Mother Loose

Developer/Publisher:  Written by Irene Callaci
Year Released:  1998

Review by Karen Tyers (February, 1999)
This is a delightful little game from the 1998 if-competition entries which I downloaded from the if-archive (as usual for me these days). I understand from the author that it was her first attempt at writing interactive fiction and originally it started out as a simple game for her young daughter and sort of grew... It is a very small game, only 14 locations, since one of the if-competition rules is that the player should be able to complete it within two hours.

The game opens as follows: What was that? You freeze, all your senses on alert. Not mineral. Not vegetable either. That means... animal? Your eyes scan the countryside, swivelling like searchlights, and pause briefly on a grove of trees to the north. 'No, not there. Up here!' guides a voice edged with impatience. As you whirl round, peering up, you squint and shield your eyes against the sun's glare. Waving at you from the top of a rickety wooden fence is a well groomed egg, who confesses, 'I could use a bit of help if you don't mind'. After a long and rather awkward silence, the egg mutters, 'It's very rude to stare, you know. If you won't help, kindly refrain from gawking.' The egg crosses his legs, folds his arms, and pretends to ignore you...

Well, that sounded like just the sort of silly thing I love, so I then typed HELP, which most of the Inform games use to give you additional information, hints, credits etc, and found a section called 'What's going on here,' which explains that you are seven years old and always in trouble. Your day apparently got quite out of hand, everything went wrong, you decided to wander around outside in a panic, then this egg asked you for help...

So there I was, looking up at this egg on a fence. Wandering around took me through a forest where I found several items, including a pot full of pease porridge (yuk!) and a wolf who took to following me around. I just loved one of the descriptions for this mangy animal which had him lounging against a wall, looking at me, whilst picking his teeth with a toothpick. I have a very vivid imagination, and spent ages laughing over the pictures in my head. (Regular readers will know that my sanity is not all it's cracked up to be anyway!) However, onwards as they say. I found a bungalow which was locked, a cottage where I needed a 'knock knock' response, a beautiful meadow, complete with lamb, a well on a hilltop (and don't you just know what's at the bottom), a school and a clock tower. Studying the clock tower seemed to indicate the clock wasn't working, so perhaps that was one of my objectives? Back to the fence and chat to the egg. I obviously also had to find a way to help him down off the fence (just try pulling him down!), and rescuing whatever was at the bottom of the well...

This really is a smashing little game, gently humorous, but in places gives a real feel of the menace that a seven year old would feel, especially in the forest. One of the things I especially liked was that there was more than one way to do just about everything in the game, and points were given differently depending on what you did. Apparently you can finish the game with a maximum of 50 points, but I finished it with only 26, so I am going to do it again and try things a little differently. According to Irene, if you complete it with a full score, it's BORING (her words, not mine.)

The game would be ideal for a beginner, nothing too difficult, but I must say when I played it the first time, the method of rescuing whatever was down the well was very novel. It had me stumped for a while. A very pleasant way to while away a Sunday afternoon.

(This review was originally published in Adventure Probe, UK, edited by Barbara Gibb. Reprinted here with the kind permission of the author).

You can download Mother Loose from the following address:
Gamefile is Loose.z5.

Copyright © Karen Tyers 1999. All rights reserved.