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Mother Loose

From the Database of Home of the Underdogs




Copyright 1998, Irene Callaci

Mother Loose is a charming, witty game about fairy tale characters that will appeal to anyone who loves Sierra’s Mixed-Up Mother Goose or Mixed-Up Fairy Tales.

What makes Mother Loose extraordinary is the fact that it appeals to both kids and adults, although many puzzles are probably too difficult for kids to figure out on their own. Duncan Steven?s SPAG review says it all about the game?s strengths and weaknesses:

?Though Mother Loose is enjoyable, its premise is slightly misleading. The game begins alongside Humpty Dumpty, who is perched on a wall and asking for help, and it might seem that your mission will be to intervene to save some nursery-rhyme characters or to set their affairs right. But nursery rhymes are largely tangential to the story, it turns out; the real goal is to rescue your mother, who is in charge of this nursery-rhyme-influenced land, so that things return to normal. In a way, this is better than the alternative; it certainly allows for more originality than a player restoring a set of scenes to the pattern set down in the rhyme. But it takes some time to figure out where the game wants to do, unfortunately, and some parts are rather misleading. You meet someone named Mary who is indeed contrary, but her garden is not relevant to anything in the game. (She also has a little lamb, but the lamb does nothing of importance, and it certainly doesn’t follow her.) In short, the player may get confused if he or she takes the texts of the rhymes as controlling or even illuminating; it is better to view the rhymes as providing a setting and some characters, but, with one exception, no more than that.

The author wrote this for her granddaughter Jennifer, and in some ways it’s suitable for kids. Its messages are simple and direct, and the humor is accessible to most ages. Some of the puzzles are difficult enough that kids are unlikely to get them without help, though–they rely on connections that children might not make. (The last puzzle is particularly difficult.) However, most can be solved more than one way; in fact, there is much more to do in the game than is strictly necessary to solve it, giving it lots of exploration and replay value. Your mother also scolds you for doing things you shouldn’t, meaning that you can go back and try to eliminate those things from your path.

Plenty of wit went into the writing of Mother Loose: one character disparages the wolf as a refugee from fairy tales, not suited to nursery rhymes at all. Not all the jokes are solely for kids?kicking a cat elicits “I suppose you pull the wings off butterflies too”–butthe author has plenty of fun with your various naughty deeds…. Though not seamless, the writing is entertaining enough to make Mother Loose fun even for those not stumped for long by the puzzles. Mother Loose is notable, in short, because it represents a rarity in current IF: a well-developed story environment, thoroughly coded with humor to boot, whose elements do not necessarily exist for the sake of puzzles. It’s not quite accurate to call it an example of story-based, rather than puzzle-based, IF, because the story in Mother Loose does not exactly dominate: indeed, the player is most likely to discover the entire story at the end of the game. Rather, it’s a game where the setting and atmosphere are its most memorable features, and the author clearly devoted significant time to fleshing out the setting and making it real. It’s the sort of game that requires thorough and creative writing to make the environment feel real, and Mother Loose does have that. In short, this is a well-realized, entertaining entry that deserves a look from those who didn’t judge the competition, and I gave it a 9.”

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