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Thursday, October 3, 2013

Review - Mrs. Wobbles and the Tangerine House

Okay, first of all: I think we can all agree this is a pretty amazing title. This is like one of those creative writing exercise prompts. Who is Mrs. Wobbles? Why does she live in a giant tangerine? Why is she constantly sipping gin out of a vitamin water bottle? Is that why she's so wobbly? So many questions!! Also, this is my first web game. Well, to be fair this is my first game in the entire competition. I've got a bunch of unbridled enthusiasm that I'm sure will wear away like a pencil eraser until my spirits has been rubbed to the point of being a black smudged nub of its former self. BUT... until that happens (I'm guessing by game four) let the frivolities begin! Let's DO THIS.

Quick take: Very cute hypertext game that is unabashedly written for readers who still own their first set of teeth.

Full review after the jump!

Okay, first: Caveat: I did not finish this game. I know. I know. I know. My first game of the competition and I already fail as a reviewer. And why didn't I finish it? Was the game bad? ...No. Was it poorly written. ...No. Was it ineptly put together? Certainly not. Was it too difficult? It's a hyper-text game. You could train a chimp or a dog with a stick on the end of its nose to finish the game. So what what what's the problem, Brooks??? Hold your horses. I'll get to it.

The interactive story book (it's impossible to call it a game) begins to tell the story of Stevie and Leroy, two brothers who are taken into a Foster Home run by the seemingly (make that definitely) magical Mrs. Wobbles. The Tangerine House in question is a mansion, with each floor following the kind of crazy kid fantastical logic one finds in early reading books for children, which makes sense because that's exactly what this story is.
The target demographic.

The prose is written in this folksy manner that takes great pains to explain every detail for you in very simple terms, which again, is great for what the story is. The whole thing was written collaboratively with by a father and his two (I'm guessing adopted) sons, which explains the whole foster care theme. It's also sporadically illustrated with these amazing... wood cuts? scrapper board drawings?... I don't know, but they're very good... by this Irish illustrator Brian Gallagher. You can even choose to have every piece of text read for you which is a cool feature especially given the nature of the audience.

The problem is I am not who this book was written for. If you are over the age of seven you are not who this book is written for. I finally stopped after about the fifth mention of the word "Potty". My birthday was last Friday. I am now 31 years old. And I could not allow myself, a man now firmly in his thirties, to sit by himself and read passages like "Each kept at least one eye open at all times lest Mrs. Wobbles come in and sprinkle magic powder everywhere and maybe even turn them into a newt or a bat while she was at it."

If I had a spare five year old to read this game to, I would do it. But I don't, so I can't. It's a lovely endeavor and for a hypertext game it comes with some snazzy features (you can find "hidden" poems throughout the game and I was also VERY impressed that when I accidentally closed my browser it had saved my place automatically) and I'm sure that Mr. Marino and his two kids had a blast creating this thing, but this is a story written so explicitly for children that I just couldn't stomach it much more. Oh well. On to the next game.

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