by Brad Buchanan profile and Alleson Buchanan


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Number of Reviews: 10
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Mice are nice, November 12, 2022

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. Sounds like something out of a children’s book!

Esther's is not a rhyming game, but as you can see, its description caught my eye. Janie and Harold are mice who like to visit their favorite joint for brunch every week. The café is run by a young girl named Esther. Unfortunately, there is a bit of a linguistic barrier. Esther does not understand the mice and ends up serving them cheese instead of their intended order.

There is no singular PC. The game's tone is in third person and the choices you make bounce between Janie and Harold. Gameplay is super easy and versatile for all ages partly because you will not get stuck, and partly because it gives the player space to experiment with choices. You figure out how to get Esther to serve you the right food through pointing or hand gestures. No matter what approach you take the game will guide you to the correct direction at the end.

The characters are endearing, especially the mice. Originally, I was picturing a fantasy world where animals hustle and bustle like humans to cafés and other establishments, but the game opts for a more basic approach. Esther’s café turns out to simply be a little girl indulging some mice in playing a variation of a tea party. Or maybe it is the mice indulging the girl? Either way, this is a sweet premise that the game pulls off. It mixes relatability with imagination. My favorite line is, “Tapioca. I like that word! Tappy-OH-kuh…”

Visually, the game reminds me of a picture book. The text area is a white square set against a purple screen. The letters are black with colour coded text for character names. Avocado icons decorate the player’s list of choices. I also really love how the authors included (Spoiler - click to show) a behind-the-scenes section at the end that shows drafts for the art as well as a node map for the Twine game.

Esther’s is a sweet Twine story that only takes about five minutes to play. While aimed at younger audiences, and I do recommend it for younger audiences, players can still appreciate the thoughtfulness put into the game’s creation.

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