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Dead Meat in the Pit, by Christina Nordlander
A rough-around-the-edges version of a Grimm story, August 12, 2022
by Kinetic Mouse Car
Related reviews: Fairy tale, Inform

Dead Meat in the Pit is a game based off a Grimm fairy tale called "Going a-Traveling.”

Grimm story background
In the Grimm story a mother and her son live in a simple cottage. The son is becoming more independent and wants to journey out into the world. Because the family is poor his mother teaches him to say "not much" to strangers so they would understand his situation. The game follows the Grimm storyline quite closely. Note: The game does not clarify the gender of the protagonist. I am not sure of the author intended for the protagonist to be gender neutral or a son, like in the story.

The main gameplay mechanic is that the player learns sayings from each character and passes them on to the next character they encounter to advance the game. Right before the game begins the protagonist’s mother, as is the case in the Grimm story, instructs them to say, “Not much” to the first person on their journey.

To demonstrate this mechanic here is a sample of the gameplay: (Spoiler - click to show) The first character the player meets is a fisherman. When the player says, "Not much" the fisherman introduces them to the phrase "Get it full." The player repeats “Get it full” back to the fisherman who then gives them a boat ride to their next destination. When the player reaches the next character, a hangman, they say, “Get it full” and learn another new phrase that they repeat to the next character after that (in fact one of these sayings is connected to the game’s title). This is a simple but clever way of incorporating the structure of the original story into an interactive parser format. In that regard the game closely replicates the original. I was hoping that the game would last a little longer although it seems that the Grimm story itself is about the same length.

There is only one ending but three ways of achieving it. The ending uses the same language as the Grimm story. It goes: (Spoiler - click to show)

*** And you never went travelling again. ***

The three variations are: (Spoiler - click to show) 1, you are chased by farmers who beat you up and leave you to crawl home. 2, the fisherman rescues you and takes you home. And 3, you uncover a shallow grave and are handsomely rewarded by the mayor, allowing you and your mother to live comfortably. This third ending was a nice surprise. In the Grimm story the protagonist is beaten, returns home, and decides to never go traveling again. Though this is the case for variation 1 (which is also the easiest ending to reach) at least the player can influence the circumstances behind the outcome of never travelling again.

There are bugs that reduce the game’s quality. For instance, you can hear the mob even after the fisherman boats the protagonist away to escape safely. Later in the game the “Not much” phrase is no longer usable. If you try “talk” and the select it from the menu the game does not even acknowledge that the player is trying to use it.

The game is also poorly implemented. The description of Lake Shore is “A fisherman is standing in a poor boat not many paces from the shore, pulling in a net. Only a few fish are twitching in the net.” But if you try to examine the net or the fish the game says, “You can’t see any such thing.” Another case is when you come across the road where farmers are trying to move their cart. The game has no response if you try to examine the farmers which is surprising since (Spoiler - click to show) they are the ones that mob you. If the game were to fix these it would make a huge difference for the gameplay experience.

That said, the game’s listing explains that it was made in one hour for a jam so I will cut the game some slack. Even if it is rough around the edges it does strive to capture the Grimm version’s storyline.

After some light reading on the Grimm fairy tale, I can say that the game follows the story quite closely. Unfortunately, it is an interesting premise weakened by bugs and poor implementation. Nonetheless, if you like retellings of fairy tales than I recommend checking this one out, especially if you have never heard of “Going a-Traveling.” I certainty never heard of it until I played this game. If anything, it is a nice way of expanding your knowledge of Grimm stories.

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