Extreme Omnivore: Text Edition

This is quite an odd game. I don’t really get it.

“Extreme Omnivore: Text Edition” is a name that makes me think we’re gonna be doing some extreme omnivore things! Eating everything! Which, considering some games I’ve written myself, I’d be down for. But, uh, you don’t really eat much? You’re just in a normal apartment, which the text describes as “boring” and “dull,” and the gameplay consists of going through the rooms and trying and failing to eat stuff like pens and shampoo bottles. Just because they’re there. Finally you get to eat dinner in the kitchen, and the game ends.

I thought maybe we were playing a dog at first, since the blurb says we’re “hungry as a dog” and we’re willing to try eating crayons and cushions and whatnot. But apparently we’re just a person who’s too desperate to wait for dinner? Except not THAT desperate, since like I said, you’re not exactly devouring this stuff. It’s always unappetizing and then your character doesn’t wanna keep eating it. The impression I come away with is that this is a story about someone getting home from work, whose partner (?) is cooking dinner, who wanders around their own apartment for five minutes or so, randomly nibbling household items until dinner is ready.

Some of the items in the house, and the food served for dinner, is described with rather loving attention. But I just don’t get it! Why are all these items in the game? What’s the purpose of putting the spotlight on them? The game keeps pointing out how ordinary everything is. Why not spice things up? It would’ve been funny if we DID get to eat the items, and thereby demolish the house or get a stomachache or something, but it just doesn’t happen!

There are lots of implementation holes. The game uses compass directions, but they’re not listed. When you’re in the entrance hall, you can ENTER LIVING ROOM DOOR to enter the living room. But then, once you’re in the living room, it’s still called the living room door. So when you ENTER LIVING ROOM DOOR again, you’re now in the entrance hall. It’s like this for every room/door. X ME gives the default Inform 7 response. Lots of the responses are defaults. Many synonyms are missing. Things mentioned in the room descriptions (like linoleum, for example) aren’t implemented.

I needed the walkthrough to finish. You have to say “thank you” to Ina for making dinner, but this wasn’t cued anywhere in the game that I saw. Ina didn’t respond to the conversation topics I tried, so I didn’t expect conversation to be a puzzle. Also, it was really hard to eat dinner! There’s a pie in the oven, and when you try to open the oven it’s too hot, which made me think I needed to wait or do something else first, but the game just wanted me to EAT PIE and ignore the oven. Mixed signals! Ditto with the rice and soup.

I feel like this author could make a pretty sweet game. There’s loving attention to certain details here, like I mentioned. Some of the writing is evocative. Despite the implementation holes, the foundation is okay. It’s not really a buggy game. It’s more like it’s an egg that’s unhatched? Waiting to become more than it is? Unless I missed some devious secret underbelly, which I suppose is possible!

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Agreed on all fronts. If I recall correctly, I don’t think the doors were even labeled with which room they went to; I think I got out of the entrance hall by blindly trying compass directions, which was how I continued to navigate for the rest of the game.

There were also limited inventory spots, and pockets, and multiple bags. Inventory juggling puzzle? No, I don’t think there was actually any reason to carry anything at any point, unless I missed it. The NPC’s name made me wonder if it was a big Barefoot Contessa/Ina Garten joke I didn’t know enough to get, but that also seems a long shot.

You don’t really get any reward for trying to eat the weird stuff, and it doesn’t actually seem to be necessary for finishing the game (haven’t tried), but you do get a score-like counter for them? Except it doesn’t actually seem to matter and the game is mainly exploration. Which isn’t strictly wrong or anything, it’s just another mixed message in a game that’s full of them. It’s not playing to the genre’s expectations of goals, which is fine, but it’s not really giving you any indication of alternate goals to go for. It’s an exploration game with a lot of puzzle-y cues and a protagonist who would rather be eating than exploring. I dunno, it’s not bad, it’s just… there isn’t much of a clear goal, and it isn’t quite good/interesting enough to make aimless exploration its own reward, if that makes sense.

You don’t need to interact with any item for the first part of the game to continue. Just increase the explored counter on the top right. The counter on the top left for eating uneatable things is just there, not doing much. That counter changes though when you enter the last part of the game. Then it shows actual progression.

The game felt really strange with all it’s unnecessary items, especiall after playing a normal kind of puzzle text adventure where every single item is important and you don’t want to miss one.

I’ve posted a review of it on my blog, though I have to admit that I didn’t get it either.

This mostly just felt like someone’s first “hey I can implement stuff in Inform!” project, but there were sparks of “author can probably make a decent game if they keep at it” here and there.

So… keep at it! Look forward to your next project!

Posted a review:

Parser games excel in representing space , in placing the player in an environment consisting of multiple – even many – locations and allowing them to explore it. It is no coincidence that the drawing of maps is deeply associated with parser games; that Adventure started out as a cave exploration game; or that the one thing you need to do to create a legal Inform 7 source text is declaring a room for the player to be in. A spatially defined environment is central to most of the working assumptions of parser IF.

It is therefore also not a coincidence that when first-time parser authors sit behind their blank screen, wondering what to write, they often decide to implement a spatial environment for exploration, and choose the environment that is most ready-to-hand: their own apartment. You don’t see that many of them any more, but there used to be lots of these games. Sam Ashwell refers to this as My Apartment Games; I remembered them being called My Crappy Apartment Games, but you should trust Sam more than me when it comes to IF history.

Either way, the “crappy” part is not entirely irrelevant. You might expect it to modify “games”, to indicate that this type of game tends to be crappy. And it does tend to be crappy. The main activity for the player in such a game is exploring the author’s apartment, which is not, in general, a particularly rewarding activity. It could be; there’s a pretty good story by the Dutch writer Biesheuvel which would be called, in translation, Journey through my room , in which the author takes us on a journey through his room, using the objects found there to spin an interesting tale. But on the whole, exploring someone’s apartment is not by itself all that entertaining or enlightening.

But the “crappy” could also modify “apartment”, because for one reason or another these games tend to emphasise what is bad about the apartment. Extreme Omnivore: Text Edition is no exception. It is an apartment game; and the apartment is kind of crappy. At least the author continually emphasises the negatives: the bedroom is small, the hall is boring, the mirror is stained. Now from the Tips & Tricks document we get the impression that there is a lot of interesting stuff to be found in this apartment: “Every room has something worth exploring. Every room has objects in it that can be examined, smelled, or tasted.” But in fact implementation is very light. Most things are simply inedible. When you can eat something, the description of your action is often little more than: “It tastes awful.” There are very few rewards for the player here. Rewards need not be ‘treasures’ in a game sense; the most common and important reward in a text game is interesting writing, a nice description, a well-chosen turn of phrase. Extreme Omnivore: Text Edition makes little attempt to provide any of that.

I think the game suffers a little more than it should because of the inevitable comparison with Chandler Groover’s 2017 game Eat Me, which took 2nd place in the IF Competition. In that game, the player eats everything, in incredible amounts, and it is all described in lush and gorgeous prose. Everyone who has been following the recent IF scene will expect Extreme Omnivore to follow suit… and when it doesn’t, and in fact doesn’t allow us to eat very much at all, providing only rather mundane prose, we are more disappointed than we perhaps would have been had this just been a crappy apartment game. It’s very likely that the author was just unaware of Eat Me , but context will influence how people experience your game.

All in all, this game looks to me like the work of a first-time author who had fun setting up a parser IF environment, but did not have a clear idea of what the game experience or the story should be. That’s fine; I expect that almost all players of this little piece will have closed it with the thought: I’m curious what the author will write next time, once they have a little more experience under their belt.