Dial C for Cupcakes (Ryan Veeder)


Dial C for Cupcakes is a short parser-based game (45-60 minutes of play time, probably) with gentle puzzles. It’s a sequel to his comp-winning previous work Taco Fiction, but it plays fine even if you don’t remember all the details of that game, or didn’t play it to start with. It’s light and fluffy without being uproarious, and makes for a nice Halloween treat.

The premise of the main portion of the game involves a treasure hunt for cupcakes during a Halloween party, which sometimes requires exploration/physical puzzles but more often means interacting with the other guests in order to get their cakes away from them. Most of the solutions are fairly easy — I got stuck at one point, but this was mainly because I’d failed to check out a particular map connection — but just in case, there are per-room hints that will catch you up on anything that you may be struggling with in a particular location.

Nonetheless, the story does have a couple of neat features worth remarking. First, there’s a fairly extended flash-back sequence in which the main protagonist is being told a story about a past event by another character — so the NPC becomes effectively the parser/narrator during that period of the game. This is a neat effect I haven’t seen in many other places. Second, in a timed bit towards the end of the game, if you fail, the game-over message allows you not just to UNDO one turn but to REWIND to the key moment when the timed events started — which is also extremely helpful. It’s typical of Veeder’s work that he doesn’t make heavy weather of these features, even though they may have required a bit of authoring cleverness in practice.

The story itself is on the light side. There are a few bits of conversational subtext about the challenge of interacting with other people and how people are mostly faking it even when they’re not wearing costumes; and here and there are some hints about how other people’s lives may contain unknown and unknowable problems, since we see some evidence about personal issues that never get explored in depth, and the narrator doesn’t seem to consider them the protagonist’s business, really.

Overall: light, sweet, highly competent Halloween-themed IF though with no actually scary components.

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