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Requires a Z-Code interpreter. Visit IFWiki for download links.
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Requires a Z-Code interpreter. Visit IFWiki for download links.

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Mother Loose

by Irene Callaci

Literary, Children's

(based on 11 ratings)
2 reviews

About the Story

It's been one of those days. It started out bad and just got worse: You're seven years old and in trouble a lot. You try to be good and to do as you ought, but nothing, it seems, goes exactly as planned. For instance, today things got quite out of hand: you poured your own milk, but it spilled on the floor; the cat wanted out just as you slammed the door; you didn't remember to turn off the faucet; your brother, poor thing, is still locked in the closet. But that wasn't all. No, indeed. Did I mention that things got much worse? They did. Pay attention: you're lost and alone and nothing's familiar. You wander around for a while until you're ready to panic. Then, out of the blue, an egg on a fence asks for help--and from you!
[--blurb from The Z-Files Catalogue]

Game Details


Nominee, Best NPCs; Nominee, Best Individual NPC - 1998 XYZZY Awards

6th Place - 4th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (1998)

Editorial Reviews

Baf's Guide

Gentle children's story with plenty of whimsy. You're in a land of nursery rhymes come to life--Humpty Dumpty is trying to get down from that wall, for instance--and you can't seem to find your mother, either. Generally appropriate for kids, though a few of the puzzles might be too difficult, and there are some red herrings that might be confusing. Lots of alternate solutions, lots of replayability; at the end, in fact, you're given suggestions for replaying, specifically how to get through the game without causing so much (or so little) trouble. Well-crafted and well-written, with a hint menu.

-- Duncan Stevens

Mother Loose is notable, in short, because it represents a rarity in current IF: a well-developed story environment, thoroughly coded with humor to boot, whose elements do not necessarily exist for the sake of puzzles.
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There are some original puzzles in Mother Loose. I really enjoyed the puzzle of how to get the kitten out of the well. It was well thought out and logical. Another interesting puzzle was the end puzzle where you rescue Mother Loose from the bell tower. Despite the topic, Mother Loose is more difficult than some other competition games I have played [...]
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Number of Reviews: 2
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A short retelling of several nursery rhymes in a kid-friendly atmosphere, February 3, 2016

Mother Loose is a shortish retelling of several nursery rhymes in a parser format. You encounter Mary and her Lamb, Humpty Dumpty, etc.

The game isn't that long. I played around for a while, getting some points, and having fun, and then peeked at the walkthrough. It turned out that I was only one puzzle away from the end, so the game is pretty short.

It also seems that there are multiple ways of solving many of the puzzles. Some of the puzzles relied on knowledge of nursery rhymes. One puzzle's solution in the walkthrough I thought was unfair, but then I looked at the hints and realized that there is a more logical alternate solution.

Recommended for those looking for PG games.

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Fun and engaging short puzzler suitable for children and adults, April 29, 2024

Mother Loose is one of those games that was developed as a labor of love and then subsequently released to the world. Its public debut was via IF Comp 1998, only the fourth such competition at the time, where it placed 6th of 27. This first effort by author Irene Callaci is now largely forgotten -- its more subtle charms lost in the glare of the multiple novae (Anchorhead, Spider and Web and Photopia) that dominated the public's attention in that year.

Ms. Callaci seems to have been something of a natural in producing interactive fiction. For a first effort, especially one that the author claims was produced while learning not just Inform 6 but object-oriented programming in general, Mother Loose is a remarkably high-quality result. It has a rich level of object implementation that encourages exploration and delivers plenty of vividly descriptive prose but which nonetheless does an excellent job of focusing the player's attention on those few things that are important. It makes use of a compass display in the status bar and has a built-in menu supplying author credits, an introduction to playing IF and in-game hints. There were essentially no bugs at the coding level, and I don't recall any misspellings or typos in the text.

This work includes several NPCs reflecting various levels of programming effort. Taken together, they are practically a guided tour of the major implementation styles, ranging from the practically inert and lifeless (a lamb) to the mute and command-ignoring flavor element (a kitten) to the comic relief chatterbox (a wolf) to the well-crafted exposition vending machine (an egg) to something occasionally engaging in life-like social interactions (a little girl). Ms. Callaci's successful efforts here were recognized; this work was nominated for both Best Individual NPC and Best NPCs in the 1998 XYZZY Awards.

Puzzle implementation is by contrast much sparer. There are only handful of obstacles in the game's dozen or so rooms. However, these have multiple solutions, and the greater difficulty in solving them comes from minor guess-the-verb issues rather than from deducing what must be done. (Of particular note here is one solution to a puzzle involving the well: (Spoiler - click to show)If you try to communicate with the stuck cat, be aware that it does not understand generic commands; one can only speak to it like a real cat. Commands that specifically work include (Spoiler - click to show)>SAY HERE KITTY or >CAT, COME OUT.)

The game's greatest innovation is the way that it gently mocks standard IF tropes by categorizing all significant PC actions as either naughty or nice. It's quite funny how certain actions yield both points and disapproving remarks. In addition to the running commentary provided by the narrator, the player's choices become significant at the end of the game. It's clear that the author intended the game to be enjoyable either way, and it definitely adds some richness to the limited scenario -- I couldn't resist replaying it to try out both paths.

A minor but still interesting novelty was the way that certain NPCs seem to "take over" some of the parser's responses when they are around. Where a command like >ASCEND TREE will normally result in a message about an unrecognized verb, when the wolf is present, the game instead responds "'Huh?' The wolf raises an eyebrow." This type of interaction does not seem to have much function and may be only a side-effect of the implementation of one particular puzzle, but it has a subtle though definite effect, reorienting the player's attention to the NPCs' presence in response to fruitless experimentation.

If there is a notable weakness to this game, it's that it takes some poking around to figure out what kind of game this will be and what kinds of goals are suitable. If one lacks the old school sensibility of wanting to solve puzzles just because they're there, it would be easy to walk around for a while and then give up in frustration. (This is especially true in light of the inclusion of several prominent objects without much apparent function. Some of these may be simple flavor elements, but others suggest the leftovers of abandoned lines of development.)

With a little guidance, this work is a very good introduction to IF for children. Even without guidance, the built-in hints will probably be enough, if they are necessary at all. Modern kids may need to be introduced to the very idea of nursery rhymes before any of it starts to make sense, but, as others have noted, nothing about the gameplay requires any deep knowledge of them in order to make progress. The more kids introduced to interactive fiction early, the more players there will be in the future, and games like this are essential to creating a positive impression of the art form in young readers.

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Mother Loose on IFDB

Recommended Lists

Mother Loose appears in the following Recommended Lists:

Best fairytale/nursery rhyme games by MathBrush
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