Key & Compass presents:
The Impossible Bottle
by Linus Åkesson

The Impossible Bottle is a Z-machine interactive fiction game written with Dialog and is © 2020 by Linus Åkesson. It was an entry in IF Comp 2020 where it tied for 1st place.

In this amusing but very puzzling game, you play as 6-year-old Emma Small. Dad's making dinner and wants you to pick up your toys and find some things for the table before the Taylors arrive. But when you go to fetch the tablecloth, you instead find a handkerchief. What's going on?

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.


Basement Storageroom Top of thebasementstairs Bathroom Yourroom Laundryroom Entrancehall Nolan'sroom Landing Blanketfort Kitchen Sittingroom Masterbedroom Study Smoothsurface Your room(enlarged) Nolan's room(enlarged) Landing(enlarged) Masterbedroom(enlarged) Study(enlarged) Captain'squarters Deck Inside thebottleneck Cargo hold Outsidethe ship (west,first time) d d in d u enter bottle d u climb rope out u u out d d in (to garage)

Note that room names can change based on which furniture they contain:

I leave the exercise of figuring out the pecking order of the signature furniture items for another day. It's entirely possible that the size of a signature matters too, after all.



You are 6-year-old Emma. Dad wants you to pick up your toys.

> 1 (say it's boring)

> 4 (agree; +1%)


The kitchen also has a counter, fridge, and window.

> x Dad. take truck. (+1%)

> x truck. (has extendable ladder and steering wheel)

> e.

Sitting room

The sitting room also has a window, petunia, table, chairs, and a sofa.

> x fort. in.

Blanket fort

> look through gap. x lions.

> x mic. sing.

> x pillow. sit on pillow. x lava.

> stand. take all. (+1%)

> out.

Sitting room

> take blanket. (+1%)

> x blanket.

> n.

Entrance hall

The entrance hall also has coats and a shelf.

> x calendar. (June 2020)

> n.


This room also has a mirror, toilet, shower, and window.

> x sink. x soap. x sanitizer.

> s. u. n.

Your room

Your room also has a bed, karaoke speaker, and window.

> x dollhouse. (My, that's detailed.)

> x chest. (We'll look at all that later.)

> put truck in chest. put mic in chest.

> put pillow on bed.

> s. s.


The study also has a desk, bookshelf, rolling chair, plant, and window.

> x Mom. (busy and concerned)

> w.

Master bedroom

The bedroom has a bed, vanity, and window.

> put blanket on bed. (Time to report to Dad.)

> e. n. d. s. w.


> talk to Dad. (He asks if you've seen his phone.)

> 1 (re dinner)

> 1 (re phone: +1%)

> 1 (re eggplant)

> 3 (re Taylors)

> 2 (re toys)

> 1 (agree)

Follow Dad as he checks the rooms for toys.

> e. n. u. s. w. (+4%)

Master bedroom

Dad tells you you've done a good job.

> talk to Dad.

> 3 (re help)

> 1 (re tablecloth)

> 2 (re candlestick)

> 3 (re vase)

> 4 (re flowers)

> 1 (re blue)

> 2 (assert you'll find blue flowers)

The conversation ends and Dad heads back to the kitchen.

> goals. e.


> talk to Mom.

> 2. (re Dad's phone)

You now hear a faint ringing from the north.

> n. n.

Your room

The ringing is in the toy chest?

> x chest. take wardrobe. (+1%)

> open wardrobe.

> x dollhouse.

> put wardrobe in master bedroom. s. s. w.

Master bedroom

The ringing stopped. If you opened the doll-sized wardrobe, this wardrobe will be open as well.

> x wardrobe. x clothes. (+1%)

> e.


> talk to Mom.

> 2. (re Dad's phone again)

> w.

Master bedroom

> x clothes. (Ringing is from Dad's best jacket.)

> x jacket. look in it. (+2%. You get the phone.)

> x phone. answer phone.

> e. n. d. s. w.


> give phone to Dad. (+2. He thanks you.)

He learns he need eggplant, and puts the phone on the counter.

> talk to Dad.

> 3. (re phone: You get the phone back.)

> play Tetris.

Dad asks if you know where the basil plant is.

> e. n. w.

Laundry room

> x clotheslines. x washer. x dryer.

> open dryer. (+1%)

> take handkerchief. x it.

> e. u. s.


> x enormous plant. smell it. (Smells like basil!)

> n. n.

Your room

> x study. x herb. take herb. (+1%)

> x sitting room. put hanky on dining table. (+3%)

> s. d. s.

Sitting room

> x table. x tablecloth.

> w.


> give basil to Dad.

> z. (+3%. Dad finishes the casserole and puts it in the oven.)

> z. (Dad leaves.)

Follow Dad:

> e. n. w.

Laundry room

> z. (+1%. Dad takes the vacuum cleaner out of the closet.)

> x vacuum. (Dad starts vacuuming.)

> n.

Top of the basement stairs

> turn on switch. (You can't reach it.)

> take shovel. (+1%)

> turn on switch with shovel. (Ack.)

> open cupboard. (+1%)

> take flashlight.

> turn on flashlight. (No light comes out.)

Around this time, Dad finds you and asks if you can guess what he found.

> 2 (re noise)

> 1 (re find)

> 1 (re where)

> 2 (ask for it)

> 1 (re where exactly)

> 1 (re dollhouse)

> 1 (bye)

Dad resumes vacuuming and you can now hear a dinosaur stomping around upstairs.

> open flashlight. (Empty.)

> s. e. u.


> x dino. pet dino.

> w. (You knock on Nolan's door instead.)

> 3 (re candlestick)

> 2 (re entering)

> 1 (re what he's up to)

> 4 (re urge to play in another room: There's no TV.)

> 5 (bye)

While you are upstairs, the stegosaurus follows you.

> s. w.

Master bedroom

> x vanity. x music box. take it. (+1%)

> play it. (+2%. The stegosaurus likes the music, but it's not loud enough?)

> e. n. n.

Your room

If the stegosaurus knocks these things out of the dollhouse, put them back.

> put phone in master. (+2%)

> take wooden chair. put it in master.

> put music box in master.

> s. w. (+4%)

Now that there's a TV and chair in the master bedroom, Nolan is no longer in his room, and you walk right in.

Nolan's room

> x desk. x computer. x bed. x chair.

> x shelves. (Nolan's impossible bottle is up there, out of reach.)

> x bottle. (Has a ship in it.)

> climb dino. take bottle. (+3%. But something black falls.)

> d. look. x black. (It's a woolly hat.)

> take hat.

> e. s. w.

Master bedroom

> x Nolan. x mechanism.

> turn crank. g. g.

The stegosaurus wants to dance, and although the music is loud enough to annoy Mom, it's not loud enough for the stegosaurus.

> e. n. n.

Your room

> x bed. x Nibbles. take it. (+1%)

> take mic and stand. (+1%)

> drop stand. put mic in stand. plug mic in speaker.

> take mommy doll. take music box.

> put music box on rolling chair. (+2%)

> s. s.


> drop Nibbles. drop hat.

> push rolling chair north. (+2%)


> push rolling chair north.

Your room

Inside the dollhouse, the toy capybara is now a live hamster, and the woolly hat is now hamster-sized.

> look in dollhouse. take hamster. (+1%)

> take hat. put hat on hamster. (+2%)

> put hamster in cylinder. (The music starts playing.)

> turn on speaker. (+3%)

The music is now quite loud, and the stegosaurus dashes out the room where the music is even louder!

> s. s. w.

Master bedroom (or Room with baby blue wallpaper)

> z. (+3%)

The dancing stegosaurus is too much for the floor, and he falls right through!

> e. n. n.

Your room

> x kitchen. take dinosaur. (+1%)

> turn off speaker.

> take hamster. put hamster on bed.

> look.

Take a few moments to put miniature furniture knocked out of the dollhouse back into their usual places.

Also, return the rolling chair and Mom:

> push rolling chair south. g. n. n.

> take music box. put mommy on rolling chair.

> goals.

Before the stegosaur appeared, you were trying to get into the dark basement. Let's return to that task, but also, let's fix that hole in the master bedroom floor:

> x dollhouse. x hole. x plaque. x hatch. x screw.

> x piece. take it. put it in study.

> s. s.


> drop shovel. take piece.

> n. n.

Your room

There's now a miniature shovel in the dollhouse's study.

> put piece in hole. (+3%)

> take shovel. unscrew screw with shovel. (+2%)

> open hatch. take batteries. (The house's power goes out!)

> put batteries in flashlight. (+1%)

> turn off flashlight.

> s. d. w. n.

Top of the basement stairs

> turn on flashlight. d. (+2%)


> x cobwebs. e.

Storage room

> x boxes. x machine. x pedal.

> open drawer. x thimble. take it. (+1%)

> w. u.

Top of the basement stairs

> turn off flashlight.

> s. e. u. n.

Your room

> put batteries in hatch. close hatch.

> put bottle in study.

> s. s.


> x bottle. enter bottle. (It's not big enough.)

> x bookshelf. x Mom's book. ("The Impossible Bottle")

> s. (You'd fall and probably die? Er, what?)

> n. n.

Around this time, Dad finishes vacuuming and finds you to tell you that he's lost his cufflink.

Your room

> take truck. put truck beside table.

> extend ladder. (+1%)

> s. d. w.

Laundry room

> open closet. x cleaning. x vacuum. open cover. (+1%)

> x dust. x cufflink. x key.

> take cufflink. take key. (+1%)

> close cover.

> e. s.

Sitting room

Well, here goes nothing.

> s. (+1%)

Smooth surface

You've just walked through the open side of your dollhouse onto the table it's on. If you put the fire truck beside the table in your room and extended the ladder there, there's now the top of a ladder here at the south edge of the surface.

> d. (+4%)

Your room (enlarged)

> x bed. (Too far to walk.)

> x truck. enter truck. retract ladder.

> x bed. (You drive there!)

> s. s.

Study (enlarged)

> x bottle. (You drive to it.)

> extend ladder. out. climb ladder. u.

Inside the bottleneck

> x ship. w. (You slip on the floor to...)

Outside the ship

> x ship. ("Nelson")

> x stands. x bowsprit. x anchor. x rope.

> climb rope. (Not with inventory!)

> drop all.

> u. (+2%)


> x crate. x marks. (Crate was dragged.)

> x masts.

> w. (The hefty iron door is locked.)

> e. (The bowsprit wobbles and you return.)

> open crate. (can't)

> push crate. (+1%. You find a trapdoor.)

> x trapdoor. open it. d.

Cargo hold

> x ladder. x can.

> take can. (+1%. When you try, you make a hole in the hull.)

> take can. (+1%. This time, you get it.)

> enter hole.

Outside the ship

> take all. in. u.


> take rope. swing rope at bottleneck. (Rope is too short.)

> x rope. x windlass. x wheel.

> oil wheel. turn wheel. (+1%. Rope is longer.)

> throw anchor at opening. (+1%. It sticks!)

> e. (Line isn't tight enough.)

> turn wheel. (The rope tightens and the wheel locks in place.)

> e. (+3%)

Inside the bottleneck

You now need to go turn the diary key into the hefty key and return to the ship. If you see Dad on the way, give the cufflink to him. (+2% when you give the cufflink.)

> e. d. n. n.

Your room (enlarged)

> x table. extend ladder.

> out. u. ne. n. u. n.

Your room

> put diary key in sitting room.

> s. d. s.

Sitting room

If you still haven't given the cufflink to Dad, go find him and do that and return here. After you've given the cufflink, Dad will put the cooked casserole on the table and wait here for you to place all the remaining table settings he asked for.

Also, once you've proven you know how to use the truck and its ladder to get around in the enlarged rooms, you don't have to explicitly refer to the truck and ladder any more.

> take hefty key.

> s. d. s. s.

Study (enlarged)

> enter bottle. w.


> unlock door with hefty key. w. (+2%)

Capatin's quarters

> take candlestick. (+1%)

> take diary. (+1%)

> x diary. (Locked, of course.)

> e. e. d. n. n. u. ne.

Sitting room

> put candlestick on table. (+2%)

> drop hefty key.

> n. u. n.

Your room

> take diary key. unlock diary with key.

> open diary. read it. (+3%. Some forget-me-nots fall out.)

> take flowers.

> put flowers in thimble. (+3%)

> put thimble on dining table. (+2%)

> s. d. s.

Sitting room

Dad is pleased with how you set the table and heads off to shower and change clothes.

> goals.

> x casserole. smell it.

> x vase. x bouquet. x candlestick.

> z. z. z. z. (+1%)

The doorbell rings.

> n.

Entrance hall

> e. (You open the front door. A man has a package for Mom.)

> 1or2  (+1%)

> x package. (Dad arrives.)

> show package to Dad.

> u.


Mom arrives.

> show package to Mom.

If necessary, wait for Dad to arrive. Once both Mom and Dad are together with you:

> open package. (+1%)

> 1 (Let's eat!)

*** Little does she know ***

> amusing



The response to AMUSING after you've won the game is:

Have you tried...




The response to CREDITS is:

The Impossible Bottle
An interactive fiction by Linus Åkesson.
Release 1. Serial number 200928.
Dialog compiler version 0m/01. Library version 0.44.

Written for the 26th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition, IFComp 2020.

Honed and hardened with heaps of help from: Brian Rushton, Mike Carletta, fos1, Hanon Ondricek, Mike Russo, Christopher Merriner, Arthur DiBianca, and Gabriella Åkesson.

In this story, you may come across quoted lyrics from songs by Robert Wells and Pete Seeger. There's also a mangled quote from the opening of Andrew Plotkin's “Freefall”.

Type help for game-specific instructions.


In this listing, I will group all versions of an item together, whether portable or not. The versions listed in boldface are portable; the versions listed in italics are not portable.

Refer to the Size-changing methods section on how to change the size of an object.

Dolls and creatures

Note that when the stegosaurus is stomping about in your room, he might easily knock any or all of the furniture out of the dollhouse. After you've dealt with him, you should put all the miniature furniture back where it belongs.


Note that you may not take any of the plants from the window sills: the yellow primrose in the master bedroom, the reddish purple geranium in the study, the crimson red begonia in the landing, the white petunia in the sitting room, and the fern in the kitchen. None of these window plants are represented in the dollhouse either.

Other cloth goods
Other metal goods
Other paper goods


The response to SCORE or PROGRESS is:

Your current progress is percentage.

As best as I can determine*, progress percentages are awarded as follows:

* Unfortunately, there is no NOTIFY ON command to inform you when exactly you earn progress, but there is an ASCII art progress bar at the right end of the status line that gives a rough idea of your progress. (I note that the Dialog library does contain a NOTIFY ON command, but either it's new to the library or it was disabled for this game for some reason.)

Size-changing methods

To make something bigger:

To make something smaller:

Note that you can't take objects that are too big or too small, but you might still be able to interact with the object in some other way.

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