by Chandler Groover. Reviewed by Sam Neils.
In the world of interactive fiction, my favorite medium by far has been Inform. True, the learning curve for Inform is much steeper compared to something like Twine or Bitsy, but once you master it, Inform opens up a world of possibilities for storytelling. Inform grants you total control over what your player can see and do while still allowing the flexibility of open-ended puzzle design.
The issue that frequently arises is that sometimes puzzles can get a little excessively open-ended to the point of being complicated to solve. This is a dilemma that a lot of authors face and requires much time and patience to solve. Eat Me, however, manages to sidestep this problem entirely.
Contrary to most other Inform games, all the puzzles in Eat Me can be solved using only a single command. As you might assume from the title, this command is “eat.” You can examine things and move about, but beyond that, eating is all you must do. In fact, the game will chastise you if you attempt to use any other command.
On the surface, this might sound simple and boring, but take a moment to think about what eating actually entails and the various tasks that can be accomplished through eating. You’ll start to get a sense for how far the concept was actually taken. In only the first handful of rooms, eating can be used to open doorways, disarm a guard, open a bag, and don armor.
Eating is also used to create some interesting puzzles that are more complicated than they appear. For example, in one puzzle the player must eliminate the sardine footmen so he can disarm the nobility in the dining hall. Your first instinct will probably be to go to the kitchen. However, regardless of how many sardines you manage to chow down in there, they never seem to stop coming. Closer inspection reveals their point of origin to be the pantry. Inside the pantry, you’ll find multiple sardine tins. Eating them is the key to cutting off the infinite supply of footmen and getting the sardines out of the way.
The final benefit eating adds is to the narrative. A simple story of a child eating dinner may not seem particularly engaging on its own, but it’s the way this game presents the dinner makes it memorable. The goal isn’t simply to eat; the goal is to devour your way through the entire castle, slaughtering every dish that comes your way, and leaving absolutely no character untouched! Add in that the eat command will have to be used multiple times to progress and you feel like a savage invader hellbent on consuming everything in sight no matter the cost!
Overall, Eat Me is a refreshing take on the puzzle design of contemporary Inform games, and I look forward to seeing more from this author in the future.