Solve the mysteries of Trackless with an AI buddy and a text parser

trackless

If you’re an adventure game fan of a certain age, Trackless [official site] and its unusual problem solving mechanics will either send a shiver down your spine or give you nightmares, depending on how you feel about text parsers. For the record, I’m having nightmares right now.

Launched last week, Trackless is a sci-fi adventure romp putting you in the shoes of a member of a cult that worships a strange and enigmatic monolithic object. Assisted by an AI pal, you’ll need to try to uncover the secret of the monolith while climbing up the ranks of the cult.

It’s blessed with a striking 3D comicbook aesthetic that I’m very keen on, but it’s the parsing that’s caught my eye. If you’ve never played the adventure games of old, parsing was the precursor to verb lists, where actions would need to be typed. I honestly miss it sometimes, but what I don’t miss is trying to guess exactly what the developers want me to type. If you think pixel hunting or endlessly trying to combine random crap in your inventory is annoying, imagine trying to type in every possible action until you hit the right one.

Trackless employs this a little differently, however. You’ll be guided by the game’s textual feedback system that gives you prompts to use certain verbs to overcome various puzzles and challenges. According to developers 12East, this eliminates confusion, and it sounds like you’ll be able to progress even if you don’t get it entirely right, though the game does reward specificity.

Trackless is available now in itch.io and is on sale for $7, but it’s normally $10. It’s also available on Steam, though it’s full price.

9 Comments

  1. Merus says:

    I’m ready for parsers to come back, because it’s been decades and computers are much, much better at working out what you’re on about, and there’s software out there that can do word associations. Imagine being able to type in ‘turn handle’, have the game go ‘what’s a handle’, discover it’s related to fifty things, one of which is a door, which is in the room, work out you’re trying to do something to the door, and guess that because the only verbs the door responds to is open and close, you’re probably trying to open it. And if it can’t work it out but it seems like a reasonable request, it records the request on the developer’s database, so that they can fix it.

  2. kwyjibo says:

    I was surprised you hadn’t covered this earlier, the guy behind it had previously worked on Receiver, and it seemed like the right kind of weird-interestingness for RPS coverage.

    But no one has covered the game at all.

    This was a Fig funded project – it raised $12k in investment and another $9k in presales. Those investors will not see any return. Kind of incredulous it got any investment to be honest.

    link to fig.co

    • Aubrey says:

      My hope was that an innovative game with solid game play, good art, music and story could still do well on PC. I think you are right though, it was foolish to expect that. I wanted to use the player’s time with my game to enrich their life, instead of feeding it in to the wood-chipper.

      This may sound like sour grapes, but it’s actually just a true statement; My next project will focus on poorly disguised porn, random rewards and cartoon violence. The intent will be to put the player in a trance, like a virtual fidget spinner. The next game will be a mirror rather than a window.

  3. Saarlaender39 says:

    I’m all ready for the good old parser based adventures to return.
    This, however, is not for me.

    • Matt_W says:

      Check out Hadean Lands on Steam. You won’t regret it.

      From there, I recommend continuing to Savoir Faire, Varicella, Gun Mute, Anchorhead, and Spider & Web to name a very very few. Parser games never left.

  4. SirDeimos says:

    Soundtrack by Makeup and Vanity Set.

    Mentioning since neither the official site nor Steam page mention it prominently.

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