If you were alive in 1991 and you had a Macintosh, you played The Fool’s Errand. It is, still today, one of the mind-warpiest puzzles games you will ever see, a monochrome, Tarot-themed labor of love from a true puzzle master, Cliff Johnson. With a little emulation wrangling, you can play the original game for free at that link, and I highly recommend that you do. (Don’t do the DOS version; this was envisioned on Mac and is best on Mac). I suspect you will scream and curse and love it like I do.
When it comes to making metapuzzles — that is, puzzles that you solve that add up to reveal the answer to a bigger puzzle — Cliff is on another level entirely. Cliff made several other computer games (details on his site) and got some recognition a few years back for engineering the treasure hunt found within David Blaine’s autobiography, Mysterious Stranger. But the mark left by The Fool’s Errand is indelible, and he is proud of his legacy.
A few years ago Cliff Johnson announced a sequel, A Fool and His Money, with more verbal, visual, and gambling puzzles. I preordered. And waited. It has taken six years for CJ to bring his project to where he wants it to be, and I support him wholeheartedly in the age of “let’s get it out there” software publishing. For everybody who says they support gaming as an art form, here’s an independent creator who knows what he wants, and needs the community to support him as he does it. (Hence my speedy preorder.)
If you’re looking for the real deal in indie development — a guy and a computer and a great idea — this is worth watching, if not worth ordering outright via PayPal. (Preorder now and get your name in the credits alongside mine!)
Few puzzles will give you the solving satisfaction that Cliff’s do. I think that’s because they’re impossible.