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by Brad Buchanan profile and Alleson Buchanan


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(based on 18 ratings)
9 reviews

About the Story

At Esther's cafe your adorable host
Served cheese to the mice when they wanted toast!
That won't bother Harold's robust appetite,
But Janie insists that the order's not right.

Author's Postmortem

Game Details

Language: English (en)
First Publication Date: October 1, 2022
Current Version: 2022-11-21.1
License: Freeware
Development System: Twine
Forgiveness Rating: Merciful
IFID: E66FC404-B49E-49A7-BB70-C1A454E5B060
TUID: 5myfh1xhwfe3xo3g


17th Place - tie - 28th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2022)


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Number of Reviews: 9
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Most Helpful Member Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A story about two mice trying to communicate with a girl that kids might love, October 11, 2022
by RadioactiveCrow (Irving, TX)
Related reviews: About 15 minutes, IF Comp 2022

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.

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Nice mice, January 10, 2023
by Mike Russo (Los Angeles)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2022

(This is a lightly-edited version of a review I posted to the IntFiction forums during 2022's IFComp).

I worry that, just as with people, it can come off patronizing to call a game “adorable,” so I’ve been staring at the thesaurus for the last five minutes. Esther’s is “cute” and “appealing”, sure, but that undersells how winsome it is. Is it “precious”? Nah, that sounds too cloying. “Captivating” and “enchanting” miss how pleasantly low-key it is, and after that, let’s just say the line of proposed synonyms that start with “dreamy” and proceed from there are a bit too adult for this children’s-book-aping Twine game. Sorry, folks – I guess we’re stuck with “adorable.”

In the best picture-book tradition, the game stars two mice, Janie and Harold, and follow them on their way to their favorite brunch spot, the eponymous Esther’s. Said café is run by a little girl who’s a thoughtful host in every way save one – she doesn’t understand the mice’s squeaky language, so always serves them cheese and crackers, rather than the mimosas and avocado toast they’re craving (Janie and Harold must be millennials). Today’s the day when they decide to really make an effort and get through to Esther – and it’s up to the player to help.

This is a cute premise for sure, and it could come off twee, but I don’t think it goes too far. Partly this is due to the lovely illustrations, which wouldn’t be out of place in a real children’s book – they have a textured, watercolor quality and a neat attention to detail: look closely at the opening image, which shows Janie bringing flowers while Harold carries her library books, and you can see she’s checked out Goodnight Moon. And I won’t spoil the one where Janie tries to mime an avocado, but it got the first out-loud laugh of the Comp out of me.

The prose also hits just the right note, with simple, clear sentences but a sly turn of phrase here and there to make it fun for a grown-up to read, too:

"Janie buttered an invisible toast and pretended to nibble at it. Harold stuffed his pretend toast in his mouth. He licked his fingers with pretend satisfaction."

It’s nothing fancy, but the repeated use of “pretend” setting up “pretend satisfaction” is cleverly done.

The interactivity is also nicely gauged – you’ve got a fair number of options to choose from, and while the challenge of getting your order right isn’t a devilish puzzle or anything, the authors have done a good job of communicating just enough information about what each choice might do, while still retaining room to surprise you with how exactly each stab at communication plays out.

Esther’s is admittedly a small thing – my playthrough went quicker than it usually takes me to get through Goodnight Moon with my son, albeit he’s typically doing a lot of wriggling and pointing which pads things out. But it pulls off everything it tries to with aplomb, and I had a smile plastered to my face the whole time I was playing it. There’s no other word for it: from stem to stern, it’s adorable.

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
"clueless human finally understands mice", December 19, 2022
by Andrew Schultz (Chicago)
Related reviews: IFComp 2022

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.

See All 9 Member Reviews

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Esther's appears in the following Recommended Lists:

Storybooks for young audiences by Kinetic Mouse Car
There are already several polls about games for kids, but I wanted to narrow it down a bit. I noticed some recent high-quality games with artwork designed specifically for kids. It was the artwork part that caught my attention. Some have...


The following polls include votes for Esther's:

Outstanding Feelies of 2022 - Author's Choice by MathBrush
This poll is part of the 2022 IFDB Awards. The rules for the competition can be found here, and a list of all categories can be found here. This award is for the game with the best feelies of 2022. Voting is anonymous and open only to...

Outstanding Short Game of 2022 - Player's Choice by MathBrush
This poll is part of the 2022 IFDB Awards. The rules for the competition can be found here, and a list of all categories can be found here. This award is for the best short game of 2022, where the definition of 'short' is left up to the...

Outstanding Short Game of 2022 - Author's Choice by MathBrush
This poll is part of the 2022 IFDB Awards. The rules for the competition can be found here, and a list of all categories can be found here. This award is for the best short game of 2022, with the definition of short left up to the voter....

This is version 9 of this page, edited by Brad Buchanan on 28 November 2022 at 6:03am. - View Update History - Edit This Page - Add a News Item