IFComp 2023: One Does Not Simply Fry

It’s early yet, but the most engaging piece I’ve played so far this Comp is One Does Not Simply Fry, a text-heavy Choicescript-based mashup of The Lord of the Rings and competitive cooking shows like Iron Chef. It’s a combination that reminds me of the classic Narnia/Anthony Bourdain crossover fic, although that had a great deal more to say about both of its subjects than this does. No, this piece mashes its subjects together largely for the sake of shallow pun-based humor, although some of those puns wind up being the basis of characterization — a contestant named Sour Ron, for example, is pretty much sour about everything.

The thing that really strikes my interest, though, is the structure, the way it takes advantage of the cooking show format. You know more or less what’s going to happen from the beginning, and that lets you strategize somewhat. I’ve always thought the second Lord of the Rings film had the best battle scene, because it had characters describing in some detail exactly how they expected the battle to go, and then it showed the battle happening exactly as anticipated. Something of the same effect happens here. Depending on your initial choice of character, you might be good at cooking or you might be better at sabotaging the other contestants. Some of the challenges come down to “Which of your character stats do you want to apply to the situation?” — which, given that you know what your character is good and bad at, basically just makes it “Do you want to succeed at this challenge or not?”, although there’s some humor to be had from picking the wrong choices.

And ultimately, it doesn’t matter much whether you win the actual competition or not. The characters here have ulterior motives, concerning “the On(e)ion Ring”, a comestible of great power. Win or lose, someone’s going to wind up crafting it and triggering the real conflict at the game’s finale. A clever trick, this: the bulk of the story directs the player’s attention towards a ludic element that doesn’t make a whit of difference to the ending. And this in a game that explicitly encourages replay! On second play, you know what’s going on, but you’re probably going to try to win the competition anyway.

One small UI matter I think is work commenting on: Although Choicescript normally presents choices as separate buttons at the bottom of the page, this piece always has just one button to advance, with any choices taking the form of radio buttons within the page. I wonder why? Maybe Choicescript makes this approach easier when the story is basically linear, the choices applying inline variation rather than branching?

3 Comments so far

  1. Stewart Baker on 19 Oct 2023

    Hey, thanks for the kind words–and glad you enjoyed our silly little game!

    Re. the UI issue, I wonder if this might be a change that choicescript has made lately? I see the same radio-buttons-with-button setup on other recently published games (e.g. their latest official release, Escape from Death).

  2. Carl Muckenhoupt on 19 Oct 2023

    Possibly I’m just misremembering things! It’s been a while since I played a Choicescript game, and looking at a Choicescript Comp entry from 2010, I see it does the same thing.

    (It still seems like a somewhat strange UI choice, now that I’m paying attention to it, requiring two clicks for what amounts to a hyperlink.)

  3. Stewart Baker on 21 Oct 2023

    There is that!

    My guess (having just written a large choicescript game) is that people might sometimes dither over which choice to make, so the radio button setup lets them kind of click one, then change their mind and click another.

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