Creative Cooking

by dott. Piergiorgio

Fantasy, teaser trailer

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Number of Ratings: 9
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1-9 of 9

Where Am I Peeing??, January 5, 2024
by JJ McC
Related reviews: IFComp 2023

Adapted from an IFCOMP23 Review

The setup is: you are an elf (right? Those guys again…) whose goal is to prepare dinner for their friends. You need some missing ingredients, find 'em! ‘Save the world’ is overrated as a plot motivation, no?

This is a translated work, and there are some glitches to be sure. I took it on myself to note them in my transcript, but started second guessing myself halfway through. Where is the line between ‘robotic adherence to Funk and Wagnalls’ and ‘interesting new language rhythms’? I’m sure not the one to pinpoint that inflection point, but this work actively made me question it.

You know those guys that play doctors on TV, then proceed to give medical advice? My stolen authority is, I’m married to an amateur baker and I’m going to give a baking metaphor. One that will convince you ‘this guy has no idea what baking even is. Maybe should be restrained from entering a kitchen.’

As a game it feels weirdly underBAKED (ah? ah? yah, I did that) with spots of ‘baked to perfection’ inside. Normal cakes bake and the outside firms up first, but you need a toothpick test to determine if the inside is done. Well, this is like a cake that somehow bakes itself inside out! The outside framework is still a bit gooey and loose, but inside there are pockets of firm, fluffy resolution. You wake up in a lab and explore your way through a pretty empty house until finding the kitchen… where the game begins. (In my case 40 MINUTES INTO GAMEPLAY.) So many unimplemented nouns and a slow build setting. The first object I could even examine closely was a toilet pot, and lemme tell you the mental dance my character did on approach was UN. SETTLING. It was a half hour before it was clear I was in a fantasy setting! (Longer before I realized I was an ELF ptoo, ptoo.) You can imagine when one of the first details was ‘I sometimes pee in my backyard,’ how weird THAT came off! Honestly I’m not sure it got any better once I was an elf.

Then, you eventually stumble into the library and a whole tapestry of setting and backstory unfolds before you, liberally peppered with ‘gonna throw fantasy words at you and you’re just gonna have to context your way through.’ I actually really like that approach. In IF, without some careful mood setting, it always strikes me a bit off when the characters explain something they already know for the benefit of the player. Here it comes across as tantalizing world building we don’t completely understand. This is how tantalizing works! If we understood it we’d have a different response: admiration or disappointment. It seems this background is part of a shared world the author intends to flesh out in subsequent works. The glimpses here make a convincing case to keep watching. The world building was the most firm part of this weird, inside-out cake I’m describing, and where most of the text is devoted.

The gooey outside is the gameplay. I mentioned the unimplemented nouns, that are practically ubiquitous. Weirdly ‘UP’ is listed as an exit in every location, but the messaging says, ‘no, don’t try that.’ I can only assume there was a levitation mechanism at play early on that got cut? At least one outdoor location mentions a roof when it rejects you, but maybe the whole thing just should have been trimmed. The puzzles are pretty unchallenging ‘find the stuff,’ most of it laying around or minimal-step sub-questable. One item needs to be marinated in a pond, but the game rejects (Spoiler - click to show) >PUT or >DROP and only accepts (Spoiler - click to show) >THROW . As you go, you get occasional tantalizing backstory details - NPCs you don’t really interact with but have rich things to say; descriptions of the town. Still some baked nuggets in the goo!

So far, flashes of engaging background in a pretty Mechanical experience, right? Well, I haven’t yet mentioned my favorite touch in this game. The HELP system doubles as the author’s DVD-like location-bound commentary track. I resisted initially because I didn’t want spoilers. When it became clear I was walking through a minimally implemented set of rooms, I broke the seal. The author’s voice here is frank and engaging and shot through with the uncertain grasping of a creator struggling with details in service of a goal. That was charming and irresistible, not least of which because it so precisely captured the creative tradeoff process with all its uncertainty, dread and regret. I mean, I’ve felt all of those things in projects of my own ALL THE TIME. In some ways the commentary was more compelling than the underlying game!

What do I do with this physically impossible cake? Between the commentary and the tantalizing background it generated Sparks. Yeah, when cakes are generating sparks I have lost all control over the metaphor. Intrusively under-implemented. Stealth launchpad for the game to follow!

Played: 11/4/23
Playtime: 1.25hr, finished
Artistic/Technical ratings: Sparks of Joy, Intrusively under-implemented
Would Play After Comp?: No, but I look forward to seeing the next game in this universe. Which maybe was the point of the thing?

Artistic scale: Bouncy, Mechanical, Sparks of Joy, Engaging, Transcendent
Technical scale: Unplayable, Intrusive, Notable (Bugginess), Mostly Seamless, Seamless

Note: this review is based on older version of the game.
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Intriguing fantasy world but needed much deeper implementation, January 3, 2024
by Vivienne Dunstan (Dundee, Scotland)

(Note this is a review of the game version available part way through IFComp)

I wasn’t sure I’d be able to run this parser game. The competition listing gives no clues re interpreters etc. The game file is AGT format. But luckily Gargoyle and Spatterlight on my Mac will run it. Gargoyle coped best with visual layout, so I used that.

This is a very short game, nowhere near the hour and a half playtime suggested on the competition site listing. You have to gather a set of ingredients to cook with, and that’s it. They’re not hard to get, and it’s nice to get to the end. I would like to see the game finished. This is very much just a taster - an “amuse bouche”! - for the planned full story.

However the game is plagued by unimplemented objects that are referred to in the description. And that makes it quite frustrating to play. For example in my second location as I started to play I had this experience:

> w

My bedroom
My bedroom, with its large, welcoming double-bed (welcoming not only
for me, that is...) is against the west wall, and a round table is in the
centre. Two doors lead east back to my lab and west to the backyard,
and stairs lead down to my closet.

> examine bed
I don’t understand the word ‘bed’ as a noun.

> examine table
I don’t understand the word ‘table’ as a noun.
The same thing applies elsewhere, far too often. For the author please implement objects like this. Even if they aren’t necessary to complete a game on a simple run through some players will try interacting with them. And it breaks the player immersion when you can’t.

In another location I had a similar problem:

The garden, which is also the common green, is not only where the
zarnest trees are, it is where the people relax; there are many benches. I
can only return south to the upper plaza.

> examine benches
I don’t understand the word ‘benches’ as a noun.

> sit
I don’t understand ‘sit’ as a verb.
Fair enough maybe that it didn’t understand SIT, though can it be added in game? But the benches are right there, and I’d maybe like to do something with them.

There’s a more serious problem with one object that you need to do something to after you get it. I’m going to put this in spoiler text. (Spoiler - click to show)You have to soak the yardvine in water in the pond. I tried SOAK YARDVINE, PUT YARDVINE IN POND (or WATER) [either gets response “I can’t move the blue yardvine.”] and DROP YARDVINE. No good. Only THROW YARDVINE seems to work, which to be fair is in the walkthrough, but wasn’t intuitive.

The fantasy world setting is intriguing, and I was happy exploring it. The author is clearly putting effort into developing the ideas behind it. But constantly being unable to interact more with elements was very frustrating. Please, please in the full version of this game flesh out the objects in locations more. People will try EXAMINE X where X is lots of different things. And if you can support this it can make for a much better player experience.

So yup, folks may be like me initially thinking they can’t run the game, but very possibly can. It’s a short, simple game. But needs a much fuller implementation. And I don’t think that’s a problem of the Magx system, but just more author coding that was needed.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Creative... but no cooking., December 12, 2023
by manonamora
Related reviews: ifcomp

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…

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A glimpse into a world., December 11, 2023
by Rovarsson (Belgium)

(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.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Stuck at a low boil, December 7, 2023
by Mike Russo (Los Angeles)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2023

(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.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A game with rich worldbuilding, where you have to gather ingredients, November 22, 2023
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game is a brief but lively game in a fantasy world with anthropomorphic animals (although they're apparently not quite anthropomorphic animals) where you need to whip together a few random ingredients to make a creative recipe.

It’s written for the Magx compiler, a variant of AGT, and runs in Gargoyle for me.

The world seems fun and lively. To me it felt like Redwall but with invented names for the various species and fruits. While the game is fairly short, its many locations and NPCs and the worldbuilding made it feel large.

I struggled with some of the language as much of it feels academic and full of complex words. For instance, in a book on science:

"The book explain how the Subtle is the other face of handicraft and
mechanism-making, and how both can, and must, be balanced, being
the natural path of progress and improved living; the example of how
the energy from the lightning bolt spell can be stored in water-filled
glass container with metallic rivestiment on the outside and a central
spike inside is a prime one of this balancing between Subtle and
handicraft, when on the other side, handicraft instruments are needed
in Subtle research and practice, and no astrometry and time can’t be
done without mechanical devices, and illuminating orbs can’t be
produced without Subtle. Indeed an useful text for a creator, inspiring
useful (and not-so-useful, I admit) creations. Thanks, Etuye !!"

This uses complex language like ‘rivestiment’ and ‘astrometry’ and uses elaborate sentence structure, and some other parts of the game are similar, so I was lost at times.

The puzzles were generally well-clued; I enjoyed the puzzle involving the NPCs, as it felt organic and natural to look around the city and hunt for people.

The implementation is weak in several places, though; many things are described but don’t exist, so if something is mentioned in the text (like the ‘tools of the trade’ in the front room) a command regarding them will result in an error message (like 'X TOOLS: I don’t see any tools here). One puzzle says you need to (Spoiler - click to show)immerse a vine in a pond, but (Spoiler - click to show)PUT VINE IN POND, IMMERSE VINE, INSERT VINE IN POND etc. all don’t work. The walkthrough (which I had to use just for this puzzle) admits this is a ‘read the author’s mind’ moment, but I think it might be better just to make the other actions synonyms for the correct one.

So I think this has some solid worldbuilding and interesting puzzle mechanics, but I think the language could be simpler and more straightforward and the implementation could be refined. When I do rate this on IFDB, I will definitely bump up my score if there is a post-comp release. Overall, I think the characters seemed fun and the food sounded good!

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- Edo, November 6, 2023

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