I enjoy few things more than curling up with a point-and-click adventure game. The genre, which was essentially dead after Full Motion Video failed to enthral players in the late ’90s, has seen an explosive rebirth in the last few years, with many small developers putting their own stamp on the once popular formula. A strong aspect of this new wave of adventuring is a shift in tone of the stories told, with dark and frightening themes challenging the comical nature associated with the genre. Rubber chickens with pulleys in the middle have given way to bloodied knives and cursed idols. The slow, methodical nature of a point and click adventure lends itself well to horror tropes, as the intense attention to detail required to succeed also ensures the player observes every fetid corner of the world. Striking a balance between the comedy stylings of old and the creeping horror of the new is The Supper, a bite-sized adventure by solo developer Octavi Navarro that offers a cheerfully creepy romp.
Ms Appleton awakens in her tavern’s tiny kitchen. She gets tired often, these days, and would be completely lost without The Voice inside her head. The doorbell rings, and a strange assortment of beings enter the diner. Hungry creatures. Each desires a certain dish, with the search for ingredients taking Ms Appleton all around the darkened streets of her town. Once all of the dubious diners have been fed a very special meal, Ms Appleton might finally be able to rest.
One of the strongest aspects of The Supper is the utter clarity of purpose one has throughout the game. Ms Appleton is a chef first and foremost, so completing the three recipes is the key to progression. Old-school adventure games are infamous for being obtuse, or cruelly gating off progress if a clue is missed. One of my favourites as a young gamer was Return to Zork, a title I had to start over many times because I had missed digging up a plant on the first screen, or wandered into a dark tunnel to be promptly eaten by grues. Such harsh shenanigans are thankfully rare in modern gaming, and The Supper never locks the player into an unwinnable situation. The game is more in the LucasArts mould of puzzle solving, where solutions might be somewhat unexpected, such as throwing a wet shoe at a pigeon to knock it within reach, but not completely impossible to anticipate. As each customer is served, Ms Appleton gains access to a new item, opening up more of the world for her to explore. The Supper is a tiny game, perhaps only 20 minutes long, but the ebb and flow of finding ingredients, serving customers, and learning tidbits about the true nature of the world is handled so well. The ending is even surprisingly touching, giving Ms Appleton a strong motivation for the increasingly unsettling acts she commits.
Developer Octavi Navarro also works as a pixel artist, having worked on Thimbleweed Park, Photographs, and other projects. Their mastery over pixel work is evident throughout The Supper, with a gorgeous colour palette, unforgettable character designs, and a distinct ambiance weaving through the experience. The music and sound design are also highlights, a midi chip pushed to its absolute limits. Ms Appleton’s three guests emit the strangest combination of noises: an Animal Crossing-like high-pitched babble, low groans and moans, the slick, wet slurping of a brain fungus feeding off its host. The resulting cacophony gives the dinner guests an otherworldly presence, one that is perhaps deserving of Ms Appleton’s ‘special sauce’.
The Supper is a perfectly balanced short story loaded with atmosphere and character. The puzzles are perhaps a touch easy, especially for those who played the point-and-clicks of the ’90s, but a strong storyline wins over cat-hair moustaches and memorising the Zorkian days of the week. For those who wish to support the developer, a PDF artbook for The Supper can be bought here, and they also have a RedBubble page featuring more glorious pixel artwork.
Next week, we will be playing RECREW!, a puzzle game about cobbling pieces of a broken ship together to make a useable raft. The game can be downloaded from itch.io here. Discussions are happening in the Discord server, or you can email me here.