While illustrated, animated, fully-voiced adventure games have come to dominate the field, the text adventure format still has a few storytelling advantages. In the case of Lost Pig, our hero is a dim-witted orc farmhand named Grunk, ordered to rescue an escaped pig, and the game is narrated by Grunk himself: Boss say that it Grunk fault. Say Grunk forget about closing gate. Grunk has limited observational and thinking skills, and he can't read or recognize some common items; the text adventure format keeps the player's perspective firmly rooted in Grunk's thick skull, and makes for plenty of humor along with some fresh and interesting challenges.
Interested readers are, of course, encouraged to play Lost Pig (And Place Under Ground) firsthand before proceeding with my impressions below. It's freely available at the Interactive Fiction Database, for use with any Frotz interpreter (it's also available as part of the Frotz package for iOS.) Beyond this point, I will be detailing my playthrough, and I won't be able to resist quoting Grunk's inimitable way with words. So there are certain to be...
***** SPOILERS AHEAD! *****
We begin Outside, after dark. There forest to east and north. Grunk can't go back south to the farm until he has the pig in hand, and the large field to the west isn't explorable -- That field part of other farm. Grunk not allowed over there. Some time it all full of vegetable, but right now it just dirt. All we have on hand is a lit torch and pants (Grunk wearing them).
We can't just walk into the forest by the obvious routes, however -- Not want end up lost in forest with no pig. If we LISTEN a few times, though, Grunk can get a fix on the sound to the northeast, and [Grunk score go up one.] -- of 7 possible points.
It's not going to be that simple, though, as Grunk stumbles into the thick brush and suddenly, there not ground here any more!
Torch go out when Grunk land on it, too. We're now at the bottom of a hole, with light filtering in from the east. Broken stairs lead up to the outside; we can't climb them with anything in inventory, and even if we DROP ALL (Grunk take pants off first), Grunk not leave without pig! He's also not sure he can climb the stairs with the pig, so we'll have to find another exit.
There's a crack in the ground near the stairs, large enough to REACH INTO CRACK, but Grunk arm not long enough to feel the bottom of the hole. So we'll head east, to the brightly lit Fountain Room. Hey! There pig! It good thing that Grunk fall down same hole as pig. But it won't be easy to GET PIG -- Grunk walk right up to pig. Pig walk right away from Grunk. CHASE PIG just makes Grunk dizzy after a while.
The fountain is broken, with no water in it. LOOK IN THE FOUNTAIN reveals a coin, scoring another point. The pig sometimes imitates Grunk, looking over at the fountain when he does, but keeps its distance. The fountain room has formal exits to the north, southwest, and southeast, and the east-west tunnel continues to the east. There's also a curtain on the south wall, depicting a little man (maybe called "gnome") holding a torch and pointing at the way out of the cave. Behind the curtain is another glowing wall; Grunk can't pull the curtain down.
North of the fountain is the Statue Room, with a statue of a little man on a big stone block, pictures on the east and west walls, and a blank north wall. One picture shows black powder ... all on fire with water being poured on it. The other depicts a purple rod with yellow objects hovering around it. The statue has an empty hand up in the air, the other one pointing north, and wears funny suit and pointy shoe and little round hat. We can't MOVE HAND or TURN STATUE -- Grunk is strong, but not that strong.
We can try to GET SUIT -- just part of statue -- and GET SHOE fails similarly, but GET HAT works -- Hat come right off! We can WEAR HAT, though it may be pointless as Grunk hasn't put his pants back on yet. PUT TORCH IN HAND works, but nothing seems to happen -- it likely needs to be re-lit.
There are no other exits from the Statue Room, so we'll head east of the fountain to the Cave With Stream room. The stone bench is too heavy to move, and Grunk think there little reddish thing on other side of stream. But it's too far away to grab, and Grunk won't GO STREAM or JUMP STREAM -- Grunk never try swimming before.
Southeast of the fountain is the Shelf Room. There lots of shelfs in this room as well as a stone chest and a long green pole. The chest is locked, of course, but we can take the pole. Interesting -- Feel like pole push Grunk away. But Grunk strong; get pole anyway. Is it magical in some way?
Can we VAULT STREAM with the pole? Nope, it's still too far, and POLE VAULT ACROSS STREAM doesn't parse. But we can GET THING WITH POLE -- I was expecting to maybe hook it or pull it closer, but Red thing stick to end of pole! Grunk pull it back and find out that thing really key, so Grunk take key. Neither the pole nor the key feels sticky, though; Wonder why key stick to pole.
The key works to unlock the chest -- it's filled with black powder, light and fluffy, like smoke, and too fine to pick up with Grunk's fingers. But we score another point for unlocking the chest.
West of the Shelf Room is a Closet -- it's dark, and there's a strange noise. "Snrkxltkxshzkt!" Is this an elevator? We can FEEL FLOOR and FEEL CEILING but don't discover anything, and FEEL WALL isn't recognized. Strange noises continue to occur here, though, so we'll head west into the Table Room.
The Table Room only has two exits, northeast back to the Fountain Room and east back into the Closet. There are orange marks on the wall -- Grunk can tell they were made by some creature, but can't read or interpret them. There's a tall metal box here, with a slot near the top, a basket at the bottom, a lever, and a dent -- Look like box maybe lose fight if we EXAMINE DENT. We can INSERT COIN IN SLOT, PULL LEVER, and obtain... a brick? The pig seems interested in it; Brick feel more soft than normal brick. Little bit sticky too.
EXAMINE PIG notes that Grunk know that this pig quick. And smart. SHOW BRICK TO PIG is interesting -- it maybe want brick, but still not want get close to Grunk. The brick is light brown and not too big. There lots of little colored thing stuck in it all over. Wires? Is this a plastic explosive? Hmmmm.
Can we use the brick on the crack by the stairs? STICK BRICK ON CRACK seem like bad idea. If brick fall down crack, not know if Grunk can get it back. Can we STICK BRICK ON POLE to position it more precisely? Brick just crumble and break in two. Now we have two half bricks. Hmmmm. Can we STICK POLE IN CRACK? The pole reaches bottom, but if anything hiding down there, Grunk not find it.
Okay. The pig is sniffing around the tall box in the Table Room, clearly interested in its contents. If we try to GIVE BRICK TO PIG, the pig still won't come close enough to take it. If we DROP BRICK, the pig doesn't fall for the usual adventure game feed-the-animal trick -- it looks at Grunk, then at the brick. If we WAIT, it walks over and sniffs at the brick, and another bit of waiting allows it to eat it. But it wants more than the half brick. Giving it the other half produces a similar result, it still wants more and is still wary enough that we can't just pick the pig up.
There are no more coins in the fountain. But if we HIT DENT on the box, the original coin falls back out into the basket. So we can buy another brick (I think it's some kind of brownie now, actually) and continue to feed the pig. But TAKE PIG still doesn't work -- after a merry chase, both Grunk and Pig are too tired to continue. We can repeat the process again -- and it seems Grunk now knows this routine. He automatically pulls the lever and hits the dent, so we just have to INSERT COIN IN SLOT, GET COIN, and GET BRICK. At the moment, Grunk have: two brick in inventory.
So there are no dead ends on the brick front, though we have no solution to luring the pig in yet either. Will the pig follow Grunk into the closet for the sake of bricks? Hard to say. As we arrive, the "Shkkrnnnk!" sound strikes us a little more onomatopoeic than the earlier noises -- it might be something snoring! SAY HELLO rouses the occupant, who shouts "Ztorf!" to light up the room.
A little man in pointy slippers gets out of bed and squints at Grunk, identifying him as an orc, and Grunk agrees. We can ASK MAN ABOUT FOUNTAIN, to learn that a plumbing contractor is expected but has not arrived. Grunk can ask about a lot of things; ASK ABOUT MARKS reveals that they read "Belkar was here" and were left by a band of looters who destroyed most of the chairs.
The gnome is searching in his trunk -- we can ASK GNOME ABOUT SEARCH, and he tells us he's missing a book called "Mogglev's Shocking Forces." He'll show us the glowing ball that provides light here, but won't let Grunk take it as he hasn't earned the right. ASK GNOME ABOUT POWDER indicates that it is dehydrated fire. So maybe the picture on the wall was indicating that pouring water on it produces fire, rather than putting it out. The gnome will answer just about any question, but won't light Grunk's torch or otherwise provide concrete assistance.
Maybe we should help find the book. SEARCH ROOM doesn't work anywhere, but we can SEARCH SHELVES in the Shelf Room to find nothing... but Grunk does mention that he can't see the top shelf. We DROP CHAIR, CLIMB CHAIR and SEARCH SHELVES to reveal a book on the top shelf, which Grunk can GET.
SHOW CHAIR TO GNOME suggests we should return it to its original place when we're done with it, so we'll do that. GIVE BOOK TO GNOME is promising -- it is indeed the missing text -- and we score a point. But this is temporary, as we lose it again after the gnome discovers a page has been cut out. It's not Grunk's fault, but we will have to track it down.
Let's go search some more. We find nothing else in the fountain or under the table or behind the shelves. EXAMINE STAIRS by the hole, though, reveals... a little metal thing? It's a tube, the size of Grunk's thumb. SHAKE TUBE makes a whiffing sound, and BLOW TUBE sounds a whistle. Grunk recognizes it as a whistle now, but the gnome doesn't know anything about where it came from.
Can we summon the pig with the whistle? If we BLOW WHISTLE without the pig in the room, he certainly doesn't come running. If we do it in his presence, he jumps and glares at Grunk. Can we BLOW WHISTLE and DROP BRICK to train the pig? I try this a few times, but no pattern is emerging. BLOW WHISTLE doesn't seem to do anything anywhere else, though it annoys the gnome and the pig.
The gnome doesn't think the page would be useful without the rest of the book, so it's probably tossed somewhere. We can learn that the statue is of a famous gnome alchemist, and the hat was not part of the original design. Mogglev was another alchemist, specializing in lightning. We observe the pig running in from the west as if spooked by something, though I never found a reason for this.
Can we light the torch? We can't carry water or powder at the moment. We can DIP TORCH or DIP PANTS in the stream, and they get wet, but putting them in the chest just causes them to become charred and smoky, without producing an open flame. The "bricks" don't even get wet, so we can't use them as sponges. Can we use the pants and WRING PANTS? Some water comes out. WRING PANTS OVER CHEST produces a spark and a hiss, but we need more water it seems. The tube doesn't get wet or hold water, and we can't COVER TUBE WITH THUMB or PUT TUBE ON THUMB to make it a container.
The gnome is working on a "thinking cap" meant to harness the power of lightning to produce some kind of computing device, but we can't borrow it to give Grunk a little extra brainpower, so we'll have to muddle through as we are. SHOW BRICK TO GNOME reveals that they are addictive, "just like mother used to make."
What about the hat? Grunk can't examine it while it's on his head. Oh, it is made of rock -- I'd lost sight of that, and we can probably carry powder or water in it! GET POWDER IN HAT works, but POUR POWDER IN STREAM just creates a brief fireball that drifts off downstream. GET WATER IN HAT and POUR WATER IN CHEST works much better, and now Grunk can LIGHT TORCH! Mmm. Grunk like fire.
Let's check out that crack again now. Now, Grunk see that there piece of paper way down inside. But we can't GET PAPER WITH POLE. It white and it paper. That all Grunk can see from here. TELL GNOME ABOUT PIECE OF PAPER produces a noncommittal response, as we have no verification it's the missing page, so we'll have to solve this one ourselves. We can't SHARPEN POLE or STAB PAPER WITH POLE. The pole is made of metal, so it doesn't burn. But it does get sooty, and sticky enough to retrieve the paper.
GIVE PAPER TO GNOME takes a few turns, while he checks it and glues it back into place, but now we have the fourth point legitimately, and a more helpful gnome to work with, though he won't help us directly with the exit.
If we PUT TORCH IN HAND in the statue room, now that it's lit, the north wall opens up and we earn a fifth point. We can now enter a Windy Cave, quite dark and darker heading north, maybe leading outside. Secret door in south wall not look so secret from here. Grunk won't go north without light, for fear of getting lost.
We can retrieve the torch, and the door stays open, but Grunk still can't leave without the pig, and the torch is flickering in the wind so it might not stay lit; if we try to close the secret door, it blows open again. GREET PIG is ignored. I tried to drop two bricks -- the pig finishes one, and hurries to the other, but we still can't TAKE PIG? Ahhh... I just wasn't patient enough. Letting the pig eat for four turns, until it not even notice Grunk at all anymore, allows Grunk to succeed. Grunk win, pig lose! And we have six points.
Now to get out of here and back to the farm! Except when we TAKE TORCH, the pig gets upset being in proximity to the flame. We can try to TAKE BALL from the gnome, but he needs something to replace his light source. So we need to bring the torch here, which we actually can do without the pig becoming so unhappy he wiggles out of Grunk's arms.
The Twisty Cave beyond the Windy Tunnel is confusing, and mapping somehow seems beyond Grunk's capabilities. Heading back south leads to Different Room, and Grunk is good and lost. We can't DROP PIG and try to follow it outside, as Grunk doesn't want to let the pig go after all that work. SNIFF AIR reveals a little bit of fresh air, but no directionality.
We can wander through a number of confusing areas, named things like Maybe Same Tunnel -- and eventually we run into the gnome again, now dressed like the statue, dragging his heavy trunk. He greets Grunk, knowing his orc acquaintance would get lost in here, and gives him the trunk to carry. We just have to FOLLOW GNOME -- he's decided to quit being a hermit, thanks to Grunk's sociability and timely assistance, and leads Grunk outside. Grunk returns to the farm, puts the pig back in its pen, and *** Grunk bring pig back to farm ***. Victory is Grunk's! ...
Well, there are only 7 points to earn here. But we only have 6 of them, so we've missed something along the way. We've finished the story, clearly enough, but a little external walkthrough research establishes that we're supposed to have put everything back the way we found it. The gnome's parting remarks did say something about Grunk leaving a mess, but after restoring and doing some basic restoration I'm still not sure what I'm missing. I cleaned the sooty pole, and was unable to THROW the key back across the stream so I just left it on the accessible side. I locked the chest again, and picked up the leftover brownies. Ah! I forgot to close the secret door behind us. I had tried to earlier and it blew open again, but we can close it now that we're on the final path to victory. And yes! Now the gnome is impressed with Grunk's careful restoration, and Grunk is victorious with flying colors!
I thoroughly enjoyed Lost Pig (And Place Under Ground) -- it's one of the best adventure games I've played in a while. The writing is just fantastic, with every word and verbal image well-considered, and the story is brief but satisfying. The characters are well-drawn, including the pig, and it's clear that a lot of effort and playtesting were lavished on the storytelling, conversation and gameplay. I'm glad people like Admiral Jota are still creating well-told, playable interactive fiction in the classic Infocom style, and I intend to play more of Admiral Jota's works in the future.