It Might Just Exist: The Fool & His Money

Graphics busting.

There are a few games that immediately throw me back into memories of childhood, with accompanying swooshing noises and event-based montages with calendar pages flying through. Games like Dungeon Master, Zak McKracken, and The Fool’s Errand. The last of these is possibly the least known, and the most peculiar, but just looking at screenshots of the tarot-based puzzle collection sends my head spinning. Which means I’m unable not to be interested in the long-promised sequel, The Fool & His Money. While many have thrown around words like “vapourware”, after six years of development (and many years of selling it on pre-order), a demo has appeared.

Any thinking that Cliff Johnson may have spent the intervening twenty years since The Fool’s Errand first appeared brushing up on 3D technology and PhysX water simulation should put their delusions aside. This is really low tech. But what it is is a new collection of extremely tough puzzles, along with text-based clues and story. The demo has six puzzles, a couple reasonably elementary, the rest leaving me scratching my head and wondering how I solved anything of the previous game aged 11.

We owe thanks to Andrew F for alerting this to us. As he says, “I’m just relieved to receive a sign that that my children’s children might one day get to play a game that I paid for nearly two years ago.” Or perhaps it might even be sooner. You can get the original Fool’s Errand for free if you want to find out what it’s all about. And Johnson’s website says the game is “finally” in final beta.


  1. Jonas says:

    wondering how I solved anything of the previous game aged 11.

    You were smarter back then. Face it Walker, you’re getting dumber by the day ;)

  2. MWoody says:

    So people were – until now – preordering a game called “A Fool and His Money,” and getting nothing in return? That’s HILARIOUS.

  3. Wedge says:

    A hefty pre-order at that, $40 + the nice shipping? That’s a AAA major release price there.

  4. The Archetype says:

    I love Cliff Johnson’s games. I’d gladly pay a full $50-60 for this just on the basis of the qualityof his previous work.

    Also, from what he’s put on his website it really does sound like this game is massive compared to The Fool’s Errand. Which was a pretty long game due to how hard the puzzles were.

  5. ph0tik says:

    The fact that no pre-order money was returned with that kind of wait inbetween doesn’t say much about the character of the game’s creator.

  6. Mischa says:

    I had so much fun with “The Fool’s Errand” (which I only discovered after it was free) that I consider my pre-order (done years ago) as payment for THAT game. Anything extra will just be a bonus to me.

    It really is a one-of-a-kind. At first glance it just looks like a fancy set of word-based puzzles, but in fact the puzzles are deeply layered, original and interconnected.

  7. extrabastardformula says:

    @ph0tik: I think the title of the game should have been enough to clue anyone in to the fact that their pre-order money would never be returned. Anyone who thought differently, well you know the old saying.

    [I’m fairly certain you have no evidence at all that Johnson is not returning pre-order money when someone asks, and so I think we can dismiss your comment. -Ed]

  8. Dean says:

    ph0tik: it’s not like you suddenly realise it’s going to take an extra 3 years. It’s always a few more months, then a few more…
    It was almost ready but then a major bug led to the whole thing having to be practically re-done from scratch.

  9. solipsistnation says:

    Ha. I pre-ordered, oh, at least 5 years ago when it was cheaper. I only paid 25 bucks and now you guys who waited will have to pay more! So there! Early adoption eff tee dubs!

    (Unfortunately, I was going to do an interview for when A Fool and His Money shipped, but, well, I don’t write for them any more and they’ve basically folded. Oh well…)

  10. Gnarl says:

    Macgamer? A site for Scottish gamers one would assume. As the other option is just silly.

    Thank you ladies and gents, I’ll be here for the rest of time.

  11. Hmm-hmm. says:

    The Fool’s Errand was, nay, is a wonderful game of the kind seen far too rarely. A heartfelt recommendation for that and, in all likelihood, for the coming sequel.

    Also, Gnarl: Shoo, if you can get Vista so far as to allow you to do so.

  12. Markoff Chaney says:

    I never delved into this series mostly because of it’s Mac origins (and where I saw it first) and what I saw of the PC version was piss poor and playing a poor port didn’t sit well with me then. I could always revisit the titles now with the aid of emulation. I do so enjoy my puzzles.

  13. brulleks says:

    This is why I love you guys.

    Only two days ago I was hankering after playing Fools Errand again. Tried it a couple of years ago and loved it despite the graphics being a bit screwed as they couldn’t handle Win2000. And lo, here are links not only to FE, but an emulator and Merlin’s Apprentice, which I could never get to run.

    Great stuff. That’s my weekend up in flames.

  14. Matt Walker says:

    For anyone that downloaded the teaser, I’ve set up a forum to share hints on this (and the full game when it comes out in April) at:

    There are supposedly 11 puzzles in the teaser, of which I’ve solved 4 completely so far. Knowing Cliff Johnson puzzles, it may be a couple days before I get through all 11.

  15. Jon says:

    Is there anything to do in the demo after the puzzle where you type in words with matching prefix & suffixes? “Zopma rlf” appeared, and the help text implies there’s more, but I can’t seem to do anything…

  16. postx says:

    I like the demo. Plays like reading a fairy tale and I feel younger.

  17. Jim says:

    Any fan of these games who hasn’t played Andrew Plotkin’s (now freeware) style-homage is missing out — it’s as good as Johnson’s own (I’d say even better).

  18. Andrew Farrell says:

    @Jon: I’m sure that like in the original, all the chapters will be revisited again once the map is complete.

    @Matt: I’m fairly certain that 11 is counting each of the chapters multiple times, as some of them have multiple similar puzzles.

    I’m trying not to get too excited about this, because there have been so many false starts, but I can’t really help it: Fool’s Errand is for me the Ur-puzzler, the one that was never bettered.

  19. Gabanski83 says:

    I still have the disk version of The Fool’s Errand on Amiga kicking around here somewhere. Some of those puzzles are mental.

  20. Igor Hardy says:

    I still haven’t recovered from the mental damage that was done to me by the first game.

  21. daysocks says:


    I had no idea there was a sequel. ilu for telling me about it <3

  22. solipsistnation says:

    @Gnarl: Aye, a site for Scottish gamers indeed. Here, I’ve got my kilt and everything. And some whisky.

    @Jim: I liked System’s Twilight, but it was a little less consistent than Cliff Johnson’s. I seem to recall a couple of puzzles that seemed kind of _off_ (I don’t remember exactly how at the moment since it’s been years), but overall it was definitely worth playing.

  23. Andrew Farrell says:

    I’ve had a rummage through System’s Twilight today and yesterday, and while it has a lot of good puzzles, it does to tend to just make them longer and longer – one of it’s ‘drop the ball/take the ball’ puzzles has a 100 actions in its solution! Which in fairness is a artifact of when it was made, but it’s one of the things that Fools Errand improved by discarding.

    Also I prefer the Fool’s Errand artstyle, though System’s Twilight is very distinctive – before I read a word of text I was thinking “Oh yeah, I have played this!” – and I can imagine people preferring it instead.

  24. suibhne says:

    I played The Fool’s Errand for years when I was an adolescent and absolutely adored it. Even when I wasn’t in the mood for the rest of the game, or had already solved it, I’d go back and play the card game. It remains one of my favorite gaming titles, and possibly the smartest.

  25. Jared says:

    I really loved The Fool’s Errand, but I finished it in a single day (and before you ask, I only had to look up the solution for one single puzzle – and it was one of the early ones – that kept me stumped for a couple of hours). Hopefully this will be longer (and harder).

  26. Ray says:

    I had Fool’s Errand for my Amiga and loved it. It was a refreshing change from other games. I am a true believer… I only hope the game turns up before I go in an old folk’s home and still have my marbles!