IFcomp 2016: The Queen’s Menagerie

IFcomp 2016 is upon us! As usual, I’ll be writing the Breakfast Reviews for these games. This year, though, I have this blog … I’ll be posting the reviews to the usual website, but I guess I’ll also be posting them here. Also, I think I shall be posting them as I play them, instead of saving them up to post all at once after I’m done.

So! First up is Chandler Groover’s “The Queen’s Menagerie”, in which we follow a zookeeper through the rather fantastic depths of the eponymous menagerie one evening at feeding time….

Partaking of Groover is like partaking of some everlasting, continuous feast, each story just another slice of the unending line-up. There is a sense of decadence, of something delectable made from organ meat and fat. Something baroque.

“The Queen’s Menagerie” is another in the baroque line-up, but this time we take a step away from the player. It feels less like a thing you participate in, and more like a story you observe: instead of addressing the player as the protagonist of the story, the actions of the protagonist are described to the player as the actions of another–a story told in the third person. This distancing gives the story a bit of a fairy-tale effect, allows Groover to indulge in some more poetic turns of phrases, and … also makes it easier to handle some of the more Dreadfully Wrong actions that must be made.

The decisions you make don’t actually change the story much, I find. I’d say this is more of a “poke the moving parts” sort of story, where the objective is really to see what happens when you do things one way or another–the immediate effects of each choice–rather than to achieve some final goal.

And there is a certain poetry to the prose. It reminds me a little of Dylan Thomas’s “Under Milk Wood”.

Is there social commentary as well? Perhaps. For all its rich, fairy-tale flavour, it does lay bare the nature of the kingdom: the cruelty, both calculated and casual; the gulf between the great and the small; the things glossed over in the name of maintaining the grandeur of the Empire…. It is perhaps not necessary that we dwell on these things for long, but they add a certain pungent aftertaste to the dish.

Breakfast? Blood pudding, with a thick Hollandaise. And hot chocolate … the good stuff, with the bitterness of the cocoa still detectable under the milk and sugar.

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