baby tree

by Lester Galin profile


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Number of Reviews: 11
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A minimalist surreal horror/dread game, February 4, 2016
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes

This game is almost like westernized Haiku, with short, clipped, uncapitalized sentences, usually of two or three words.

It is minimalistic, with perhaps less than 50 words in the entire game, two rooms, etc.

It is essentially puzzleless, but I was stuck a bit at the very end. But with so many objects, it's easy to try.

The game attempts to be one of deep/shocking/horrifying at random, and somewhat succeeds.

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
tiny origami model, August 21, 2015
by verityvirtue (London)

This game’s main gimmick is its extremely sparse prose, as if it had a strict word limit (300 words, anyone?). This extends to the parser responses (to things such as unrecognised verbs and so on), helping to set the mood.

However, the scarcity of prose also means there’s barely any feedback on the player’s actions (i.e. was I doing the right thing? Can I examine this thing?) grew frustrating after a while. I wouldn’t call it getting *stuck*, per se, since there’s so little to do that it’s pretty obvious how to get to the end of the story. But again it’s like those simple origami foxes or cats or whatever: it’s so stylised that it gives the *idea* of the thing,though it lacks many of the features that make the fox or cat or whatever it is.

Is it horror? Because of the prose, a lot of the content which would be considered horror is implicit, and depends on how you respond to certain situations.

As another reviewer has mentioned, the ‘epilogue’ feels rather rushed. The attempt to smoosh in some semblance of ‘story’ was a letdown, precisely because it felt so out of place. Still, it’s interesting for a one-time playthrough, as a writing experiment or a little piece of art.

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Crying, September 6, 2013

Baby Tree comes off as an amateur attempt at avant-garde work. It's short, simple, and obvious, but its minimalistic, childish prose manages to be somewhat effective. It's hard to call Baby Tree a true horror game; any evocation of horror achieved in the piece probably comes from the choice and handling of the unsettling subtext. Despite its flaws, I can't hate it. It manages to tell its story quickly and clearly enough to avoid being completely banal.

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Sparse is the kindest description of this game, September 2, 2013
by WriterBob (Richmond Hill, Ontario)

This piece is minimalist and surreal, and is devoid of meaning. It's difficult to determine what the author's intent is. The description calls it a "short horror game," but the only true word in that description is "short." It's hardly horrific; mildly disturbing perhaps but hardly evocative of any visceral, raw emotion. The absolutely linear plot, with one obvious use for the one object in the game hardly counts as interaction. There are only two locations in this game, and no matter which direction you choose, you end up in the other location. In the end, this feels like a poorly coded attempt at learning how to write text adventures.

2 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
brave new author's minimalist horror nightmare, June 28, 2012
by DB (Columbus, OH)

Warning: spoilers, because this game is so short. But a lot of blathering to go on.

(Spoiler - click to show)I must admit I have to feel a bit of a soft spot for a game which accepts as its first moves >GET KNIFE, >KILL ME... and then continues. In that beginning, the whole world is winnowed down to one room with a nothing outside and four things: a bed, me, a knife, a throat. And one must do something... or else one could wander the world forever finding only a nothing “Outside” and rooms with beds, knives, and your throat.

Constrained implementation makes the suicidal restlessness of the PC signify strongly, controlling and consuming the viewpoint protagonist's entire umwelt to represent its intention. In this way, the text of “baby tree” is not sparse, but dense. This is not the faux minimalism of NoM3rcy, but a crafted and toned torture machine shrunk to miniature scale. Minimalist perspective sharply delineates, but actively obfuscates existences in a world of nightmare.

The space of the game is odd, but odd in a way that tells us about the world inhabited by its characters. When moving, rooms simply cycle from “Room” to “Outside.” One can move in any cardinal direction from “Room,” and up or down and in, but not out-- to “Outside.” It makes normal sense to not be able to move out from Outside, but to go from Room to Outside by going in instead of out does not make sense in world of normal physical laws. That retreating inward can bring one to an outside space suggests not only a retreat from a world of logical forces, but that entropy in the inward retreat is constant and irreversible to the protagonist, who cannot return from her inner state. In this way, the world of “baby tree” is a reflection of the incoherent non-logic of nightmare.

Even this initial room might not be the protagonist's own. The geography of “baby tree” exceeds the bounds of a personalized domestic territory-- for how have we returned to the same “Room” by continuing in a direction away from it? Geographical connections in this world must be senseless, as we can move at half-cardinal directions like northeast or southwest and end up “Outside” in a spot that once was a “Room.” It is because of these diagonals that-- rather than a constrained, simple world of two rooms or an infinite, static checkerboard of rooms and outsides-- the layout of “baby tree” suggests madness, a conspiracy of death stretching across an endlessly networked map, a tainted carrier of disease killing dogs and babies whose wanderings haunt the uninhabited rooms of a nightmare nowhere, affecting only each other with no ecology beyond ghost children, unpeopled rooms of beds and knives, dogs for dying, a sickness inside to be cut out, the cries of the baby tree, an inescapable trap of infinite death and guilt with an unreachable history.

I can think of one way in which this nightmare could maintain diagonals and sense, but I do not want to consider for the moment the implications of “baby tree” spanning a scale of eternities in which civilizations rise and fall, their outsides becoming rooms, their rooms becoming outsides. Although the game has no explicit relation to time, to me the measure of 1 turn per command (the game's only relation to time) seems to indicate a more local scale: one second, maybe, or one minute, not one millenium.

This horror is not without controversy. The identification of the protagonist as female in the ending has led some to interpret this story as punishment for the evils of abortion, an interpretation the author has said was not intentional. It also means that the player's description and second-person narration are misleading to a male audience in a way that-- violated so abruptly at the end-- breaks suspension of disbelief. Clearly the second-person has been dealt with wrongly in this IF; if the protagonist is to be distinctly gendered it should be made clear the identity of “you” is separate from the player. Instead, the author used the most basic one-word AFGNCAAP description: explicitly “you.” This invites the reader to imagine themselves. If the author had not intended gender association between male players and the PC, he should not have invited it with second person. On the other hand, Mr. Galin might just as easily change one word at the end of the game to more fully embrace his use of the second person perspective, perhaps changing it to “person” or “human.” This would also preserve controversy, if the author finds that a valuable element of his storyworld.

For what it's worth, I did not interpret the story as being about abortion-- partially because I didn't interpret the second-person PC as a female until the very end. The baby tree initially suggested to me the guilt of a person (perhaps a doctor) who wants to save everyone, but can't. In my first reading of it, these were the faces of all of “all the babies you killed” through inaction or inability, of babies dying across the country or in other parts of the world, the nightmare guilt of which traps the PC in this inescapable nightmare. As a self-proclaimed experiment in madness, I think this space for personal interpretation works in its favor.

Even in the minimal presentation, there are some misfires in implementation.

(Spoiler - click to show)>LIE ON BED

This isn't entirely without precedent in an experimental work. There are shades of Rybread's Symetry here... darker, better-formed shades that thankfully don't abuse another author's work as a crutch.

In the end, although I found it horrific, I do have to wonder how the story would be different had the author used ghost puppies or kittens or even just plain ol' corpses instead of babies. Would a “corpse tree” with the screams of adult ghosts be as effective?

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
short, vaguely original and amusing, May 17, 2012

I quite liked it. I am terrible at long games with difficult puzzles, so the extreme sparseness suited me just fine. Kinda poetic too.

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
Want to know more..., May 16, 2012

This game could have been a good beginning to a very scary story. I felt bad for the protagonist and for the dog, too. They were very basic characters, which I liked, and I could definitely feel for their situation. Without more exposition, the climax of the story was empty, but it could have been truly horrific if it had been explained what the person went through to get to this sad state. I like the different prose style (poetic style?). It was a creative, good idea that served this story well, and I just wish there had been more there in terms of background and setting to explain the sad logic of this person. I give it three stars for its unique style, its simplicity, and because I'm glad I read it.

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Tripping on the fine line., May 13, 2012
by Danielle (The Wild West)

The way the event unfolds has a nice sense of surreal dream-logic, and the text--when it's not getting in the way of actual interaction, or going out-of-voice to tell you you can't (Spoiler - click to show)talk to the dog--lets you project that creepy atmosphere...but it collapses at the big reveal, changing the mood from "surreal, unsettling" to "ridiculous, eye-rolling."

It's not that the premise is bad, but it needs more setup or prose-skill or something to take it ((Spoiler - click to show)the twist) from "ridiculous" to horrific. (Just replayed "9:05" and got a reminder of how well (Spoiler - click to show)a good twist can be done.)

There's a fine line in horror sometimes, and it's a shame this one missed it, because I think there's an audience for crumb-sized IF horror.

2 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
A Quick Peek at Baby Tree, May 12, 2012
by JonathanS223 (Pennsylvania)

Though an interesting start, the sparse text and lack of knowing which directions are available and what to you makes it awkward.

The symbolism is an interesting additive and though I may prefer games with more substance for those who like stories like this will enjoy baby tree.

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
Creepy, May 12, 2012
by Joey Jones (UK)

The text is consistently sparse, which creates an arid environment in which every word has fuller resonance. The game layers its unpleasantness, so that when the eponymous baby tree arrives it has a much creepier effect. Unfortunately, the ending in its comparative wordiness(Spoiler - click to show) and the less-than-compelling 'you die' message, somewhat undermines the effect of the rest of the short piece by pushing it beyond the narrow boundary between the unsettling and the ridiculous.

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