Taco Fiction is a comedy about crime and being in the wrong part of town. It’s moderate length for a comp game — I think I spent about an hour on it, possibly a little more.
I nearly singled out Taco Fiction when I was writing my post about uninspiring blurbs:
Taco Fiction is a game about crime. It contains some scenes of mild violence. Calling it PG-13 would probably be safe.
And besides, Taco Fiction sounds like the story itself is going to be a quick, unsatisfying snack; like the game was written as an ad for going South of the Border; something like that.
So I confess that I wasn’t feeling that positive about it when I fired it up. This is partly because I hadn’t really registered that the author was Ryan Veeder, whose You’ve Got A Stew Going! came out earlier this year. I enjoyed Stew all out of proportion with its length and ambition, mostly because of the quality writing.
Though it’s considerably more substantial and plottier, Taco Fiction has the same advantage: a distinctive voice, a protagonist you neither admire nor wholly dislike, prose full of well-turned observations. Here’s an example, describing the keys in your inventory right at the start of the game:
A tiny, lonely trio: This one is the key to your car; this one is the key to your apartment, and this one used to be the key to someone else’s apartment, before that someone changed the locks.
The writing is not just effective and evocative qua writing; it also provides absolutely superb direction throughout (or at least, it did to me). I never got stuck. I never got bored. I never got confused. I always had a goal I wanted to work on; I often also had some other things I wanted my character to do first, before getting down to business. I can’t guarantee that everyone else will have the same kind of smooth ride that I did — those sorts of things vary hugely from person to person and playthrough to playthrough — but I can say that Taco Fiction has been the most purely enjoyable experience of the comp so far, full of entertaining twists and surprises, fair puzzles, and a forgiving design that lets you go back for objects left behind or tasks not completed. The two endings I found were also very fitting and satisfying.
The story itself is pretty light stuff, often cartoonish, with some pretty unlikely occurrences — but, critically, the universe is consistent about the kinds of things that can happen. Moreover, though the chain of events is in fact heavily railroaded, each new jam the protagonist gets into feels like a natural development from where he was before.
So: not a deep work, not a work with important social issues to reflect on, not a work of penetrating characterization; but a very well crafted, light-hearted, and entertaining bit of IF, somewhat reminiscent of Gourmet in the way it builds increasingly ludicrous problems out of its initial premise. Veeder shows real skill at writing for interaction, and I hope we see more from him in the future.