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A fascinating half-familiar non-existent world., February 9, 2023
(This is an expanded version of my thoughts on Les Saisons de Pippa as I wrote them on the intfiction.org Forum. Especially the last part has been heavily rewritten to transform my initial dissappointed rant about Pippa being an incomplete work into some more constructive and, hopefully, helpful suggestions. This last part is only based on my playthrough of the version entered in the Concours FI Francophone 2023.)
Magical. Truly enchanting.
Les Saisons de Pippa gives the reader a glimpse of the history, culture and mythology of a detailed imagined world through the lens of the everyday life of a resourceful little girl.
This piece is an impressive feat of worldbuilding. A mysterious setting with lore, mythology, flora and fauna. You get to discover this world through the curious, innocent eyes and questions of Pippa, the adventurous 5-year-old protagonist.
Ask questions, listen to grown-up conversations, explore on your own. There are three main stories set in three different seasons. Each allows for a number of choices and side-explorations in this engaging, familiar-yet-mysterious world.
A truly well built world made even more real by the magnificent drawings.
There are a number of aesthetic flaws that could easily be polished out. The buttons for returning to a previous page are labeled "Back" or "Return", in English. Similarly, the "Inventaire" displayed at the top of the screen show empty pockets for objects as "undefined". These small shifts of language break the flow of the intended French-language narrative and pull the reader ever so slightly out of the immersive world..
In the three main stories, the author paints a detailed picture of the life of a tribe inhabiting the sides of gigantic walls, overgrown with lush vegetation, riddled through with dark tunnels, atop of which eternal channels flow.
The reader gets to experience glimpses of the daily life and customs of a layered hiërarchical society. There are references to enemy tribes, to the religious teachings of wandering druids, and to the culinary preferences of the people.
(In relation to those culinary preferences, the animal life seems to consist mostly of insect-like beasts of all shapes and sizes. Imagine a pig with a chitinous exoskeleton roasting on a spit...with an apple in its mouth...)
The end-screen contains a list of numerous topics of investigation that have yet to be elaborated upon in later episodes of this project. Even these shorter incomplete observations on aspects of Pippa's world serve to further paint the colourful and detailed setting.
EDIT: The author has put out a new version which adresses a number of issues quite elegantly. The following paragraphs do not apply to the current version.
At the end of the story, the reader is presented with some paragraphs of text where the author explains that the history of Pippa's world is an ongoing project. There will be new additions, either in the form of expanded version of this particular game or as brand new installments building upon the groundwork laid in this first one. There follows a list of topics that the author still wants to incorporate and write more at length about.
This text steps out of the story and has the author directly adressing the reader. As such, I found it to be a disappointing end-note for such an engaging and ambitious work.
I think this could be resolved quite elegantly if the author were to maintain the pretense that this is a "real" ongoing archeological/historical effort. The short summaries of topics still to be written could be explained as incomplete records, too fragmented to dedicate an entire work to. The author/archeologist could announce that with further research uncovering more details, these topics will be adressed in following additions to the work.
This way, instead of an admission that Les Saisons de Pippa is an incomplete piece, the incomplete topics could fit into the illusion of a fictional archeological effort, consistent with an in-game framing story which presents the author as a researcher of Pippa's society.
I enjoyed the adventures of Pippa immensely, and I would like to thank the author for letting me float in this imaginary world for hours.
A magnificent piece of worldbuilding coupled with a truly compelling account of the adventures of a charming child-protagonist.