Brain Guzzlers from Beyond!
Ain't it great to be a hip, happening young teen? In Steph Cherrywell's interactive-fiction adventure Brain Guzzlers from Beyond!, you're good ol' teen gal Bonnie Noodleman, whose date with your sorta-boyfriend up on Make-Out Mountain may or may not be going so well, but that doesn't matter since, as the title implies, he goes and gets his brains guzzled by an alien monstrosity before he can even give you his letter jacket. Jeepers! Now it's up to you to warn the townsfolk... but even in an alterna-history 1950s era of rocket boots and space travel, you might just be taken for another kooky female who's got her head all twisted up in a lather, so maybe you'll need to do the saving yourself. To play, just hit [Enter] to advance the text, or type your actions and hit [Enter] to execute them. Most of these are straightforward... things like LOOK AT __ to take a closer look at something specific, or TALK TO __ to strike up a conversation with a character, and reading the yearbook in your dearly departed beau's glove compartment will give you more instructions. The most important, however, is that if you make a decision that leads to unfortunate circumstances, just type UNDO to, well, undo your previous choice and try something else. Jinkies! What will they think of next?
Writing good parody is hard, because you run the risk of being too glib for easy laughs and become an unfunny soap box consisting entirely of references instead. Brain Guzzlers from Beyond! is more sly than that, though there are some more in-your-face jabs, and it helps that the story knows when to actually be unsettling or exciting instead of a relentless parade of jokes (even if there are some extremely funny ones, and cute puns, too) and social commentary. If you need a pop culture-y comparison, it's somewhere between Parks and Recreation, and Mean Girls. It touches on everything from race and gender to perception of youth and wisdom and beyond, managing to make its point while still telling an engaging, delightfully ghoulish story of science-fiction camp in the process. The writing is rock-solid, perfectly echoing the swingin' time period it's aping, and providing just enough description to flesh things out without drowning you in superfluous text that would otherwise obfuscate objectives and mechanics.
The text parser mostly does its job when it comes to interpreting commands, though it can be annoyingly particular... you can't simply "use" an object in your environment, for example, because the game wants you to, specifically, "pull" it. The game does help you a little by occasionally offering more obvious suggestions if you LOOK AT whatever you're trying to interact with, however, though that doesn't help you when the game occasionally abandons its otherwise carefully delineated "description - items to use/look at" text format and slips things you can interact with inside the main descriptive body for an area. Even if you get stuck, your options are usually limited enough because of the tight area design that if you experiment with what you'll have, you'll figure out a solution sooner rather than later. Navigation can occasionally get a little tricky as you try to remember what places are where in town, and how to get to them, but there's a surprising amount to explore. You'll need to stop a smart-alec pie queen from eating a suspicious pastry, figure out the best use for a cantankerous goat, work out a way to get your very own tombstone, and of course, save the town from having its brains... well, you get the idea. Brain Guzzlers from Beyond! is a fun, witty text adventure that's the perfect size and tone for an afternoon of adventure, with tongue firmly planted in cheek the whole time.