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Video Game / Counterfeit Monkey

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In Atlantis, the map is the territory

You wake up, only to find out that you are no longer just "you" and your body is now a fused hybrid of your original body and that of a man named Alex who likes talking to you in your head.

This is a good thing, as it turns out that you (Andra) and Alex planned this body synthesis in advance as a professional smuggler and espionage agent, respectively, who both need to cooperate with each other to escape from the island of Anglophone Atlantis before its dictatorial government catches up to you.

Of course, getting off the island is easier said than done, especially when it comes to light that one of your most valuable allies has gone AWOL and some certain Atlantean officials won't let you slip away that easily. But you come armed with the most important tool of all: a letter-remover that can remove select letters from words and convert them to different words with a simple wave. And in Atlantis, the country that has Noah Webster as a national hero and "wordplay is stronger than swordplay" as one of its adages, forming the right words is the most valuable asset of all.


So goes the premise of Counterfeit Monkey, a wordplay-themed Interactive Fiction puzzle game created by Emily Short. It took her four years to complete and has such a near-inexhaustible cache of word changes and combinations that half the fun of playing this game is seeing how spectacularly you can vandalize public property with your trusty letter-remover. The fact that there's a lot of world-building that explores in-depth how people would adjust to living in a world where words can literally make and break lives doesn't hurt either.

Further information and download links for this game can be found here.


This game contains the following tropes:

  • And I Must Scream: The fate of the political dissidents put on display in the Cold Storage room. It's even explicitly stated that they'll eventually lose their sense of identity and permanently become unrestorable statues. Humans can also be transformed into various inanimate objects if they have the right kind of name and they could potentially stay in that state forever if someone else doesn't gel them; Brock's only comment about being forced to turn himself into a rock for a while to avoid capture is "Being a rock isn't as easy as you might think it is."
  • Atlantis: Not an actual underwater city here, but its name is heavily associated with sea-related imagery throughout the game.
  • Bilingual Bonus / Meaningful Name: Andra's name is a Swedish word that means "second" or "the other".
  • Black Sheep: Andra comes from a staunchly religious and fundamentalist family, and it's heavily implied that she pursued a career in crime mainly as an act of rebellion against her parents' Holier Than Thou attitudes.
  • The Cameo: Combining pi with a card in the synthesizer will create Captain Picard from Star Trek: The Next Generation.
  • Cessation of Existence: Sure, the police could go down and individually arrest all of the dissidents, but it's easier to use the depluralizer so there's only one dissident left. It's technically not murder. Technically.
  • Cutting the Knot: Some puzzles allow you to do this. If you still have the rock with you at the end of the game, you can convert it into a flying roc to reach Slango's yacht instead of going through multiple conversions to unshackle the kayak and construct an oar for it. You can also simply buy a ticket from the ticket-taker to get into the cinema instead of changing the church's thicket into one, although this does require you to have completed another puzzle first.
  • Difficulty Levels: You can play the game in Hard Mode which features more difficult puzzles and the removal of several useful items, but you have to specify that you want to do so very early in the game and can't switch back to normal difficulty without resetting.
  • Empathic Shapeshifter: Many abstract items take on the form of the most common public perception of them; for example, "love" usually appears as roses or hearts because that's what most people associate the term with. This includes Atlantida, who becomes a lot friendlier and more democracy-minded when she's gelled and then reconstructed by Alexandra because of the connotations of the "Atlantida" symbol/term having changed radically from a strict, unyielding force of authority to a symbol of revolutionary change in the eyes of most Atlanteans since the last time she was reconstructed.
  • Fate Worse than Death: Transformed into an inanimate object and doomed to slowly lose your mind over time and forget that you were ever human? That's par for the course when the Bureau decides that someone needs to be punished.
  • Felony Misdemeanor: If you gel the woman imprisoned in the Cold Storage room, you learn that her terrible crime was trying to learn how to speak Italian.
  • Foreshadowing: If you create a lie, one of the possible false statements it shows is "There won't be any difficulty in separating you two later."
  • Gender Bender: Alex makes a couple of comments on how he doesn't feel entirely comfortable in your/his new female body.
  • Goggles Do Something Unusual: Alex's monocle is one of the most useful items in the game because wearing it lets you see the original state of all words/objects (provided they have no Origin Paste on them). There are also the Britishizing goggles which convert all American terms to British ones; not nearly as useful as the monocle, but definitely still unusual.
  • Guide Dang It!: Some of the achievements are incredibly obscure and you almost certainly won't even realize that they exist without either literally trying out every single possible item change in the game or checking the source code. One example would be the "Mort Shaply" achievement that you can obtain only if you show Poe a raven-related food item; good luck figuring out that creating a 'Pict' with the piano piece and t-inserter will also create a silver chain that can then be shot by the anagrammed gun to create 'ravens chili' on your own.
  • Lovable Rogue: Brock.
  • Magic A Is Magic A: You can set your letter-remover to any letter, but it won't work if removing all instances of that letter from the word you wave it at doesn't yield a dictionary word. Some words will also be too tightly bound to their adjectives or modifier words to be changed on their own (e.g. trying to remove the letter p from a 'prickly pear' to create an ear will not work because 'pear' is too bound to 'prickly' to be changed on its own). Additionally, your letter-remover cannot create abstracts (e.g. 'sign' -> 'sin' will not work) or animates (e.g. 'coat' -> 'cat' will fail) due to government-imposed limits. When you get these limits lifted later on in the game, however, anything goes!
  • Merging Machine: The synthesizer.
  • Multiple Endings: Three, depending on who you sent out from the Cold Storage room and if you remake Atlantida or not (this applies only if you sent out the imprisoned woman from Cold Storage).
  • Open Secret: It's hinted at various points that many of the civilians you meet in your journey are actually aware of or at least suspect that you're up to something illegal but mostly turn a blind eye to it because they have no love lost for the government either.
  • Point of No Return: Once you get into the deeper rooms of the Bureau, most of the map will be permanently closed off to you.
  • Portmanteau Couple Name: Alex + Andra = Alexandra, albeit in a decidedly non-romantic way.
  • Press X to Die: Early in the game, you visit a fair. If you set your remover to "F" and use it on the fair itself after you've removed the abstraction limits on your letter remover, everything on the Fair goes poof. As Alex helpfully points out, you ARE part of the fair at the time...
    • For similar reasons, it is incredibly unwise to gel your car back to its original chard while you're in it.
  • Pronoun Trouble: Alex typically uses "I" to refer to himself, Andra uses "you" for herself/the player-self, and both use "we" in cases related to their shared body or actions, which can get confusing or jumbled up at points. There's also at least one instance in which Alex/Andra slip up and refer to themselves as "we" to someone else who isn't supposed to know that "Alexandra" is anything more than a single individual.
  • Purple Prose: Weaponized by the Bureau. By adding flowery adjectives to anything of importance, they've prevented you from removing letters and changing the object.
  • Reset Button: Did you change an item into something decidedly unhelpful or cumbersome? Just dab some restoration gel on it and it'll -POOF- back into its original state in no time!
  • Sadistic Choice: When you're trapped in the Cold Storage room and have to send out one person to be arrested by Alex's father — do you send your boyfriend who trusts you and has stuck with you through thick and thin, or do you send one of the imprisoned people who sheds tears of joy when she thinks that you've saved her only to be recaptured when you trick her into going out? Also falls under Cruelty Is the Only Option, as making the obvious selfless choice and gelling yourself so that Andra can walk out and get arrested on her own nets you a Game Over.
  • Second-Person Narration: Unique in that it lacks the omnipresence of almost all other interactive fiction titles, as Alex's first-person narration is frequently interspersed with it to create a feeling of double consciousness.
  • Sharing a Body / Two Beings, One Body
  • Signature Scent: The Origin Paste can be used to disguise transformed items' true natures, but its one giveaway is its strong lavender scent. This doesn't come up as often as you might expect, but it is crucial to figuring out that a certain inconspicious item is more than what it seems for one puzzle.
  • Significant Anagram: The anagramming gun can convert anything it shoots into an anagram of its letters. It's required to subdue Atlantida by transforming her restoration gel rifle into an infertile astrologer who you can then gel back into the rifle to use against her.
  • Split-Personality Takeover: The reformed Atlantida mentions this as a possibility to be avoided at all costs after her restoration gel rifle fails on you/Alex and while this doesn't fully happen in the game's timeframe, it does happen to an extent in the Cold Storage room when Alex and Andra have conflicting opinions about who to betray — examining "self" afterwards reveals that the personality who won out on that big decision has grown somewhat stronger than the other, and that personality's pronouns ("I" for Alex, "you" for Andra) become more dominant in the text from that point on.
  • Theme Naming: Sigil Street, Apostrophe Bend, Serial Comma Day, the Bureau of Orthography... notice a pattern here?
  • Unwinnable by Mistake: The game is polite for the most part — you can die, but your death is usually instant and doesn't give you time to save — but some interpreters won't recognize the UNDO command which can make these (often quite sudden) deaths more frustrating than they were intended to be. A later version attempted to fix this by giving you the option to assume that you never did the foolish action that led to your demise, but it still causes glitches.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: Later on in the game, you gain the ability to turn objects into lovable, cuddly animals that you can pet and take with you or even living, breathing people who are sentient enough to carry conversations with you, and then gel them back into lifeless objects. You can also turn a woman's blouse into a louse and cause her to run away screaming.
  • Video Game Cruelty Punishment: If you try gelling an item while a person is inside it, they'll sic the cops on you and you'll get arrested for attempted murder of a living being.
  • What the Hell, Player?: Alex will have choice words to say about some of the actions you can perform, the biggest one of them being trying to leave Atlantida's hideout without reviving her into a more benevolent figure for the greater good of Atlantis — in fact, if his personality is the more dominant one at this stage in the game, he outright refuses to let Andra leave until she's fixed that problem.
  • Words Can Break My Bones: Or convert them into a single bone, or an array of numerical ones.


Example of: