IF Comp 2015: Forever Meow

meowIn Forever Meow (Moe Zilla) you play a cat left alone in a room, messing about with stuff. The limited perspective this affords means that not knowing what’s going on is somewhat important for the experience, so: spoiler warning alert. Aaand:

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whitespace.

As it turns out, the room is in a spaceship, the spaceship is in trouble, and only you can re-activate the autopilot to save the lone passenger, a child in cryostasis. To make this all work, the game ends up weakening – and then largely abandoning – the initial conceit that you’re a cat with a cat’s perspective: you can read, for instance, and grasp complex social ideas like gratitude. This isn’t consistently applied – you know what a spaceship is, but call meteoroids ‘flying rocks’.

The story is pretty saccharine, to be honest: a child watched over by the protective spirit of its mother, a heroic pet who somehow knows the right thing to do to save the child. This becomes really pronounced towards the end, to the point where I was tempted to second-guess it. It’s fundamentally about a very simple fantasy: there is a threat – a largely mechanical threat, not involving any human nastiness – which you heroically resolve. You save someone’s life, everyone loves you and everything’s nice. It’s aiming to be fluffy and warm, rather than to provide any Great Story elements. (Similarly, it’s definitely running on Hollywood astrophysics rather than the realistic variety, but this seems beside the point.)

It’s very, very much a friendly-gauntlet kind of work, and not afraid of foregrounding this. The no-choice jumps are made by press-any-key – more efficient than clicking a link, but carrying less illusion of involvement. The action is ostensibly about navigating a physical space, but really it’s just a sequence of situations which always go forwards, not back, and can only go forwards one way. There’s a ‘puzzle’ that looks quite like a classic parser kind of solution: you want to jump up onto the slippery metal box, but you can’t do so from below, so you have to climb up onto the desk and jump from there – but there’s no ingenuity involved, because the game walks you through it.

Within this mode, it does a capable job: each section is a tightly-composed little nugget of text, delivering some development but not so long as to block up the flow. Reading an effective hypertext game in this mode is a little like watching a tightly-produced movie: it immerses you through pacing, and it’s only when the movie’s over, when you leave the theatre and get into the open air and have time to digest, that you can actually figure out whether the content was any good or not.

Not my kind of thing, then; but if you’re looking for something small, gentle and heartwarming – and have a bit more tolerance than I do for guardian-angel schmaltz – it is well-crafted to your requirements.

Score: 4 – 5, depending on field

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