I remember the author's Sentient Beings as one of the highlights of the first TALP jam. It's quite good, and if you're having withdrawal after finsihing this year's entries, you might want to go back and look at it. It's a scavenger hunt, like Midsummer's Eve, but there are fewer things to collect and more abstract puzzles. With SB, there's no doubt you'll get things done. You have 24 total specimens to find and can only carry 6 jars, so you can go back and forth a bit. There are a few verbs to guess, but they're hinted directly elsewhere. It's fun and cute and well done.
Midsummer's Eve is a lot less solitary, and you are a kid who vows to win your town's treasure hunt this year in a town full of magic. The treasure hunt features 12 clues, nicely laid out so that kids hunting for clues can find them and put them back or, in the case of one gift item, everyone gets one, because it's the sort of item kids like. The clues aren't strictly ordered, but you need tone to get another, sometimes. Clues 1-7 build to finding clues 8-12, each of which gives a piece of a passcode you tell to win. There are even other kids walking around, but you're way faster than they are. Still, you can ask them for clues! In fact they're cute in a clueless sort of way saying "I think you have to (X)." One was still struggling on solving zero clues when I had ten. I kind of felt mean pumping them repeatedly for clues, or maybe I was chuckling a bit inside at them, once again in touch with my inner ten-year-old. (For silly features, I think it would be cute to have a no-badgering difficulty level where you can't ask for too many hints at once!)
ME uses the Adventuron parser in interesting ways. You have to order specific food in some cases e.g. ORDER HAMBURGER WITH MUSTARD. The garnishes matter to find a few clues. There's not a lot you have to intuit, which is not surprising, because really abstract puzzles would be mean to thirteen year olds who just wanted a fun treasure hunt. And while some of this is, for the reductionist, just following instructions, it's all tied up in things like climbing mushrooms or interacting with a mythical beast. But there are also commoner pleasures such as riding a Ferris wheel or playing carnival games. These don't interest me-the-adult, but I really enjoyed being able to play along as a kid who thought they were wonderful or mysterious or whatever. Also, in a thoughtful fun twist, the specific food you order? Well, you can only carry one at a time, but you can just eat it and order something else. Everything is free. Yay! You literally have an excuse to eat until you're sick, or until you can't avoid being sick tomorrow. That's what festivals are for.
The graphics are all very good and add to the mystic feel. I read on the Adventuron server they were AI generated but given my attempts to create cover art with AI, it's a lot trickier than saying "Okay, draw a big picture with this that and the other." In fact I had a weird bit of discovery where one location appeared to be plain, but lo and behold, on revisiting it, the graphic actually loaded this time. It added to the whole magic feel. I usually knew to wait for Adventuron graphics to load, but my eagerness to explore and beat the other kids out betrayed me for a bit.
There's also a mystery intertwined into all this. I wound up restarting in order to actually get a transcript, and I solved the side quest (or a chunk of it) before finding the final clue I hadn't. But I had fun rolling through things and forgot to check off on the secret items. This speaks to replayability. And the layout is very nice beyond the graphics. You can either click on CLUES (to see the clues–as an adult, 12 clues is a lot to juggle) or MAP or just type those commands. You forget this sort of thing once you get used to it. I was also surprised you could mouse-click on the help menu. This isn't cutting-edge GUI for AAA game studios, but it's so welcome for independent games.
I really enjoyed my experience with ME and I suspect you will too. There are a lot of things that just felt right, such as a grouchy man distracting me from taking an item I needed, and I missed the obvious way to get around that for a bit. It has a good economy and balance for its rooms, too. By that, I mean that there's usually only one thing to do per room, so even if that last clue evades you, you can focus on rooms where you've done nothing yet and potentially even cross off ones where you have, and with the rooms mostly in a figure-eight, you never have to backtrack too far. The descriptions are robust enough that this process of elimination works and you shouldn't get bogged down, wherever you might get stuck. Also, the clues are ranked by ease of discovery, which is a nice gesture for both 13 year old kids and whoever is playing this game.
So it's a well-balanced game, and you need/get to do a lot of neat things to find all twelve clues. Oh, and you can't cheat and tell the answer right away, even if you know four of the pass-phrase's words and can guess the fifth.
I've played a lot of Garry Francis's games and enjoyed them. They always seem to have a general crowd appeal to them, relying more on the interesting puzzles than the characters. For instance, Kenny Koala is a fun game worth checking out if you haven't, and all the animals you talk with are fun and add to the environment, but you don't do much with them besides give them items to make them happy. MoWH seems to pay a lot more attention to the characters. They go places or restrict you. Maybe he's done this and I forgot, because he's written a lot. But I think the whole conceit of MoWH is very appealing: you are Ian McKenzie, and you get kicked out of class, as 13-year-old boys do, and lo and behold! You have the school to yourself. A perfect time to find missing treasure that will make it financially stable. Especially since this time, your stunt might get you expelled, unless you have evidence of good behavior elsewhere.
I was a bit worried when I read MoWH's summary, because if there is a lot of treasure, then perhaps the school is necessarily very, very big. Which means the game might be exhausting. Maybe you are worried, too. But thankfully, in the spirit of TALP, it's under control. I lost track between 15 and 20 rooms, because I was able to hold it in my head, and it was pretty clear some rooms weren't useful. (That, and I checked with HINT, which is handy for making sure you're done somewhere. Perhaps for future authors, another command that tells only if you're done here would be even nicer. Cragne Manor had its coffee cup. But for a z5 game, this is great.) It still feels big enough to be a school, though. Just stuff like having one hundred lockers in a locker room and needing to find the right one (twice) and some general hallways and a service elevator makes enough to hack through for a satisfying adventure, but you're not going to get stuck anywhere.
And I really like that you spend more time with an NPC than usual in one of Garry's games–here a janitor moves around impressively for a PunyInform-sized game and gets a lot of attention without seeming too wise-old-father-figure. There's a small part where you have to go back to ask him for more help, and he gives it, and it was surprisingly hard for me, not because one shouldn't repeat things in adventure games or be expected to, but because Ian generally has caused trouble and doesn't need to bug the janitor, and there's another adult besides his teacher who impedes you slightly. The 13-year-old awkwardness comes through!
The puzzles? Well, they seem more straightforward than usual in Garry's games, and that's appropriate given this is a TALP entry. There are a lot of tropes. There are locked doors and drawers and an apparent dead end in a basement, with a secret passage behind a secret passage. In a way, it's been done. There's a safe, too, and finding the combination is strongly hinted. Amusingly, it's one piece of information you do remember from class, so it all makes sense. You won't have to break your brain.
I think MoWH did a good job of establishing tension despite a generous helping of tutorials and hints if you want them. And one thing it reminds me of, too: a lot of Garry's games rely on puzzles that experienced adventures may be acquainted with, and yet at the same time I haven't noticed a lot of repetition or overlap between games, which is impressive in a general sense.
With an author name like Rex Mundane, and a well-worn situation such as making a sandwich, there are always a few worries. Has it been done before? Is it trying to be too wild and silly? Is it trying to be too "ha ha I wrote this in under 2 days so go easy on me there, pal?" There are all sorts of pitfalls, and so I walked into PJTA thinking, okay, maybe this will be straightforward. Or maybe it will go off on a tangent.
Or worse, it could be the sort of game that picks you apart for performing Every! Single! Step! to make a sandwich. I had this in sixth grade. There was stuff like taking off the lid and so forth and putting the knife in the peanut butter, and the teachers did all they could to show you it wasn't quite like that, or you missed a step. It was painful. Even though I enjoy proofreading and (on a good day) finding bugs in my own tricky code, this annoyed me terribly.
Thankfully it avoids the long list of instructions approach (yay!) and manages to combine straightforwardness and odd tangents well. It's a good fit for the Text Adventure Literacy Jam, because it combines the two well enough to make me laugh. It's not a huge game, and it's not super-ambitious, but I had forgotten I'd set my phone's alarm an hour before looking at it. It was for a cool-down timer for another Internet game I wanted to chip away at. When the alarm went off, I was most of the way through, and my reaction was "silly phone, I don't need to do that right now."
So I was engaged. PJTA hits the usual riffs on adventure games, but they're varied enough, and deep puzzles or plot aren't the main focus. It is a text adventure tutorial, and not just the one that tells you in detail how we wrangle parsers around here, then forces you to wrangle with said parser to gain street cred. It tells you more or less what you need to know, and when, except for a couple verbs you need to guess. Then, it gives more than adequate hints, including one with an NPC who yells at you irascibly until you get it. That was an unexpected humorous twist.
So you may guess making a sandwich isn't all there is to the game. I don't want to spoil it, not because it has a profound moment you'll be mad was spoiled, but because the author organized it with enough care that we could be surprised and laugh as we follow the shaggy-dog story. It's bigger than it seems, as you get out of your kitchen, and you visit your living quarters and beyond. Well beyond. There are many other elements you wouldn't expect, and maybe they are generic elements for fantasy adventures, but they're thrown together for comedic effect.
This is not the first text adventure to get all meta with relatively pleasant and silly jokes, and it won't be the last. In IFComp, people might be tired of this straightforward approach, or it might need a more detailed payoffs. But one pops up every few years. The last one that comes to mind is Mike Gillis's This Won't Make You Happy from IFComp 2020. The same level of meta-humor and story length but definitely very different stories! Also, I like how PJTA gives you a different item to find depending on which part of the sandwich you look for first. The puzzles seem the same, but it's a nice touch nonetheless.
It's pretty clear PJTA is winking at you to join in the joke and see where it goes. There's nothing profound, but TALJ 2023 would be lesser without it, and given that it was the first game I played, it was very welcoming indeed. And while on the one hand a story with emotional depth will almost certainly beat it for first place, it feels very much at home in TALJ.
Priceless Vase Adventure (TALP), by Robert Szacki
This is a small ten-room game where the object is, well, to find a priceless vase inside a hotel. There's no huge storyline here, beyond that you are named Anthony Smith and are in need of money. You have a coin to start.
The puzzles to get through are, for the most part, trading. The trading doesn't make ultra-rigorous sense if you put your critic hat on (I still maintain that most people would rather eat a sandwich before playing sports than soup,) but if something is listed separate from the room description, it's important. There is even one dark room and one dark item. You can quickly figure they're related and you can use a light source–and that doesn't involve taking the lamps that are scenery.
You wind up having to guess two verbs along the way, which are not hard, though in one case, I tried to play it safe by adding a noun, e.g. EAT FROG instead of EAT, and the parser rejected it. Which was inconsistent with before when USE X didn't work, but USE X ON Y did. That said, the puzzles were fair.
ADL is a bit ancient, and as such, it doesn't naturally understand stuff like implicit nouns, like Inform dies. The confusion wasn't game-breaking, but this was frustrating in particular at the end, where I was in a slight "did I do this/try all possible combos of the command?" fog. In fact, at the end, I needed to spell something out, and I got pinged at first for not doing so, but then I remembered how to use the parser–because I'd seen it before. I don't know if ADL has this implicit-noun capability. We take it for granted.
This feels like a step up from the author's previous ADL efforts. The dark room provides some mystery, and the NPC interactions give the hotel some life, and the verb guess puzzles provide a good and very fair introduction to going beyond the basic commands. Stuff like double-dipping on important commands (e.g. taking something twice) is rejected, too. I guess my problem is that I was able to solve the puzzles because there was nothing else to do, and since the game had a solution, doing X had to be it. So I wasn't left as fulfilled as I could've been. And I wish more scenery could have been implemented.
This all feels fixable, though. The author mentioned he planned to tighten up certain things, and he ran into the deadline. And I've been there too.
This looks like a first-time complete game from an author who had, as of 2023, some basic game elements and a partial one. So they knew what an initiate to text adventures might have had trouble with. Not only that, they've executed something that would work well on its own or as a fit for TALJ. First Encounter is a brief horror tale where a ghost of a woman appears to you, and you follow her. It's not quite clear why she appears, so there's some mystery.
However, you learn soon enough, because FE is relatively on rails. The experience was effective for me. There aren't many puzzles beyond finding a light source and leaving the house the right way. Locking yourself outside to follow ghosts with uncertain motives willy-nilly is just a bad idea and, in this case, taking precautions heightened the tension for me. There are also a few directed-verb-guessing puzzles. Here I'd suggest the tutorial might go on a bit longer. I really don't know if Adventuron has something to look at the input and say, for instance, if someone has a kazoo and people type BLOW KAZOO, "this is a relatively simple verb." But if it does, that feels like a tap-in for a post-comp release.
Saying the author didn't try to do too much always feels like a backhanded compliment because it kind of implies they shouldn't have considered reaching higher, or maybe they should not do so the next time. But here I hope it is sincere, because of the increasing scope I saw in their itch.io submissions, and it feels like they're ready to make another jump soon, if they want. Too many people, some with considerable skill and knowledge, shoot too high and wind up with nothing. I think TALP really helps with that--you'd better have an excuse to do too much! And one problem with a too-elaborate game is that it can exhaust reviewers and judges for the next one, though of course too many that lack details make us look for more exciting stuff elsewhere. And of course there's a balance between self-interest and not hogging the oxygen. It feels like EF made sure it did not hog the oxygen, and the author can and should be bolder with their next game.
FE works particularly well with TALP, as it took on a good subject and good atmosphere that forced it, or gave it an excuse, not to do too much. In this case, adults were sleeping and you didn't want to disturb them, which meant you couldn't go walking through the house. It may be the shortest one you play through in TALP, but that's more due to very sensible, logical cluing and an economy of use. There are few red herrings, if any.
Like Rex Mundane's PJTA, I was worried this might get too meta, or meta in the wrong way, and just like PJTA, I was glad to be proven wrong. The meta-fiction bits here have, to my knowledge, not been done before, but now I saw them, it feels like someone should have. And it also feels well-paced. What the author does could easily come off as forced. I think it might have the most effective tutorial segment I've seen in a TALP competition, as of 2023. The tutorial is integral to the first part of the game, and it flows well.
The object, for the first part, is simply to visit all the rooms, which is refreshing, as it takes a lot of the pressure off the player to do stuff right away. But of course it's not just a matter of mapping things out. The rooms are named after parser concepts. The first one is, appropriately, You Are Here, and other rooms include examining yourself, other objects, and locks. There's a side room. You have to navigate darkness to get to the real adventure. There's even an insta-death, which is pretty well clued and reversible. You don't quite get eaten by a grue.
I think the author deserves credit for (likely) resisting the temptation to hat-tip classic Infocom games. It would be fun for those of us experienced with parser play, but that sort of inside joke would ruin the welcoming atmosphere ParserComp seems to want to give. And also, it seems that the lack of really wild or catchy items or room names at the start is a design choice and one I agree with. While it might be interesting to see a more advanced tutorial discussing longer commands, or even one that goes through the history of Infocom games, that also might be outside of the scope of TALP. But IATA has opened the door.
The second part is a more classic adventure. Mystery builds and fits together at the end. There are keys and a safe and all sorts of things to examine. You can also type CLUE if you get stuck, which worked well for saying "don't bother with this location." The trickiest part for me was heeding the note that you can EXAMINE twice, but for the wrong item. In the end, there is a treasure to find, sort of.
It's impressive that the author took a bunch of standard adventuring items and put them into a game that feels like a really good introduction for people who might have trouble with parsers. I've played too many parser games to be sure of this, but certainly I had many "I wish I'd known that" moments when starting out. And while stuff like Zarf's reference card is certainly handy and well thought out, you can't really experience reference cards.
TALP is a great niche for this sort of thing, and while it would have been a good IFComp or Spring Thing entry, I can't imagine either of them inspiring it. Its focus and experimentation revolve around teaching. While IFCom and Spring Thing of course encourage experimentation, the experimentation there is more literary or with visual effects. And, of course, the specter of past not-so-robust homebrew parsers may make people think "oh no."
In TAIA's case, though, everything is pretty clearly spelled out. And it seems to anticipate mistakes the player may make. For instance, near the end, you have to guess a number, and one might be wrong, and it has a useful response to this. That doesn't make or break the game, but it was one of those "aha, the author really understands how not to frustrate the player" moments.
That's not to say TAIA neglects aesthetics. Colored text makes it easy to focus on what's important, and the text is consistently grouped nicely above the parser prompt, though I would needle the author for a change post-release. They talk about the EXAMINE command that can examine scenery – but it would be neat to have a different text style for scenery that could be examined, or an option to toggle it, much like the game had the HELP NUMBER option to toggle noting how many rooms you'd explored.
TAIA is done well. It teaches without being pedantic, and I like the ramping up into the main adventure, which was fun, too. You could even, if you want, say it doubles as a tutorial to make an adventure.
My first reaction on seeing this was, oh no, I wanted to play the parser hybrid the author wrote for spring thing, and I just got lazy/behind! But then there was oh yes. They, presumably, had the confidence to build on their experience and use a standard parser programming language. It's really interesting to see someone move from Twine back to parser languages, as so often it's been the other way. And in the case of AEP, it works well!
Having recently played a game that wasn't really about just making a PBJ sandwich, well, cooking eggs seemed in the same vein. Given the author's previous works I figured it wouldn't be a straightforward "just make breakfast" affair, and I was right. Don't be fooled by the fried eggs on the cover, though. That is not how the eggs are prepared. Perhaps showing how they should be would be a spoiler.
And this isn't about preparing a fancy egg feast, either! Though I wondered if it would be, where the author switched from Thick Table Tavern and different types of alcohol to, well, a cooking scenario with all different manner of eggs.
AEP is about something more interesting. It involves proposing to someone in an unexpected and memorable way, and no, it's not throwing eggs at them. I enjoyed the intrigue here. There was an explanation of what you needed to do and why, and how it worked scientifically, and it wasn't too long, but my adventure-game-theorist side immediately said "Oh, I can see what sort of puzzles would come from this."
The plot is, in a nutshell: get eggs from the hen house, then prepare them (not the hens, silly.) This makes part of your marriage proposal, if you do things right. The puzzles are well thought out and lend themselves well to tutorials that don't spoil things. There are ways to mess things up, and the tutorial mode notes a few of them both before and after the fact. I'm being vague about what to do with the eggs, because I hadn't read you could do that, and I think playing AEP would generate more interest and surprise than reading me post it here. (You find out pretty quickly, in-game.)
As for the story, there's some amusing awkwardness and tension over how and when to propose and, yes, there are ways to do it wrong. A traditional way fails badly, and for good reason if you pay attention to things in your house. It's also possible to propose incredibly unromantically. So that's all quite funny.
AEP was clearly successful, to me. I felt like sort of like a bum for pointing ticky-tacky stuff out, and I was sort of glad the browser swallowed my transcript on itch.io. Because, well, it's the sort of thing that pops up in an author's first parser game, especially if they were just coming off writing an ambitious entry for Spring Thing. While what you do is inventive, getting through is itself not too esoteric with good hinting. The in-game walkthrough is fine, especially coupled with the tidy text map. It's a good size for a first parser game, and it does a good job of funneling the player into what they should do when presenting them with an interesting task, one where I thought "does that really work? That's neat." In fact, it's interesting enough, it's something I might try in real life.
Many text adventures/interactive fictions may remind me of books I want to read or even coding I want to try for my own games. Or they make me Google images of some far-away cities or look up terms. But actually try something new? That's rare. AEP did that.
After a few Barry Basic entries and several other works, one sort of expects a baseline for Dee Cooke's work, and Barry Basic and the Witch's Cave hits that and then some. It's an increasingly ironic name, because in each entry except the very first, you do something not very basic to Adventuron or text adventures at all. I'm worried even this allusion may be a spoiler, because when a lightbulb went on for me, it was a neat moment. It wasn't critical to solving things. Maybe I should have seen it right away. But this is intertwined with another BB game. It might make perfect sense if you played through things in order, though I'd be interested to trade experiences with people who played Barry Basic in a different order than I did. It would probably impact us both differently.
If I recall correctly, BB was one of the games allowed in slightly post-deadline. Good choice by the organizers! And the worst I can say about it is – the difficulty jumps from on the easy side to what is a very neat sequence to complete the final task, so that's uneven. But the final puzzle is quite fun.
In BBWC, you've been sent to the seaside, chaperoned by a horrible teacher named Mr. Brawl, who will spend the day reading the sports section and yelling at kids not to go in the cave. Your task: pick up five seashells, and since Barry is physically slower and weaker than most others, and he's already been pushed around on the bus ride up, there's not much left when he gets going. At first, Barry has to use (ahem) basic verbs to discover a few shells. But of course that cave is there for a reason! After all, this game wasn't titled "Barry Basic and the Witch's Cave He Avoided." And I enjoyed how it jibed with Barry's adventures in future games, looking where he was not supposed to.
The adventure turns surreal once in the cave, with an underground lake and such and new verbs to learn. They're nonstandard, but you know them. How? Well, I'm torn between waffling on this review and giving out untagged spoilers. Suffice it to say the final shell is definitely the hardest, and Barry has an interesting run-in with another student, described below.
(Spoiler - click to show)That student is Tony O'Hara, whom I didn't realize was Barry's big strong friend in Quick Escape until near the end. Then I felt dumb I didn't notice it! I like how the author plays off how Tony and Barry see things, without playing the DUH TONY IS DUMB card. And after I realized Tony was that Tony, I realized it answered another question I had in BBQE: how the heck did these two very different people wind up as friends? Perhaps we will find how Barry and Gill met in another game in the series, too. I'd like that.
Also, I'd like to see more Adventuron games where you can switch between characters. On the strength of the Barry Basic games, I see a lot of possibilities.
That run-in, though, made me realize the one thing I felt was missing. It's well done, as you do things to the landscape that make the graphics for a room change (the author does a lot of this. It's a neat feature of Adventuron.) But it has something its predecessors don't. Barry already feels established in them, and here, if the difficulty isn't as well distributed (yet--post comp releases can fix stuff) Barry Basic and the Speed Daemon felt more smoothly paced despite being bigger. It felt like the author missed a chance to maybe put in more conflicts with other kids, nothing terribly violent, but enough to make puzzles tougher before ramping up to the big one. Still, the game is more than complete, and I wouldn't have liked the author to put off publishing BBWC over that.
So, yes, I really liked BBWC overall. Mr. Brawl is an effective antagonist, though there is another, later. You just know that cave he tells you not to explore is going to be explored, and you will find out why it is dangerous. The conflicts were resolved well. I am already looking forward to a fifth entry. If you are considering playing this after TALP 2023, though, I recommend you start with Barry Basic and the Quick Escape.
Mr Seguin's Goat (MSG) seems a bit miscast for TALP, but it does seem to be a worthy effort, if more than a bit opaque. It's an adaptation of Daudet's short story, which you can find on gutenberg.org about a goat who wants freedom, and she has warned that it will be the death of her, but she goes anyway. She meets a male goat, and then she meets her fate in the form of a wolf who kills her. Cheery stuff!
MSG is largely faithful to the story, with of course the obligatory ways for the player to mess up and a few tricky roadblocks and frustrations to endure. It's cruel on the Zarfian scale, largely due to a deck of cards you must find. Here the game seems to tease you by making card 2 easy to find, and later you find cards 3 and 4. The problem? It's divided into four chapters, and you can't go back. You may suspect there is a card 1, but it's not obvious.
Perhaps there is something like the learned helplessness experiment with the rats and the shocks here. If it's intentional, it's a sly trick to pull on TALP. The start is relatively charming. You are a goat on a farm, and you need to eat three things before your owner milks you. You are tethered to a post, so you can only go two rooms away. The coding here must be rather clever, as you could go north/west/south/east from the start, but not with the post. It also underscores the security you feel, which is a trade-off for the freedom you think you really want. Something important to the best ending, so to speak, is outside of your initial range.
One character in the first part tips you off to the existence of the other, who is kind of tough to find due to the verbs. The game has a list of verbs, and while you can brute-force your way through them, it gets tiring. I wound up finding the card and not guessing the verb because (Spoiler - click to show)it was bloody, and I figured the blood had dried. The descriptions aren't especially lush, since the game is in Quill format and fits into a Z3 file.
Indeed, I felt I was missing something, but a bit of impatience kicked in. And while Mr. Seguin asked "are you sure you've done everything here?" I was in the mood to push forward. Especially since there was a fence where you need to JUMP FENCE instead of JUMP, even after you've jumped and it could be implicit.
This all seems a bit more like "here's how a parser can be a bit sly and so you have to use your head if things don't work" than a genuine tutorial. The author probably had to save space for the Z3 game. But it felt almost like an anti-tutorial, and a list of possible verbs really didn't change stuff.
So that's the bad stuff, and I think it's important to be warned about that before going on to what works rather better, which is the assortment of animals that you as Blanchette, the goat, talk to. Some don't react much, some just chat, and some show the same fatalistic fear that the reader may be feeling. Some warn you against doing further, and some are willing to help you on your way to the top of the mountain to meet the wolf. You're pretty sure you can win!
The story reads like a conglomeration of fables, but it works, overall, to me, once you see what to do with the puzzles. You find a secret passage. You realize an upturned cart needs to be moved. You find a use for dung.
The game foreshadows a bad end throughout, as when your owner locks you in the barn to stop you from fleeing, but then you get out anyway. A few of the puzzles involve killing a weaker animal than yourself, or leading them to their doom. Some seem resigned to it. It's not especially cheery in retrospect. There's a bit of odd causality with some dancing faeries that disappear once you solve a puzzle elsewhere. A sign somehow counts as wood and bread. The climax at the end is a fight with the wolf. I can't spoil it too much, but it is a sort of card game, and it relies on you picking up the cards that you found.
I wound up getting only 60 out of 100 points, and a lot of people were baffled as to whether there were 40 others, or maybe this was just another trick the author played on us to say, well, you can't even get close to what you want.
As mentioned above, Mr. Seguin's Goat felt like it would have fit in better with ParserComp or a TinyInform jam. It doesn't really have a tutorial behind a list of verbs that you can crank through and eventually get the right one, and there's even a sign that you READ to see that you are veru obedient! I'll take it as snark pointed at the goat and not the player. That, and how I figured the one missing card was destroyed when I found it, and taking a while to figure how to put something in the cart, slowed things down a lot for me. Perhaps I should have tried some of the solutions, in the general "there must be a solution here" vein. It would have worked. But I think it would run contrary to the spirit of TALP, which is about intuiting the right answer or at least telling the player what to do.
Still, I'm glad to see a retelling of an unusual story. There is macabre imagination here, and it's an accomplishment to figure what you did and look back through the journey. It's fatalistic without a "ha ha you had no chance." But boy, it's the feistiest TALP game I've played by a long shot.