Review: Mrs. Pepper's Nasty Secret

(Winner of 2008’s IFBeginnersComp. All my nags have to do with me not being a beginner. It’s a perfect game for the intended audience. Mrs. Pepper’s Nasty Secret - Details (ifdb.org))

Well-peppered; could use a bit more salt.

The neighborhood-crazy-lady has taken your skateboard away! Your plan is to get it back. Preferably without falling into her claws yourself.

I have a thing for this kind of setting. The one creepy house in an otherwise friendly street where the children cross when they have to go by. Where the adults secretly want to cross too, were it not for the adult-voices telling them not to be ridiculous…
(I think this goes back to my reading The Dark Tower Pt.3 at a young and impressionable age. The scenes where Jake has to go through the House/Guardian to get to Roland on the other side haunted my dreams for weeks.)

Sometimes it’s a long-abandoned ruin of a house. Sometimes there were people murdered in it and it’s rumoured to be haunted.

In Mrs. Pepper’s Nasty Secret it’s the lone inhabitant that’s scary. (Shhh… People whisper she’s a witch…)

The introduction and the first part of the game do a very good job at establishing Mrs. Pepper as a child-hating, basketball-stabbing, skateboard-stealing hag. I wandered around on the sidewalk for some time before timidly setting foot on her driveway.

After the first big hurdle though, the game settles down a bit and leaves you to explore the house and its surroundings at your leisure.

Despite having a small map, Mrs Pepper makes very good use of the space. There are numerous locked-off locations to discover. In fact, most of the puzzles do exactly that: blocking parts of the house until you figure out some way to remove the obstacle (or simply find the keys…)

I liked chatting to the next-door NPC a lot. In between the gossip, there are clues and help.

A nifty and completely ridiculous (in a good way!) magic system is employed in the later stages of the game. It had me laughing when I visualized what my PC looked like while performing spells…

My hunger for a bit more salt has much to do with the game’s context. It was entered in the 2008 IFBeginnersComp and as such is on the easy side. The important objects are basically right in front of your eyes, and in the one instance where they’re not, the text nanny-clues you to the right command. There are pushy suggestions from the parser about what to type and a somewhat overzealous auto-correct feature. (These are nags from me taking the game away from its intended context and audience, not faults of the game or the authors.)

Good for beginners as well as more experienced players: the game sports an excellent gradual hint-system.

Actually, Mrs.Pepper’s Nasty Secret accomplishes its goal admirably. It welcomes new players with all possible means. It has an engaging plot and interesting NPCs that both new and seasoned players can appreciate.

I just wish there was a “Hard” setting.

Well-written, smooth-playing creepy-house adventure entertainment, good to last you an hour or two/three. Recommended.

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