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About the Story
an interactive cooking
Railei, a world hundreds of thousands of years and light years away...
In the small town of Luroz is the eve of the Harvesting Festival, a young (that is, 80 years old) fey has just ended the preparation for a dinner with friends, and all remains to do is cooking, but the snafu is always lying in ambush...
A short teaser trailer, sequel of an unreleased WIP, presenting a first look into the interesting world of Railei. It's also the second IFComp entry written with Magx, released with its source code, perhaps the lone actual worked Magx source.
Friendly warning: there's a WC ;)
70th Place - 29th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2023)
Number of Reviews: 6
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Creative Cooking is a relatively short parser, with minimal puzzles, set in a fantasy world. Your goal is to gather ingredients to complete the different dishes planned for the dinner with your friends. The game files include a walkthrough.
The game warns out ahead of time it is a sneak peek at a much larger WIP to be released in a few years. And it is the sneakiest of peeks. A short, homey, and low-stake peek into a fantastical world. There is both little and quite a bit inside this game, which makes reviewing a bit perplexing… it is both under- and over-cooked.
First, there is little in terms of gameplay. Unlike the title and blurb implies, there is no actual cooking in this game (to my grand disappointment ;-;), though you are tasked to gather ingredients for the dishes you plan to whip up. This fetch quest takes you around your little quaint town, where you either need to talk to some NPC to get an ingredient, or pick it up yourself. Get all of them, go home, and… you’re done. Depending on your movements, you may be done in 20min or so (which is fine, we don’t need just epic stories with masterful puzzles!)… or explore a bit more, and you’ll double/triple that time.
But that exploration was pretty limited, due to the very few interactive elements coded. Each “room” comes with a lengthy description, often shining light on a handful of elements standing in that spot… though only a dozen or so items (from the 25 rooms) can actually be examined. You have a secret underground closet, but can’t snoop inside. There’s a bench in the park, but you can’t sit on it. Mentions of plants, but won’t learn more about them either. I think I spent more of my time running around the game trying to interact with things… unnecessarily because there’s nothing to do with them. And for the amounts of rooms available, it’s a bit disappointing…
As well, then you do have an action coded, there is often only one way to do it, which may not even be mentioned in the About section of the game. I had to open the walkthrough to find that solution, because it was kind of obtuse you needed to throw it.
On the other hand, it’s clear the author put a lot of time into shaping up the world of this game/teaser. As mentioned before, the room descriptions are fairly lengthy (for a parser), revealing quite a bit about the town, or introducing fantasy concept (yay for new made-up words). Yet, the library room is the clearest example of that, with the different tomes available, providing exposition for the world and what might be to come. It is the real teaser about the universe of this whole WIP project…
But it’s easy to miss, since the main puzzle doesn’t require it.
I do wonder if the time spent on the whole worldbuilding and those details could have been maybe spent on the more puzzle/interactive aspect of this teaser. Still, there is an endearing aspect to this entry, short as it was, even if the implementation didn’t quite follow what you’d expect of the parser recipe. Yet, it made for an intriguing amuse-bouche…
(This review is based on the IFComp version of the game.)
Have a rummage through the fridge and get a can of something from the pantry. Half an hour later, serve a bowl of something delicious. I love creative cooking!
A bit of creativity is needed here to cook your festive midsummer dinner. After looking around the house and checking the pantry, you realise some ingredients are missing.
Well, the missing ingredients, and by extension the whole game, are an excuse to get the player out the door and exploring the town. Creative Cooking is the author’s way of giving us a glimpse into the imagination he poured into his ongoing WIP. The ABOUT text advises the player to type HELP in every location, not for any hints, but for more background information on the world the author is building, of which this town, Leroz, is a small part.
The quest for the ingredients and the puzzles to get them are close to irrelevant to the experience. So is the actual “creative cooking” from the title, apart from a bunch of ending paragraphs about cooking. As a game, even as an attempt at a realised interactive setting, Creative Cooking fails. Its surroundings, scenery and details are severely underimplemented, there are no alternate commands for necessary actions, almost anything that falls outside the scope of the walkthrough is denied.
As a tantalising sneak-peek at what the author is working on though, I found the flaws and the author comments in the HELP-section made the work feel like an unfinished archeological artefact which I could try to investigate and decipher.
The most intriguing to me was perhaps the collection of books in the home library, the third location I visited. Their content hints at a world where there is a mixture of wisdom and intuitive magic at work, harnessed and studied and analysed in a scholarly manner.
One of the books also drops a clue that this fantasy world, Railei, is a far-away planet somehow connected to our own. Apparently a Raileian seer-prophet has witnessed a world of technology instead of magic, a great distance from Railei both in space and time.
An interesting glimpse into the world the author is building.
(This is a lightly-edited version of a review I posted to the IntFiction forums during 2023's IFComp).
I have played a lot of IF over the years, and as a result – not to brag or anything – I’m kind of a big deal. I’ve rescued crashing spaceships, defeated maniacal supervillains, slain more evil wizards than you can count, and saved humanity, earth, the multiverse more times than I can count; I’ve bearded Lovecraftian horrors in their dens, and performed great acts of perspicacity in ferreting out whodunnit (albeit typically with a lot of restarts). So to play a game where the inciting incident is that you’re missing a couple of ingredients for the dinner party you’re going to throw for your friends, and you rise to the occasion by popping out and grabbing them with little more fuss than it takes to make a Trader Joe’s run… is actually a nice change of pace.
Creative Cooking is a cozy, exploration-focused game that, pace the title, doesn’t require you to do any cooking at all. Instead, it’s got two phases: first, you wander your house and learn a little more about the protagonist and their world – this is a fantasy world and you’re a sort of elf, and there are a lot of proper nouns being thrown around – then you get to the pantry, realize that you’re out of some stuff, and the second, puzzlier portion kicks off. You automatically jot down the three ingredients you’ll need, as well as some notes on how to obtain them, and head out to the elf village proper to find them. Between the three, there’s maybe a puzzle and a half; one is just lying on the ground, you get another just by talking to two NPCs (who have maybe two or three possible topics of conversation apiece), and then the last requires you to take one additional action after you pick it up, which is explicitly cued but I still managed to mess up due to my blind spots when dealing with two-word parsers (Spoiler - click to show) (I tried putting the vine in the pond, and throwing it in the pond, and dropping it, but had to get a hint to land on just THROW VINE). Then you go home, cook the meal, and have a nice time with your friends – actually, an especially nice time with one in particular.
I’m all for this kind of thing; not every game needs to have world-shaking stakes or brow-furrowing challenges, especially this deep in the Comp randomizer list. A simple premise with easy puzzles that just provides an excuse to hang out and explore a setting is a great concept for a game, especially one that, per the blurb, is meant to ease players into a forthcoming longer piece set in the same world. Unfortunately, I don’t think the implementation of the concept worked especially well for me. In large measure this is due to the shallowness of said implementation. Creative Cooking is written in a successor to the very early AGT language, and since I’m not familiar with that, I can’t say how much of this is due to the choice of language, but regardless, the game feels significantly more primitive even than other intentionally old-school games entered into this Comp. Very very few nouns are implemented – room descriptions will routinely mention objects that seem worth investigating, like a table with a drawer, or tools on a workbench, but rarely is any of this stuff even minimally implemented. Seemingly-obvious actions, like COOK, are also disallowed, and see the spoiler above for the parser issues I ran into trying to solve the one real puzzle.
The other factor distancing me from the game was the prose style. English isn’t the author’s first language, and several native-speaking testers/proofreaders are listed in the credits, so I don’t want to harp on this element too much, but there are still quite a lot of typos and confusing syntax, compounded by dense worldbuilding that lacks an immediate hook, a chatty approach that bombards the player with gossip without much context, and a reluctance to present text as anything but a single overlong paragraph (this might be a limitation of the engine). Like, when you examine yourself, the game notes that you’re an elf with a “kirune” body, so when I found a book in my library about kirune physiology I was hoping to learn more about what that meant. But here’s what you get when reading the book:
"This book on kirune physiology is the gift from Senpai Miryarai; when I unwrapped it, I was perplexed of the choice, Miryarai is a very accomplished healer, and for me is a really trusted friend and senpai. And she knows it. Noticing my perplexity, she says, with all her proverbial phlegm and calmness, a strange phrase: “a page a day keeps the healer away”. I never heard something like. Seeing my increasing perplexity, she coquettishly looks toward Etuye Alasne, hugging her with her right white wing. “it’s a saying from another world, far in the past and space”. Her matter-of-fact, objective explanation makes sense, Etuye is an exceptionally well-versed Soulmancer, and her soulmancy led to the first Soulmating till the end of Time in more than 10,000 years, the one between Miryarai, Etuye Alasne and Atuzejiki, but I still felt something off in her manifestation of love towards Etuye. Sometime later, I asked Miyai about this, and she explained, but it’s another and long story, to be narrated elsewhere, later…"
It’s interesting to see a game implemented in an older IF language that does something other than bog-standard collect-the-treasures gameplay, and I admit that I’m probably more down on fantasy worldbuilding bollocks than I should be, so I don’t want to judge Creative Cooking too harshly – and again, I really did like the setup. But with gameplay that’s so simplified, and the fruits of exploration so baroque and unrewarding, I didn’t find much here that clicked with me.