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 parser-based 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 It was originally made available only for iOS except for a special cross-platform version for the Kickstarter backers, but versions for Microsoft Windows, macOS, and anything else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 itch.io.
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.note 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.
- Artificial Gravity: Provided by Baros. A couple areas have gravity issues due to the damage, either too much or too erratic to trust.
- Cool Starship: The Retort is a Marcher, which seems to be an alchemical starship.
- Elemental Powers: Pure elemental versions of the classic four (air, earth, fire, and water) are just some of the things you will need to obtain. The four of them together are essential to the Great Marriage ritual.
- Element No. 5: In addition to the classical four, you can find elemental wood.
- Ensign Newbie: Ensign Forsyth is clearly quite new and low on the totem pole, but is the only person left that's able to save the marcher.
- 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.
- Goggles Do Something Unusual: The oculus and planetary lens can be looked through to show alchemical and celestial associations, respectively. The oculus also shows sparks that frequently provide critical information.
- "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. However, even then you can still reset to the most recent permanent change.
- 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.
- Locked Door: All over the place, although none of them can be simply forced open. They may need to be unlocked by creating alchemical keys, finding physical keys, finding the right planetary associations, cleaned alchemically, made impermeable with an alchemically-prepared chime...
- Magic Music: Downplayed. Some magical effects are performed by ringing an alchemically-prepared chime and using it for some effect.
- The Maze: The Paper Maze and Confusing Cracks. You cannot solve them in any traditional way; the center of the Paper Maze can be reached with the Lodestone of Centrality, and both of them become un-maze-like once Aistheta is repaired.
- 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.
- Second-Person Narration: As is typical for the genre.
- 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.