The Turnip

by Joseph Pentangelo


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Number of Reviews: 8
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1-8 of 8

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Diminishing returns, December 12, 2020
by Mike Russo (Los Angeles)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2020

This is the second game from this author in the Comp, after The Pinecone, and it shares a bunch of similarities: itís written with a real literary flourish, itís got a very appealing presentation, itís adapted from a pre-existing piece of static fiction, the central action is surreal, and itís more hypertext-based than choice-based. Weíll get back to all of that in a minute, but meantime what Iím really wondering is whether the author has just like a giant stack of flash-fiction about conical plant-matter. Will next year see The Bell Pepper, The Cyprus Tree, and The Top-Heavy Carrot? Inquiring minds want to know.

Anyway that wouldnít necessarily be a bad thing, since Iíve enjoyed both contributions to this yearís Comp, though in a reverse of how nice theyíd be to eat I liked Turnip much less than Pinecone. The strong points are pretty similar in both Ė the fonts and colors really are lovely to look at, and the writing continues to be really well-considered, with the short length allowing for a huge amount of craft per square inch of text.

The downsides are bigger here, though. While this one has a dog (point: Turnip), the protagonistís world and job are odd and alienating, with the weird focus on deer-meat and the business with the holes Ė and the crazy description of your neighbor:

"Today is the day that your neighborís balance between vision and myopia finally tilts towards oblivion. As of midday, the whole world is a swirling, colorful omelet. She sees what seems to be a slice of ham wobbling beside a burnt piece of toast, but canít distinguish hallucination from garbled reality just yet. She will need to call a doctor."

This is well-written, but is disconnected from the main thrust of the story and is I thought a bit too silly. Anyway, all this oddness means the turnip seems less strange when it invades this already-weird status quo Ė a shame because obscurely threatening vegetables are a good trope (did someone ask about a pickle?)

The game is also less responsive than the Pinecone, I thought Ė where that game had two different places where you could make choices and see a slightly different result, the Turnip really only had like half a dozen opportunities to click some text and get more detail, before going back to the linear trunk of the story. All told this means I didnít find the game all that engaging, though I enjoyed the O Henry-ish button at the end. Definitely include a dog in next yearís The Coconut But Itís Sort of Mashed Up All Weird So It Looks Like A Cone If You Squint At It, though.

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
An Odd, Mildly Surreal Way to Spend a Few Minutes, December 6, 2020
by Joey Acrimonious
Related reviews: IFComp 2020

The Turnip takes place in a world almost like our own, but just different enough that it seems impossible to fully grasp the nature of the setting or the motivations of the characters. Thereís a dog that acts almost, but not quite, like a dog would act. You have a job that seems almost, but not quite, like a job that a person would have. Thereís a turnip that acts almost, but not quite, like youíd expect from a turnip. The whole thing feels kind of like what would happen if an alien from some other planet were asked to write a short story about life on Earth, having heard a little bit about it but not having studied it in any detail.

Itís a piece that provokes a bit of thought. The world of The Turnip may seem weird to us. To the eyes of folks in a hypothetical alternate world like this one, presumably our society would seem equally as weird. It might seem odd that the society in this story attaches economic value to a dirt field full of holes, but who are we to judge? To them, maybe it would seem odd that we attach economic value to a field full ofÖ Christmas trees, for example. This, I think, is the strong point of The Turnip: it invites us to question our frame of reference.

Itís also totally linear (apart from your choice of whether to read certain brief descriptions along the way), and reading everything from start to finish takes a few minutes at most, so thereís not much to it. Itís an efficient story, in that it packs a fairly high degree of interesting content relative to its tiny size. Worth the time to check it out.

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
The taste of a turnip, December 1, 2020
by AKheon (Finland)
Related reviews: Twine, choice-based, IF Comp 2020, surreal

The Turnip is a choice-based fantasy game by Joseph Pentangelo, published in 2020. It features a story about a mysterious turnip a man finds on a field while working.

The gameplay is simple and linear, and the presentation neat. The real draw here is the eccentric story, which at first feels a bit like a slice-of-life story from somewhere in the 18th or 19th century, but turns into something more surreal in short order.

I think the writing is good. Itís economical with words, but it creates lively imagery and dispenses fantastic and weird details at just the right pace to keep the reader guessing. The story is very short, though - I wouldíve liked seeing even more of the world where the game takes place in.

The game is worth setting aside 15 minutes for if you like well-written, strange tales.

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Something Leafy This Way Comes, December 1, 2020

I appreciate the effort put into this entry's presentation ó the technical choices made to select fonts and colors, but also the information that is shared and withheld.

It's the terse story of an ominous turnip discovery: you play as someone with a job digging holes in a field, and the story is delivered in a fitting tone. The story advances one link at a time, but you can take detours to examine different things along the way.

Those detours make The Turnip stand out. Something is not quite right even before the turnip appears, and the narrator's world-weary tone conceals oddities that would only be present in a world much different from our own. When you click to examine something closer, you might get the bland description of something dismissed as commonplace, or it could be the wild perspective of someone seeing the world as a swirling, colorful omelet.

I enjoyed this storyís skill and restraint. It didnít get bogged down with excess description, and it didnít trip over itself trying to deliver an in-depth examination of a world that is Not Like Our Own. A measured amount alienating details did a nice job of keeping me off balance while methodically trudging along an assigned path.

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Trippy, October 14, 2020
by deathbytroggles (Minneapolis, MN)

The author notes that this was a short story turned into a linear game, and I very much would like to read it; or rather, I would like a slightly larger version of this short story.

Itís a peculiar, intriguing world we find ourselves in. I wish I knew more about this place, and the people in it, and why our protagonist feels the way they do about the people in their sphere. I love short stories in that they often donít exhaust themselves with pointless details while also leaving the reader with a sense of wonder. In this case, I felt I was wondering too much.

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A short, poetic story in Twine format, October 13, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes

I suppose this game achieves exactly what it wanted to achieve. It took a fairly funny story (in the way that Kafka would write a comedy if the mood ever struck him), added some interactivity and a lot of polish, and turned it into a short game.

The writing is good, the game is short, and thereís not much to do but read it and contemplate. What does it mean? Besides my Kafka comparison, it also reminds me of Regina Spektorís song lyrics.

+Polish: Impeccably polished.
+Descriptiveness: Some of the better writing of the last few years.
-Interactivity: It wasn't trying to achieve it, and it failed successfully.
+Emotional impact: It was thoughtful.
-Would I play again? Not unless I forget it.

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful:
strange flash fiction, perhaps "grotesque" in the literary sense..., October 5, 2020
by WidowDido (Northern California)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2020

An odd little piece of flash fiction, probably under 2000 words.

I doubt many English-language IF players know the name Yuri Mamleev, or a book of very strange short fiction collected in English under the title The Sky Above Hell and Other Stories. It is one of the few places I've seen fiction with a similar blur of realism and the grotesque, even in some places a similar tone. When these grotesque stories are executed correctly, they may not be "great" literature--but I tend to find them interesting, enjoyable, and above all memorable. For the length of this particular work, it is certainly worthwhile.

This is not a great work of IF. It is very light on the interactivity. As a piece of fiction, it is also not great. But IS certainly readable, and certainly more interesting than a lot of what can be found published in dozens of literary journals. It is a little sad this piece went unpublished as a regular story, but it is to the benefit of the IF community. Even with an IF Competition field of 100+ games, I imagine I'll remember this strange little story more than many longer and more interactive works of IF.

Anyone who likes the weird/strange/grotesque covered by a thin and warped veneer of realism should make a point of playing through this work.

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Very weird, short and linear, October 2, 2020
by RadioactiveCrow (Irving, TX)
Related reviews: About 15 minutes

I didn't care for this piece much. As the author notes, it is a short story he wrote some time ago turned into a very linear Twine piece, where the only interactivity is clicking on a few words to get some extra details. There are no branches in the narrative and there is only one ending. On top of that the story is really weird, like Upstream Color weird, and I didn't get it. Sorry.

It was clean execution though, and I appreciated the author's "About" page at the end.

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