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.)

The Christmas Party by OldGrover (2007)

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

I can relate to spending Christmas morning searching the trash, but I personally do it for those last few delectable drops of whiskey rather than the orphans.

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

Christmas is my favorite holiday, and this is a great Christmas game. I just wish I could play with my fairy buddies or mine with a dwarf in this one just like Winter Wonderland. Honestly, I’d be a pretty lonely dude without fantasy creature interactions in my IF.

My Verdict:

This game captures the true spirit of Christmas: ceaseless, selfless laboring on behalf of the less fortunate. I mean you are also trying to bang a chick, but the level of self-sacrifice exhibited here is truly astounding.

Game Information

Game Type: Alan

Author Info: OldGrover is one of those guys who briefly danced into our lives for a time, stole our hearts, and then vanished. The Christmas Party seems to be his only text adventure. He had a website called Is Random Random which mainly talked about an RPG project he was working on called Deal With the Devil, but it only exists on the Internet Archive now. I couldn’t find anything else about him so I’m thinking he made his deal with the devil and it didn’t go well. I’m sure we’ve all considered trading in our soul to level up our Blender skills and gain the other abilities needed to create the best damn 2D tile-based sci-fi RPG in history, but the lesson of OldGrover is that it just isn’t worth it. Never forget OldGrover, kids. Then again, maybe Grover just got a C&D letter from Sesame Street and decided to delete everything as a cautionary measure. It takes a brave man indeed to stand up to Big Muppet.

Download Link:

Other Games By This Author: None known

Christmas can be a lot of work. My parents weren’t the types to don Santa suits, go ho-ho-ho, and drink themselves silly. Sure, the holidays were about presents, family togetherness, and kindness, but in my household they were also about SUFFERING. Lots and lots of uncomfortably sober suffering. For my mom, Christmas meant hours upon hours of cooking and soothing irate relatives eternally on the warpath. My dad seemed to grow progressively more resigned as December proceeded until he gained the strength for a sudden flurry of intensely focused holiday activity. Acquire the tree, trim the tree, affix the tree to the stand, test the lights, replace the bulbs, place the lights. Then he could relax and pretend like none of the festivities around him were actually happening. Christmas Dad was a bit like a Predator with a saw and electrical outlet for attachments in place of the speargun and disc. He would emerge once more briefly to leave the denuded Christmas tree out for junk pickup. Then he’d go, “What…the…hell…are…YOU? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA” and throw me on the pile as well. I always felt like this was a rather upsetting way to end the holiday season, but I still use the decompaction and landfill swimming skills I picked up back then today. I guess it was a tough love kind of thing. There was always a hot meal waiting for me when I got back home several days later so I can’t complain too much. Anyway, the point of the story is I don’t do a whole lot for Christmas any more. It can be quite a bit of work after all.

What I like best about The Christmas Party is the distinctly unsentimental approach it takes to the holidays. Bear in mind this is a game that was entered into a holiday-themed minicomp (Text the Halls, 2007). Not going the sentimental route in this context carries a certain amount of risk. You can’t accuse OldGrover of taking the easy way out here. While the game does place you in the role of a man who is tasked with setting up a Christmas party for local orphans, I’m pretty sure the working title for this game prior to the official release was Fuck the Orphans. OldGrover had to change the name when he sensed it was attracting the wrong sort of audience. Suffice it to say that you won’t be mentoring any troubled youths in this adventure. Your concerns are distinctly more practical and mundane than that. The Christmas tree isn’t going to put up itself, after all, and this dump needs a good cleaning too. There even might be some DIY repair work to do and future fire hazards to create. You could argue that while your character is not directly spreading holiday cheer as a conscripted handyman he is still doing all this work for the orphans. He has to care on some level, right? The problem with that take is that the game tells you exactly why your character is laboring tirelessly in obscurity: you’re hoping to score a date with your friend Melody who is actually the one who wants to feed the orphans. Your character really doesn’t seem to care much about the orphans or Christmas…all he actually wants to do is bang his friend. So while the game certainly gets points for relatability and realism I have a feeling no one was terribly surprised when this didn’t end up winning Text the Halls. Did I mention yet that the protagonist’s description is, “There is nothing special about the hero” and that he doesn’t have a name? He’s not the Christmas hero we need or want, but he is the one we deserve and there’s a good chance that Melody won’t just be sucking down eggnog this magical Christmas night.

Incidentally, I’m not totally down with the whole banging your friends thing so let me preach and ramble for a bit. I was browsing /r/TwoXChromosomes recently and I kept coming across these stories of women with male friends who suddenly decided to make passes at them despite sometimes years of prior platonic friendship. These women felt shocked, upset, and betrayed, and I understood why. We distinguish friends with benefits from other types of friends because the benefits of regular friendship tend to involve things like having someone who’ll help you move, someone who’ll bail your drunk ass out of jail, and someone who’ll talk to you at 2 AM when that’s what you need rather than ass access. I do see it as a violation of friendship to suddenly make a move on someone who has given no indication that they think of you as anything but a friend. But I can understand things from the other side too. Sometimes you aren’t initially that drawn to someone, but then you get to know them better and find yourself deeply attracted. It can take time to fall in love, after all, and we’ve all heard romantic stories of slow burn romances that emerged out of lengthy friendships. In that situation, do you always stifle your feelings for the sake of the friendship? For me, it would depend on what kind of signals I was getting from the other person (bearing in mind that signals can easily be misinterpreted), but I like to think I’d still tend to default on the side of friends staying friends. We talk about people being just friends or hoping for more than friendship as if friendship was inherently lacking in comparison to romantic love, but that’s not necessarily the case. Sometimes friends are the only ones that are there for you while lovers abandon and betray you. There are also plenty of people who’d make great friends but not good partners or fellow Bang Bus passengers. I personally wouldn’t trade a good friend for a mere uncertain chance at romance and/or sex that could also happen to make my friend feel shitty and post on Reddit about what a creepy asshole I am. Plus, if you start leveling up self-control you can eventually start having attractive married friends and perhaps even be allowed to be in the same room as your stepsisters again. Baby steps to glory!

Obviously, The Christmas Party guy feels differently about the situation than I do. I want to give him the benefit of the doubt because maybe Melody did give out signals that she was interested. We definitely don’t know the whole story here. Maybe he’s right to do all this work to win a date with his dream girl. Maybe she’ll even be flattered. Maybe she’s actually already interested herself and just wanted to see if she could score some free work out of the deal before the situation got too steamy. In my mind’s eye, though, I’m seeing an aftermath where Melody is posting on Reddit about how she thought her “friend” really cared about the orphans and her but really just wanted to guilt her into having sex with him. I’m envisioning a world where Christmas will never quite be the same again and the orphans will likely be going hungry from here on out all because some dude wanted to get laid without using Tinder like a normal person would.

Now that we’ve gotten the complicated sexual politics of this game out of the way, it’s time to focus on the all-important core mechanics. I’d sum up the general situation as “puzzles gooood, parser baaaaaaaaaaaaaad.” I like how in the beginning you don’t exactly know what you need to do. Melody wants the joint spruced up and looking Christmasy, but the player has to figure out just how to handle that task. You have to use your prior knowledge of Christmas customs and what orphans crave to put together this party. The puzzles you come across tend to require interesting DIY improvisations of the kind you might have tried in your own home when you didn’t have access to proper parts or tools (i.e. every single fucking time you ever repaired something). I’m pretty sure you violate multiple fire and public safety codes as you hack your way through your mission, but at least the orphans are going to be well-fed before they start roasting on an open fire. I’m generally not that good at repairing things, but after setting up this virtual Christmas party I think I’m now ready to start handling all my own electrical and decorating work from here on out. I also have discovered a new environmentally friendly way to make popcorn thanks to my man Grover.

The parser definitely makes the game much less playable than it could be. The whole trio of parser horror is here: lazy oversights, missing descriptions, and unreasonable pickiness. Coming up with the right verb is generally the hardest aspect to solving the puzzles, and this isn’t the type of game that exactly encourages judicious use of synonyms. I can accept that from time to time I’ll have to call a cord a plug in a text adventure even though the description called it a cord, but I actually had to use the verb “unball” to win the freaking game for the first time which goes well beyond the limits of basic human decency. That’s the kind of verb I’d prefer not to use for any reason whatsoever if I had my druthers. To be fair, I found out “unfold” is accepted as well on another playthrough, but I still got the distinct impression that OldGrover wanted only eunuchs to be able to solve his game. I had to beat it partly just to spite the guy and for the sake of ball pride.

I suppose a Christmas game that is fundamentally about home improvement and trying to bang your friend is probably never going to win anything, but I think The Christmas Party would be recommendable if only the parser was more responsive. The game subverts our expectations for Christmas games in an interesting way, and it actually manages to vividly capture a seldom seen slice of the holidays by focusing on one of their least heartwarming aspects: the labor. Like my parents, there’s always someone working really hard behind the scenes to make any holiday party or family gathering more or less successful. A lot of sweat goes into every cup of Christmas cheer. As 2021 fades into 2022, I want to wish everyone a happy new year and remind each and every one of you to drive safe and bang your friends responsibly if at all!

Simple Rating: 5/10

Complicated Rating:

Story: 4/10

Writing: 6/10

Playability: 4/10

Puzzle Quality: 7/10

Parser Responsiveness: 2/10