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About the Story
At Esther's cafe your adorable host
17th Place - tie - 28th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2022)
|Average Rating: |
Number of Reviews: 9
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This is a very short game featuring two mice trying to order brunch at their favorite restaurant, run by a human girl that doesn't speak squeak.
What can I say about this for the adult audience? Not much. It is a cute story, the epitome of a children's book in IF form, but doesn't offer much for adults. If you have a precocious child they might be up for this story, but I feel like my 7- and 9-year-old (albeit a special needs child) would either struggle to keep up with the story or be bored by it.
All that said it is a sweet story in the classic children's storybook mold. I do want to see more IF for children, even as I am working to create stories to help my autistic child learn in Twine or Ink, but I find it hard to judge this type of work in the IF Comp. Perhaps we need an IF Comp exclusively for children's stories. Something to ponder.
Bravo, Buchanans! I hope you create more childrens' IF.
I heard enough buzz about Esther's in-comp that I decided to slip it in in front of what looked to be slower entries. This worked. I am not ashamed. Esther's certainly does not address any big issues, but why should it have to? It left me more recharged to deal with them than, well, pretty much any other way you can stare at a computer screen. Even my old favorites which are actually still fun. If I had run into something like Esther's when I was ten or so, Esther's would be an old favorite, too. Kids these days don't know how lucky they have it. At least, kids exposed to multimedia as nice as Esther's. The pictures are charming, and the story lives up to them.
The whole scenario of talking animals whose human friends don't understand them has been done before. That's probably because it's fun and leads to imaginative miscommunications such as what's found here. (Spoiler: it's easily resolved.) Having had cats, it's kind of fun to decipher what they want, even if it's not so fun for them while I'm being clueless. I found myself wondering if they really preferred one sort of canned cat food to another and whether I should give them variety or their favorite. I'm still not sure. I figured when they wanted petting, or they wanted to go out the front door, or they needed attention. But I'd have liked to do more. About all I figured was, they liked the taste of the chunky soft food as long as I mashed it up, but they still licked the sauce first.
The main characters in this story are mice, not cats, and they dine at Esther's. Esther is a clueless, well-meaning human who, like me, has no clue that Janie and Harold, the animals she serves, would like to eat something different today. They want avocado toast. Avocado toast as a meme was hilarious for a while but then got burned out from overuse, but the thing about good memes is, it's a great feeling when they're resurrected in new and different ways. That happens here.
And Harold and Janie not only get their avocado toast, but there's a lot of connection as Esther understands what they are asking, and why. Harold and Janie waste nothing. Esther is confused why they put some bits aside, but they eat it later. So a good day is had by all, including the reader. There aren't very many choices here beyond what sort of dessert you prefer, but I don't think there need to be. And really, would you want to be the sort of person who brings what seems to be a regular tea party tradition crashing down? I think and hope not.
Esther's reminded me of Susie and Mr. Bun in Calvin and Hobbes, and how Hobbes was real and Mr. Bun wasn't, and the shock Calvin had when he lost Hobbes, who wound up at Susie's tea party. But of course Esther's is its own story. There are so many creative variations on "talking animal/toy, confused owner/human friend" that make us happy, even if they are not very good. But Esther's is well-done, even without the wonderful artwork, and so I'm glad it was part of IFComp. The judges thought so as well, and unless you are very, very cynical, I think you will be, too.
Adapted from an IFCOMP22 Review
Hey, there are IF works for new readers! This was an absolutely delightful interactive rendition of a children’s book. When first few clicks showed no choices, I grew uneasy. The illustrations were note perfect for the milieu, but my family situation is quite removed from kid-lit. Turning virtual pages was not significantly different than leafing through a kids book which I never do. (I mean, Seuss excepted, what am I a monster?)
That ungenerous thought couldn’t even gel before the choices started. At that point the illustrations, text and choices played off each other wonderfully. Even then, I wasn’t won over immediately because I am damaged. For whatever reason after a few choices I spontaneously conjured an imaginary child next to me… what? you don’t know my life! Reading this work, imagining a small child sounding through, making choices, then experiencing the results of that choice — that’s when it clicked into place for me. The playful problem solving, character frustration, trial and error, evocative illustrations and unexpected outcomes would play like gang busters to a new reader, and through that imaginary child’s eyes I could experience their delight.
Older IF fans take as writ that interactivity is the differentiator in this medium. The (however illusory) perception of choice, narrative influence and immediacy provides a whole new dimension of immersion to the reading experience. Esther’s uses its new reader format to remind me that even the most tired, hoary cliche’ is going to be someone’s first time and that initial exposure can be deeply revelatory. That came out wrong, I’m not suggesting Ester’s is cliche’d, just using that as a poorly chosen metaphor for IF in general. What I’m driving at is that its deliberate invocation of children’s lit tone, illustration style and whimsical content re-presents the form in a first timer perspective. How magical is that? At least that’s what I got from my imaginary co-pilot.
Scoring this feels like a no win situation. I mean would I criticize the narrative voice in “Hop on Pop?” The graphic compositions in “Hungry Caterpillar?” Like this work, they meld text and illustration into a product aimed at delighting children. That’s really the only metric worth discussing I think. Esther’s stands shoulder to shoulder with its paper inspirations, even before it ups the ante by integrating interactivity. While I wouldn’t say I found it engaging, I did get Sparks of Joy watching my imaginary companion’s delighted introduction to IF.
This review was brought to you by the word ‘delight.’
Playtime: 10min, finished.
Artistic/Technical rankings: Sparks of Joy/Seamless
Would Play Again? Maybe to share with grandkids WAAAAAAAY down the road
Artistic scale: Bouncy, Mechanical, Sparks of Joy, Engaging, Transcendent
Technical scale: Unplayable, Intrusive, Notable (Bugginess), Mostly Seamless, Seamless
|Broken Legs, by Sarah Morayati|
Average member rating: (29 ratings)
A blurb? They expect you to write? You're Lottie Plum so you're not going into writing. You sing. And dance and act up a storm while everyone else can only manage a puddle. You belong at Bridger. No matter what it takes.
|Primer, by Christina Nordlander|
Average member rating: (6 ratings)
Pulling the trigger. Winnable. Made in three hours for ECTOCOMP 2017. Content warning: violence against a family member.
|ASCII and the Argonauts, by J. Robinson Wheeler|
Average member rating: (16 ratings)
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