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Evocative, June 7, 2020
(I have revised this review once since I first posted it):
The Land of Breakfast and Lunch makes little of an attempt to offer puzzles and even less of an attempt to offer narrative. Because the author has placed the work squarely in the genre of surreal games, these aspects are not strikes against it. But they do make it difficult to detail the enjoyable features of the work without simply quoting the bits I like at length. Instead I will try to explain through generalizations and comparisons.
Generalizing, the work's diegetic content is richly described, and it includes delightful extradiegetic content (assuming it makes sense to say a fourth-wall-breaking work has extradiegetic content; for an arguable example, enter the command SCORE). The game contains many jokes, most of which are underwhelming, but few are terrible, and one made me laugh out loud. Despite the stated lack of a goal, the work at the very least encourages the player to walk along a path (the only path offered by the game) punctuated by various lands, including the eponymous Land of Breakfast and Lunch. Interwoven into the fabric of the game are various threads that evoke a sense of nostalgia, especially for those of us who grew up in the West during the late twentieth or early twenty-first century. Thus, there are parts of the game that feel meaningful, even if no meaning is imposed by the author.
As for comparisons, the works it reminds me the most of are Myst and Reconciling Mother. Like Myst The Land of Breakfast and Lunch provides an atmosphere that in its best moments fills me with a sense of wonder. Unlike Myst the game lacks a robust underlying structure. (I say more about this below.) Like Reconciling Mother it is an interactive fiction work with many elements that left me feeling amused, wistful, or intrigued. But unlike Reconciling Mother, the game is obviously written by someone who has extensive knowledge of the authoring system used to create it, and because its surreal aspects were deliberately included and fairly well implemented, it feels more like a finished project.
That said, I have found more than a few cracks in the work. Some I found during my first, quick playthrough. Most I found while doing a moderate amount of poking around. Many of the problems could be characterized as a lack of polish. If the only reward a work offers is the experience of interacting with it, then it is of paramount importance that every interaction with the player goes smoothly. Thus, if I want to return the "doll" of the jack-in-the-box to its box I should not encounter a guess-the-noun problem within a guess-the-verb problem (which is aggravated by the presence of a doll, a lid, and a box that are not components of the jack-in-the-box but initially appear in the same room!). What's more, I should not find myself yanked out of the immersive experience by stock responses. When I enter GIVE PENNY TO SALESPERSON, I should see a reply more appropriate and less misleading than, "You can only do that to something animate." If an author has to choose between implementing only fitting responses to likely player input and implementing rich smell descriptions, I want them to choose the fitting responses.
If blemishes like those described above had been removed, I probably would have given this work a 5. All the same, I have yet to play a better surreal work that is as evocative as this one. If you enjoy unusual experiences in interactive fiction, I recommend checking it out.