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Freeware Garden: Zest

A life sim about making salad

Being a Lemonista in Sufferette City during the year's hottest week doesn't really sound like the ideal thing to do. Not when you have a drug addiction to support, face a severe lack of funds and are battling with the notion of religion. Then again, splashes of humour aside, Zest really isn't trying to be a jolly game.

It's about depression, drugs, metaphysics, personal hygiene and the many irritations of being a wage slave; humour just fits there because, frankly, it fits everywhere.

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Zest was created for the 2014 IF Comp. It's a text-heavy game that plays like a choose-your-own-adventure gone odd. One with random events, more than a few lovingly gritty illustrations and text that controls its own pace, blinks, pauses dramatically and occasionally does decidedly un-texty things.

The thing even comes with character stats like toxicity, height, grossness and an implied horrid temper you'll have to keep track of while trying to survive your hellish week and make something of it. Zest, you see, is a bit of a life sim too. One that includes lots of versatile drugs, lots of videogames, a soul-crushing job at the lemon stand and the occasional shower, while still having you micro-manage a poor dear's day-to-day activities.

Day-to-day life, of course, also comes complete with its fair share of random events. From stressing out at work by creating ridiculously complicated citrus based salads and hanging out playing video games to running into spiritualists and driving past wrecked veterans, there's always something intriguing going on.

And then there are those moments that are so bloody effective you can't simply help but empathize with. Like when the irritating, nagging girl bullies her mom into buying her lemonade. You can just feel the frustration. You may even get to decide not to smile in a subtle attempt of making your anger evident.

What's unlike most text adventures is that Zest really begs to be finished enough times to unlock all its endings. Earning all the cheevos will lead you to the Metacheevo, that'll provide you with some rather unique (and very meta) instructions.

Disclaimer: I was one of the Zest beta testers.

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