Dinner Bell

by Jenni Polodna profile

Episode 9 of Apollo 18 Tribute Album

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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful:
Surreal, in a good way, April 11, 2012

If you like escape the room puzzle games and you didn't get enough of Dr. Sliss in Rogue of the Multiverse, this game is for you.

According to the odd premise, you're the a subject in a pavlovian test being run by a dog, and must perform tasks meeting your training requirements. The tasks in question mostly require thorough searching and obedience to the game's not-very-subtle precepts, though there are a couple of puzzles that require a bit more sideways thinking to separate the quest objects from their surroundings. (Spoiler - click to show)I particularly enjoyed the solution to finding the one real pear in the bucket of wax pears. Though it's not an extremely long game, there's enough there to keep a player occupied for 45 minutes or so; this would not have been conspicuously undersized as a comp game.

Overall it's a very solidly made and tested piece. I didn't run into any bugs or situations where the parser patently should have been more intelligent, and there were many points where it was possible to refer to objects that were only figuratively present and still get some kind of interesting response.

What really sets this game apart, however, is its particular humor and narrative voice. Most of the game's major objects are things referred to in the They Might Be Giants song of the same name -- enough so that the song could almost serve as a walkthrough for most of the elements. More than that, though, the narration is often self-conscious and fourth-wall-breaking in order to deliver a payload of puns, references, and commentary. Those familiar with Polodna's blog posts and reviews will have a pretty good idea of whether they're likely to enjoy such asides. (I did.)

The game's final point is moderately noteworthy as well. (Spoiler - click to show)After a sequence of puzzles in which the player is railroaded into finding but not eating a series of foodstuffs, the game gives the player a chance to eat some cake; but rewards him with a final point and a different ending for choosing to follow his accustomed conditioning and setting the cake aside instead of eating it. It would probably be a stretch to claim that this is a serious commentary on agency and player conditioning, but it was a more memorable outcome than I had expected.

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Ryusui, June 12, 2012 - Reply
I loved the little in-jokes. I don't know if you caught, but the bean is Mameshiba, and the message when you find a foodstuff and receive your reward ("You feel great! But you're still hungry.") is a famous line from Chrono Trigger (the original Woolsey translation; the Slattery version tweaks it slightly).

And I'll admit I expected the famous Portal joke at the end. I'm not sure whether to be disappointed or applaud the writer for showing some restraint.
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