Agat's Spring Thing impressions

2019
springthing
(Agnieszka Trzaska) #1

I have played through a couple of Spring Thing games and, so far, enjoyed all of them – they were all competently made and worth my time. Here are some games I found particularly fun and interesting (mild spoilers in spoiler tags).

a short walk in the spring, by Amorphous

Machine text generation fascinates me, and that’s the first time I played a text game which makes use of it. The game itself was… surreal and strange, but not devoid of any structure. I recommend reading the author’s Afterword, which explains how the story was created and which parts were generated; I found it very interesting.

I also enjoyed the dreamlike atmosphere, and I think the choice of subject for this game is perfect. Machine-generated texts often feel strange and surreal, so they work quite well in a piece about talking with ghosts and travelling through weird places. As an example: when the chatbot-powered ghost got stuck on repeating the same phrase several times, I actually thought it’s a nice, even if incidental, way of representing its possibly limited memories and contact with the physical world.

The Devil and the Mayor, by Jonathan Laury

I found this game both really amusing and grim, which is why I enjoyed it so much.

IWhat stood out the most to me is that the parts taking place in Hell (which functions like a sort of corporation here) felt funnier and more lighthearted than the rest of the game. The thoughts and motivations of some of the human characters were the truly horrifying part…
I should also mention that I really liked the deal-making mechanics. Questioning people to learn their desires and then offering them a “great” deal felt clever and satisfying, and the little crime enterprise that was slowly revealed through talking to various people was an interesting addition.

The Missing Ring, by Felicity Drake

I love old-fashioned crime stories – locked-room mysteries, where each suspects has a possible motive – and this game is a fine example of one. I really liked it – the writing was very good and evocative, and the mystery of the ring kept me interested.

Another great thing was the fact that even the least sympathetic characters were described in a way that made me – if not like them – at least feel for them.
As for the gameplay: I found the first part of the game really easy, as the limited number of options and the “to do” list were very helpful in guiding the player. I was even afraid the game was going to give away the solution with no effort on my part, but that, luckily, was not the case – to solve the mystery, I had to make my own assumptions based on the evidence, and the answer wasn’t too obvious.

The Ballroom, by Liza Daly

That was fun! It’s a short game, and not really about making choices, but about discovering many variations of the one-page narrative. And there’s quite a bit to discover.

At first, the changes seemed relatively minor, as the setting and protagonist remained the same, but later on, the game turned out to be full of surprises. One thing that came to my mind was that I’d love to play something based on this concept where we have a central mystery to which the game never explicitly tells us the answer, but by “jumping” between characters, places and through time we can piece together what happened. The Ballroom actually has a little of that (the same event seen from different POVs), but I’d love to see this idea developed further!

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