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About the Story
You are a witch's crow familiar, headstrong as anything but still young and untested.
Entrant, Main Festival - Spring Thing 2023
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Number of Reviews: 6
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(This review is based on the Spring Thing 2023 comp version.)
Such a warm and homely starting situation! Your witch is feeling a bit under the weather. How better to help her than to brew a cauldron of heartening medicinal soup?
Soon, though, it becomes apparent that something darker than a simple cold is amiss. Your mistress has been hexed, and sheís going to need something a bit more potent than hot soup.
Fran the crow is a lovely protagonist. Even though her ability to express herself verbally is limited to CAW, her kind-heartedness shines through in all her actions, and in her thoughts as they are relegated to the player through the authorís empathic penmanship.
As enthusiastic and full of life Fran is, even in these dire times, so is the authorís writing. Eager to share the wonders of this world, be they light or dark. From the cosy cabin to the oppressive vine-tangled forest, from the stately Opera House to the cute girl in the window, the joy of inviting the reader into this world sparkles on the screen.
You have been flying through the western forest as dawn begins to extend its frilly tendrils across the sky, and warm late-summer winds filter through your feathers. Streaks of green and yellow paint the landscape with fresh vibrancy.
Sometimes itís a bit too enthousiastic, to the point of near-selfcombustion:
ďThe mammoth governmental building looms ahead, its single golden clocktower eye and teeth-like arches looking more bestial than ever.Ē
A simple but delicately drawn map with just enough twists and turns in the path to feel organic guides you through the forest to the city of Gennemont, where the nub of the adventure lies.
One particular puzzle-and-narrative sequence here is so heartwarming Iíd have gladly played the game for the joy of it alone. ((Spoiler - click to show)The girl in the window's love-letter.)
Being aimed at beginners, the puzzles are quite simple. Most hinge on winning the trust of a human. The wing-and-beak gesturing CAW-ing conversations this entails are rich, the characters are people in their own right, and it gave a a real sense of connection to bond with them on a deeper level than just carrying out their associated fetch-quest.
During these conversations, and through the limited memories and understanding Fran has of the goings-on in the wider world, we learn of the broader circumstances in which the story plays. A war is going on between the powerful factions of the setting, and it reaches down to influence even the lives of Fran and the other characters.
The entire tale is enlightened but not overshadowed by moody grey-blue pixel graphics, emphasising the atmosphere of the text-descriptions.
At the end, the author hearkens back to an early meeting in an almost fairy-tale fashion, bringing the story around to a satisfying close.
I came across a few bugs and sent reports of them to the author. Iím confident those will be squashed in a following update. Nothing that should hinder the enjoyment, perhaps even providing an extra laugh or two.
A very warm and inviting game.
The Familiar follows Fran, a familiar in the form of a crow, as she embarks on a quest to save her witch mistress who has succumb to an illness. Through a series of puzzles and exploration, Fran uncovers a secret plot and fights for her mistress's life.
I am a sucker for a good simple puzzle and a cute story, and this is no wonder this game made it to my top list of the SpringThing this year (well, it was already a favourite of mine while I was testing it). From its clean and simple aesthetic, the gorgeous pixel art for each "room", to its delightful characters, The Familiar is such a well rounded game.
Obviously, playing as a crow, you are limited in your abilities to help your bedridden mistress (it is a magical wonder you can get her a blanket). Still, the puzzles are constructed in a way that would be doable for a crow to solve (and you a smart little one). Cawing your way into town to get attention, pecking people to move them out of the way, or picking up and dropping objects in the right place, you manage to acquire all needed ingredients to save the witch.
And you are not alone in the process. Meeting first Hazel, a mouse familiar whose master perished not long before the game, who will tend to your mistress while you fly to fetch the ingredients (turns out, it's not the flu but a curse, whomps...). Then a trio of NPCs in town: Miroger, who's bother has died, Cecile, who needs help writing and sending a letter to her lover, and Frederik, who knows a good deal when he sees one. Each helps you getting one ingredient in exchange for a small favour. Finally, the evil wizzard's owl coming at the 11th hour to stop Fran.
But how does it end then? With a happy ending, for course! This is still a feel good story at the end of the day, one that makes you feel satisfied when the ending screen comes around. The day is saved, the mistress is healed, and you made some friends along the way.
What I really appreciated from it was how inclusive the game was for beginners (or terrible parser player like me), as you are limited to 5 verbs (TAKE, DROP, LOOK, PECK, CAW), there is an available tutorial to teach you the controls, and a thorough walkthrough is included in case one is stuck.
I wanted to give a special shoutout to the artwork, considering how long it took to make 30+ pixel art headers, many of those heavily detailed. Those truly gorgeous small pieces of art enhance the atmosphere of the setting, from the cozy home, to the luscious forest, and the different and vibrant parts of the industrialised city. If it all felt like a pixelized version of a Ghibli movie, that was on purpose (the author confirmed the reference).
Anyway, I'm going back to fly after that darn letter...
This was a delightful parser game, where you, a witchís crow familiar, have to save your mistress. Thereís a light touch to the writing, and itís friendly to beginner parser players. The reduced parser helps, though I struggled with it in a few places. The fantasy worldbuilding is strong, and a series of fetch quests takes you through the story, plus extremely well written and nicely implemented conversations with various characters. Things got really frightening at times. In a good way. Iím still feeling relieved that I got a good ending and not a bad one as things played out! I was also grateful to the author for including a walkthrough (two versions). Oh and the artwork throughout is gorgeous.
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