Key & Compass presents:
The Chinese Room
by Harry Giles and Joey Jones

The Chinese Room is a Glulx interactive fiction game written with Inform 7 and is © 2007 by Harry Giles and Joey Jones. It was entered in IF Comp 2007 where it took 5th place. At the 2007 XYZZY Awards, this game was a finalist in three categories (Best Writing, Best Puzzles, and Best NPCs).

In this playful surreal puzzler about philosophy, you play as a university student who, after a night of drinking, wakes up in a literal representation of The Chinese Room thought experiment. Outside the room, more philosophical concepts are manifest. Solve all the problems to learn where you are and why you're there.

This solution is by David Welbourn, and is based on Release 1 of the game.

SPOILERS AHEAD. Reading a walkthrough prematurely can sometimes diminish one's enjoyment of an interactive fiction game. Please make an honest effort to play the game before reading this walkthrough.


Bat Lab ResearchInstitute ColourLab Museum Square PhilosophyLibrary Insidethe Mill Tavern Logicians'Alleyway Church Outsidethe Mill Plato'sCave SpookyPart ofthe Woods FairytaleWoods VillageStreet Hill DankCatacomb SandDune PavementCafé Barber-shop Beach BlackTarmacRoad On theEdge of thePlains WidePlains Roof Outsidethe Maze TheChineseRoom MoralMaze Foot of anIvoryTower SecondChamber FirstChamber ThirdChamber FourthChamber FinalChamber x entermill d d u stand on chair. up enter hatch pray u unlock doorwith second key unlock doorwith first key d rescuemother u d d d unlock doorwith third key open door


The game begins with a menu.


The Chinese Room

Look at everything:

> x poster. x characters. x patch. x hatch. x window.

> x desk. open drawer. x manual. take it. close drawer.

> x chair. sit on chair. (You stand up again.)

> x computer. x keyboard. x cards.

Try to do something:

> push send. type characters.

> take cards. (No. CONSULT something ABOUT them.)

> consult manual about cards. push send.

> consult manual about cards. push send.

> consult manual about cards. push send.

> consult manual about cards. push send. (You can now LEARN any manual.)

> learn manual.

> x poster. ("Look in the drawer")

> open drawer. look in drawer. x key. take key.

> move chair to hatch.

> stand on chair. unlock hatch with key. u. (+5)


Look about before heading down.

> x beasts. x sun. x pitch. x ladder.

> x castle. x crag. x town. x church.

> x sea. x road. x plains.

> d.

Black Tarmac Road

> x scarecrow. talk to scarecrow.

All conversation in this game is done by selecting menu options.

> 1. 2. 2. (A larger menu appears.)

> 1. (re: here)

> 1. (re: castle)

> 1. (re: north)

> 1. (re: east)

> 1. (re: unicorns)

> 1. (re: west)

> 1. (re: singing)

> 2. (end the conversation)

> think about scarecrow.

> s. (Scarecrow stops you.)

> s. (Anjeline, a small woman from inside the scarecrow, trips you up.)

> x sack. x hat. x waistcoat.

> x scarecrow. x Anjeline. x aerial.

> take aerial. (+2)

The scarecrow's head is a sack that you want to use as a hold-all.

> x homunculi. take sack.

Let's not go south until much later. Try west next.

> w.


Achilles starts a conversation with you when you arrive.

> 1. (greetings)

> 1. (re: Zeno's cleverness)

> 1. (re: tortoise)

> 1. (re: tortoise again)

> 1. (re: what's happening)

> 1. (re: my participation)

> 2. (re: my motivation)

> 2. (agree to race)


Your choices are GIVE UP or KEEP RUNNING.

> keep running. g. g. g. g. g. g. g. g. g. g. g.

You fall exhausted. Achilles returns you to the start.

> x horizon. x sea. x sand.

> x Zeno. x Achilles. x toga.

> think about Zeno.

You must examine the lanes before talking to Zeno.

> x lanes. x flag.

> talk to Zeno.

> 3. (re: track length)

> 3. (re: shorter lane)

> 1. (re: head start)


+3. You win the race and get the trophy.

> x trophy. put all in sack.

> x dunes. x birds. (You follow them to...)

Sand Dune

> x nest. x eggs. take eggs.

Sometimes you automatically return to the beach when you take the eggs, and sometimes you don't.

> sw. (if necessary)


> e. n.

Village Street

There's a lot here. We'll take one building or feature at a time.

> x cafe. enter cafe.

Pavement Café

> x Sartre. x server. x kiosk. x menu.

> talk to Sartre.

> 2. (agree)

> 3. (say chosen)

> 1. (re: money)

> 2. (+2. You take his wallet.)

> x wallet. (You remove its contents and discard the wallet itself.)

> x coin. x lighter.

> talk to server.

> 4. (re: lunch)

> 1. (re: sorbet)

> 1. (re: omelet)

> 1. (re: swan)

> 1. (re: eggs, soss and beans. +2; she takes your coin.)

> i. x piece.

> give eggs to server. (She gives you a bottle and tells you to leave her alone.)

> x bottle. out.

Village Street

> x church. enter church.


> x tapestry. x pulpit. x roof.

After three turns in the church, a man does something odd before the tapestry, then leaves.

> x bride. x priest. x door. x carvings.

> talk to priest. (He asks about the invisible pink unicorn.)

> 1. (say no)

> 2. (say no derisively)

> 2. (re: proof)

You gain a burden and automatically leave the church.

Village Street

> x burden.

> x theatre. enter it. (A man tells you it's closed.)

> 1. (ask why)

> 1. (re: name)

> 1. (ridicule unicorn)

> 1. (suggest he convinces others)

> 2. (re: anyone helping)

> 1. (agree to prove unicorn doesn't exist.)

> x director. think about unicorn.

> x pump. x handle. x plaque. pull handle. (You learn you can PUMP ABOUT something if you need a hint.)

> s. e.

On the Edge of the Plains

Note: You won't be willing to venture into the plains without first talking to the theatre director and agreeing to prove the unicorn doesn't exist.

> x crowd. talk to crowd. x badge.

> e.

Wide Plains

> listen. (You're now riding the unicorn!)

You can't "put" the burden on the unicorn. You must "hang" it.

> hang burden on unicorn. (+5. The unicorn's non-existence has been proven.)

On the Edge of the Plains

> w. n.

Village Street

As you arrive, the crowd carries the priest away.

> talk to director. (He gives you a qualiascope.)

> x scope. look through scope. (At what?)

> look through scope at pump. (Or at anything else.)

> x tavern. enter tavern.


> x philosophers. x fire.

> x Plato. x Socrates. x Aristotle.

> x booth. x bar.

> talk to Aristotle.

> 3. (re: my benefit)

> 1. (agree)

> 2. (re: bottles)

> 2. (agree to fetch pre-phylloxera claret)

> give bottle to Aristotle. (+5; you get Plato's Works.)

Unfortunately, you can't call the Works a "book". Put the Works into the sack immediately so the other philosophers don't see it.

> i. x Works. put all in sack.

> talk to women.

> 2. (re: glumness)

> 1. (re: men's refusal)

> 3. (re: staying)

> 2. (answer Rand literally then ask about men)

> 1. (re: dancing)

> 1. (end the conversation)

> think about Butler. think about Rand.

> think about Goldman. think about Anscombe.

> talk to Plato. think about Plato.

> talk to Socrates. think about Socrates.

> x machine. push start.

> e.

Logicians' Alleyway

> x Quine. x tables. x copies.

> think about Quine. talk to Quine.

> 2. (re: what's happening)

> 5. (agree)

First cup has two beads. Second cup has one bead. Beads can be red or blue.

> 1. (continue)

> 5. (say all beads are red)

> 3. (ask for tickets: +2)

> read tickets. read leaflet.

> think about Neurath.

If you play again, the logic puzzle will be different.

> w. se. n.


> x madman. x grass. x people.

> talk to madman.

> 2. (re: being lost)

Always choose the "listen patiently" options.

> 2. 5. 3. 3. 3. 3. 5. 3. (+2. He breaks his lantern and heads to the church.)

> x lantern. put all in sack. take lantern.

> attach trophy to lantern. x lantern.

> put lantern in sack.

> think about madman. talk to students.

> n.

Research Institute

> x linoleum. x posters.

> x north door. (Schrodinger)

> x west door. (Nagel)

> x east door. (Mary)

> n. (You leave Schrodinger alone.)

> e.

Colour Lab

> x printer. x computer. x desk. x tube.

> x equipment. x Mary. x goggles.

> talk to Mary.

> 1. (re: her work)

> 1. (say that's peculiar)

> 1. (say she's an expert)

> 1. (re: everything?)

Finally ask about the goggles:

> 1. (re: goggles)

> 3. (re: goggles' function)

> 3. (re: experiencing colour)

> 2. (re: never removing goggles)

> 2. (re: colour expert)

Finally select "(something doesn't add up here)":

> 1. (something doesn't add up here)

> 3. (re: learning from experience)

> 3. (re: the unexpected)

> 2. (re: red apples)

> 1. (say she doesn't know the experience)

> 1. (end the conversation)

> w. w.

Bat Lab

> x man. x model. x posters. x instruments.

> x cabinets. x counters. x bats. x brains.

> talk to man. ("What is it like to be a bat?")

> think about Nagel. think about bat.

> e. s. e.

Philosophy Library

> x books. x counter. x ledger. x inkwell.

> x librarian. x desks. x man. x paper.

> talk to librarian.

> 1. (re: fries and shakes)

> talk to librarian.

> 1. (re: Plato)

> 1. (re: something colourful)

> z. z. z. (The librarian gives you a tome.)

> x tome. (A catalogue of sensations!)

> talk to man.

> 2. (re: his writing)

> 1. (ask if he's Karl Marx)

> 2. (re: manual copying)

> 2. (agree to find him a typewriter)

> think about manifesto. think about qualia.

> give tome to librarian.

> give works to librarian. x banana.

> talk to librarian.

> 2. (ask for Encyclopedia again)

While the librarian is gone to fetch the tome:

> put banana in inkwell. x banana. z.

> give tome to librarian.

> w. n. e.

Colour Lab

> give banana to Mary. (+5. She removes the goggles and faints.)

> look. take printer. take tube.

> w. s. e.

Philosophy Library

> give printer to Karl. (+3)

> x manifesto.

> w. s. w.

Fairytale Woods

> x monk. x lumberjack. x axe. x tree.

> talk to monk.

> 1. (ask if you can help)

> 1. (re: reasons)

> 1. (agree it makes a sound)

> 1. (re: proof)

The monk wants something that'll prevent hearing.

> w.

Spooky Part of the Woods

> x trees. x brambles. x formation.

> talk to trees. 1. 1. 1. (The menu opens up.)

> 5. (re: caw)

> 2. (ask if they're a bird)

A raven with a rainbow plumage appears.

> 2. (say you like its plumage)

> 1. (re: coming here)

> 1. (re: talking ravens)

> 1. (re: getting past the bramble)

> 1. (re: telling me how)

> 1. (re: quest)

> 2. (agree to turn the raven's plumage black)

> x raven.

> give tube to raven. (It takes it, but it won't do.)

> e. e. se.


> x hair. x dye. x black dye. x red dye. x white dye.

> x pictures. x bench. x barber. x client.

> talk to barber. talk to client. (The barber interrupts.)

> 1. (ask who the client is)

> 3. (re: revolution)

> 1. (re: this place)

> 1. (re: knowing you)

> 1. (re: this place again)

> 3. (re: castle)

> 1. (end the conversation)

> think about barber.

> take black dye.

> nw. w. w.

Spooky Part of the Woods

> give black dye to raven. (It takes it, but it won't do.)

> e. e. e.


> x woman. x man. x uniform. x pyre.

> talk to woman.

> 1. (ask if alright)

> 1. (re: calmness)

> 1. (ask how this happened)

He wants her to confess to being a zombie.

> 1. (ask if she is)

> 1. (re: consequences of confessing)

> 1. (re: Holy Sauce)

> 2. (doubt holiness of Holy Sauce)

> 1. (ask why not confess)

> 1. (say she needs proof)

> talk to man.

> 2. (re: Zombiefinder)

> 2. (ask why)

> 2. (re: finding zombies)

> 1. (re: killing zombies)

> 2. (re: what he's doing to the woman)

> 1. (suggest she isn't a zombie)

> 1. (say he'll kill her if she confesses)

> 1. (ask if sauce harms non-zombies)

> 1. (suggest using sauce now)

> 1. (doubt breaking this rule would be so bad)

> 3. (re: burning at stake)

> 1. (end the conversation)

> think about zombie. n.

Outside the Mill

> enter mill.

Inside the Mill

You can only rescue one!

> rescue mother. (+2. The mill explodes. The mitre rolls.)

Outside the Mill

> x mother. (She thanks you and leaves; you get a hanky.)

> x hanky. x mitre.

> x mill. (You find a bucket of pitch.)

> x bucket.

> s. w. w. w.

Spooky Part of the Woods

> give bucket to raven. (+5. It takes it, but it won't do. After giving three black goops to the raven, it sadly pulls back the brambles, then flies off.)

> think about raven.

> w.


> light lantern with lighter. (+3)

Plato's Cave

> x etching. x people. x shadows.

> x chains. x padlock.

> talk to people.

> 1. 2. 1. 1. (They don't know they're wearing earmuffs.)

> 1. 1. 1. 1. (They admit to chains.)

> 3. 1. ("What shadows?")

> 1. 1. (They just continue to stare.)

> d.

Dank Catacomb

> x bat. x staligmites. x staligtites.

> talk to bat. 1. 1. 3. (The bat moans that no one understands bats.)

> 3. 2. (+2. The bat drops a book of vampire bat poetry.)

> put all in sack. take book. x book. g.

> u. e. e. e. n. n. w.

Bat Lab

> give book to Nagel. (+3. You get a bunch of keys.)

> e. s. s. w. w. w.

Plato's Cave

> unlock padlock with keys.

> talk to people. 1. 1. (They don't care they're unchained.)

> think about cave.

> give manifesto to people. (+5)

> take earmuffs. x earmuffs. e. e.

Fairytale Woods

> give earmuffs to monk. (+5. The lumberjack gives you her axe.)

> x axe. e. e.


> take scope.

> look through scope at general. (He's a zombie!)

> kill general with axe. (+5)

You start a new conversation with the woman:

> 1. (agree)

The woman gives you a box. Don't open it until you need to dispel an illusion.

> x box. think about ding an sich.

> put all in sack.

> w. ne.


> give hanky to bride. x veil.

> take veil. ("Ignorance") put veil in sack.

> talk to bride.

> 2. (ask if better now)

> 1. (ask if she wants to talk)

> 1. (agree to listen. +2)

> think about bride. think about veil.

> sw. n. w.


> x exhibits. x ship. ("Theseus")

> x pirate. x steward. ("Tracy")

> x figurehead.

> talk to pirate.

> 1. (re: what happened)

> 4. (suggest licensing agreement)

> 1. (re: renaming the ship)

> 1. (agree to find a better unused ship name)

> think about ship.

> give leaflet to pirate. (+3; the seward offers a choice of exhibits.)

> 1. (re: ruler)

> 2. (re: calculator)

> 3. (re: cube)

> 6. (Take the cube. You can swap later, if you like.)

CAUTION: Never drop the cube! Never put the cube into your sack! It's miscoded as scenery, so you can never take it!

> x cube.

> e. s. s. s.

Outside the Maze

> read sign.

If you go south from here without the lead cube (or without solving the maze earlier), you'll end up in Moral Maze, where PRAY is the only way to escape.

> x hedges. x path. think about maze.

> s. (+3. Using the lead cube, you navigate the maze to...)

At the Foot of an Ivory Tower

> x tower. x guard. listen.

> talk to guard. (She won't let you past.)

> give veil to guard. throw veil at guard.

She's forgotten who she is; a conversation starts:

> 5. (tell her she doesn't impede progress. +2)

You probably want to save here before continuing.

> save

> u.

First chamber

The way back closes behind you.

> x bees. (They're in the shape of a vending machine.)

> think about bees.

> put piece in slot. take first key. (+3)

> unlock door with first key. (You proceed up to...)

Second Chamber

> x door. x machine. put first key in sack.

> x seat. x newspaper. x dials. x mechanics.

> think about time machine.

> take newspaper. put it in sack.

> drop sack. (Take nothing with you!)

Note that the newspaper is from 1957, and this game happens in 2007, a 50 year difference.

> enter machine.

> x dial. (leftmost, middle, or rightmost?)

> x leftmost. (Left means minus; right means plus; currently to right.)

> x middle. (Overbar M at clockwise end; currently far anti-clockwise.)

> x rightmost. (Pointer. No other marks.)

> turn leftmost. (Now minus, to go back in time.)

> turn middle clockwise. (Points at L. L is the Roman numeral for 50.)

> turn rightmost. (+3. You activate the machine, go back in time 50 years, get the second key, and return to the present day.)

> take sack. unlock door with second key. (You ascend to...)

Third Chamber

> put second key in sack.

> x door. x machine. x seat. x keyboard.

> enter machine. ("Hello!")

> type hello.

> type YOUR-NAME.

> type I'm solving puzzles. (Or type anything else.)

> type I don't know. (No, it wants a digit.)

Choose any digit except zero.

> type 1 (+3; you get the third key.)

> out. unlock door with third key. (You continue to...)

Fourth Chamber

> listen. put third key in sack.

> x skeleton. x hat. x helmet.

> x machine. x seat.

> move skeleton. x bones.

> think about experience machine.

CAUTION: Don't wear the helmet!

> open door. (+5. Ha. This one wasn't locked!)

Final Chamber

The way back is blocked yet again. A demon welcomes you.

> 2. (re: dénoument)

> 3. (ask what this is about)

> 2. (say it was good, derisively)

> 3. (ask where and why)

He tells you this world is an illusion. And we must duel!

> 2. (fight him)

The demon casts a fireball which barely misses you.

> open box. (+10)

Everything begins to vanish. You're falling.


You wake in your bedroom.

*** You have won ***





From the response to ABOUT, choose the menu-item "3. Please tell me lots of information ABOUT your lovely game", then choose the following sub-menu-items:

About the Authors

Harry Giles pretends to be studying Philosophy, Anthropology and Sustainable Development (a branch of environmental and development studies) at the University of St Andrews. He does this work with some interest, but mainly so that the government will pay him money to have lots of free time, in which he acts in and directs plays, plays 'cello, harmonica and vox in a folk and blues band called Empty Casket (yes, they do have a Myspace), writes short stories and performs stand-up poetry. All this, however, is simply to distract from what he considers his proper job: being an unwashed pontificating social activist. He is a Director of the student campaigning network People & Planet, a member of the Anarchist Academics e-network, a Queeruption organiser, a fully trained-up officer of the Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army, and general member of the Awkward Squad. He divides his time between Orkney, St Andrews, Edinburgh, Glasgow and London, none of which he has a proper home in, and he will sell his body for food.

Joey Jones is currently reading Philosophy at the University of Reading. There he is President of the Philosophy Society, Treasurer of the Writers' Society, and Editor of the Arts and Books section in the University newspaper -- all positions which he accidentally fell into for being the only one to turn up. In between going to talks, writing short stories and penning reviews he also finds time to do a degree and play the harmonica at a folk night every other Monday. He is overly fond of hats, has a penchant for mad-cap adventures, and has been known to bury treasure and hide the corresponding maps in previous places of accommodation. Worst of all, he has a terrible second-hand book-buying habit that far outweighs his book-reading habit by a factor of about 80 books. He is creator of the Dangler! webcomic, has written two performed plays, and will compose light-hearted poetry after too much coffee.

We like it when you tell us how you liked the game. We like answering your questions. We really like it when you send in a bug report about something in the game that doesn't seem to work as it should. We just like hearing from you. Therefore, the authors can be contacted with questions, criticisms, bug reports, remixed versions of their game, abuse, and offers of sexual favours at redacted email.


Grateful thanks to:

Gary Jones, for introducing Giles to IF in the first place, and for assistance at the beginning, when it mattered most;

The creators of Inform 7 (, the natural language design system for interactive fiction, without whom the authors' meagre programming skills would never have allowed them to write a game like this;

The good people of, whose early advice and ideas spurred the game on from its original premise;

Jon Ingold, for the neat game menu, and Michael Martin, for the conversation system, and also for extended support to a fumbling programmer, who eventually will manage the tricky things he'd like to;

The IF community, whose support and good nature keep any first-time IF author on track;

The creators of the darkly gothic Goth-o-Matic poetry generator, whose work so deepened the bat's character;

To everyone we've plagiarised, parodied and referenced (we hope you liked it);

And, finally, all our beta-testers -- Denizen, David Fisher, Paul Knierim, Patrick Mullen, Rhodus, Paul Waak, Aaron Wilson -- whose work above and beyond the call of duty made this game playable.


Also, if you take the axe when it's still in your sack 50 years into the past, you end up killing your own grandfather and wink out of existence -- except the game doesn't actually end and you're still in the Second Chamber. This should be the Cosmocidal Death by Temporal Paradox ending.


You have a carrying capacity of 3 items — unless someone just hands stuff to you, then the carrying capacity is ignored.

CAUTION: Items with no description erroneously claim to be not be present when you try to examine them. This is very misleading and may make you think you're using the wrong words when your command is actually okay.

Other stuff


This is the response to SCORE:

You have scored your-score out of a possible 100 in several turns. Jolly well done.

Points are awarded as follows:

Thank You to my Patreon supporters

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