W. C. Fields' Verdict: I am really fat and really hate kids. Which is greater, my girth or child-hating? I do not know.
The Talkie Toaster's Verdict: More emphasis should have been placed on the toaster and more bread-like objects coded for toasting variety.
My Verdict: Best Use of Medium for 2000. No freaking question.
Game Type: TADS
Author Info: Lenny Pitts -- known to his friends as Lurd -- has a webpage right here.
Other Games By This Author: On The Farm
Download Link: The Toaster Comp
(Warning! This review contains critical spoilers for this game.)
Every once in a while there comes a game that elicits an intense emotional response beyond what a player is normally prepared to give. As those responses are rather personal, this is a rather personal review. I fully expect that the average IF player will not experience Mr. Remote Mom in the same way I did and will likely come to the conclusion that I was 1. Injecting Heroin, 2. Smoking Crack or 3. Dropping Acid while writing this review. None of those things actually happened. Review begins:
I was somewhat surprised, after spending six months writing a super-hero game, to find that the very first game I picked up after completing it was of the super-hero genre. The odds, mate, the odds! I certainly felt as if I was in the right state of mind to play it -- the subgenre hadn't burned me out by any means. I love this stuff. Mr. Remote Mom is a smallish 'comic book' game that was written for the Summer, 2000 Toaster Comp where the premise was, of course, to make a game with a toaster in it.
The premise is that a super-hero (Remote Man) is trying to make some toast for his two-year-old son Josh before leaving for a meeting that will discuss the kicking of some super-villain ass. Ever since Keith Giffen's run on Justice League, I have always believed that the super-hero comic (or game) works really well when we see the characters more as... people. I have played numerous games where it's just "Wolverine in a side scroller"... and read numerous books where it's just Batman punching a bunch of thugs. When I see some characterization of these people who have radical anomalies in their psyche... well, that's when it gets good. Real good.
Mr. Remote Mom utilizes a real-time component. Every few seconds, while Josh is in the kitchen with you, something will "happen" -- whether you're writing anything or not. Josh will request some toast, or give you pointers on toasting. He will ask when mom is coming back. That kind of thing. Discovering the real-time aspect of it was initially annoying. I was in the middle of typing something when I was cut off. I had to go type it again, this time a little faster. Luckily for me, my super-power is not heat vision or gamma-induced strength but, ah... typing speed.... so I was able to overcome this.
After I sorted that out, Josh then went into the living room
and that was where all Hell Broke Loose.
The real-time component of the game kicks things into high gear at this point. Josh is going to get himself hurt, as two-year olds do, and your attempts to try to help him are often cut short by the game itself interrupting you. This is incredible frustrating. I was ready to put the ware on a floppy disk simply so that I could throw it across the room and let out a sniveling "Bah!"
But, you see, that's when I uncovered the stroke of genius.
What Pitts was able to do with that scene was completely draw me into the world he created. Previously, I was just overcome with fanboy disease. "Ah! A Super-Hero Game! I Like Those!" He was then able to address the premise of the competition: toasting. After setting me up with those two bits, he then tackled what I believe he really wanted to address: a demonstration of the boundless energy required to properly raise a two-year old. Now, I have no personal experience in this manner for any length of time. When I first moved to Colorado I met a woman who had a toddler (a little girl) and I babysat for her a few times. I had no idea how much real energy is required to effectively parent a kid at that age until I had to go do it myself. I was under the impression, before all the 'sitting, that raising a kid was really no big deal. Sure, I wasn't easy at that age, and my brother wasn't, but hey. It all ended up okay, right ? I was "lucky" -- I found out how wholly unprepared for that kind of thing I really was. There was no real commitment made. Every day more and more people my age are finding out what it's like and how draining it can be. This game was able to initially push my buttons to get me hooked and then just absolutely blindsided me with its message. It couldn't be done with standard turn-based fare, so Lurd developed the code necessary to get me into his vision.
And that kind of empathy is what interactive fiction does better than any other genre.
It wasn't so much that I played it in a way that only I could... I have seen many games -- particularly sports, or old-school arcade games -- that do that and do it quite well. That is something that all great, classic games strive for. Mr. Remote Mom, though, is unique for the fact that I played it much like anyone else would and my personal reaction to it was much different and one only I could have. See, I wanted Josh to stop crying. I wanted to make him shut up. I wanted to plop him in a blender and see his dizzy little head spin round and round and then force feed him some freaking toast. This is not because I am a raving sociopath, although that distinct possibility exists. No. This is because at my current age and maturity level I am not fit to be responsible for another (smaller, weaker, younger, impressionable) human life. I probably knew that already. But Mr. Remote Mom was a game that helped to point it out.
Much like Annoyotron, I can not say that the experience I had was particularly "fun" by the dictionary definition of the word. I don't think that for someone as short on patience as myself it was really meant to be. The thrill comes from What Mr. Remote Mom does brilliantly: it gets me inside the author's world, breaks some previously established IF rules and demands that I bring my emotions to the table to have them rocked. For a mini-comp to bring forth a game like this absolutely legitimizes their continued existence. While I do not expect any other player to get the exact same thing I did out of this game, it is absolutely recommended if only to see how you *yourself* react.
Simple Rating: 9.2 / 10
Story: 7 / 10
Writing: 8 / 10
Playability: 9.5 / 10
Puzzle Quality: 9.6 / 10 (if I can consider the crux of the game to be the chief "puzzle" then I must score this quite high)
Parser Responsiveness: 8 / 10
Back to my other reviews