Do you feel like you need to kick your cooking up several notches? Have you considered traveling back in time and stealing all the recipes your ancestors used to kill their hearts and teeth? I bet you have! Thankfully, A Time Traveller’s Guide to Past Delicacies is here to help you make that a reality.
Produced by Fantasia Malware and developed by Gabriel Helfenstein, A Time Traveller’s Guide to Past Delicacies is an educational game where puppets from the present teach you how to steal and cook food from the past. It’s the sort of game that I can only accurately describe by screaming until my vocal cords tear while I struggle against the bindings of my straight jacket.
So, I will do that.
I’m going to need a minute to classify A Time Traveller’s Guide to Past Delicacies. Here we go. It’s a, uh, FMV game mixed with lo-fi pop-jank. During most of the gameplay, you’ll see a screen showing instructions from one of the game’s puppets. This initially is set up where you manipulate objects with bad physics to cook food, but every so often, it breaks from that and has you play something that resembles a game but really isn’t.
The first moment of this has you collecting ingredients on an abstract playfield before murdering your ancestor. Later, you’re put in first-person exploration sequences where you need to seek out recipes and snap photographs of them.
Then it starts getting weird.
Maybe some message
According to the itch page for A Time Traveller’s Guide to Past Delicacies, “This game as been made for the first edition of Fantasia Malware Presents, an event showcasing games and performances in Berlin.” Despite this, I feel like you can get the full effect just playing it yourself. In fact, I have no idea what value other people watching would really add to it. It’s a self-contained narrative that plays out with simple input from your bad self. It doesn’t need any input from the audience.
It’s a short experience. It will probably last about 20 minutes unless you get snagged on the somewhat unusual cooking challenges. There’s maybe some message in here about cultural appropriation, but I’m not sure A Time Traveller’s Guide to Past Delicacies is interested in much more than riffing off the soft science behind time travel. And it does that well while being nauseatingly intriguing.
A Time Traveller’s Guide to Past Delicacies is another Web 1.0 nightmare, similar to Suburban Basketball or the slightly more mainstream Hypnospace Outlaw. I feel these sorts of games, and the aesthetic in general, is something that either speaks to you or doesn’t. I don’t want to believe that, though. I’d prefer to believe that games like this just know how to peel back our mortal scalps and stick their tongues deep into our instinctual grey matter. A long-forgotten universal language, once spoken to us by the Elder Ones.
In any case, A Time Traveller’s Guide to Past Delicacies is available for free (or any amount you think it’s worth) on itch.io. If you feel like finding out if this is the straw that breaks the mental bridge that keeps you connected to reality, you don’t have much to lose.