Rating: 7/10. A pleasant fantasy story that ties up nicely.
Author: Mike Snyder
Released: 2006 (Part of 2006 Interactive Fiction Competition)
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Tales of the Traveling Swordsman is a simple story of a swordsman travelling through a magical world to defeat a tyrant. The world is full of strange magic in a way that reminds me both of fairy tales and early fantasy stories like those of Robert E. Howard's Conan or Leiber's Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. There is almost a dreamlike feeling. The swordsman drifts from strange scene to strange scene, but it given the setting it feels right. Of course you accidentally end up caught in the nets of a magical flying barge just as it's attacked by giant spiders. In another game it might seem contrived or silly, but here is works.
The game is divided into self-contained chapters, making it relatively straightforward. As a nice touch, if you bring items from earlier chapters forward, the game incorporates them into the puzzles, but if you didn't the game compensates.
The game ends with a twist ending that wraps things up elegantly. For me and my fiancee, it worked and left us satisified. But I also like the twist endings in Shyamalan's The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable. For people who find twist endings a cop out, it will likely be frustrating.
(2009-01-05: Typo fix.)