Game #3: Snack Time! (An Interactive Break for a Bite)
Authors: “Hardy the Bulldog” and Renee Choba
Played On: October 5th (35 minutes)
Platform: Inform 7 (Zcode)
Can you help one hungry bulldog in his quest to find something good to eat? He would like that. A lot.
Snack Time! is a cute, super-short diversion. It’s maybe too short, even by IFComp standards. The concept (PC is an animal), while done before in previous competitions, could stand for a little meatier treatment. The game is everything it sets out to be, which is to say it’s not incredibly ambitious.
Being told from Hardy’s viewpoint, things are described in very general terms. A couch is “the long soft thing.” An oven and a refrigerator are “a thing that gets hot” and “a box that stays cold,” respectively. The television is “the box of light.” It’s all put into context, though. What these things really are is obvious from the text, and the game accepts the appropriate English names just fine. Parts of the text can be a little hard to visualize on a first pass (and even a little clunky to read), but it’s effective overall.
Plus, it’s all smooth enough until the end. Putting yourself in Hardy’s place isn’t hard, and the game recognizes the kinds of actions typical of dogs. This makes some actions that would be non-intiutive in any other game (jumping up on a something, biting something, begging, etc) fair as elements of the game’s relatively lightweight puzzles. It’s also pretty good about recognizing unimportant actions. Hardy is prevented from doing the more aggressive things in reaching his goal, but the game usually understands them.
In giving Snack Time! the highest mark for Implementation, I’ve had to judge the game’s responsiveness separate from the difficult bit at the end (which, in scoring, factors more into the puzzles than the implementation). Each achievement is worth ten points (of a perfect fifty). The final two achievements (gained simultaneously at the end, where the second is optional) were harder to come by. Part of the reason is that a very strong clue for what Hardy must do at the end is seemingly seen only if you don’t move a certain item before “Pet” has a chance to encounter it. If you leave it alone, wake “Pet” and wait a couple turns, something happens that’s a strong and important clue for the endgame.
Without that clue, however, it’s pretty difficult to know what to do without stumbling on the answer by accident. For me, it meant checking the hints. I only found that it was clued on a second play-through, and that was by failing to move the item in question. Something is missing there at the end. As the final puzzle – the final few turns – it makes sense that the difficulty would rise. The problem, though, is twofold. One, something that should conceivably work (simply taking what you want), doesn’t. That would have been a great spot to give even a vague hint, but the chance was missed. Two, an unfortunate choice in wording can lead one to believe that a specific action (one perhaps even independent of the rest of the game) must be required at just the right moment. The final ten points might be clued in the 40-point ending, but it seems unlikely most players will pick up on the one little bit that might be the clue.
But it’s cute. And it’s not a bad game by any means. It’s just short, not very ambitious, and potentially hard to crack at the end. It rates a “6” using my self-imposed judging rules, and that puts it right about “average.”
Renee entered the IFComp in 2005 with History Repeating, another short and sort-of nondescript average kind of game. I’d like to see something longer and more ambitious from this author in the future; something more substantial story-wise.