Use Your Psychic Powers at Applebee's

by Geoffrey Golden profile

Humor
2022

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- Ms. Woods, May 29, 2024

- comfysynth, January 25, 2024

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Cheerfully sociopathic, October 21, 2023

This story quickly establishes the stakes involved: the success of your next Zoom meeting with corporate depends on your ability to push Schtupmeister beer on a restaurant full of unsuspecting marks. It delivers an entertainingly goofy night on the job.

There are five different narrative threads that you can focus on, using either your psychic powers or more mundane observational skills. The key is to intervene at precisely the right moment, and spending too long with any one story risks missing a key moment elsewhere.

I really enjoyed the tone of this work, which fully embraced the absurdist corporate marketing deployed by retail food and beverage companies, describing edible horrors like Sriracha whipped cream that sounded just plausible enough to exist.

It’s all delivered with a cheerfully sociopathic indifference, but it’s also worth noting that this piece, which asks you to engage in guerilla marketing to promote Schtupmeister beer, feels like its own work of guerilla marketing to promote the Adventure Snack Newsletter.

And that’s fine! I honestly enjoyed reading through this story several times to explore each narrative thread and the ways that they could be pushed to interact with each other.

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- Marc-André Goyette, August 12, 2023

- Bell Cyborg (Canada), July 21, 2023

- ilyu, May 24, 2023

- Edo, May 18, 2023

- Tabitha / alyshkalia, April 10, 2023

- Xavid, March 22, 2023

- E.K., March 10, 2023

- dgtziea, February 25, 2023

- Jaded Pangolin, February 8, 2023

- Jim Nelson (San Francisco), January 7, 2023

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Schtupmeister, gradual advertiser, January 2, 2023
by Lance Cirone (Backwater, Vermont)

Use Your Psychic Powers at Applebee's pleasantly surprised me. The premise is that you're a psychic advertiser for Schtupmeister beer; you're visiting an Applebee's late one night to subliminally convince people to drink the brand. There are four people, and all of them have some sort of interesting twist. It's hard to absorb all their stories and interactions on the first playthrough, since they run concurrently. Part of the puzzle is figuring out when's the best time to slip in and whisper your ads into their brain, and the other is figuring out how to optimize this all for one run. There's a small amount of other choices that will affect your ending, such as whether or not you tell on a stealing waitress. I found that some of the endgame stuff was light on choices at first, but the dialogue does adjust depending on what you did in the restaurant.

The game also deserves mention for its really modern theming and dialogue. It name-drops stuff like TikTok trends, has a debate on whether Garfield or the Kool-Aid Man would win in a fight (which I thoroughly enjoyed reading), and there's jokes about about California Pizza Kitchen and crypto related to forgotten memes. Remember this one in a few years -- it's a total time capsule of late 2022, and I love that. There's also some flat-out surreal jokes, such as a PSA warning against Driving While Yogurt-Eating, and a few cracks are made at Applebee's (such as noting that this time, people aren't running and screaming out of the restaurant for "the usual reasons").

Applebees is a light, silly game that can be beaten quickly (maybe 15-20 minutes to see everything?) and isn't that hard to figure out. Still, it's a nice comp entry in its own right. Give it a few plays.

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- Wanderlust, December 17, 2022

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A Psychic's Work is Never Done, December 10, 2022
by JJ McC
Related reviews: IFComp 2022

Adapted from an IFCOMP22 Review

You’re selling beer WITH YOUR MIND. As one does. You can probably guess where.





I’ve stared at those 3 sentences for a while now, trying to decide on the best path forward, and I’m kind of concluding it will take me longer to type, and take you longer to read, than to go ahead and play the thing. So just hit me with your questions.

Was it parser based? No, option-selection.
Was it a game? Barely but yeah, you have sales goals to meet and powers to employ.
Were there puzzles? Only loosely.
Was it Interactive? About the same as any option-selection game.
Was it Fiction? You’re kind of phoning these questions in aren’t you? Well, psychic powers are fake, so yes its fiction. There’s a plot and a twist too I guess. It counts.
Were there NPCs? Yeah a few of them, and their inner monologues are pretty funny.
Can you lose? I mean yeah, but how much can you really lose in 5-10 minutes of IF? Assuming you’re not driving.
Were there bugs? No. Not enough moving parts to draw them.
Was it Mechanical? No, too funny for that.
Was it Engaging? No, too slight for that.
So it was Sparks of Joy? You’re catching on to how this works.

What was your favorite part? Honestly? “Adventure Snack turns your inbox into an adventure with new interactive email games twice a month. Subscribe at AdventureSnack.com.” This thing was an ADVENTURE SNACK! That is just the most perfect description possible and so succinctly captured my exact feelings about this thing that every word of this review that isn’t ‘Adventure’ or ‘Snack’ is just self-indulgent bullsh*t. You guys, a thing called Adventure Snack exists!



Are you just a paid shill for Big Adventure Snack? I am. WITH MY MIND.


Played: 10/25/22
Playtime: 10min, two runthroughs.
Artistic/Technical rankings: Sparks of Joy/Seamless
Would Play Again? No, experience feels complete. I might could go for a snack later though…

Artistic scale: Bouncy, Mechanical, Sparks of Joy, Engaging, Transcendent
Technical scale: Unplayable, Intrusive, Notable (Bugginess), Mostly Seamless, Seamless

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
A dubiously-ethical ESP marketing simulator, December 5, 2022
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).

Would it be elitist to confess that I can’t say for sure whether I’ve ever eaten at an Applebee’s? I’ve mostly lived in fairly big cities, and even when I travel for work, because I don’t drive I never wind up at the sorts of suburban strip-malls that tend to host the chain restaurant. For purposes of this review, though, I’m trying to conjure up some associations – I’ve got a sense of the look and overall vibes from Friday Night Lights, since one of the characters was a waitress there for a couple of seasons, and for the actual food I’m imagining Chili’s and subtracting the (admittedly already rather slight) southwestern angle (Chili’s is also a strip-mall kind of place, I think, but there was one sort of accessible when I was in high school so at least I’ve been there a couple times).

Anyway based on that almost-completely-groundless supposition, what I’m coming up with is a restaurant that isn’t any better than it ought to be, but isn’t much worse, either – like, a mediocre place that earns its meh rating not through consistent middle-of-the-road performance, but by frustrating whatever expectations you bring to it: if you think it’s going to be awful, you might be surprised that one or two of the things you get are relatively solid, but if you go in expecting to be wowed, you’re likely in for disappointment.

If that’s right, the restaurant has something in common with the characters of Use Your Psychic Powers at Applebee’s, a short optimization game in Ink that tasks you – an employee of the Schtupmeister brewery, purveyors of a syrupy ale that sounds simply revolting – with reading the minds of four patrons of a franchise somewhere in Middle America and giving them a mental nudge, when the moment’s right, suggesting they try one of your patron’s products using your psychic powers (you can only make one such suggestion per person, due to incredibly-fuzzily-invoked legal issues). In practice, what this means is that you eavesdrop on each, listening to the thoughts of the waitress, the already-in-his-cups older man, the crypto bro, the snot-nosed tween (yes, you can get a 12-year-old hooked on Schtupmeister. Apparently Applebee’s isn’t big on carding?), learning a little about their hopes, dreams, and fears, waiting for a moment when they’re happily distracted enough for your brain mojo to give them a little push.

What you find out, listening in, is that they’re all a little scuzzy – but not too scuzzy. The older guy is celebrating a not-especially-savory escapade that’s left him flush with cash, but he didn’t do anything so awful, and hey, he kinda needed a win. The kid’s consumed with figuring out which of two characters would win in a fight, but he’s also contemplating a crime of his own. The waitress isn’t above a spot of pickpocketing, but adheres to a consistent set of carnie values. The crypto bro – well, he’s a crypto bro, but at least he has a sick mom. And as for you, well, read the previous paragraph about what your job is again.

A game where you only get four opportunities to act could get a little stale, but the author’s done a good job of fitting the design to the constraint. For one thing, it’s short – each playthrough takes maybe five minutes or so, meaning there’s not a lot of downtime where you’re just waiting to click next even if you’ve already taken all your shots. Second, time marches ahead regardless of who you’re listening to – so if you flit from person to person, you could well miss out on a key opportunity, or key information, from someone else. So it works like an optimization game, as you’ll probably do a series of playthroughs focusing on one or maybe two characters each until you have a sense of what their deal is, and when they might be vulnerable. And then there are also a few moments when you’ve got the opportunity to do something other than push a crappy beer on vulnerable people, before reaching the denouement which gives you a last chance to interact with each of the characters and then offers a quickie job evaluation from your boss.

It’s a solid structure that supports four or five playthroughs to get the outcome that feels right to you –one canny thing about the setup is that since complete success means getting a large number of people potentially hooked on a terrible product, the compulsion to play past the point of enjoyment to wring out a “best ending” is largely absent. And honestly, I wanted to put in those replays to see all the jokes I’d missed. I’d characterize Use Your Psychic Powers at Applebee’s more as amusing than laugh-out-loud funny, but it had me smiling a bunch all the same. Like, here’s what happens if you try to strike up a conversation with the drunk guy by pretending you know him from somewhere:

”Excuse me, sir,” you stop to ask the customer. “Sorry to bug you, but this is driving me crazy. Did we go to magician school together?”

”No, I never went to magician school… but it’s not the first time someone’s … asked me that. There must be an up-and-coming… magician who looks just like me,” the customer replies, drunk and befuddled.

Sometimes the author is reaching a little too hard to find humor – there’s a Clubhouse joke that feels instantly dated – but there are way more hits than misses here, and it’s nice that the laughs don’t come too much at the expense of the sad-sacks stuck in a chain restaurant on what feels like it must be a Tuesday night. Between the good writing, clever design, and faintly-detectable humanist vibe, after all maybe this one’s more Cheesecake Factory than Applebee’s.

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- EJ, November 21, 2022

- Mr. Patient (Saint Paul, Minn.), November 20, 2022

- TheBoxThinker, November 19, 2022

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
enjoyable premise and easy to play, November 19, 2022
by anjchang
Related reviews: IF Comp 2022

It brings back memories of going to chain restaurants and some of the people you might see. I thought it was well written and fun to play.

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- OverThinking, November 16, 2022

Hilarious and Very Re-Playable, November 16, 2022

by PaulieWog
Related reviews: IF Comp 2022

The hilariously intriguing title definitely sells the promise of this very well-written and laugh-inducing choice-based game. Incredibly repeatable with multiple paths, the writer creates a brilliantly funny world that’s both ingenious and full of mockery of the mundane. The fake Applebee’s menu items alone are worth the price of admission!

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- Karl Ove Hufthammer (Bergen, Norway), November 15, 2022

- Brad Buchanan (Seattle, Washington), November 13, 2022


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