A Mother in Festerwood is a brief, emotional experience inspired by a pivotal moment in the life of many families. A child reaches the age when he needs to move out of the family home, and leaves his parents with an empty nest and a lot of worries. The game tackles this familiar, real-world issue by putting a spin on familiar game conventions. In A Mother in Festerwood you don't role-play as the young adventurer who goes out into the world to battle monsters, but as the mother of that young adventurer, who has to balance protecting her child with giving him his independence and allowing him to become his own person.
The talent behind this unusually contemplative game is Austin Breed, a 19-year-old college freshman studying fine art in Kansas City, Missouri. His artistic instinct really shines through, and by focusing on a limited number of goals A Mother in Festerwood is as complete and perfect an experience as it can be. If Austin Breed's goal was to create a video game that will make you feel something, then he may consider his mission accomplished.
A mother's relationship with her child is a very difficult and nuanced subject to tackle in any medium. A Mother in Festerwood is not only impressive because it manages to deal with the subject in the form of a video game, but more importantly because it deals with it in a way which only a video game can. The melancholy tune and 8-bit presentation soften you up with nostalgia, and the limited gameplay, which prohibits rather than empowers, evokes emotions that will strum your heartstrings, especially if you're a momma's boy.
If this game can be faulted for anything it would be its limited scope, because what’s here is so well executed you can't help but wonder why the concept wasn't pushed further and expanded. Some will undoubtedly complain that A Mother in Festerwood is hardly a game at all, but that would be more of a disagreement with Austen Breed's design philosophy than a flaw with the experience as a whole.
It only takes a few minutes to complete A Mother in Festerwood, and it’s completely free to play. With that in mind, it's well worth playing several times to experiment with different choices, see the different endings, and try to get all the achievements, but your first experience with the game is the one that matters the most.
But you shouldn’t play A Mother in Festerwood because it's a stellar, free alternative to the games being churned out by big developers and publishers. This is a completely new and original experience that feels like the product of one inspired and determined individual’s creativity. That the game is so short should not be held against it. Rather, the short time investment should motivate you to at least give it a shot, and call your mother when it's over.
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