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The way out is through, May 16, 2021
Adventure game protagonists tend to be greedy-grabby types, yeah? Fitting, then, that a child is the protagonist here, with sickly sweets in the very first room. Transgression without judgment, that's what Eat Me offers, and an engaged player will quickly become complicit. Thankfully, Eat Me draws you in with a deft touch rather than going hard-meta, and even on the latter front it allows a chance of subversion by the end. It's also unabashedly weird and gross. I loved it.
On the writing: I have played many well-written games, but this is the first one I replayed primarily so I could read it again. Additionally, this game has the most effective writing I've seen used in service of the traditional exploration-and-puzzles format. It guides and instructs. It tempts and discourages. It acts as both feedback and reward. The imagery and characterization are sensuous and vivid. The writing in this game is highly suggestive, in all senses of the word, and it performs all of these tricks simultaneously without ever sacrificing the mood or being too obviously symbolic. Granted, none of the tricks Eat Me uses are new--some of them are Text Adventure Narration 101--but I haven't played any other game that balances the text and the mechanics so perfectly while operating on so many levels. It is, in a word, harmonious. Every sentence has punch, not a single word feels wasted, and the game is a joy to read and interact with.
It helps, of course, that the game is so focused and small. In fact, if there's one major criticism to be made, it's that neither the puzzles nor the story are terribly complex. I forgive Eat Me in this regard for three reasons: one, it's framed as a fairy tale, and those traditionally don't have terribly complex stories either. Two, there's a lot of optional depth to explore (again: temptation, and complicity once the player starts digging). And three, Groover packs in a variety of escalating surprises as the main events unfold. Even if you guess what's going to happen next, there's probably another layer to reflect on, an alternative that you missed, or at least an amused sense of "okay, well, I didn't expect things to go quite THAT far" afterward.
In the end, Eat Me works better as a simulation than as a captivating tale. It's a slice of Wonderland, a little model of a creepy fantasy world that you can inhabit and play around in for a while, rather than a satisfying story proper. But few games do it better or with more style.