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About the Story
This is the story of Charlie Stewart, nine-year-old Human child.
Co-Winner, Best Writing; Nominee, Best Story; Winner, Best NPCs - 2018 XYZZY Awards
McT's Interactive Fiction Reviews
Just after the sacrifice of a human child to the Forest God, the animals realize they might have made a mistake. Someone’s gonna come looking. To that end, they create a lifesize replica of the child powered by four animals inside it. It’s up to you to save the Taiga.
What follows is a highly branching choice game that is much much bigger than it first seems. Our first choice is to select which four animals are going to populate the human suit. Our selection informs some of the text and choices from that point onwards, the game branches outwards. The game does frequently resort to one of my least favorite choice mechanics: big lumps of expository text revealed paragraph by paragraph or sentence by sentence on clicking a random word highlighted in the text. I can’t help thinking – what’s the point?
But this is a minor nitpick in a funny, clever, branching, complex, well implemented game. 9/10.
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The story opens with an emergency meeting of forest animals. (Oh, how cute! Are we doing "The Wind in the Willows"?) Apparently, humans are about to invade the forest in search of the human child the animals sacrificed to the Forest God last night. (Wait, what? Is going to be like "Children of the Corn" meets "Animal Farm"?) So now the council is going to ... send in a replica of the child with four small animals controlling it from inside. It's more like "Watership Down" meets "Voltron" by way of "Calvin & Hobbes".
The possibilities aren't literally endless, but they certainly feel that way. And I can say that after having run through at least twenty iterations that I have yet to see everything.
Some of the situations are downright cartoonish, and the dialogue can occasionally be hilariously stilted; however, I am convinced that much of this is a deliberate, stylistic choice meant to accentuate the humour. I think it works pretty well.
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“Animalia” is a charming choice-based game about a group of animals who attempt to infiltrate human society to thwart its encroachment on their forest. The player controls a team of four animals in a human suit who attempt to pass themselves off as an ordinary human boy, though there are inevitably complications to their plan.
You might be interested in this game if you’d like to play a well-written, polished game with lots of replay value. (That’s admittedly fairly general, but I think this game will be appealing to most people.) Score: 9
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These Heterogenous Tasks
Animalia is a game in which you play four forest creatures who are trying to cover up the ritual sacrifice of a small child by piloting a replica of that small child. You get to choose which animals control the head, arms, torso and legs; some of them are more inept than others, but the sum effect is always a big mess. It is a very silly game, and genuinely funny.
Wacky is a difficult thing to pull off. Surprise is a big element of comedy, and particularly so in wacky comedy – if a particular approach to wackiness becomes familiar and predictable, it has nothing going for it at all. And Animalia is doing a slight spin on a very well-trodden schtick. It’s part of a vast family of jokes – There’s Something Wrong About This Dude, And We’ve Got To Hide That. Octodad, QWOP. Every Weekend at Bernie’s corpse gag, every three-small-children-in-a-big-trenchcoat bit, every thing where aliens attempt to pass as human. There are two jokes in this scenario: the impostor being bad at imposting, and how their marks manage to buy it anyway. (In this case, because kids are weird and Charlie was a weird kid in the first place).
But it doesn’t feel like a tired retread of something we’ve seen a million times. It manages to pull off quite a lot of physical slapstick despite being all-text; it does just as well with the squad’s disastrous social efforts and internal conflicts. I don’t have a lot of useful analysis about how it manages this, except for the rather unilluminating explanation of Good Writing. There’s not a lot of space in wacky comedy between ‘painfully tedious’ and ‘really good’ – either the joke lands or you die – but Animalia lands it.
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Let's Play Interactive Fiction Ep 3: Animalia
I play Ian Michael Waddell's game "Animalia", where I'm four animals pretending to be a normal human child. I'm very good at it, if I do say so myself.
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This was one of the best and most-talked-about games form IFComp 2018.
I played through this one once during the comp and about 6 or 7 times afterwards.
This game has some of the greatest responsivity I've ever seen in a choice game. You make a choice between several different characters to inhabit 4 regions of a robot-child's body. Each area of the body has 3 choices.
Throughout the game, the character inside a given area will talk, and there are 3 variants every time this happens. In addition, there is a point where any two characters can talk to each other, which gives (I believe) around 90 combinations, some of which are merged but still very impressive. There are multiple pathways through everything.
Basically, this is a combinatorial explosion game, which are usually very short because it's impossible to make them long. This is a long game, though, so that means the author worked incredibly hard.
It also made me laugh a lot at different points, literally laughing out loud (for instance when (Spoiler - click to show)Charlie the robot is standing in the toilet flushing his feet over and over until mom comes in).
I'm giving it 4 stars just because I felt that, although my choices mattered a lot, it was hard for me to make and execute plans. I tried so many times just to get to Martin's house, even with the author's help, and I wish I could have known better how to do that. But this is an incredible achievement of a game.
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