Amanda's Springy Thingy Reviews

Not your fault. I didn’t have another window of the game open, but the thing about Google is that it does things all on its own. It is constantly trying to take over my life, and sometimes I fear that it is winning.


Google did the same thing to me several times while playing The Kuolema as well–enough that I started holding my breath whenever the popup appeared, desperately hoping it wouldn’t reset me to the beginning (fortunately, the last time or two it happened it did not!).


Sorry to hear you’ve also had issues. I’ve done a search to see if this is a known Google Forms problem and can’t find anything, but it sounds like perhaps it’s having an issue saving or syncing your responses - in which case, logging out of your Google account while playing might help? (or try playing in a different browser/device that’s not logged in?). I appreciate that’s not an ideal solution though.


Waw, @AmandaB , for someone who writes mostly narrative games, you sure have a very puzzle-oriented way of taking stuff. I’d like to see you tackle a stuck drawer in your kitchen.

My naggle with the cat behind the cabinet was that I couldn’t DOUSE CAT WITH WATER. I do appreciate that being nice is better than being mean.


It’s stupider than you think. I didn’t even get to the cat, because you have to try to get the screwdriver before the cat appears, which I failed to do. So when Phil hinted me about the cat, I was like, what? What cat? It was an awesome fail.


Repeat the Ending, by @kamineko

Last summer, Drew Cook interviewed me on his blog Gold Machine, and I had a great time talking about myself and my games. At the end of the interview, I threatened to turn the tables on him when he published his first game. Well, the time of reckoning has arrived, with Drew’s first game in Spring Thing. So we had a talk about the game, which I tested several times over the last year. There aren’t any major spoilers in the discussion, but of course it’s impossible to talk about a game without discussing what it’s about and its major themes.

Amanda: Hey Drew! Thanks for chatting with me about your first game, Repeat the Ending . We are both of a certain age, and we’re both latecomers to writing IF. You are an avid player of older IF on your blog, Gold Machine, and you’ve been writing critically about and thinking about IF for a while now. What finally got you to write your own game, and how was the experience, coming from the position of such a long-time player/reviewer?

Drew: I’m excited to be doing this! Thanks for asking.

The main thing that pushed me to write an Inform 7 game was the realization that I could probably do it! I would sometimes read the requests for I7 help on the forum here, and I realized that some of the answers made sense to me. Accessibility of the toolset was a major factor. I had always wanted to make an IF game, I just hadn’t realized that I might be able to learn how.

The second factor was–and this is usually hard for me–having something worth writing about. I had a story in mind that I thought would work well in an interactive medium.

I got a lot of help here on the forum, and I enjoyed learning I7. I approached writing IF the way I would write a poetry collection, since that is something that I’ve been trained to do. So far as writing criticism goes, I know it was helpful for me to have experience playing games an analytical way. Since my critical focus is narrative and textual analysis, I brought those experiences to bear in a game that really emphasizes narrative. At least, I hope that’s something Repeat the Ending does!

Both my experiences as a critic as well as my experiences with poetry helped me write in an iterative way. I would say that my approach has been writing from the center out; unpeeling an onion, if that makes sense.

Amanda: I read your blog pretty regularly, so it was very obvious to me that your immersion in the Infocom games of the 80s-- the seminal IF for most of our generation-- played a big part in your thoughts on RtE. Your game’s premise is that it’s an older game, rediscovered and annotated by an unknown critic. This brings a postmodern zip to the project: an interplay between author, pretend version of author, and the critic, who is of course also the author. And it invites the audience to participate in this critical endeavor, which often vacillates between academic criticism of the kind you regularly do, and mean, personal criticism. Would you agree with this assessment? Can you comment on this a little, and how you decided to structure the narrative this way?

Drew: That does sound right to me. “Criticism” is definitely one of the things I wanted to explore in terms of both the private and the public. I think that even some of the negative criticism in the “Reader’s Companion to Repeat the Ending”–one critic repeatedly calls “Drew Cook” (not me, some other Drew Cook) sanist, classist, or even misogynist–is still wish fulfillment for him, who wants to seen, for his story to be heard.

You’re right about the reader, too. Since the criticism often contradicts, I wanted to put the reader in the middle of that and invite them to draw their own conclusions. Should we believe these critics? Should we even believe “Drew Cook”? I wanted players to have the last word, to be the final critical authority.

How did it come about? I really do write in an iterative way. I started with the core story, which was a lot of effort for me to build. The tutorial was lacking and didn’t really fit the game. I believe it was you who said that I should do the tutorial in a specific, in-game voice. And that was the start of the footnotes! Soon, it was a “critical edition” with multiple commentators, then, later, the entire “Reader’s Companion.” So, I would say that I built it only because I was open to suggestions and looked for ways to further build upon them.

I loved how that all turned out. Thanks for the idea!

Amanda: I’ll accept my 15% consultant’s fee in chocolate desserts, thank you very much.

We hear the term “unreliable narrator” a lot, and your PC is unreliable for sure. Upping the ante by making the author unreliable, and the annotations unreliable, is a really smart move, I think. As to the PC, he’s a unique individual. He thinks he has special powers, and in fact does have special powers in the game world. You can’t be sure if he’s actually mentally ill, or if the world just treats him that way because of his belief in his abilities. I don’t want to say too much about the mechanic, as I want players to come to it unsuspecting, but it is a very cool mechanic. Did you have the mechanic in mind before the story? Or did the PC and his depressing life come first? How did those get married in your mind?

Drew: After I dropped out of PhD, I thought I needed something to keep my mind busy, so I settled on a contemporary fantasy novel about a race of demons that call themselves “entropists”. The main character is a depressed guy in his twenties. The Orange-Eyed Woman was a bigger part of that story, but her powers are nearly the same as the system in the game.

Anyway, I got a long way into it, maybe two hundred double-spaced pages. Then COVID happened, and I just thought it was too… trivial. I lost my taste for it. Then I started Gold Machine. The idea for the game came not long after… I hate to waste an idea. I try to use everything. So, an Inform game with that magic system was the new thing, and I spent a lot of time trying to make it work (I have zero design experience).

Just after I finished writing about Suspended at Gold Machine, my mother died. I came to understand what kind of thing I wanted to make then. I didn’t yet know how I was going to do it, but I knew what I wanted to accomplish.

Short answer: the central mechanic was there before the story. It’s the core of Repeat the Ending, and so, I think, is entropy. Everything was written around that.

Amanda: I’m a PhD dropout, too. I’ve never regretted it.

I know a lot about the power of parental mortality in motivating a story-- you interviewed me about this last year. They keep a hold on us, don’t they?

I want to ask about failure in RtE. Many people complain a lot about the fail states in older IF, and it has largely fallen out of fashion to kill the player, or to let them fail. You have turned the fail state on its head and made it a central theme in the game-- the whole point is to fail, often and spectacularly. The protagonist is drawn as a failure in almost every way, and here you are having him screw up constantly, and you’re rewarding the player for it. Can you talk about why you did that?

Drew: OK. I’ll apologize in advance if I sound coy in an irritating way, but this is something I’d like players to think about. I can tell you how it began, though. One thing that writing a game does that poetry or fiction does not is it creates these little traffic control problems. What if the player has a powerful, single-use “spell,” and they waste it? In the old days, the game would just let you wander like a zombie.

We’re all nicer than that, now, so I had to figure something out. One of the things I loved about those bad, old deaths from the bad, old days was that they were really funny! Dave Lebling’s Starcross is a pretty serious game, but the deaths are silly. I thought that it might be fun to write some deaths, only to undo them afterward. I needed a narrative rationale for them, though.

Mike Russo said in some feedback that D is kind of “punk rock.” He’s indestructible, life chews him up and spits him out, and he keeps going. I like that idea and something similar is said in the trailer’s bathroom: both D and the toilet are exemplars of “misspent fortitude.”

However, from a scoring and ending perspective, I think it’s also a question of trying to break free, whether it’s a cycle of grief and guilt, an author’s inability to write about anything but his sadness, and so forth. The score changes the conclusion of the story. I guess I never say so, but a score of 21/33 is required to “win” the game.

I will say, without explaining it, that the score is the big decision in the game. The story is linear, but the score is a choice. So throughout the game, the player is deciding whether they want to help [d, the author, themselves, etc.]. It’s their decision. I think it’s possibly easier to think about in terms of the 2003 “transcript”, since that has no scoring and only one ending.

Amanda: And I apologize for being such a lame tester in that regard-- I have a weird blind spot about scores. It’s why I was also lame at sports; I just didn’t care what my score was.

Is there anything else you’d like players to know about the game or your process? I think there are a lot of people who want to make a game, but don’t have the technical skills or aren’t confident about their ability to tell a good story, and I think it’s kind of awesome that here we are, two aging Gen Xers who tackled the tech and the story writing at this stage of our lives. It’s weird, but we could be role models for our lurking peers, so have you any words of wisdom for the regular folks like us who want to write a game?

Drew: I think I’d recommend starting with Jim Aiken’s book instead of the Inform documentation.

Most people will be surprised by how easy it is to build a few rooms, put items inside them, and write descriptions. The essential bread and butter of text adventure gaming, in other words. Don’t be afraid of trying to do that. Do it, and build your confidence.

I would also try keeping things small and simple. If you go into the forum and ask “how do I make a sack with fifty identical gumballs, a rope, and three measuring cups filled with goat’s milk,” somebody will tell you. You’ll put it in your game, and you won’t know how any of it works.

A big part of learning is knowing which questions to ask, I think.

But definitely ask for help! Just be patient with yourself. You will probably be impressed that you’ve made some rooms with descriptions and things, and you should be. Making text games is cool. You’re a cool person.

Amanda: I agree wholeheartedly with all that advice. Your game is truly unique, with beautiful and heartbreaking writing, and it is beautifully designed (another reviewer described it as f’n brilliant). As this is a review thread, I’ll say that I highly recommend everyone go play it.

Thanks for talking with me, Drew!

What bird is this game? It’s neglected and lonely African grey parrot who needs someone to love it. Highly intelligent, with extraordinary powers of speech, but locked away in a small cage and unable to fly (until it is rescued…)


Thanks Amanda! Great talking to you :smiley_cat:


9 posts were split to a new topic: Galaxy Jones [Split from Amanda’s Review thread]

The next game I write, I’m taking at least a year, not six weeks.

ETA: As a kindness to @AmandaB, maybe she’d prefer @HanonO split all this GJ stuff into a separate thread?



Thanks, Hanon!


Man, is that phrase I wish I had come up with. Not necessarily here, but in general.

This just blows my mind. You have a very distinctive, confident and compelling writing voice. How dare that come naturally to you, and not require decades of honing and refinement! :]


I’ve had this issue with Google Forms previously, too, so it’s definitely something on my end! I’ve now made it to chapter 5 of the Kuolema, though, so I don’t think it’ll be an issue from now on :slightly_smiling_face:


A Single Ouroboros Scale-- My Postmortem , by @Norbez

This is not a game, it’s a postmortem that you click through, and it dissects Bez’s game in last year’s Spring Thing, A Single Ouroboros Scale, which I was a tester for. But it’s also much more than that.

Anyone who is a fan of Bez’s work will know that he’s been struggling mightily for a few years, because he’s really open about the struggles he faces. The work is always a gateway into his mind and politics and the questions that inform his world; the artist and the art are intertwined in ways that show a remarkable willingness to share pain and connect it to the problems in the larger world.

Also, when I first came here, despite these ongoing struggles, Bez reached out to me and was very kind and supportive, and it’s always a trip to have an author whose work you have admired turn out to be a friendly and real person who is suddenly a part of your community.

The postmortem does the things a postmortem would, but it also takes us through a personal evolution that left me pumping my fist and cheering. Not just because Bez has tamed some wicked demons of self-doubt and depression through a terrible year of medical crisis, but also because this is a story that may offer a ray of hope to people with similar crises in their lives.

The terrible thing about wrapping your self-worth up in anything-- your work, another person, a public image, etc-- is that people can tell you that these things aren’t equivalent, but it won’t matter. You have to go through the fire yourself to truly understand and believe that your sense of your own worth is connected to those things only because that’s how you have decided to interact with the world. It’s not dependent on them. Only you can decide that you are a worthwhile person. And I’m just so delighted that Bez has come through that fire and seen that he and his art are valuable no matter what. That you can just shrug off people who don’t engage with your work the way you would wish them to and keep putting your vision out there because that’s how artists have to be, regardless of the punishments or rewards that come with doing so. Hats off to you, Bez, and thank you for sharing this moving and inspiring postmortem essay with us.

What bird is it? This is a super-specific bird that I encountered last week. A lesser goldfinch (lesser because it’s smaller, although this is sort of insulting taxonomy) somehow got inside of one of our bird feeders. It was frantic, beating itself against the windows of the feeder. So I opened it, and the little guy shot out, circled my head, and raced to a treetop, singing. The lesser goldfinch has a sunny lemon-colored belly and a big, open personality, and a lovely although slightly mournful and questioning song.

And here’s a lesser goldfinch video:


Marie Waits, by @dee_cooke

This is a puzzly escape game with a timer. You can’t spend too much time figuring stuff out, or you’ll run out of time. The set-up is classic: you’re kidnapped and you have to escape. There’s a convoluted back story going WAAAAY back in the PC’s life, but it’s not fleshed out as well as it could be-- nonetheless, it’s an intriguing story and I loved where it was heading. I see from the author’s note on the Spring Thing page that this is both a more finished version of an IntroComp game, and a prequel to another game, which kept me from feeling miffed about the lack of closure here.

As a teaser for a coming game, it definitely piqued my interest and I will absolutely play Marie when it comes out (although I’ll play anything by Dee, so this is hardly breaking news). As a standalone game, it had some very successful moments and great momentum. I did have trouble with finding some of the correct commands, which ate into my time. Although the correct commands aren’t terribly difficult, I did have some awkwardness and lost time with unimplemented synonyms (climbing the axe in the wall and then getting off the wall were hard for me), and the timer means that it’s extra important that if you have the right idea, any reasonable command (like fall in water, or spit on cigarette while you’re tied up) should probably work. But there were only a few places like this, and most of it went smoothly for me.

The ending comes very abruptly, and since this is a snapshot of a larger to-be-released game, that’s OK, but I do wish there had been a little more explanation of why it ended like it did. I guess I’ll learn all when the full game comes out.

Overall, a short and fun escape room game which I recommend. Save often, or undo commands that don’t work, and you’ll have fun with this.

What bird is it? It’s a quelea, a small but plucky sparrow-like African bird. Here’s a quelea making a series of narrow escapes from a deadly foe:


Thanks for your review Amanda! And I’d never heard of queleas, so I’ll have to look into those.


The Withering Gaze of the Earth, by @worm

This is a short, trippy little story of monsters and gods and mothers, with a side dish of true love, in a save-the-world mission. It’s well-written and sets up a tragic story of an altered life and physique, and how children can become unwitting accomplices in parental madness.

The mood and tone are set very well, with fantastic descriptions of places and things that give you a sense of the difference, the wrongness, of the game world and the PC’s predicament. There’s a jarring disconnect between that writing and the tone of conversation with NPCs, which feels like it should be more hard-boiled or desperate, but instead is jovial and jokey. This bothered me at first, but in retrospect, I think it created some tension. I still would have liked to see the stakes of the mission, which are critical, be better reflected in the discussions the characters have.

The interactivity is fine-- there are no puzzles to solve and it’s a linear story, but you do have some choices. I only played through once, but I didn’t see many places that could have branched into a different storyline. Here, as in many twine games, some of the choices felt a little wonky. Most of your choices come from deciding what to say next, and some of those choices seem strange and unconnected to all the things the player would really like to know. Much is set up in this world-gone-wrong, a lot of invented terminology and lore, but none of it is ever explained, and when you finally meet the person who could wrap it all up for you, you don’t have the option to ask about any of it.

So there’s a sketch of a vividly realized world here, but many of the most interesting inventions are just there, with no back story or explanation for them. One of the hardest parts of building a world is teaching the reader about it without breaking the narrative, and the author simply skipped that part, which leaves a far leaner, meaner game, but one that feels unfinished, with an abrupt ending that left me feeling like I’d been an outside observer instead of identifying with the PC. All that sounds overly harsh, I think, because the writing really is engaging and the story is fresh and weird, flicking back and forth in time seamlessly. And the sketch of the nightmare world the author has built is intriguing-- I suppose if it wasn’t so intriguing, I wouldn’t feel cranky about not being more fully immersed in it.

So I definitely recommend you go play this weird little game; the author’s imagination is a very worthwhile place to spend 20 minutes.

What bird is it? It’s a cowbird, causing destruction and chaos by laying its eggs in the nests of other birds. The cowbird chicks outcompete the host chicks, and despite their wrongness, the host parent birds raise it. Cowbirds have contributed to the perilous conservation status of birds like the golden-cheeked warbler.


Thanks for the review! The game not being as long as I wanted is also the place I felt like I had the most room for improvement.

I have heard of cowbirds, which is mostly from having played the board game Wingspan.


This was the first game you reviewed, so your memory might be a bit foggy. Still, do you remember how you got the latch on the delivery guy’s cart open? I need to send the barrel rolling and him running after it so I can steal chocolate for Regomir’s brother. I already tried PECKing it, TAKEing it an DROPping it. None of those worked so I’m out of verbs.. (Tagging @groggydog too, or anyone else?)

So many times when I’m asking for hints, I wonder what this would sound like when overheard on a full train.


Argh, um, hmm… Was there a rope to peck or something like that? I don’t remember it giving me any trouble, so it was intuitive to me, but I can’t remember the specifics.

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What worked for me was PECK LATCH, though there might be other synonyms implemented.

If you’ve already tried that, maybe you need to X BARREL first to establish the setup?