IF Comp 2013: 'Sam and Leo Go To The Bodega' by Richard Goodness

I'm reviewing the games entered in the 19th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition that I complete within the two-hour time limit for open judging.

This hypertext game is small, unambitious, and personal.  As the game makes a point to tell the reader, there is practically no conflict.  There is even very little atmosphere.  All of the interest comes from characterization, and the point seems to be demonstrating the characters are valuable, sympathetic people.

Sam and Leo Go To The Bodega depicts two marijuana addicts shopping for snacks.  There are a few different categories of snacks, and the player chooses the characters' selection from a list of possible choices in each of the categories.  Every choice produces a screen of backstory about the characters, and then the checkout sequence has some variation depending on what the characters are purchasing.

The game shifts viewpoints at the end, giving the reader control over the cashier's choices.  The cashier's available responses and reactions to these two shoppers drives home the small amount of theme that the game posses.

This game seems to be heavily influenced by Robb Sherwin's works.  Like Sherwin's games, Sam and Leo Go To The Bodega shows a strong camaraderie between characters who would be liable to be judged and looked down upon by polite society.  However, it lacks the drama and the angsty voice of Fallacy of Dawn.  It even lacks much of the controversial element of Sherwin's games, as it doesn't make a point of laughing at the social awkwardness associated with prejudices and stereotypes.

The choice-based interface is somewhat interesting.  The game evidently was not created with Twine. (Or if it was, it hides it, lacking the typical Twine sidebar).  The list of choices on each screen is made to looks like command prompts in parser-based IF, a right angle bracket preceding the text of the choice.  Aesthetically, the colorful text again evokes Sherwin's use of color in his Hugo games, although Sam and Leo Go To The Bodega doesn't seem to aim for the retro camp affect.

This small hypertext fiction is structured like a traditional, dialog-driven short story.  I don't think the hyperlinks add anything significant to the experience; the revelation of the theme would have been as effective following a viewpoint change at the end of a static prose story.  However, if it were written as a static prose story, Sam and Leo Go To The Bodega wouldn't have been as capable of portraying a moment from the lives of Robb Sherwin's characters' when they're not in the middle of one of Sherwin's chaotic adventures.


  1. It in made with Twine, the default layout is just replaced with a new one. (When you start the game you can see the default layout flash briefly before the new one is loaded.)

    1. Thanks for pointing that out. I've never tried using Twine, or any of its derivatives/cousins, so I only recognize it by the layout.

    2. Thanks for pointing that out. I've never tried using Twine, or any of its derivatives/cousins, so I only recognize it by the layout.


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