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About the Story
The Tin Mug is a short illustrated children's story of around 10 minutes. Meet the Tin Mug and his friends, Colin the colander, Silvia the spoon and Stu the stew pot as well as several others. Find out what happens in the magic of the Mug's birthday!
51st Place - 28th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2022)
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Number of Reviews: 5
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I've had people tell me I should drop acid, or that I'm missing something by not doing so. Oh, the things you'll think! Oh, the walls you'll taste! Alas, the potential downsides seem too great a risk. My stodgy, boring self settles for ... well, stuff like The Tin Mug, which makes me laugh and contemplate things well enough that acid seems that much more foolish a risk. Perhaps I am unforgivably g-rated, but yes, I'm too old to worry about much any more. TTM-type stuff also leaves me less worried about things afterwards and less sad about old toys or utensils that did their jobs. It's not a huge risk, or revolutionary, and it won't blow your world away. But my personality is, I'm very okay with thinking about this rather than, well ... why i am missing out by not having a sports car, or not having cable so I can watch the latest hot show (never mind that I have a huge backlog already!) It's comfortable without being a rut.
And that's more than good enough for me. The plot here is simple enough. You are a tin mug, and it's your birthday. You don't quite belong with the fancier china (the cook removes you to a lesser cupboard quickly,) and even some of the tin cookware looks down their noses at you. You're not really expecting something, but gosh, it might still be nice if you got recognition. This is, of course, a concern for many people, too, especially as they get older. And, well, there are whispers the tin mug is past its prime. Not that the tin mug is terribly mature! It causes trouble for another poor cup. But it, along with a spoon, will be part of family drama. Two kids come over. One's very nice, and the other ... isn't. Awkwardness is navigated. At the end we learn the significance of the tin mug, and the story is tied up neatly. Even the mug's early indiscretions are fixed. We learn that more than just the cookware is sentient. It's charming without being twee.
I replayed through immediately to see the other choices. There were few differences, but I found details I'd missed when plowing through. The other cookware has concerns, too, and even the furniture works together to lessen the impact of Kevin, the bratty boy. Nothing major changes, but I didn't need any sprawling choices, and the whole work might have felt a bit odd with them. You are, after all, only a cup. There's only so much you can do. But the authors have found enough for an enjoyable story.
I guess we've all worried if our favorite cup will break, or we'll feel bad our long-time favorite towel is too worn, or we realize that pen that served us so well for so long and wrote all those good ideas is almost out, so we leave it at an angle so plenty of ink is always near the tip. It's not something we can really do with bigger appliances. One doesn't exactly kiss a fridge or oven or give the thermostat an affectionate pat. But we all have our weird hang-ups and superstitions, some practical, some no longer practical.
After playing, and replaying to touch up this review, I was surprised about the things I remembered: the rubber ball that fell apart, the greyish tennis ball that still bounced nicely, the Big Ten cups from when the Big Ten only had ten teams (Iowa's Hawkeye had ISU emblazoned on the front!) which I found on eBay, which was sort of charming, because apparently this story was originally written before the Internet age. A few, I didn't, such as the McDonald's promotional cup that celebrated interleague MLB play. It lasted a few years before cracking. No sturdy tin mug, but enough memories all the same, even half-forgotten.
Perhaps the only downside is that I'm going to feel slightly guilty about the next piece of junk mail I throw out when I'm really tired, or the next piece of scratch paper I barely use, even if I don't stick it in the shredder. But more likely, I'll find yet another old pen I appreciated (too few survived until they ran out of ink,) or I'll remember what's in that drawer I haven't pulled open for a while, and I'll have a few stories of my own. Nothing as engaging as this, but they'll be mine, and they'll be satisfying enough.
The Tin Mug is a short game about working together to pull off a celebration. The protagonist is Tin Mug, and today is its birthday.
The gameplay is broken into chapters and usually focuses on dialog or other basic character interactions. There are never more than two options for every decision which keeps it from overwhelming younger audiences that have little experience with interactive fiction.
The setting in The Tin Mug is a house of what seems to be a modest but reasonably well-off middle-class family. The family has a cook who is also a main NPC since she spends a lot of time in the kitchen and using the items inside it. I would not describe this as a puzzle game but there are areas where gameplay choices directly influence the immediate situation. I could, however, only find one ending. I am not sure if there are more, but if that is the case the one ending is a fitting conclusion.
Teamwork is a prominent theme in this game. As physical objects the non-human characters are used to being manhandled by humans but being manhandled by rebellious children who have not yet mastered proper etiquette is a whole new struggle. Turns out, the household is having a dinner get together that feature two children, one who has a knack for overworking the cutlery. Tin Mug and the NPCs work together to minimize contact with rowdy children. This poses a challenge when you have to, you know, act like a nondescript salad fork. But teamwork carries everyone through.
The characters are basic in design but still lively and interesting. I think that the authors did an effective job in giving endearing personalities to otherwise ordinary objects. There is also a touch of magic involved that explains a bit on the animated nature of Tin Mug and the non-human NPCs. This whimsy may appeal to children interested in a light touch of fantasy.
The Tin Mug is made with Strand, a parser/choice-based hybrid that seems to be relatively new in the IF landscape. In this game, it is almost exclusively choice-based which makes it straightforward and user friendly. Kids and first timers of interactive fiction do not have to worry about learning the rules of parser to enjoy this game. I also like how its appearance is customizable to make it easier to use.
I remember playing the author's other game, Roger's Day Off, which is also made with Strand. It had the coolest 3D (if that is the right term) graphics of its characters and settings. I especially liked the sci-fi ones. The artwork in The Tin Mug is much simpler. Instead, they are flat drawings. While they are not as sophisticated, they work well for a children's piece since they conjure up the feel of reading a children’s picture book. It is probably more appropriate for this of game.
In conclusion, The Tin Mug would be a fun game for young children, perhaps third grade in elementary school (that may mean something different depending on where you are) or lower. Seven years old or younger, let's put it that way. The action is comical, the characters are upbeat, and the story is creative but not too complex so that it is easy to follow. I may not play this game again, but I did enjoy it. If anyone were to ask for a children’s game this would be one of my first recommendations.
Adapted from an IFCOMP22 Review
Tin Mug presents as a children's book IF, though less like a picture book and more like say Winnie the Pooh. There is some disconnect between the subject matter, text, and presentation that made it hard to conjure a consistent imaginary child-co-pilot. Which is the perfectly normal and understandable thing I do when presented with kid lit. Winnie the Pooh, for all its young child appeal, notably invests in its characters, and is as much character as plot driven, maybe more so. The characters are all quite distinct and relatable to all ages. There are a few very distinct characters in Tin Mug to be sure, but there are as many kind of interchangeable ones. This choice feels younger than the piece’s presentation.
Too, there are narrative choices that skew older. In a world of sentient dishware, the story opens with what feels like a casual murder. (Spoiler - click to show)It is undone at the end, but since it was left to ride the entire time, it can only partially undo the lasting impression. Also the mechanism of its undoing was way younger than a lot of the narrative. I’m not here to poke at ‘plot holes’ in a child-targeted work, that’s a dick move. But I am highlighting that these presentation and plot and character choices feel like they target slightly different maturity levels in a way that keeps the work from coalescing.
Even gameplay has inconsistent notes. There are many points of exclusive choices in the game - A OR B. Choices that determine a course of action or character reaction seem perfectly fair. Choices that force you to choose to only interact with one of two characters, without narrative justification for the exclusion, that feels like it doesn’t reward a child’s natural curiosity. Even though I couldn’t get my child co-pilot to materialize into a specific age, nevertheless I clearly heard a whine in my head “why CAN’T I go talk to the bread basket now? I’m done with the… [other one that I can’t remember right now.]”
I can’t stress enough that these are not ‘broken’ story choices in any way. They just seem less crisply focused.
There are technical issues too, the most notable of which is screen management. Very often, a choice will produce a large block of text or oversized illustration that pushes huge chunks of text outside the window. You need to actively scroll upwards to read the text you missed. In many cases the illustration is too large to be seen in the window, and you end up panning across its height. This intrudes further into the experience in a way that would try a child’s patience, I think. It did mine.
Without a (virtual) child co-pilot, and because I am dead inside, I couldn’t wring Sparks out of this, though I could theorize multiple children could get different Sparks at different times. For this curmudgeon it was Mechanical.
Playtime: 10min, finished
Artistic/Technical rankings: Mechanical/Intrusive
Would Play Again? No, experience seems complete
Artistic scale: Bouncy, Mechanical, Sparks of Joy, Engaging, Transcendent
Technical scale: Unplayable, Intrusive, Notable (Bugginess), Mostly Seamless, Seamless
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