Truthcraze's 2023 (Meal) Reviews of the IFComp games

Hey all - breaking a long silence to bring back the (Meal) Reviews of IFComp games. With respect and a debt of gratitude to the Breakfast Reviews of IFComp games that I did not originate, but which inspired me as an author to create something that would be better than weak tea and toast.

Looking through old topics - seems I last did this in 2021, when I was an author. So, welcome to the public Meal Reviews. They do not include scores, and are entirely objective. This is exactly what these games are, just described as food.

First up in my personalized shuffle, in which I’ve prioritized Inform works, because that is what I like (don’t go to a pizza place if you don’t like pizza!), is…

A peanut butter sandwich on white bread, made several hours before school, tucked inside its plastic bag. A can of RC Cola, warm, also is within the brown paper bag. Your mother has scrawled a heart on the outside of the bag in red magic marker. You are too old for this, and you have told her that before. She keeps doing it. Twenty years from now, in a moment of reflection, you will cherish the heart, but right now it just gets you made fun of by the other guys at the lunch table. A red delicious apple, slightly bruised, is going to be half eaten, and then chucked into the grey plastic trashbin before you race to spend a few extra minutes playing Wall Ball or Four-Square before it’s time for World History with Mrs. Shoemaker.


Review 2:

What else but swedish meatballs. Expertly crafted, juicy tidbits that are both savory and sweet, fun to eat, hardly nutritious, but that’s not what they’re for. They are for savoring as a little treat after a long day. They go great as an appetizer, or as a dish to bring to a friend’s house, or as a complete meal (provided you put them on some sort of roll). Widely thought of as the best part of a shopping trip to the store that shall not be named, apparently. Do you wish that there was a LITTLE more heft to them, that they were SLIGHTLY easier to eat (I mean - a fork food at a retailer?)? Maybe you do. But that taste is unique, and uniquely satisfying.


Candy eaten from your pillowcase on Halloween night. You stuff it randomly into your mouth as you walk from house to house, getting more. You can take one piece from the take one buckets, or you can take all of it, but it’s all sugar and artificial coloring. Your friend Jeff told you that natural coloring was all made from crushed up beetles anyway. You eat another piece, and start to feel sick. You eat three more pieces. Waxy orange and black taffy. Most nights it’s kinda gross, but not tonight. Gummy eyeballs. Oh hey, this house gave out full-size Hershey’s! Nice! Coming back here first next year. Hopefully the rest of the neighborhood will up their game.

Oh man, this house is making you do a haunted house the dad built on the front yard before you get your candy. You follow the maze, which doesn’t really have many dead-ends or twists, but man, somehow the dad made it go on FOREVER- oh wait, there’s the end! And there’s the dad, jumping out of the bushes with a werewolf mask on, laughing himself sick when the kids jump.

Alright, one more piece of candy.


Thanks for the meal review! Please take the rest of the candy in the basket, and don’t tell Jeff!

PS: The guy in the werewolf mask doesn’t even live here. In fact, we have no idea who he is …



You made beef stroganoff from your mom’s recipe, which she got from her mom. You ladle it over the egg noodles and sit, steam rising from the bowl. What was it that you always used to put on top? Parmesan? That doesn’t sound right. Maybe you should call Mom, ask her - but no, this is your attempt at it. This can be Neo-Stroganoff. Beef Stroganew.

You TAKE a bite. Burned your mouth a bit. Okay, let’s try that again. EAT a bite. Some slopped out a bit. Try again. CONSUME a bite. Whoops, not that. Oh, right, you can just CHEW a bite. That works. There’s the old flavor, or something close to it.

Actually, not too bad - you’re pretty sure the recipe is right, but maybe Mom did something different? Or maybe it was you were a kid… no, it’s probably a secret ingredient.

You TAKE another bite. Dammit! You CHEW another bite. Pretty good, pretty good.



Murder mystery dinner theatre! Before the play starts, an appetizer, well composed and tantalizing, Fits the theme of the play, which seems to be a locked room mystery - slightly Victorian, or perhaps just English? Or maybe it is vaguely fantasy? Hard to tell from the lobby’s decorations, honestly. The appetizer serves to whet the appetite, certainly.

The main course, in between Act I and II, is many small portions, not all of which seem to go together entirely, but are generally good on their own, though some are inscrutable. A dinner roll, well-baked, but where is the butter? Oh, it was hidden under that pottery thing on the table all along. Some sort of meat, the sauce and herbs mask the taste. Maybe veal? Maybe chicken? A savory gelatin thing, with bits in. Was that entire side dish red pickled herrings? You find yourself turning to the menu for help. The other guests at your table are discussing the play, and are a bit lost. Motivations are hard to follow, but the actors are enthusiastic, and no one has forgotten their lines so far.

You find yourself thinking that it may be you needed to bring as much effort to the table as the chef and actors did - because a lot of work went into this evening, certainly. But by the time the curtain falls, you are as confused as the non-Hero Detective characters in the play. Who did what to whom and why? Oh well, you applaud anyway.

Your choice of desserts follows, and you try a few. They’re fine, but seem slightly underbaked compared to the rest of the meal.


Thanks for the review! And for the metaphors!



Jelly Belly jellybeans. No one does jellybeans better. The flavors taste exactly like what they are supposed to be. Small, sweet, and you can eat a million of them. Some of them taste weird, but it’s on purpose. Most people love them, or at least like them, or can see the appeal. Some people don’t get them.

“Jellybeans aren’t a meal!” they say. “You can’t eat just jellybeans!”

You will show them. You will eat jellybeans until you throw up.



An amuse bouche, pirate themed. “Hardtack”, which is actually some well flavored rye (wry?) bread, layered with daintily smoked sea bass, a bit of cheese, finely aged, and a touch of sauce, with a flavor reminiscent of the sea, and wild, exotic spices.

A bit challenging - not immediately approachable by unsophisticated palates, but the chef is there to explain his vision and make some pairing suggestions. You can see why this restaurant is recommended.



A long forgotten microwavable “tv dinner”. The salisbury steak is gummy, the sauce is mostly just sodium, the vegetables are… present… and the brownie is dried out by the microwaving process. The idea of a complete meal is there, and it certainly won’t kill you to eat it, and can even be fun in a certain context, and it is certainly competently made food, but not exactly my first choice for dinner.



The obvious thing here would be to say some sort of candy. I’m tempted to say jawbreaker, but that’s not quite it. Sugar, fun, bright colors (metaphorically for text), it’s close. Howver, jawbreakers are one-note, and take forever to eat, and you get sick of them before they are done. It’s not a jawbreaker.

The next temptation is some sort of popsicle - especially given Mayor McFreeze and Mrs. McFreeze. You have to eat them before they melt, there’s the sugar again, bright colors, not-too complex flavor, fun - but it’s not quite a popsicle. The time limit is nowhere near as fast as a popsicle on a hot day, and the game doesn’t “eat” as easily as a popsicle either.

Who Iced Mayor McFreeze is a candybar. Specifically, a homemade candy bar, prepared by someone who’s seen a lot of baking competition shows and thinks they can do that, given a chance. Sure, the peanuts are not exactly finely chopped, and the temper of the chocolate went a little wrong, but the nougat was expertly concocted and very flavorful, with a richness you don’t get in mass-produced bars. Maybe the caramel didn’t exactly set, and midway through the bar you’re scrambling for a plate and maybe a fork and knife, as the sugar goo starts getting all over your hands, but the ingredients are high quality, and the taste is great, if a bit messy.



Obviously, this is fish sticks. Served piping hot, perfectly fried, with a generous side of mac and cheese, and your choice of dipping sauces. The fish sticks are actually quite high quality, homemade, breaded with panko and fried in high quality oil. Some of the dipping sauces are completely extraneous, and probably there to fill out the meal and make it look slightly more expansive, but they are not necessary. Maybe some labels on the unnecessary sauces - I don’t really need to fully consume any more red herrings with my fish sticks, actually. There are a few crunchy bits that offer a bit of trouble, but a delightful, filling meal.


Hi Truthcraze,

Thank you for the beef Stroganew! :smiley:

1 Like


Buttled appetizers at a wine and cheese event, some ribbon cutting celebrating some such something or other. The bites are well prepared, and come around frequently, but they all seem to be somehow thematically linked to the event itself, and thus all have similar flavor profiles. You hope for a meal afterward, but this isn’t that kind of event. You snag a glass of wine as it makes its rounds, but it is a thematic mocktail, which tastes nice, but isn’t exactly what you wanted. Before you leave you eat enough of the appetizers to feel full - actually too many, and you feel a bit greedy, but it is probably your fault for wanting a meal when you came to this event.



Your friend invites you over for a small party - “just some board games and I’ll make dinner!”

You arrive at the appointed hour, and the party is already going - you don’t really know anyone there, they all seem to know each other - it’s initially a bit awkward. But they are super welcoming, and really fun and funny people. They invite you to sit with them at the table, and soon you feel like you’ve known them forever.

Just then, your friend comes out of the kitchen bearing many plates, all balanced up his arm like a fancy waiter. Or at least a Chili’s waiter. Some sort of waiter. Actually, definitely a Chili’s waiter, but one that is a bit too good at what they do to actually be working at Chili’s, but maybe they’re doing this while they’re in school, or maybe it’s a night job while they’re watching their kids during the day, or hey, maybe they just love being a Chili’s waiter. Seeing all those kids on the way to Homecoming Dance. Or the family celebrating a good report card. The baseball team that just won the last game of the season, in the consolation bracket, but a win is a win!

So that’s what your friend reminds you of, as he quickly plops a multitude of serving dishes and plates and utensils and glasses and drinks down. “I was thinking Tex-Mex, but also some molecular gastronomy Youtube videos I saw caught my eye, and then I wanted to try some pacific rim fusion, but also Caribbean - so you are getting a little of each!”

You eat with your new friends, laughing and trying to play some sort of table-top approximation of carnival games that never really works, but it’s a lot of fun. The food is eclectic, varied, well spiced, and quite good. Does it all go together? In a weird way, yes, but in a normal, “planned menu” way, no. Who cares about planned menus and the real world anyway. This way is much more fun.

You leave late in the night, quite full, and mouth aching from grinning and laughing, with your friend promising there are plenty more nights like that in your future.



A brief break from the kayfabe of this format: In my opinion, this is the game of the comp so far. Please play this game.

Dr. Ludwig and the Devil is a perfect cheeseburger and fries, from a “locals only, secret-spot” style restaurant.

The restaurant seems unassuming from the outside, a bit of a hole in the wall.

Upon entering, you feel like you’re at home - immediately comfortable and well taken care of. The proprietor, who also works the grill and the cash register, shouts out “Be with ya in a minute!”

The menu has two choices for sides, fries or tots, and only two for the burger - single or double. But you can have it dressed per your choice - and the reason you are here is for the burger and fries, to be honest. Addition by subtraction.

And the burger is perfection. Crispy bits, juicy, packed with flavor, salty and some just on the tip of your tongue spice on the patty, which is ground in-house from hand-trimmed local-grown cuts of beef. The cheese is perfectly tangy, sharp where it needs to be, gooey and creamy, complimenting the beef while not over-running it. The lettuce, tomato, onions, are all fresh, local grown, somehow all in season no matter when you visit, and offer a crisp crunch that is in perfect proportion to the burger. The bun, of course, is baked in-house, soft and yielding yet somehow substantial and flavorsome. It is dotted with poppy and sesame seeds, each somehow placed in a surprising and aesthetically pleasing precision.

The fries and the tots - you can’t go wrong with your choice of either. Delicious plain, or dipped into the variety of sauces, hot and fresh and golden crispy, light yet holding a hint of the fryer oil with them, just enough to let you know that they are the real deal and still real food from a real place.

When you leave, for an instant you are tempted to keep this place your secret. You don’t want it to become too popular - it should remain “your” hole-in-the-wall. But then you realize that you didn’t have anything to do with how much the place has succeeded in creating a perfect burger, and joy shared is doubled, as Spider Robinson once said, so you resolve to tell all your friends about this perfect restaurant, and hope they have as wonderful an experience with it as you did.



A turkey leg at a ren-faire. Not the best seasoned or cooked, but substantial, and some people seem to NEED and LOVE those things.

The theatre-kid energy at the ren-faire is off the charts. Enthusiastically employed and questionable accents abound, and there are double (and single) entendres slung with abandon.

The turkey leg is large and meaty, but a bit pink in the middle. Is it supposed to be pink? Probably not. Plus you’re pretty sure this is the one the vendor accidentally dropped on the ground and then just brushed off real quick. Kinda fun and not half bad if you can excuse that sort of thing.

But to be fair - you went to a ren faire and bought a turkey leg. You knew what you were in for.


This is some of the most thoughtful critique I’ve received, and I understand you completely. Thanks, Truthcraze.



A full day’s of circus food. Wait!, I promise this is a positive review, despite how that first sentence might hit.

A full day’s of circus food - that somehow doesn’t leave you throwing your guts over the railing of the Ferris Wheel.

You get some kettle corn, a funnel cake, a corndog, and wrap it up with some deep fried oreos. The food is all fresh, freshly made, perfect temperature, served with a smile, salty and sweet (perfectly sweet - not cloying, but there’s a bit of sugar in everything). The corndog has a nice snap to it, somehow, and the batter coating is crisp and delicious. The deep fried oreos put a nice bow on the experience, not too many, you don’t get tired of them, but a great treat you can’t get anywhere else.

There are a FEW negatives - not many, but a few. It’s outdoors, so a FEW bugs buzz around the food, and you have to wave your hands over the food a few times - but you eat it up so quickly that you don’t really notice.

Sometimes fair food is just for devotees, or just because you can’t get real food while you’re at the circus/fair/zoo/whatever, but this is good - real good.


Aw, thank you for this review! Very happy with this!