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Interactive comfort food, December 6, 2020
The Comp randomizer handed me Congee and Mother Tongue close together, which is an interesting coincidence since they’re both short choice-based games dealing with immigration, alienation, and assimilation. Where Mother Tongue focuses more on the relationships between different generations and touches on some big issues, Congee is really about friends supporting each other, and the comforts of home.
The story here is very slight – the blurb says it all – so it’s really about the small details in how the thing is put together. Congee’s greatest strengths are the way it cleanly sets up the personalities and relationship between the main character and her friend, and the canny use of just a few simple visuals to set the mood on a cold, rainy British evening.
There’s good use of humor here – the protagonist bewailing her fever by noting that “the body is but a weak vessel” is a funny bit of self-pity, and the gag following her decision on what to name the regular get-togethers with her friend to eat congee also made me laugh. The writing in the exchanges between her and her best friend Allison is filled with nicely-judged details, in-jokes, and clever turns of phrase. Making the text messages look like text messages, and imposing delays that are long enough to make one believe in the conceit, but short enough that it doesn’t feel frustrating is a really nice touch too (and I hate it 99% of the time when games force you to wait for text to display).
Where I think the game falls down a tiny bit, and where I can’t help make a comparison to Mother Tongue, is in the short exchange between the protagonist and her mom. In fairness this isn’t the central relationship of the game – that’s clearly the one between the main character and her bestie – but the dialogue here felt a bit generic and vague, in a way that the conversation with Allison never did.
Again, though, that doesn’t do much to mar the appeal of this sweet story of how friends can make wherever you are feel a bit more like home.