Daddy's Birthday

by Jonathan8 profile

2021

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Number of Reviews: 5
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Bringing life to a transcript, July 9, 2021
by Mike Russo (Los Angeles)
Related reviews: ParserComp 2021

The comedy IF-transcript is a niche but venerable taste – my favorites are the DISAVENTURE series the late, lamented Scott Eric Kaufman wrote about the travails of academic life – but usually, the gag involves near-psychic levels of reactivity to player commands in order to make the comic timing work. It’s not surprising, then, that Daddy’s Birthday is the first time I’ve heard of someone taking on the challenging task of transforming such a transcript into an actual interactive work (here, the author’s daughter wrote up a silly transcript of her dad’s birthday morning, which has now been turned into an Inform game). It’s a nice touch that you can at any point call up the transcript to measure your progress against the initial inspiration, but what’s nicer is that you can go off the beaten path a little bit and find the game, and the story, still works.

Genre-wise, this is a straightforward domestic comedy – you, as the eponymous father, bumble your way through the house in order to reach your family, and the party they’ve prepared for you. There’s nothing stopping you for making a beeline for the cake and presents, and you can probably finish the game in a dozen commands or fewer if you want, but most of the fun comes from poking around. The house isn’t deeply implemented, but there are usually one or two things to interact with per room on this small map, one of which can wind up giving you an additional sub-objective for the morning. And the party is rendered with a good deal of depth – there’s a solid amount of dialogue for each of the three family members, a variety of interactions available with the celebratory accoutrements, and the possibility of reaching either an unsuccessful or successful birthday end.

The writing is straightforward throughout, enlivened by gentle humor, and stays simple without being twee. It prompts you to make sure you’re staying on track, but it never nags and you’re perfectly able to ignore its suggestions, though doing so might mean you’d miss my favorite joke in the Comp so far:

(Spoiler - click to show)You put the icepack on your head, and feel better immediately. Now that your head is better, you start to wonder about the missing table.
WONDER ABOUT MISSING TABLE
You stop for a minute to wonder about the disappearing table. Maybe it’s outside?</spoiler?

I love that sort of cleverness, where the author rewards a clearly-loopy command – it’s one of the unique joys of the parser, so it’s especially welcome in a ParserComp entry.

Daddy’s Birthday isn’t trying to be more than it is – an enjoyable five-minute slice-of-lifer – but it checks all the boxes it needs to, and then adds a few extra graceful touches on top, without its origin as a piece of static writing every showing through. It’s a lovely proof-of-concept – now to see if someone can take on implementing DISADVENTURE…