You've Got a Stew Going!

by Ryan Veeder profile


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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful:
Small but effective, July 12, 2011

The premise: you're a rat trying to gather ingredients for a stew, since your friend has put together the broth but is too lazy to assemble anything else.

In gameplay, this is essentially a treasure hunt for food items, but the tiny, ratly world is entertainingly realized, complete with suggestions of internal rodent politics and their attitudes towards the world of humans. The narration breaks the fourth wall quite a few times, sometimes to give the player direct advice about how to play, sometimes just for amusement's sake. It works, though.

Overall, "You've Got a Stew Going!" is short and easy -- I don't think it took me more than fifteen minutes to win the first time -- but what's there is solid and reasonably polished, with snappy retorts to a number of odd attempted actions. It's possible to win with 5/6 points, and played that way, it's a lightweight charmer suitable for kids.

Getting the last point of the game changes the complexion of the whole experience a bit. (Spoiler - click to show)To get full points, you have to first rescue your friend Fran's pet cockroach, and then "borrow" it back... and stew it. So much for warm fuzzy happy fetch quests! Fran is broken-hearted, but your stew is de-licious. It's kind of genius the way this makes the game a sappy, frilly kids' game unless or until it occurs to you to act horrible. And then it rewards that horribleness. Considering that the piece contains a reference to 9:05, I think that's probably the real point of the thing. But you don't have to go there if you don't want to.

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Ryusui, July 15, 2011 - Reply
I found the part with the girl needlessly frustrating. (Spoiler - click to show)"pull hair" and "bite girl" suggested themselves on examination, but "scream" was born of pure desperation. If you're a diplomat, then why isn't a diplomatic solution available?

All in all, though, a decent little game - definitely 3 stars.
Emily Short, July 15, 2011 - Reply
Actually, I didn't need to do that. (Spoiler - click to show)I think you have to do a total of three annoying things to the girl, and SCREAM was not one of the ones I tried. (I think I pulled her hair, bit her, and tried to take her lunch while she was still eating it; if I'm remembering right, that was enough.) As to diplomacy, though, you're right -- you never get to use that attribute much that I could see. (I went on a whole long wild goose chase trying to figure out whether I could swap my hat for Zeke's hat and take his place guarding the palace, or otherwise sneak in or fool around there. It just seemed like such a leading location, even though I'd been explicitly told it didn't matter -- I wasn't entirely trusting Mr Fourth-Wall-Breaking Narrator and his recommendations about what would make the game go smoothly for me at that point.)
Ryan Veeder, July 15, 2011 - Reply
Thank you guys for the kind words and especially for the criticism. My beta testers were all extremely new to IF and I've been itching to find out what veterans of the medium would think (and have trouble with).

It will probably not surprise anyone to learn that (Spoiler - click to show)I added the over-the-top handholding in the palace gates because people seemed to think that area was too interesting; obviously the effect was that it became too intriguingly boring. And now, after overthinking it for a while, I've realized: Isn't the world in a sad state when so many readers feel so safe in assuming their narrators are unreliable?
Ryusui, July 16, 2011 - Reply
Since removing the palace isn't an option, why not make it important in some respect? Even in as small a capacity as having Zeke provide some useful hints?

As already discussed, getting food from the woman seems to be a bit of a stumbling block, as is the Last Lousy Point. Perhaps Zeke might suggest that (Spoiler - click to show)humans have little tolerance for murine shenanigans, or that cockroach makes a fine stew ingredient, if pressed on tangential issues.

If you can't keep the player from trying something that impedes your intended solution, make it part of the solution instead.
Ryan Veeder, July 16, 2011 - Reply
I think I'm fine with the Last Lousy Point being hard to get. In fact, Emily's experience is starting to seem like almost exactly what I was going for: (Spoiler - click to show)A five-point victory shouldn't be too much trouble, and a perfect score should require the player to try out a bunch of things before "it occurs to you to act horrible" (or, as I put it in my head, you "think like a rat"). One thing I really need to change is the display of the full possible score in the status line, since the player should feel encouraged to eat the stew and end the game with "only" five points.

Zeke (and the other rat friends) could definitely stand to give better hints about dealing with the woman; that is going in my list. Of course, that puzzle is supposed to be "frustrating" in a certain sense: she's supposed to provoke you into mistreating her, but obviously you're not supposed to be frustrated by a lack of response.

I hope I'm not overstepping the bounds of accepted review-comment-discussion here, but could I maybe ask what unsuccessful commands you tried using to bug the woman?
Ryusui, July 17, 2011 - Reply
I didn't realize I was supposed to bug her at first, to be honest. (Spoiler - click to show)When diplomacy failed, I assumed I was supposed to find some clever way to sneak some food from her box. It wasn't until I noticed her hair was implemented and got a response for pulling it that it occurred to me to try pestering her.

Her refusing to share her food seems sensible, if inconvenient: after all, you are a rat, and it's not clear whether she's crossing some line. She needs to be a bit more irritating before harassing her back becomes the obvious course of action.
Emily Short, July 16, 2011 - Reply
I didn't particularly mind (Spoiler - click to show)the time I spent harassing Zeke and trying to get past him -- originally I trusted the narrator that I didn't really need to do anything there, and it is only after I was stuck for a while not getting the sixth point that I started to wonder whether the narrator had lied to me and I should go back for another look.

And then there was that tantalizing phrasing "I wouldn't want you to bang your head against the wall" (or similar) combined with the suggestion that the bricks might be concealing some secret compartment -- I mean, at that point, what's a rat to do but go head-butt every brick wall in the place?

But, like I said, I didn't mind these things -- if anything I was pretty amused that there was a custom response to trying to bang my head against the wall.
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