Monday, 14 October 2013

Reels by Tyler Zahnke


(Version reviewed: Original)

Reels is a hypertext game posing 8 mathematical and trivia-based questions. Get them right and perhaps a gang of thieves will return the precious archival reel-to-reel tapes (!) they stole. At least they didn't also steal the ovens we'll need in the future to bake the decaying tapes before making crappy second generation copies of them in order to vaguely preserve the sweet knowledge contained therein.

I bailed out on this quest, without too much regret, after verifying that it doesn't function properly in either of Chrome or Firefox on my OS X Mac. These are the two browsers the game's "how to play Reels" file recommends for those without access to Microsoft Internet Explorer. For details of my short-lived experience with the first question, how I verified the game wasn't responding, why I looked at its code and other spoilery stuff, read on.

Before I ran into the technical wall, my instinctive response to the game's proposition was: "Game, you're asking me to do stuff too closely resembling work." The tasks ahead looked unappealing and potentially trollish, and I confess I momentarily considered not even attempting the first question. Then my bloody-mindedness kicked in and I broke out a piece of paper and a calculator. This in spite of the first question (involving base 36) being worded pretty badly, and the explanation of it in the how-to-play (when I checked in there later) being awful.

(If you're wondering where the how-to-play file is, well, you should have downloaded the game, lazybones! Or more charitably, perhaps the author should have tried make sure that the how-to-play was part of their online presentation. More charitably again, expecting a first time entrant to the comp to anticipate all of the nuanced annoying things that can go wrong with one's IFComp entry is expecting too much.)

So, when I typed in my first answer to Reels's first question and found it apparently rejected – and when I say rejected, I mean that I clicked a button labelled "Check the number" and that nothing happened – I had a read of the how-to-play file. I decided I had indeed been doing what the game wanted me to do but had simply made a couple of mistakes in my working. After another pass, I entered what I believed to be the correct answer more confidently, only to find it rejected/ignored again.

This was the moment when I became suspicious as to whether the game was really checking my answer. So using TextEdit, I just opened up the html file (follow.html) which delivers the first challenge and looked at the code. The correct answer was sitting right there, unhidden from the eye, and it was what I typed, and therefore I concluded that the game was not running correctly in Chrome. I tried playing in Firefox with the same result.

* It looks like author Tyler Zahnke has a bit of a thing for analogue tape. I had a quick look at another Hypertext game of his, Magicasette, and it has a pretty similar vibe to what I saw of Reels, though it doesn't seem to ask questions involving base 36.


  1. Same experience. It didn't work in IE either, nor in Chrome, nor Firefox on Win7. I don't think it *can* work in any browser, for that matter: he didn't set his variables. I really don't know how he got this to run in any computer. Maybe there is some older version of IE that doesn't care about a javascript value not being declared, yet being referenced?

  2. I was able to get through to the last question, whereupon I received a 404 error when I input my answer. The game tied for my lowest score of the comp.