook and a favorite pen or pencil. Write everything down; you’ll want to make a map and keep a good organized inventory. Hats off to Emily Short! It’s a masterpiece.
Note: Counterfeit Monkey can be played for free on iOS by downloading the free Frotz app and using its search function to find the game.
Eva and Amanda are best friends who puzzle obsessively. Our focus is on iOS puzzle games, interactive fiction, and live room escapes.