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The Little Mermaid:
a modern retelling

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Rating: 3.5/5 (77 votes)
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ElleThe Little Mermaid: A Modern RetellingFeeling a little unsure, at a loss for words, or just outright shy? That's how one anonymous office worker feels as he watches the new hire Julie pass by his desk each day. But will he ever gather the courage to voice his feelings? Look to the title of this modestly designed interactive narrative for your hint.

Playing The Little Mermaid: A Modern Retelling involves moving your character around the screen, clicking on options such as "read email" or "talk to Ed" where they pop up. Much of the action is in the dialogue, so be sure to not skip any of it. Click on the bottom corners to enter the next scene or start the next act, when it's possible, although there is little direction for how or when to do these things. If you get stuck at the edge, it means you can't go that way—just go the other way instead. Acts begin and end unceremoniously while the "restart" button tempts you to retry, to double-check that nothing was missed, and may cause more questions about possibilities that don't seem to exist (for example, there appears to be only one ending). Because it's not especially clear on where to go or what is the right response, you tend to roam about without much sense of purpose. Maybe that mirrors what it feels like to be secretly in love?

Despite its lack of clarity in directions, The Little Mermaid: A Modern Retelling feels very well put together, especially considering it was created in only 58 hours for TOJam 2012. The title soundtrack by Kevin MacLeod is very pleasant; meanwhile, the office chatter and street noises add to the ambiance but also grate on the nerves ("music off" mutes all). The artwork of John Bilokrely, Derian McCrea and Ming Iu—who also did the coding and design—is minimalistic yet aptly conveys the expressions and emotions of each character. It's remarkable how much is communicated by the turn of a head or the slump of a shoulder. The artisan effect of the graphics and game mechanics also fits with the thematic elements. If you're familiar with the original story by Hans Christian Andersen, it's easy to see the parallels between it and this game—mainly the protagonist's unwillingness or inability to speak up for himself. On the other hand, there is a note of satire, perhaps unintentional, in the ending homily that is either irksome or humorous or merely disappointing.

The Little Mermaid: A Modern Retelling will strike a chord with anyone who's experienced the frustrations of shyness, especially in our modern socially-networked culture. Whatever your social aptitudes, though, you'll find a poignant and thoughtful experience within these rough edges—Hans Christian Anderson had a few of those, too.

Play The Little Mermaid: a modern retelling

Walkthrough Guide

(Please allow page to fully load for spoiler tags to be functional.)

The Little Mermaid: a modern retelling—narrative guide
Although there's no one right way to experience this narrative, this guide helps streamline the play through.


  1. Check e-mail.

  2. Go right.

  3. Talk to Ed.

  4. Go left then left again to exit the building.

  5. Go right to go home/start act 2.


  1. Check e-mail.

  2. Go right.

  3. Go right again to stand by Selene. Then, talk to Selene.

  4. Go left twice to exit the building.

  5. Go right to look up at the building and observe Julie's reaction.

  6. Go right to go home/start act 3.


  1. Go right.

  2. Talk to each of your three co-workers in order: Carl, Selene, and Ed.

  3. Go left twice to exit the building.

  4. Go right, look up at the building, and watch Julie's response.

  5. Continue right to go home/start act 4.


  1. Go right.

  2. Draw on the window.

  3. Go left.

  4. Go left to exit the building. Then, go right to look up at it.

  5. Observe Julie's response then continue right to go home/begin act five.


  1. Read e-mail.

  2. Go right and ask Carl about "Windows" and about the "Gallery."

  3. Go left twice to exit the building.

  4. Go left toward town.

  5. Continue left to learn you're not dressed well enough to go out on the town.

  6. Go to the Boutique and "Buy New Clothes."

  7. Enter the Gallery.

  8. Move right and look at the art.

  9. Respond to Julie (any response you select should produce the same result.)

  10. Do this two more times for the other painting and statue.

  11. Follow Julie out.

  12. Go right to go home/start act six.


  1. Check your e-mail.

  2. Go left to exit the building then go left again two more times towards town.

  3. Continue left past Pete's Coffee to enter the Park.

  4. Move over by Julie then select "Help clean". Any response will do.

  5. Move toward the bush in the middle and "Clean."

  6. Go over to Julie as she's standing by the kite in the tree; Help Julie. Any response will have same effect.

  7. Go right and enter Pete's Coffee.

  8. Move over to the table and sit.

  9. Continue sitting. You're too shy to talk it seems and not much for standing up for yourself so, thus, you just keep sitting!

  10. After Julie and Troy (that cad!) leave, head left to go home/begin act 7.


  1. Go left to exit the building then go right to go home.

  2. Move over to the couch and "Sit."

  3. Click the arrow in the bottom right corner to dig into your ice cream and Final Fantasy marathon.

  4. Select "..." when the three Bros of the Air show up.

  5. Continue through the conversation.

  6. Then game ends, leaving you to contemplate the moral of the story:


Well that was an odd one

I don't really see where the interactive comes in, there is no way you can change anything at all in any of the acts, unless I missed it of course. I especially would have liked to have seen him

be able to walk away in the coffee shop, but there was no option but to just sit there like a turkey


she would not come out of the building until he had moved away to the side, I left him loitering there for ages - but no go. It may not have changed the ending but a little interaction there could have added a little something


I hate to say it... but this is possibly the worst game I've seen here on JIG. Bad graphics, poor narrative, annoying sound effects (on a very short loop), and interactivity on a par with page turning. I understand that it was only made in 58 hours but there have been much better games created in 48 hours by fewer people. The art isn't minimalist, it's terrible. MS Paint terrible. Sorry.



whilst I know you were not referring to my comments, your comment on the walk through and reply to Dandy is more correct. It is a narrative, there is no way it could be described as interactive.

There is art, and there is narrative, to be honest, there is no interactive except to turn the page.


I didn't like this game too much. My favorite games usually are experimental ones. I love interactive art, etc.
What was wrong with this one?

It perhaps (I'm not sure if it does anything like that) represents a point of view on the world, I don't like too much.
So you have a "shy person", that doesn't get a girlfriend, because he's just unable to speak, when he needs to - that seems to be the interpretation.
I found it quite nice - until the end - that he didn't say anything. Silence is golden...

A shy person would probably blush instead of smile, would tremble instead of holding his thumb up, etc.

So, only in the end, he seems all of a sudden to be a frustrated "computer geek", but the whole game until this moment, he was making a great effort.
So the message could have been, that they just weren't made for each other and nothing else. That would have been an interesting ending, that gives you the opportunity to decide for yourself, what this was all about.

But, no, the thinking of the player is driven in one and only one direction: A person that didn't seem shy to me, was shy, you have to conform to the "one and only possible society", we're living in... (so every woman - or man - is the same, no...?) or you will never find a woman (or a man) and you only will be happy a little bit, because you help others, but you're never accepted as full member of society.
And that is ridiculous, in my opinion, and represents a very one-dimensional point of view, that degrades reality to something black and white. Black and white in the mood of our actual zeitgeist.
So, like many other games, you find out a little bit, how the persons, who made it, are thinking - or at least, that is what you suppose - and here I find it rather infantile.

Surely, you can always say, that the men at the end of the game only exist in the imagination of the protagonist and he's just disappointed. But that requires a positive attitude towards life itself. If you have it, you don't learn anything from this game, if you don't have it, you stagnate in your fears.


I don't know why this is even an issue. From my perspective, there are buttons to click to read mail, for example, which is technically an interaction, and this is why it was given the interactive designation.



I know Andersen's Little Mermaid quite well, but I must confess, I don't see any parallel. You can give every book, movie, game, etc. every possible title or say, that they are a new interpretation of this and that, and you always will find people, who will see it, because you only have to mention it, to implant the idea, that's how suggestion works.

(For me the title only lead to the expectation, that there was the sea and he will climb down the ladder to it, but I find the story and psychology of Andersen's work totally different.)


Okay Elle

Thinking again

If I was that shy in the coffee room, I would not have sat down in the first place - let alone for all that time once I had seen Tony, the sneak, who got all the credit for my first drawing..

*grins* now it has become "I" not he ... the game has some credit !

There is some interesting stuff going on here, even if it is not interactive..

(my frustration is that there was a few opportunities to change the act if not the whole play that were missed)

I may have to even vote on this to keep it above ground.


I did because

it is not a game, it is not interactive, but it is art and it is a story, and there is a lesson there, and it deserves to be read and learned... sometimes there is nothing you can do that will change the outcome, but march on and and look to the future with your friends and your outlook. You may lose one but your time will come.

Don't let this one slip away for the ratings guys

inheritance.fan June 7, 2012 4:58 PM

I am hesitant to even read this story because of the comments.

mingyeeiu June 7, 2012 5:45 PM

I guess the main thematic parallel that I was trying to draw was between shyness and being a mermaid. You live in a separate world, unnoticed by "normal" people. You may yearn for the richness and colors of the normal world, but crossing over is difficult and every step will be awkward and painful. And like the Little Mermaid, crossing into the normal world is ultimately futile and ill-advised. There are also several superficial plot level parallels such as saving the prince from death, melting into sea foam, the daughters of the air, and whatnot. I admit that the game is imperfect and perhaps not too clear, but time was short during the game jam, and I'm still learning the craft of making games.


I don't know that I would call this bad, per se, and I know it was created under time constraints, but... I just didn't feel it was up to the quality I usually expect from JIG. The graphics were minimalistic, but not in an artistic way. They just felt bland. The interface, for the most part, would have been far better served with clickable objects or even buttons than the free movement between interactable areas. And the story just didn't work for me. Even as someone who does deal with a frustrating level of shyness, this guy came across as unrealistic. His actions are inconsistent and the ending seemed forced and irrelevant to the rest of the story.

Overall it felt like a high school project. Not a bad high school project, but not worth featuring here.


I actually quite liked this game. I did feel it was artistic, but that's a subjective opinion. One man will appreciate a work by Picasso, while one man will think his five year old creates better art. Subjective.

It was a bit frustrating to me that I could not control the story more by making different decisions for him, i.e. (smile), (nod), etc. All reactions had the same outcome. But as yaddab mentioned earlier, "sometimes there is nothing you can do that will change the outcome...". That's true in life and maybe that's the point the developers were making.

Is it interactive? Yes. There's buttons to click and actions to be performed. Technically, that's interactive. But I do feel it is more a story than anything else, albiet a cool little story.

I certainly don't regret the whopping ten minutes it took me to play and I find it very interesting how such a cool, short 'interactive art' game is generating some really great views, opinions and discussion. Love it or hate it, the game certainly has us talking.



I think my comment may have been confusing. I never questioned the label of interactive art, I just said that the extent of interactivity was like turning a page. It is interactive, but you only really have one thing to do and one direction to go in and this is only a bad thing when (for me) every other aspect of the game falls short.

A lot of experimental games are extremely linear and Every Day the Same Dream is, like you said, a great example but it also has crisp unique graphics, a poignant message, great music and perfect atmosphere. At least with EDTSD you can choose the direction you go in some of the time and a second play through won't be exactly like the first.

I didn't say this shouldn't be tagged as interactive art. I just think it's bad.

mingyeeiu June 8, 2012 11:07 AM

Well, in my defense, the lack of interactivity is mostly intentional. As a retelling of the Little Mermaid, the character is supposed to be unable to speak, so his conversation options are obviously limited. But my main goal was to illustrate the frustrations of begin shy. I'm sure we've all had moments where we've felt that if we had spoken up and said the right things, we could have gotten the girl/boy, impressed an audience, furthered our careers, stopped a fight, or made a friend. For a shy person, almost every interaction with other people is like that: so awkward that you feel it's usually better to stay silent than to speak out. But if you don't say anything, then you can't influence what happens to you, and you have no control over your life. It's frustrating, but that's shyness for you. I suppose I could have thrown in some token minigames or something, but I always find those to be a little distracting.

As for the graphics, I admit that the character art is a little uninspired. I'm not an artist and I decided to keep it simple as I had to draw hundreds of frames of animation for the game in a short period of time. I suppose I could have gone with retro pixel art, but if you've actually had to draw pixel art using a keyboard-only 4.77Mhz computer and using only the colors white, magenta, and cyan, you quickly lose any desire to go back to that.


Maybe it's my inherent catholic genes but now I feel super guilty for expressing my dislike of this game.

@Ming; You shouldn't feel you have to defend your reasoning, you should be proud of what you have achieved. I wouldn't know the first place to start with programming a game.

But compared to the rest of the content on a site that states "Welcome!
We review, discuss and recommend only the best games available on the Web." I felt I had to express my distaste. I'm sorry if you were insulted, upset or offended, it was not my intent.


;) *sob*
so wonderfull and ends in such a way *sob*


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