06 July, 2015

Game Chef Review 37b: Escape from Dreamland by Teagan McFarland

Another attempt and this has loaded up...which is good.

I had some thought about this as soon as I managed to load up the character sheet, and may have been over-analysing things...especially finding out what I did between my first glance and my writing of this review. I'll try to reflect these two sets of thoughts (before critical information, and after).

Escape from Dreamland

Ingredients: 9 [Dream (4), Abandon (3), Stillness (1), Dragonfly (1)]
Dream is clearly a central element of this game, as is the concept of abandonment, because the characters are people caught adrift and abandoned in a mysterious world of dream. I probably could have gone with "stillness" as a core element for these marks, but it's not as well linked into the essence of the game (it's an attribute, so it's important, but probably not as important as the notion of abandoment and the need to return to the waking world). Dragonflies are also thrown in, but only in the way that the "Nightmare bugs" of the game resemble dragonflies, so it's not much of a link but 9 out of 10 is certainly reflective of a great combination of elements.  

Theme: 5 (8)
Honestly, at first I thought this game was just another one of the recent crop of designs aimed at getting kids into roleplaying, with a quirky childlike character sheet to reinforce this theme. There are a few games around like this, and a solid niche into which the game would fit. The character sheet was just a clever addition in my original appraisal.

But on finding out that this was a game designed by a kid, a young girl, my estimation increases considerably. When I was this age, I might have been writing games and stories for myself, but I would never have had the guts to present these ideas beyond my small group of school friends.

Would I Play This:? 5
I'd really think about playing this with my young niece and nephew, I'd even consider running this as a part of the "RPGs for Kids" events that have been appearing at conventions here in Sydney over the past couple of years. I'd want some of the language fixed up first, and for it to see a bit of playtesting, but then again, what game doesn't need these things.

Completeness: 6
There is a simple procedural play in effect here, it's the kind of thing I like in games. It tells you were to start, how to accomplish things along the journey, and how to bring about a conclusion to the journey. This game doesn't confine you to a specific path, it doesn'timit what you can do, and in fact

Innovation: 4 (5)
Upon opening this I immediately loved the character sheet, but I was wondering if it was just trying too hard and being a bit pretentious to look overly naive and child-like. The sheet matched the simple and straightforward rules, and fit the idea that this might be a game used for triggering the imagination of kids. The simplistic explanations that this was a game where "dream logic applied", and the use of attributes that didn't really reflect physicality reinforced this notion. It had a few interesting ideas, linked in an interesting way. Nothing hugely innovative, but clever in a lot of little ways.

Then I found out this actually was written by a kid. So this in't pretentious or trying too hard, it's just a kid trying to enter a contest for the first time and doing a job good enough that I thought it might have been an adult designer.

Output Quality: [Language (2), Layout (2), Imagery (1) (2)]
The language isn't up to par with a lot of the entries, there are a few inconsistencies through it, but nothing so problematic that is makes things particularly hard to understand, and there certainly aren't any major gaps in it. The layout is a match for most of the other games I've read in the contest so far. The one point for imagery was applied for a combination of the "childlike character sheet" and the evocative imagery in the text.

The imagery was bumped up once I realised Teagan was a kid and she had drawn the character sheet herself. This is the type of imagination we don't want to stifle.

Overall: 64% Pass [27+10+5+12+4+5]
Rating this as though it was designed by an adult, mimicking the voice of a child designer, I'd have given this a very high pass result, almost a credit. It's a solid job, there are certain elements of text that didn't quite fit grammatically, and a few issues here and there that an experienced designer simply wouldn't have done (even if attempting to produce a "naive" design). I wouldn't have batted an eyelid, and would have assumed this was a typical adult designed game.

Adjusted Overall - 71% Credit [27+16+5+12+5+5]
Knowing that this was actually designed by a girl, and not by an adult trying to use the "designing voice of a young girl" makes my more impressed by this game. Adjusting a few of the scores reflects that my opinion increases from a game that is just under a credit to a solid credit result. If this is what she's designing now, I sincerely hope we keep her encouraged and continuing to design new stuff in the future. It's designers like Teagan who will be bringing the awesome for years (if not decades) to come.   
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