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About the StoryIt is playgroup day and playgroup day is normally a good day but ever since that little red-haired girl started coming she always wants your toys.
She shouldn't get your toys.
You tried telling the mom this but she doesn't understand you. She mostly ignored you but then she just shoved a pacifier in your mouth and changed your diaper.
Child's Play was an entry in the 2006 Introcomp, where it took second place. The complete version was released on the 31st of December 2007.
Nominee, Best Game; Nominee, Best Writing; Nominee, Best Puzzles; Winner, Best NPCs; Nominee, Best Individual Puzzle; Nominee, Best Individual NPC - 2007 XYZZY Awards
The star of the game is your nemesis, the little red-haired baby Zoe, who wants your favorite toy. Her behavior is so well-integrated into the rest of the game that it doesn't really stick out as an experiment in goal-seeking behavior or application of AI, but that's a sign of its technical success: Zoe, and to a lesser extent the other children, actively modify the environment and respond to the player's actions, carry out their own small plans, and display personality, without any verbal communication at all.
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Jay Is Games
Granade does an excellent job imbuing an adult sort of awareness into the unique mindset of a young child; the protagonist is entirely self-aware (as well as savvy enough to realize that adults will be of no help whatsoever) but must contend with limited abilities (cannot talk, cannot walk, etc). So, instead of relying upon strength or sophistication, you as baby must watch the world around yourself, observe patterns of behavior and learn how to manipulate the other children and adults into doing your will. Surprisingly Machiavellian!
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Number of Reviews: 3
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The writing is very cute, and the plot puts you in the mind of the child. People don't take you seriously, there are in-game reasons why PUNCH NPC doesn't get you a result. You can only carry a couple of items at a time, the smallest inventory limit I've seen, yet still makes the game fun and make sense.
And you have to be smart to figure out how to get at that toy and make sure the little red head doesn't get at it. Very clever!
The writing is great. The parents have silly conversations with each other, and the descriptions of people are great. Definately a fun game with more thought behind it than you might originally think. Long live Alphadog!
I also wrote a Walkthrough for it at: http://www.placesandpredators.com/tads/ChildsPlayWalkthrough.txt
Related reviews: stephen granade
Don't play it if: you want something more narratively substantial, or you have a hair-trigger pet-peeve for anything to do with kids.
I've had a running idea in my head about a work of IF based around a robot protagonist who wakes up in a state of semi-assembly, and has to work to complete itself while having to work around its inability to carry out certain very basic tasks. I mention this because Child's Play is basically a complete fleshing-out of that idea, with the difference being that the half-formed PC is a human rather than a robot.
The challenge and fascination of the game is that the PC's goals are entirely straightforward and achievable for most human beings (i.e. retrieving a toy and playing with it), but require significant effort and lateral thinking for the PC here. The puzzles are surprisingly tough and complex given the limited range of actions the PC can take, but that sort of demonstrates the ingenuity of the game: it's all about milking your few reliable skills for as much as they're worth, and manipulating others to do the things outside your own capabilities. Even though they draw on the same basic principles, the puzzles never feel repetitive or boring, though I suspect that with this game Granade may have exhausted most of IF's potential for games based around plausible baby-behavior.
Plausible baby-behavior is another notable thing. The writing of the parents and the babies betrays significant personal experience with both. The children are believable in their free-form, goal-oriented behavior - most of the time, just living in the moment according to what their personalities dictate, and occasionally acting in the service of some higher agenda - and even more so in their elicitation of parental responses.
The PC is a touch more self-aware and wise than one might expect an eleven-year-old to be, but it was clearly intentional and it adds a neat humorous dimension to the story (with the PC taking pride in his/her age and refusing to commit certain acts as being "unseemly" for such an age category). As with other good examples of prominently-featured narrative voices such as Lost Pig, For a Change, and Counterfeit Monkey, the novelty doesn't outstay its welcome but takes a step back and lets the exploration and challenge of the game take center stage.
This is normally where I would butt in with some discussion of the less positive aspects of the work. But the truth is that I can't see any holes in Child's Play. The author's commentary might have worked better as a running part of the description rather than requiring a separate command for each note, but it would be absurd to count that as a flaw. The game is simply a good, fruitful concept fully fleshed out and executed with wit and polish. This is the kind of short game I think most IF writers want to publish at least once in their lives, and Granade should be very proud of it. Highly recommended.
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Recommended ListsChild's Play appears in the following Recommended Lists:
Active Non-player Characters by Emily Short
Games which make use of non-player characters that have a great deal of independence, often moving around and acting on their own, or taking the lead in conversation. Some of these are more successful than others, but all are likely to...
PollsThe following polls include votes for Child's Play:
PC's personality integrated with the story by JasonMel
I would like to be able to recommend to someone many examples of interactive fiction in which the player character is far from a cipher or an everyman or everywoman, but is instead a character with a definite personality within a game...
AI developments, particularly NPC-AI by breslin
Doesn't need to be satisfying as a conventional game, but must be interesting as an experiment. The idea being that AI work in IF is something that still needs work. Name the games you think which are contributing to this area of genre...
Wandering NPCs by Fredrik
I have always been fascinated with games that have several wandering and independent NPCs, especially when you have the ability to try to order them around. This sets the stage for a game where no one session is like any other, and even...
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