The Spicy Meatball is an FPS text adventure

spicy

Salutations, superhero aficionados and text-adventure buffs alike, and welcome to your experimental daily dose of strange new game design. Originally created as part of Itch.io’s Linux Games Jam 2017 and updated into a more polished package, The Spicy Meatball Saves The Day [official site] is a short text adventure adventure about a superhero making a stop on the way home to rescue people from a burning house.

The twist: It controls like an FPS.

Created as a showcase for the Icicle game engine – quite similar to Twine, but with a first-person style control system – The Spicy Meatball is an interesting look at Icicle’s potential, leveraging positional audio and background colour to help convey your position in the world, even though you only see it through a text-box.

Rather than transition from description to description using a Look command, The Spicy Meatball has you freely adjust your character’s facing both horizontally and vertically in real-time with either mouse, keyboard or gamepad. Look up and you’ll see a description of the sky, look down and you’ll be told what’s on the floor, and face any given direction (you have a handy compass) to see what lies in that direction, given a second to focus on it.

As with Twine, interactions are kept simple. A left click interacts with what’s in front of you – be it a staircase, person or door – if the requisite prompt appears, and a right click brings up a short inventory screen. The game is only a few minutes long and it took me a couple tries to reach a happy ending that didn’t end with me or a terrified citizen dying horribly. I’m sure there’s more to see while trying other routes, and I think you should give it a look too – see if you can’t rescue the family dog as well.

It’s a good look at an interesting new engine. While I feel The Spicy Meatball could have done with some stronger audio cues to help provide more navigational hints, it still provided a more coherent sense of place than most traditional text adventures. I’ll have to check out some of the other example games made with it. Icicle itself is still in development, but promises to go as far as offering universal VR headset support for maximum text immersion come its final release.

The Spicy Meatball Saves The Day is available via Itch.io for the heroic price of Free, and more example games can be found on Icicle’s own site.

26 Comments

  1. Faxanadu says:

    Has there ever been a text adventure that *really* makes you feel ‘there’? Or is that just called a book.

    Speaking of VR, what’s with the movement problem? I went to try VR for the first time, and found walking around by just pressing a button just fine. No need to use teleport at all.

    • MaisieButcher says:

      I resigned my office-job and now I am getting paid £64 hourly. How? I work over internet! My old work was making me miserable, so I was forced to try something different, two years after…I can say my life is changed-completely for the better!

      Check it out what i do…. Click Here And Start Work

    • fuggles says:

      A significant portion of people, maybe even the majority get motion sickness from be owing to the dissonance in your eyes and ears/brain.

    • SigmaCAT says:

      link to ohnoproblems.itch.io

      I really liked a thing that’s called sabbat, I think that’s mostly because there was great ambient music? I really felt like I was “there”, though.

      • Kitsunin says:

        Same, and there was another one…uuugh, I can’t believe I forgot. It was this really strange, violent, robotic, sexual thing…it was recommended on RPS at some point long ago, and through sheer strangeness and…oddly pleasant discomfort, it made me feel very much like I was “there”.

        I’m honestly very frustrated I can’t remember it well enough, and I didn’t save it somewhere…

        • Kitsunin says:

          Dammit, I’m really trying, but I can’t get anywhere close to what I’m thinking of. It’s not just this one Twine game, I really want to figure out what is…similar to it, at least. Be it novel or whatever…

          • April March says:

            I feel like I should be able to help you, but a “really strange, violent, robotic, sexual thing” is too wide of a net during Porpentine’s reign. If you can remember anything more specific I might know what you mean. (I already remember a few titles, in fact…)

          • Kitsunin says:

            Oh! Just being reminded of Porpentine is all I needed. Thank you! Gosh, I can’t believe I could neither remember nor drudge this up in a search.

            Cyberqueen is exactly what I was thinking of.

        • JazzTap says:

          Cyberqueen? Linking the IFDB, not directly. link to ifdb.tads.org

          Sabbat was great. Sometimes it’s nice for affirmation to be part of the text.

          (Ninja’d, so perhaps I’m not alone in just having fallen down a rabbithole.)

    • Kefren says:

      Sometimes walking forwards is fine, but turning can make you feel sick (hello Albino Lullaby). It also depends on the visual cues and the game. Narcosis works well for not making me feel sick at all, probably because of the helmet HUD enclosure and the ponderous speed.

    • and its man says:

      “While I feel The Spicy Meatball could have done with some stronger audio cues to help provide more navigational hints, it still provided a more coherent sense of place than most traditional text adventures.”

      I’m not sure what is meant here by “coherent”.
      About spatial perception and the “feeling of being there“, I don’t think traditional text adventures were trying to provide their players with anything thoroughly detailed, or “fluid and realistic” in the first place.
      They were often mischievously tricking the player into thinking his representation of the game area was wrong (“wait, that place I’ve already visited should be west, not north”), but in the end, they still revolved a lot around drawing a global, cohesive plan.
      They were more about schematics. They used discontinuous settings, and simple descriptions and directions to “play maze” with the process of mental mapping.

      When I imagine a text-adventure game mixed with an FPS, I end up picturing some kind of vertiginous object. Something about its possible level of detail and the amount of transitional spaces that could be described feels quite anti-text-adventure.

      Still, I’m eager to try it and see how this can mess with my gaming habits.

  2. Ben says:

    I made one of the example games – Baboo! – and should just warn anyone trying those out that mine is an in-joke filled game made for the Idle Thumbs jam.

    Spicy Meatball is a great showcase for a cool engine, though, and really fun. Recommended!

  3. poliovaccine says:

    I like the idea…! I’d like to see the same thing but with some rudimentary 2D sprites accompanying the text in a 3D world. Also, I’d like to see you the player being able to manipulate the world according to choices in narration.. your actions could be verbs that you choose, the way old Lucasarts adventure games had a set of verbs you could choose for your character to try – except in this case it’s first-person, not a 2D side view… yeah, I definitely like this idea.

    Hard to get a sense of how it feels to play just from video, but I’ll try it for myself when I get home from work. I’m super interested in this new engine of theirs…

    • Cheeseness says:

      Hi hi! Game/engine developer here.

      The engine currently supports one method of bringing 2D art (beyond action icons) into the experience, which you can see used in Voices of the Past.

      It was a conscious decision to make Icicle a “single verb” adventure game engine as the interface for multiple verbs gets a bit complicated (my initial objective was to keep gameplay limited to 1 button and 2 axes, but I’ve expanded slightly beyond that). My take from a puzzle design perspective is to have multiple objects within a scene, each of which presents a different interaction option.

      It’s definitely difficult to intuit much about gameplay from a video (I really shot myself in the foot by making games that aren’t interesting to watch being played or see screenshots of!). I hope that when you’ve had a chance to play, it all makes a bit more sense :)

  4. Faxanadu says:

    Hmmmmnnhhmmm.

    It’s a dream of mine to make a text game, because I’ve no artistic talent. I’ve no talent with coding either, but hey I can dream. Ehh.

    Would be cool to have an interface where you could grid-out actions/scenery and a crazy menu full of conditions for action consequences. Maybe layers of grids to skip between worlds where you chose differently.

    Dreams aside, I love the ambition you’ve got for making an immersive text game model, the “go to house” “dun do nuffin'” works as a “bookish” experience but… It’s not a game. In a game you’ve gotta feel like you have control. Not just clicking through scenes.

    I suppose an ascii kinda game or just buying a tileset or two and making a blob travel through that would solve the “spatial sensation” problem but I’m a bit worried that it’d a) look like dog**** and b) take away from your imagination.

    Wow what drunken mess of a comment, but anyway.

    • Dominic Tarason says:

      What you want is Twine for sure. You just write and string stuff together on a big pin-board/flowchart, zero coding required.

      • Faxanadu says:

        I like it, because it’s tailored for one purpose, and thank you mightily for the suggestion, but it does look a tad threadbare… In addition to the basics, to make something unique would require something to make the interface with, I think…

        And there’s still the problem of lack of sense of space. I like the way the game/engine in this article tries to solve it. It’s a step forward at least.

        • airknots says:

          There are some Twine games out there with a map, inventory and player stats, like this one: link to nathanmeunier.itch.io

          A lot of them are just basic text, and there are limitations, but there are tutorials out there to help you make yours more complex or visually appealing.

    • Cheeseness says:

      I’m not sure that it’s possible to play through The Spicy Meatball Saves The Day by “just clicking through scenes”, but if you’ve managed it, I’d be keen to see your game log (details on where to find it are in the readme.txt file)!

      I do like me a good crazy complex menu system (even if that’s not what I’m going for here). If you ever make your dream game, and I hope you do, I’d love to check it out :)

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      Harlander says:

      Can’t draw, can’t code… can you write a little?

      • Faxanadu says:

        Some people have told me so, but I’m in it because I’ve a passion for it, if I won’t do good, I’ll still like doing it. :)

  5. and its man says:

    Something in the meeting of these two very distinct gaming habits looks oddly -and quite comically- counterintuitive at first glance.

  6. cloudnein says:

    Hmm, text written in second person. (SPS?)

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