There are a few fun things about IFComp. It got me playing more interactive fiction games, which was rather refreshing, not to mention it helped relieve some stress. It also introduced me to some cool developers I hadn't heard of before, one of whom is Astrid Dalmady, author of Arcane Intern (Unpaid). I took a look through her catalogue and wound up attracted to Beware the Faerie Food You Eat, a somber and depressing story that makes you feel bad. I thought, "Hey! Such a thing fits me perfectly."
You play as someone who knows how to enter the faerie world, though they don't have a defined reason for wanting to do so; you get to choose that in the opening. You have a long, difficult journey ahead of you, and you're in no way guaranteed to get what you want at the end of it...But what are you going to do about it? Turn back? Not go at all? Or just keep pressing on regardless?
If your idea of faeries is something akin to Tinkerbell and friends, go ahead and throw that notion out the window. These faeries are nowhere near as nice, and it's made abundantly clear throughout the story that you shouldn't trust them one bit. They will take any opportunity to fuck you over, and this is how most of the game's ten endings come about. Even completing your quest won't guarantee you a happy ending...but not going at all means you never tried.
The main character is pretty well-defined by your choices despite the game's short length. Your beginning choice of why you want to go to the faerie world affects how things turn out if you make it to the end of the journey. Despite the player character's single-minded determination, though, there's a sense of hopelessness throughout, like you're only persevering because you have no other choice, not because you have hope of reaching your goal. It plays a bit with the entire idea of such a quest, making you realize: surely not every hero succeeds on a quest. What happens to those who don't? What happens to a hero who sets forth despite overwhelming odds?
Perhaps it's just my inner brooding coming out, but I'm left with an overall sense of wondering at all the many stories in the world. Everyone is the lead in their own tale, but it's impossible for every tale to end happily like so many of the fictional ones do.
So if you feel the same brooding, or if you just want to read a fractured fairy tale with no clear "good" path, then give this game a shot. It's well worth it.
Beware the Faerie Food You Eat is available for free download at itch.io or to play in browser on the developer's website.
Final verdict: A dark and somber fairy tale that explores the hopelessness of the hero's quest and deconstructs the true nature of the "friendly" faeries from other, happier stories, well-written and with ten different endings to explore.
Beware the Faerie Food You Eat is developed by Astrid Dalmady. The opinions expressed in this review are my own. I was not compensated in any way for this review.