The Paper Bag Princess

I never actually read the original book, but I've heard the story from people who have. Pretty much everyone I know who has read it has also loved it. It's that sort of a kid's book. As an IF adaptation, the implementation is solid; I found no bugs. Outwitting the dragon calls for just a slight bit of guesswork, though nothing in any way obscure: I was able to figure it out without knowing the story.

If I do have a criticism, it's that it feels a little too obviously made from a well-known and well-beloved children's book. There are things you can get away with in a children's book because of the illustrations. By cribbing too closely to the original work, the game made itself dependant on illustrations that are no longer there, to engage the player.

Illustrations are more immediately accessible than text, and convey scads of information; someone reading a children's book turns a page and gets a thousand words' worth of description before he even looks at the written text. IF works in rather the reverse manner: when you enter a new location or scene, you get a general outline, and then that is fleshed out as you examine and explore your surroundings. Or, alternatively, you discover things by experiencing them -- that is the strength of IF.

So, what does this mean for the game? It means that there is an immediate disconnect when the dragon attacks. A child sees a picture of a dragon laying waste to a kingdom, and that is all he needs. An adult IF player ... well, he doesn't get more than a few lines. This is something that I think actually needs to be spoonfed to the player, because the player isn't going to want to examine everything to learn just how tragic the circumstances are. (Why would anyone want to wallow in unpleasantness?) Pictures illustrate the difference that the dragon makes to our heroine Elizabeth. We see the princess in her wedding finery, and then we see her covered in soot, with only a paper bag for modesty. Mere text elicits a less visceral response. Instead of illustrations, we need experiences demonstrating all these things.

In short, we need a little more showing, a little less telling.

Still, it was a serviceable game. It was short enough that I did not grow bored, despite my reduced sense of engagement. I can see that it might appeal to people who have read and loved the original book, but I'm afraid I am not one of those people.

For breakfast: porridge, with a bit of brown sugar and honey. Served piping hot -- but not too hot. Or too lumpy. Just right. Tinned peaches on the side. And hot cocoa.