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When art speaks to you (literally), September 21, 2020
Conversation With A Picture is a somewhat experimental parser-based game made by Eva Vikstrom, published in 2004. The game is about interacting with a painting, although strangely enough using your eyes won't get you very far - instead, you have to talk with it.
You simply ask the painting about various topics. The replies give hints on other things you could try asking about, until finally you learn the name of the painting and the game ends. It only takes about 5 minutes to play through the game once.
The game has a slightly charming air to it due to its unique premise and cordial tone. It has some educational value too, as the painting and its painter are both historical - (Spoiler - click to show)the painting is The Parrot Cage by Jan Steen - and you learn a bit of real history while talking to the painting.
The game works like expected for the most part, although there are a few immersion-breaking typos and the tutorialization is fairly minimal, which can lead to mild confusion at the very start of the game. I also find it slightly odd that (Spoiler - click to show)the player can't activate the winning commands "ask p about bird" -> "ask p about parrot" until they "sit". Seems like an unnecessary restriction to me, but it probably won't hurt a regular playthrough much.
Conversation With A Picture mostly succeeds at what it sets out to do. Its biggest problem is that it's extremely slight, ending right around the time the player gets into the mood of asking questions and, dare I say, learning. ...Maybe the secret to making a fun educational game is to make it so short that the player doesn't even realize it was educational until it's over? Eva Vikstrom could be on to something here.