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Video Game / Hadean Lands

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You smell copal incense, machine oil, rosemary, alcohol, and blood. Creaking, bending steel beams... no, that's not an odor. Why did you think the bulkheads were crumpling in on you? What would that even smell like?
You're pretty sure it's not your own blood, anyway.

Hadean Lands is a 2014 Interactive Fiction adventure by Andrew Plotkin. You're the second assistant alchemist on His Majesty's Marcher The Unanswerable Retort, which is stuck in a bizarre fracture of time and space. You're the only one who can save her, as the rest of the crew appear to be disabled, dead, or missing.


Unfortunately, you'll need to master everything your superior officers can do to survive. Don't worry. If at first you don't succeed...

Hadean Lands is one of the very few pieces of interactive fiction to be commercially sold since the death of Infocom. It was originally made available only for iOS except for a special cross-platform version for the Kickstarter backers, but versions for Microsoft Windows, macOS, and anything else that can run Inform games are now also available on Steam, Humble Store, and

Links to all versions are at the game's website.


Hadean Lands provides examples of:

  • Alchemy Is Magic: Alchemy is depicted as being able to perform magical effects but is approached very scientifically.
  • Anti-Frustration Features:
    • The game remembers what you've done and what you've seen, and will repeat things you've done before upon request. This includes going to any particular item or location that you've seen, unlocking any doors along the way and creating any resources required to open them. This is essential given the "Groundhog Day" Loop nature of the game.
    • After you've made some progress, a reset will automatically start you off past some of the initial barriers.
  • Cool Starship: The Retort is a Marcher, which seems to be an alchemical starship.
  • Featureless Protagonist: Other than a name (Ensign Forsyth) and a position, little is known of the protagonist, although the Multiple-Choice Past may involve them in the backstory drama.
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  • Four-Element Ensemble: Pure elemental versions of all four are just some of the things you will need to obtain. The four of them together are essential to the Great Marriage ritual.
  • "Groundhog Day" Loop: A fundamental element of gameplay. You can restart a loop at any point with 'RESET', or by entering one of the dark doorways that are available around the map. Many puzzles require this - to do X you need information that you can only obtain by doing something that prevents you from doing X (due to finite resources, for example).
    • Later subverted, as some things change permanently once you perform the Great Marriage.
  • Inventory Management Puzzle: Averted. You can carry as much as you need. However, after a few resets, you generally stop carrying everything around with you, instead only getting the things you need for your current puzzle.
  • Magic Music: Downplayed. Some magical effects are performed by ringing an alchemically-prepared chime and using it for some effect.
  • Multiple-Choice Past: The interactions between the crew members you can find vary depending on which dragon you repair with the homonculus. Whichever crew member is associated with the dragon was generally performing their misdeeds with Ensign Forsyth, while the rest of the crew are associated with the first crew member.
  • Orichalcum: The orichalcum rod is one of the most useful items in the game, essential for multiple puzzles. Unfortunately, you can only find one.
  • Punny Name: The Unanswerable Retort. A retort is both a verbal response (which could be unanswerable) and a container for alchemical work.
  • Super Not-Drowning Skills: Invoked by the Breath-Holding Synthesis. When it wears off, you suddenly realize that you haven't breathed in ten minutes.
  • Unwinnable by Design: Strongly averted. Because of the "Groundhog Day" Loop, the game is rated 'Merciful' - it is impossible to get it into an unwinnable state.


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