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About the Story
One Ring of onion and flour, One Ring that's frying, One Ring to bring them all, and to the menu bind them...
~ ~ ~
It's the Great Godstone Fry-Off, and Tira Misu has gathered chefs and celebrities from all the Twelve Mostly Civilized Realms for a no-holds-barred cooking challenge at the base of Mount Boom.
Face off against the likes of Marcher, Argyle the Chefromancer, Sour Ron, Friar Fryest, and a surprisingly skilled loaf of bread. Choose between four playable characters, with tactics including confusion, violence, sabotage, bribery, and even (to everybody's lasting shock) actual cooking!
No matter what approach you take, you'll face stiff competition as tensions rise and fall around you like overmixed pancake batter. Will you craft the perfect Ring of Onion and usher in a new age of peace, prosperity, and delicious crispiness--or fall to the black eyeliner and fiery theatrics of Másgoth, the mostly-vanquished ancient godking bent on sending all the Realms hurtling back to the Worst Age?
~ ~ ~
(The first playthrough takes roughly 30-45 minutes, depending on your reading speed. Playing through a couple of times is recommended for the full Fry-Off experience!)
Content warning: strong language, comic violence, occasional adult themes
34th Place - 29th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2023)
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Number of Reviews: 3
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I like ChoiceScript games a lot, though they can often be significant time commitments, containing a novel's length of text and many possible story paths to explore. This game, in contrast, is a quick romp centering around a pretty unusual food frying competition...These authors have also released, The Bread Must Rise, a full-length Choice of Games title set in this same universe that I'm eager to try, but I felt that One Does Not Simply Fry was a fun -- though far from perfect -- introduction to this world.
The setup of the game is certainly intriguing and quite different from a lot of other ChoiceScript games that I've played. The game bills itself as a humorous send-up of fantasy novels (Lord of the Rings in particular) and reality TV baking competitions -- not your typical mashup! The first part of the game does a good bit of world building to introduce the player to the overall domain of the game world, the Twelve Mostly Civilized Realms, and to the city of Godstone in particular, a baking-obsessed city that happens to be situated at the base of an apocalypse-inspiring active volcano.
While presenting a genuinely interesting and weird fantasy world, the first part of the game was also very information-dense, with exceedingly long passages that often lacked meaningful choices. Instead, I would have appreciated shorter descriptive passages of particular parts of Godstone that the player moves through as they are given options to interact with other citizens, make preparations for the competition, or undertake other activities that exposed them to details about the world.
The second part of the game, which centers around the actual fry-off competition, was totally driven by player choices and was quite inventive. The player essentially engages in a series of choice-based mini games: purchasing ingredients to make the perfect onion ring, setting up your kitchen, and then actually putting the ingredients together to make your onion ring. I haven't really played a ChoiceScript game that involves this sort of immediate, task-based string of choices. Typically, games will have you make a single choice at some important point and then, based on your stats or previous choices, determine an outcome that may lead to success, failure, or something else. This game design, where the player makes a string of task-based choices that accumulate and compound in real time (or in the time it takes for the player to read the passages) was very fitting for the fry-off competition.
I found parts of the game to be pretty funny and the satire often worked for me. There's an interesting underlying commentary here about people who put their heads in the sand and distract themselves with escapist entertainment while a black magic-powered volcano threatens eternal doom. I found the running gag of (Spoiler - click to show)the stadium seating built up over the caldera of the volcano, with fans of the baking competition continually falling into the molten lava, to be darkly funny. However, other jokes and aspects of the satire just did not work for me. Much of the game's humor relies on pretty obvious and groan-worthy jokey references to LotR, like the villain of the baking competition being named 'Sour Ron' (get it?!!). The LotR-specific references typically felt very forced and not really in service of the game's bigger satirical project. The points when the game successfully blends fantasy and reality TV tropes felt fresh and fun, and I wish those had been the main focus of the game's humor.
While this game was pretty inconsistent, it's compact enough to weather the not-so-good parts and get to the engaging and funny parts. I wonder if there was some rush to get this into the IF Comp that contributed to the inconsistencies in the writing and design. The good parts of this game have got me interested in the authors' full-length ChoiceScript game set in this universe. I'm eager to see how the satire and baking competitions work in what's likely a more polished game.
(This is a lightly-edited version of a review I posted to the IntFiction forums during 2023's IFComp).
The 2023 Com doesn't have an entry more high-concept than One Does Not Simply Fry: I’m sure I’ve seen mash-ups weirder than the Great British Bake Off meets Lord of the Rings, but I can’t think of them offhand. But for all that I’m deeply curious about precisely where the idea came from, it’s a match made in, if not heaven, at least one of the higher tiers of purgatory: the bake-off formula provides a sturdy framework for a ChoiceScript style game, with cooking skill, sucking up to the judges, and engaging with the other contestants providing distinct areas of endeavor, while the Tolkien stuff allows for a wide cast of familiar characters and works as a font for a million bad jokes and worse puns. It makes for engaging gameplay – and it’s quite replayable, with three distinct characters (plus a bonus unlockable one), multiple endings, and a host of potentially-viable strategies – even if the humor sometimes feels a bit forced.
Starting up the game, my first impression was that it was overstuffed with content. There are the aforementioned multiple characters, each of which is a knock-off of a member of the Fellowship: ersatz Legolas, faux Frodo, and a version of Éowyn who’s mysteriously called “Avis Barb” (is that like “has a beard” in schoolboy Latin? Anyway, I played as her my first time out). As per usual in ChoiceScript, they each have a distinct array of strengths and weakness, encompassing cooking ability, martial skill, speechcraft, and magical powers denoted as “breadomancy”. You’ve got the trio of judges: lead judge Tira Masu, grumpypants Gorgon Ramsayer, and the Doldrums/Seagull double act. There are optional vegetarian and vegan modes if you’d prefer not to be confronted with certain ingredients (a touch I appreciated!) Then there are the competitors you’re up against, including the certainly-not-going-to-turn-out-to-be-the-baddy “Sour Ron”, and a loaf of bread. And once the competition kicks off, you find out that your goal is not just to make the best onion ring, but to fry up the On(e)ion Ring which may or many not reawaken the Dark Lord resting uneasily under Mount Boom.
It’s a lot, but fortunately once the game kicks off, it’s reasonably manageable. Play proceeds in phases, from buying ingredients to preparing your frying setup to jostling with the competition and completing the challenge, before transitioning into a high-stakes endgame. Since each of the characters have distinct skills, it was usually straightforward to figure out which actions would make the most sense to attempt. I wound up winning the competition and making the On(e)ion Ring my first time out, but it felt excitingly touch-and-go throughout, and I was eager to start over to try out to the hidden character. At a gameplay level, then, I’d judge One Does Not Fry a success.
The humor, though, wound up being a slight net negative for me. There are some good jokes in here, don’t get me wrong – not-Éowyn makes brutal fun of the Witch King for being overconfident about that “no man can slay me” prophecy in a world that’s 50% women and also has hobbits, elves, dwarves, ents… And there’s an extended bit where you can decide to get potatoes rather than onions from the store, which rather scotches your chances of wining the onion ring challenge, but does set up a lovely line where you attempt to explain potatoes to the ancient Elven ghost who lives in your copy of the rulebook – don’t ask, I told you it’s a lot – and get the following nonplussed response:
"Back in the Worst Age, we didn’t have any weird eldritch ground tubes with self-replicating eyes that would try to convince you to plant them so they could poison you."
But as that “Worst Age” (First Age, geddit?) and all the punny names I mention above indicate, there are a lot of clunkers here too. The game subscribes to the view that everything has to be a pun, and go figure, many of them seem forced. It’s not Edoras, it’s Fedoras; it’s not the Witch King, it’s the Which King?; and I already mentioned Doldrums, who besides boasting a really forced name also for some reason has a Cockney accent. I regret to have to report that there’s a “Riders of Lohan” joke. Look, I don’t want to come off like a humorless scold, and I think my appetite for silly Tolkien stuff is pretty high, up to and including having a favorite LotR-themed rap band. But still, I would have enjoyed the game a lot more if it’d had more restraint; the authors clearly came up with a bunch of really good Tolkien jokes, but unfortunately felt like they had to crank out like double or triple that amount to meet their quota.
After a first playthrough it’s easy enough to skim over that stuff, and the bones here are solid; I’m tempted to give the game another spin to check out how the classic Frodo and Sam team would fare. And there are a couple of achievements I failed to get in my two playthroughs (oh yeah, forgot to mention, there are achievements too). One Does Not Simply Fry really is an embarrassment of riches, even if you do need to take the bitter along with the sweet.
One Does Not Simply Fry is a ChoiceScript-game written by Stewart C Baker and James Beamon, published during IFComp 2023. It's a kind of a Lord of the Rings-parody where much of the cast partakes in an onion ring cook-off at the summit of "Mount Boom".
The gameplay is what you'd expect from a fairly well fleshed-out ChoiceScript-game. There's a character selection, some stats, achievements, a lot of branching story text and multiple different endings. It's simple to get into but has a lot of potential for replayability as well.
I remember reading and enjoying Bored of the Rings back in the day, and I think that the comedic execution in One Does Not Simply Fry goes to a somewhat similar direction. The prose is a hurricane of absurd puns and parodic references from the start to the end, down to silly character names like "Sour Ron". It doesn't take itself very seriously, and some of the humor is a bit hit-or-miss, but there are so many jokes here that at least some are bound to land... right?
The tone of the story is also quite contemporary, starting from the way the whole setup is reminiscent of reality TV in all its overbearing glamour - there's even a Gordon Ramsay-expy acting as one of the judges. The occasionally heavy-handed progressive politics (e.g. race-lifting and/or "queering" the cast) also firmly make this story a product of its era, in both good and bad.
I had the willpower to play through the story 2.5 times. The way the writing prioritizes quantity-over-quality when it comes to jokes eventually becomes a bit tiresome, even though there are some clever comedic payoffs here too, such as (Spoiler - click to show)Leggy Ass' bad ending. I freely admit I probably just didn't get all of the humor here - especially more referential and wordplay-based humor tends to get lost on me.
Overall: a fun premise, fair amount of content, competent execution, arguably a bit one-note. Like any deep-fried delicacy, enjoying too much at once leaves you with a heartburn.
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