Lydia's Heart is a work of interactive fiction -- that is, it's a text-based game. In Lydia's Heart you play the part of 14-year-old Diane Lindsay. Diane has been brought by her Aunt Caroline to a run-down motor court in rural Mississippi, for reasons that are not initially clear. As you wander around the motor court, which is called Eternal Springs, you'll meet an assortment of colorful characters, not all of whom have your best interests at heart. Before long you'll find that you've got a Big Problem to grapple with.
The game was written in TADS (The Adventure Development System), version 3. This fact is relevant because users of Macintosh and Linux computers will need a separate interpreter program in order to run the software. Windows users can download the .t3 file and an interpreter, or download and run a self-contained .exe file.
The most recent version is 2.0.06, released on May 30, 2010. (Changelog: 2.0.01 fixes a bug involving passage through the stone slab. 2.0.03 fixes a run-time error that occurred if you typed 'hello' while certain characters were in view but too far away to talk to. Also, the password protection of the hints has been dropped. Hints are now freely available at all times. 2.0.04 fixes some annoying problems with the cocoa mug. 2.0.05 fixes an unintentional trap that could make the game unwinnable if you were in the wrong room at a certain moment, and an error message that unintentionally revealed a certain hidden passageway. 2.0.06 removes an unintended solution to the flashlight puzzle.) If you find any other bugs, please let me know! The readme file explains how to file a bug report.
Lydia's Heart is version 2.0 of my earlier game, Last Resort. If you haven't played Last Resort, there's no need to, now, because the new version is greatly improved. If you did play Last Resort, you may still find the new version worth downloading and playing: There are 16 or 18 entirely new puzzles, and one area of the map has been significantly expanded. Some of the challenges you'll encounter will be familiar ... but assuming the game works exactly the way it did before might mislead you.
The .zip file contains the game file, a readme file, and a map in PDF format, to save you the trouble of drawing your own. The readme contains instructions on how to find an interpreter for your computer OS, as well as a few suggestions for players.
I said it about Last Resort, and I'll say it again: Lydia's Heart is an attempt to use the medium of interactive fiction for a serious story with an actual plot. Since plot is by definition linear, while interactive fiction is by definition non-linear, this presented certain challenges. I'll leave it for others to say whether the attempt was successful. Lydia's Heart has more structure than Last Resort, to the extent that the scenario allowed a structure to be imposed. There are five more or less distinct "scenes," and the story will advance from one scene to the next only in response to your actions. In each scene, the story situation will change, though perhaps not in ways that are initially obvious. As with the previous version, it's possible to reach a happy ending, but it's not easy. In fact, it's harder than it was before. Enjoy.