The Last Mountain by Dee Cooke (2023)

The Little Ugly, Evil Guy On My Shoulder’s Verdict:

I dropped the dead weight as soon as possible and somehow I STILL DIDN’T WIN?! The hell. On the other hand, I did get to put my pole in a crack so I’m still counting this one as a triumph.

The Little Nice, Handsome Guy On My Shoulder’s Verdict:

I’m not a very competitive person by nature, but I think I might enjoy mountain running. If the real thing anything like the game, then having the opportunity to share the experience with a good pal is way more important and rewarding than the final result. Now that’s what I call winning!

My Verdict:

A short meditation on competition and friendship. I enjoyed it thoroughly while it lasted, but I felt like it ended much too soon.

Game Information

Game Type: Adventuron

Author Info: Dee Cooke is a British text adventurer, writer, editor, runner, and telephone booth enthusiast. She has written a number of Adventuron games which can be played on She blogs at Spirit of Dee, tweets on Twitter or whatever the hell they call it these days, and posts photos and art to her Instagram.

Play Online Link:

Other Games By This Author:Waiting for the Day Train, Barry Basic and the Quick Escape, Goblin Decathlon, The Cave of Hoarding, and more!

I love it when a game sends me hurtling into a world I was only vaguely aware even existed. The Last Mountain does just that by placing you with little preparation into the role of a long distance runner competing in the annual Merrithorne Mountain Race alongside a close friend and racing partner, Susan. As depicted in the game, long distance mountain races are grueling, multi-day affairs that test both the body and the mind. That’s at the best of times, and these, it turns out, aren’t really the best of times.

What makes this race so different and challenging for our main character is that Susan is clearly not feeling up to snuff. She’s slowing the team down, which is a bit annoying considering you and her have been training hard for this for some time, but just what is wrong with her and how serious is it? She’s not telling, and her pride won’t let her quit the race. Susan’s sluggishness creates a sense of unease that permeates the game and quickly makes the stakes seem far higher than just winning or losing.

Her condition is the main source of conflict in the story. Ultimately, it’s up to the player to decide whether competing in the race or spending time with and supporting Susan is more important. You can view one as the asshole path and the other as the right, morally correct choice, but I honestly felt like either one could be justified depending on how you think about it and how you want to roleplay your character. I was much more inclined to be there for Susan because I was worried about her and wanted to share the experience together with her even at the cost of victory, but the thing is I’m not a competitive runner. I haven’t exactly been training for this fucking thing for months like the main character has. Susan could even be accused of being selfish for keeping her partner in the dark and knowingly compromising their performance by insisting on competing even while she was ailing. By all appearances, Susan has been a great friend, but of course as players we aren’t privy to all their past conversations, training sessions, and races.

I think what The Last Mountain does best is provide interesting outcomes almost no matter what you do. Supporting Susan is emotionally rewarding. Focusing on winning turns this mountain race into something of a guilt trip, but you do better in the race if you do so yay selfishness! Fucking up the race is also an option, and I think the main thing I got out of deliberately doing that was gaining a deeper appreciation of what a badass Susan really is. She may not be able to race fast in her present condition, but she’s always racing hard. One tough lady, indeed. That brings to mind the other thing the game does really well: even without going deep into her backstory, Susan is a pretty vividly drawn character. I didn’t walk away from any playthrough without feeling mad respect for her toughness and competitive spirit.

The puzzles all involve navigating mundane challenges you might realistically encounter during a race: gathering water when your flasks run dry, finding your way when you get lost, carefully navigating a particularly perilous section of the race, and so forth. I found the game to be generally well implemented and straightforward. It’s particularly impressive how there are multiple solutions to most obstacles that all make sense and feel natural. The fact that one puzzle (on the “fucking up the race” route) features a crack I took to be a RFTK shout-out of sorts, but maybe Dee just really likes featuring crack in her games. I mean cracks.

Dee did a really good job with the writing here. Mostly due to the presence of Susan, it’s a more emotional experience than Waiting for the Day Train was. However, our author also did a great job with the nuts and bolts of the story as well. Everything is well-described, including things you don’t really necessarily need to examine before advancing, and there’s excellent attention to detail throughout.

The blurb for this game on the ParserComp Itch page reads, “A short game about a long race.” That sums it up pretty well, but also highlights the greatest weakness of The Last Mountain in my view: it’s really short. Any given playthrough will take you about ten minutes. If you look around a lot and do enough runs to see all the outcomes, you’ll spend about an hour with it. For what it is, it’s very good and I recommend it, but I feel it could have been much more. A longer game could’ve better invoked the length and challenge of the race (which is, by all accounts, absolutely exhausting). It would have given Dee more opportunities to explore the relationship between the player character and Susan further as well. We could’ve had flashbacks of races past, more conversations, and of course more mishaps and obstacles to overcome. I definitely found myself yearning for more at the end of this one.

Simple Rating: 7/10

Complicated Rating: 37/50

Story: 7/10

Writing: 8/10

Playability: 8/10

Puzzle Quality: 7/10 (There’s nothing too difficult here, but I really enjoyed the fact that there were multiple ways to solve or fail the puzzles. That’s definitely something I’d like to see more of in IF!)

Parser Responsiveness: 7/10 (I would say this game is a slight improvement on Waiting for the Day Train on the parser side of things. There were still a few awkward moments here and there, but it was smooth sailing for the most part.)

For a Change by Dan Schmidt (1999)

For A Change by Dan “He’s Right, You Know” Schmidt(1999)

Rating: ***1/2

The Review…

Yes, this is all very well and good, but you see, it is I who is primarily responsible for this game, and if it wins anything, then certainly I will be the one there to take the credit.

It was a long time ago.  A simpler, more innocent age.  1997, if I remember correctly.  I met a guy on a server designed for the playing of the ancient Oriental board game Wei-Qi, or “go”, as the Japanese call it.  You know how those Japanese love to name things after squares on a Monopoly board.  But anyway, this guy was a kindred spirit.  Our wicked senses of humor played off each other like peanut butter and jelly.  We owned that place. And so it was that when I discovered the resurgence of IF, and mentioned my interest in the art, it was not upon deaf ears that my overtures fell, for he too had fond memories of the eerie glow of a computer screen, as it danced against our bedroom walls at midnight, describing in so few, but so powerful words, the south side of a nondescript white house somewhere in a forest clearing.

That guy’s name was Dan Schmidt.

Shortly after, we both set about to learn the tools of the trade and put our considerable creative powers to the test with this reborn avocation.  His first game, which I spent more than a couple hours testing and commenting on, was an unfinished, unreleased game called “Kitchen”.  The object of “Kitchen” was to make a glass of icewater on a hot, dry day.  While not lacking in imperfections, it contained more than a single brilliancy, none of which I’ll describe explicitly here (in case he wishes to reuse those great ideas in a future game), except to say that the final scene involved a hilarious parody, which required of the player a passing familiarity with those infamous Mentos ads.  It was a good game.

In the meantime, I wrote Apartment F209.  But enough about me.

With that initial burst of passion behind him, he (like so many others, including your humble narrator) drifted away, back into his go, back into his chess, and finally, it seemed, back into real life.  We’d lost one of the great ones. Two, some would say.

[Excuse me, I hate to interrupt, but are you ever planning to actually review the game that this is supposedly a review of?]  So glad you asked.  I have no fucking idea.  I’m riffing here, leave me be.  Please do not force me to lay the smack down.

But then it was another lazy, crazy day of summer (or whatever the hell season it was) when the ruffled, dog-eared pages of my old Inform 6 manual called to me once again from the box in which it’d been sequestered for far too long.  So once again, I wielded the palette and the brushes, and called upon my old friend Dan Schmidt to join me for inspiration. Slowly, but with unmistakable inertia, he rose again from oblivion to fall into the front rank.  This time, I created Annoyotron, and unbeknownst to me, in the background, Dan created For A Change.

Round two to Mr. Schmidt.

The ultimate triumph of the game might be that towards the end of development, he added one hint to the hint system which, before you even start playing the game, turns it from a daunting, tiresome-looking chore, into an absolute blast. In effect, he says, “This game uses lots of weird words and gimmicky verbs and stylized descriptions and all that crap, but it’s basically a regular, old-timey text adventure!”  And that, it is.

Inanimate objects are described using animate verbs.  Physical movements are described as emotions.  Tactile response represented as tones or colors.  In short, the game talks funny.  After my first round of beta testing, I told him that the game took me the prescribed two hours, but the first hour was wasted because I couldn’t figure out what the hell was going on.  I felt like the game was smarter than I was.  All this odd wordsmithing certainly meant that I was just not getting it.  But then a magical thing happened, and I realized that I was just supposed to do regular old Infocom-type adventure stuff.  And from then on, there was no looking back, and it really was one of the most enjoyable times I’ve had playing an adventure game in quite some time.  And miracle of miracles, I actually finished a game… for a change.

This is an “accidental adventure”, in that you are given a goal (however obscurely stated), but to reach that goal, you must simply solve a number of superficially related puzzles, none of which have anything to do with the goal itself, but all of which move the plot along until you do have an opportunity to accomplish the goal, and then everyone’s happy and we can all go home.  I do not count any of this as negative, as the puzzles themselves are clever and perfectly logical, without being overly challenging or frustrating, and they all fit well into the abject, mind-twisting surreality of the environment.  (“Lie Establisher”, indeed.  What is this guy on?)

If the game has faults, they lie in the gimmickry of the presentation, which borders on the ridiculous at times, while never quite stepping too far over the line.  And for one of the very few times I can remember in my IF experiences, I didn’t want it to end so soon.  But the two hours were up, and that is what the IF Competition desires.  So, my loss, the Comp’s gain.  You can’t please all the people, or however that goes.

But anyway, my point to this whole review is that, this game wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for me.  What was that?  Oh, you’re quite welcome…