IF Comp 2015: Forever Meow

I launched Moe Zilla’s Forever Meow with a solid baseline of positive anticipation. I am a cat person in general, and I probably derive more than average enjoyment from the humor and/or cuteness features often provided by animal characters in games. A non-trivial fraction of my nostalgia for Curses, for instance, is connected to the character of Austin the cat. (Chfuvat Nhfgva guebhtu n cbegny vagb napvrag Nyrknaqevn remains among my favorite in-game moments in IF.) If I had more spare time, I would assemble a list of games organized according a Cat Quotient measure, in the spirit of Emily Short’s excellent (though, sadly, long abandoned) cheese rating page.

Generally, there are two dimensions of a game like this, where the PC is an animal, that I look forward to as interesting and/or amusing:

1) Writing that embodies the animal PC’s different-from-human ways of perceiving and thinking about its surroundings.
2) Story and/or puzzle elements linked to the limitations and abilities of the species in question.

Forever Meow executes the first dimension somewhat well, but unevenly, and does a sufficient amount of the second. Otherwise, it is a short, light story that I found generally engaging and enjoyable for the ~10 minutes it took to play.

Other particular thoughts below.

The premise here is that you are a cat that finds itself on board a space ship. The overall Problem to be solved becomes clear quickly, and the game has sufficiently few choices at any point that the whole thing proceeds in a way that feels quite linear, even if a bit of exploration — and a couple Purely Amusing tangents — are possible.

As I was playing/reading, the structure of choices generally maintained the sense that my actions and constraints as a cat were in fact cat-like. For instance, getting to a particularly high place required a strategic (though not overly complicated) series of leaps involving an intermediate object. The sets of choices presented at various moments also capture key elements of canonically amusing cat-like thinking: In multiple circumstances, the player is presented with a choice to “Meow”, leading to unsatisfactory results, followed by a choice set which begins with (wait for it) “Meow More! And there is a very familiar and convincing session of batting around an utterly inconsequential small object — including the disappointment that it is not, in fact, alive, and the PC’s excitement upon deciding to play with it further anyway.

When it comes to narrative voice, things are quite a bit less consistent. Early on, items in the game are described with fairly generic adjectives that suggest a sort of pure-physical-form model for how a cat would perceive things: I encounter (among other things) a “slippery metal box”, a “long grey box”, a “dark rectangle”, and a “dark hole”. Eventually, though, this happens:

A metal tag has been affixed below the window.

It reads:

“Cryogenic Preservation Unit.”

Wait. I’m a cat who can read? Or has a separate narrator now joined, able to convey extra information about things that I-the-cat-PC can see but only I-the-human-player can understand? Later on, the player character (or the narrator?) can also apparently identify components of electronic machinery that include “gyroscopes” and “oscillators”. This may be an overly picky complaint about such a short game, but for what it’s worth, during the second 5 minutes of play I myself felt less like I was embodying a cat than I did during the first 5 minutes.

Overall, this was a simple, pleasant and amusing piece with a solidly high Cat Quotient for its length, and I would recommend it to anyone seeking some combination of those things.


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