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The Spicy Meatball is an FPS text adventure

Leaps Tall Paragraphs

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.

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Dominic Tarason