IF Comp 2013: Mrs Wobbles & the Tangerine House (The Marino Family)

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Mrs Wobbles & the Tangerine House is a choice-based children’s story executed in Undum. There’s a fair amount of text, so it may take some time to read through, though it’s not especially challenging. Review after the jump.

Mrs Wobbles is unabashedly aimed at kids, and tells a series of stories: first about how there chances to be such a thing as an interactive storybook in the first place, and then about the title character: an eccentric, possibly magic-using foster mother. The piece is incomplete in the sense that it promises there will be more stories, but the several stories it does tell are essentially finished as they stand. It’s very well polished, too: the Undum-based interface is slick and attractive, and there are a number of lovely illustrations that fit the flavor it’s going for.

The initial story, about how the book came to be, struck me as chiefly fanciful and a bit unnecessary. But the main story, about Mrs Wobbles, was quite resonant. It captures something of the silly play of childhood, and the imaginative bizarreness occasionally made me think of Roald Dahl. Other aspects of the story are quite serious and real. Mrs Wobbles is a foster mother not only to the viewpoint characters, but to a number of other kids, and the different children seem to cope in different ways with being in foster care. The book never enters into any expository speeches about how society handles its vulnerable members or how rough it might be to lose one’s parents, but its small genuine moments suggest their own conclusions. The final story I read in the sequence touches gently, seriously, but without sappiness, on death and loss as experienced by children.

The interactivity, too, is pitched towards the situation of reading a story aloud to a child. The choices are often about what you want to read next, or what you think happened, and they capture the give and take of child storytime pretty well.

So far as I can judge, this piece does a solid job of what it sets out to do. Children’s IF has been more and more common in recent years, as IF authors reach the age where more and more of them have families and thus young children to write to and for. But this is one of the better efforts in that line, I think, both for its accessibility and clean execution, and in terms of actually having something interesting to say.

6 thoughts on “IF Comp 2013: Mrs Wobbles & the Tangerine House (The Marino Family)”

  1. I’m trying to understand why you believe that the stories here are “essentially finished as they stand.” When I played this game, the most substantial story — the final one, where the two protagonists find a girl in the bathroom, and are then transported downstairs on a river of lava — seemed evidently unfinished: it ended in media res, with the protagonists suddenly finding themselves on a beach with a pirate captain … and that was the end. Did you get a different ending to this story, or did you feel that there was some kind of closure here?

    1. Interesting. The route through that story I took ended (as I recall) with the children encountering Mrs Wobbles, who turns the lava back into ordinary floor. That conclusion made sense to me both in terms of the immediate danger and in terms of the bigger theme of that story. Though now I feel like maybe I should play through that story again and see whether there’s another track or I misread something.

      1. Hm. It is probably a different track of the story. The pirate stuff was hard to miss, I don’t think you could have misread your way around it. Perhaps the pirate story is meant to be some kind of bonus you get if you guide the younger boy to overcome his mistrust for his brother? (That’s what I steered the story towards.) If that is the case, and it is only this bonus story that is missing, then my criticism of the game as an essentially unfinished project might not be fair. Though, in my defence, the author made it easy for me to misjudge!

        One of the reasons I’m enjoying the competition a lot this year, is that other people’s reviews and comments keep changing my perspectives on the games I’ve played. I’m definitely going to be revisiting some of them, thus making my reviews less like “final judgements” and more like “stages in a process of growing understanding.” There is something ethically pleasing about that as well.

        I’m looking forward to the post that you will undoubtedly come to write about “their angelic understanding” — that’s the one where I’m most eager to compare my own interpretation to that of others’, and, hopefully, learn.

      2. Ah, interesting. I was playing that trust had been fundamentally broken — not because that seemed like a happy outcome, but because I found it somehow more convincing.

        I’m looking forward to Their angelical understanding as well, but am saving it as a treat for myself for after I’ve finished a difficult run of work.

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