If every highschool kid in the world could design video games, The Parsnip Theory would probably be the first game they make. Though it has a few rough edges, its design and gameplay are certainly an experience worth a play, especially with friends. It is a shareware game available at itch.io. One thing to keep in mind is that this game is in its alpha stages. It is listed on itch so that people can test it, play it and enjoy it for what it is so far.
Turn-based strategy has many forms, some good, some bad. Many involve alternate play-areas that allow you to play with armies as pieces on a Risk board, while still others give you a base to return to and beef up your troops. Parsnip Theory is a simple game with one face: lunchroom mayhem. Every time you play, you join a team of kids, who all look the same, and you start launching tomatoes at the other teams. Controls in this title take a minute of fiddling to really figure them out properly, but they are intuitive and allow you to consider your moves like a chess player before you fully commit to them. Each of your teammates starts a round with 7 moves. Throwing a tomato costs 2 moves, each space costs 1 move to traverse and crouching is 1 move as well. This means that, without moving, you can get 3 shots off per round. If you have to move more than 1 space in a turn, you could end up losing 1 or 2 of those shots, so timing is a big part of this game.
My first couple runs of Parsnip Theory ended with my team as nothing more than gooey smears on the tile. I would just charge out there, tomatoes blazing, and hope for the best. Have you ever played XCOM? Yea, you run out there guns blazing and your people will end up in the hot place really fast. Parsnip Theory is no different. Although the graphical style makes it tough to tell, there are tables in this lunchroom. I would expect tables to stand out a little more, but these ones sort of look like drainage grates laid throughout the room that, for some odd reason, you are fully incapable of walking over. These grates, however, are actually tables. If you have your team members crouch behind them, you can use them as cover.
Now, above you see my characters crouched behind a wall, waiting for that little blue guy to come out behind his wall. What I didn’t realize was that he could see the guy up top, and splattered him accordingly. We still mourn the loss of Aaron. But moving with cover is a good way to operate in this game. If you can set up your team to ambush a foe coming around a corner, he might get one shot off at one of you, and the next turn he’ll get three more, but that’s it. He won’t be able to get off enough shots to take down any of you, and you’ll have him splattered in barely more than one turn. The hellish onslaught of tomatoes takes down 10 hp per hit, so you’ll likely take him out and have plenty of moves left that second turn.
Another thing to keep in mind is that you are in highschool with a bunch of fucking baseball stars. These kids will lob a barrage of perfectly-aimed tomatoes at you from the other side of the lunchroom like a howitzer loaded with tomatoes. The AI seems to favor taking advantage of long-shots at weakened enemies because you likely won’t see it coming. The AI of this game, really, is way better at this than it has a right to be. As I said, several times I played through and took out one or two enemies, and got smeared. The AI wasn’t all focused on me, either. The other teams were going back and forth at each other like nobody’s business. They just managed to mop the floor with me every time.
Graphics in this game are acceptable, except for a few little issues here and there. Sure the table don’t look like tables, but I rather enjoyed the look of my little team mates. Sure, hair color and clothing is all the same, but after playing a few times, skin-colors are randomly assigned. Also, your people all lack arms and legs, so their hands and feet hover in space where the ends of their extremities should be, Rayman-style. The difficulty in this game was a little rough, but you learn the best way to battle your foes after a while, and it’s not too tough to adjust. There are a few things that this game could benefit from: variety of attacks, the potential for someone to miss, some stronger graphical definition, but for a piece of shareware, this game is enjoyable. I would advise playing it with some friends to get the most out of its gameplay. The AI players are just a bunch of dicks.
Another feature of this game that my brother will discuss at greater length is the level editor. Should you get tired of the single level of play in the game, you can always go and make more of them. A level editor is always a good idea, and in a game like this grants players the ability to make it their own way. You hate the lunchroom? Fine, have a fucking food-fight in the art department, you damn lunatic.
Of everything I about this game, there is one thing that I HAVE to mention. I do not under any circumstances recommend this to anyone with photosensitive seizures: you might not make it past the title screen. The background is this warping, color-changing spaghetti (or something) that looks like one of the lunch aides slipped fucking LSD into the juice boxes. In their psychedelic-induced frenzy these kids have taken to defending themselves against the phantasms of their own imagination the only way they can deign: by lashing out with salvos of edibles projectiles. This is my story, and I am sticking to it, since the game itself doesn’t really have one yet.