Amanda's Springy Thingy Reviews

Well, she was complicit already! And there’s the fact that the “last straw” that she admits to is only a partial truth, the rest of it being that as long as she stays with the police, she would feel obligated to turn Thalia in, which she doesn’t actually want to do because she does like Thalia enough that she would feel bad about ruining her life—but at this point the most she’s willing to own up to is “I sort of enjoyed working with you?” so she’s pretending her job dissatisfaction is the whole reason. But maybe that’s not reading?

Anyway, other than the place where the conversation would have gone, I don’t think we really left ourselves any room to slot in extra Mel scenes, so probably this isn’t a fixable issue, unfortunately. And I do still wonder if the bulk of the problem is that I failed to adequately set this up in the second game.


To add onto EJ’s points, it’s a last straw for the police as well as for Mel. She can’t stay in this limbo forever; the police are getting fed up with her inability to catch Thalia to the point where they’re trialing a replacement so she’s going to have to pick between Thalia and her job very soon. I think it wouldn’t be too difficult to make that more clear in a post comp version, particularly if we can get inside her head a bit more.


No, it does. I didn’t mean to overstate the case. I suppose this is the kind of criticism you get when your writing is pitch-perfect 99% of the time; the 1% that stretches belief a little gets the attention. And by the end, I believed it.


No, you’re fine! I’m sorry to harp on the one criticism in an otherwise glowing review; I wouldn’t want you to think I don’t appreciate the praise, which I very much do! I just wanted to dig a bit more into what didn’t work to see if it was something I could fix or at least improve on in the future.


I started to play The Kuolema, and was really, really enjoying it, until a bad pop-up happened and I lost all my progress. So I’m putting it away until my rage subsides.


Protocol by 30 x 30 (does this author have an account here?)

Wow. I enjoyed this game very much, although I’m not sure I followed all its threads very well. The writing… is a lot. Walls of text. But I’m a general fan of games with lots of writing, especially if the writing is very engaging. And it’s really very engaging, very effective at setting up a sci-fi/horror scenario. The set-up itself is well-trodden ground: an abandoned spaceship, you alone, something terribly wrong with the ship and with you (shades of Babel here). But the writing is extremely vivid, painting a fractured picture of your past and present, your mission, your dire predicament. So it freshened up this venerable plot line considerably with its rambling, lyrical prose. If it occasionally tips into purplish overwrought hyperpoetics, well, I live in a glass house there, and also, it works with the feverish wrongness of the story. This is definitely the most impassioned writing I’ve seen in the Comp so far, and I truly dug it.

The game begins with a little physics lesson, beautifully told (laws of thermodynamics, some basic astrophysics). I’m a huge, enormous, screaming fangirl for good science writing, and this is good science writing (assuming that the astrophysics stuff is correct-- I’m a biologist). But it never seemed to come into play in the actual story. It was there at the beginning, it was lovely, and then it never really gets picked up again, although some of themes are on display if you look for them in your post-game musings. Or perhaps the route I took (generally following the creepily jiggling text links instead of the normal text links because I will always follow the sparkliest trail) simply wasn’t the one that would bring those threads together. There were many options to take, and I might actually play this one again to see if I can get a substantially different path (high praise, because I generally don’t replay). The ending I got was satisfyingly awful, although I never did learn much about what happened.

All in all, I absolutely recommend this. Although it ultimately didn’t all coalesce in the path I took, it was a great ride and I was totally engaged the whole time. Thanks to the author for this.

What bird is it? It’s a King Vulture. Large, strikingly beautiful but also scary, it soars high on a huge wingspan and feeds on death.


Thank you so much for the review!! I don’t even have the words, this is my first foray into competition writing and I’m quite new to writing in general so this review and praise means the world to me! I love the bird comparison too…

As for the physics lesson and the branching - the physics is correct, if a little exaggerated (I’m an ecologist-in-training myself, it was many late nights of googling to make sure I was getting everything right-ish), and I recommend people play through more than once, certain things change in the prerequisite section that explain why that specific text is there to begin with - I’m playing the long game here (though I did figure I might lose some people with the density of the text). The ninth ending to the game can also be found through fiddling around in the New Game + prerequisites, though it violates the laws laid out in that section…


You’re welcome! I had a great time with your game and the writing was after my own heart. Thanks so much for writing it, and I hope this is the first game of many.


Note that The Kuolema never stores your progress, not even found objects. It should be possible to quickly go to where you were if you just remember to note down codes, found objects etc.


Oh dear, rage was definitely not intended! Not sure what could have caused your pop-up, that shouldn’t be a game thing. As Denk says (thanks Denk!) - the game is designed to let you ‘shortcut’ sections using the codes you’ve previously found, so you don’t have to re-do everything. Also, if you’re logged in, Google Forms will remember all your previous choices and password entries - which speeds things up a lot. Those things combined mean you shouldn’t have any problem just resuming where you left off (I hope you do - eventually!). And of course, if frustration ever starts to set in, just refer to the walkthrough - it’s created to reduce game-play rage! :smiley:


If a bad computer thing can happen, it will happen to me. I think it was a Google thing. I did not want to take it out on your game, so I took a breather. No worries, Ben-- I’m not holding it against the game.


Hi, thank you for taking the time of trying out the game and leaving a review! The statue is relatively early on in the game, and going Inside the building it’s infront of should kickstart an important scene.
I should definitely have added the line that the game runs on Vorple, so it’s purely online only! - That and also have added a solve-sheet, if only for people to go through the full game.
Thanks again!


OK, Google is awful. While playing The Kuolema it keeps bringing up a “It looks like there’s an updated response” popup window to which you can only hit “Update” (oh, how I loathe that word), which always takes me back to the beginning of the game. It’s kind of a deal to go through everything again each time, because I have crappy satellite internet (nothing else out in the boonies where I live) and it can take a long time for each choice to load. I’m not sure what to do about this, so I’m tabling the game, since I don’t have Google attached to another browser and of course I don’t know any of my passwords.

I was having an absolute blast with it, though, so I’ll definitely try to finish it later in the Comp. If you have control of Google instead of being its bitch, I definitely recommend you play this, but a full review will have to wait.

That’s all the full-length games in ST. I’ll get to some of the shorter ones, but I thought I’d do a bird video recap of the full-length games.

The Familiar, @groggydog

Here’s a crow demonstrating its amazing intelligence by solving a puzzle that is actually in this game:

Galaxy Jones, @rileypb

Here’s Galaxy Jones the peregrine falcon taking out the larger, more powerful General:

I Am Prey, @inventor200

Here’s the shrike and its prey. I think the music in the video is very apt for the game:

Nothing Could Be Further From the Truth, @keturion

An excellent metaphor for me playing this game-- I was like the person with the camera in this cassowary video:

Stygian Dreams, Giorgos Menelaou

I didn’t get enough of a sense of this game to assign a bird to it, so I am giving you a video of my favorite YouTube celebrity bird, Disco the parakeet:

Lady Thalia and the Masterpiece of Moldavia, @EJoyce and @Encorm

Here’s a sweet chatty Moluccan cockatoo. You can see it trying out friendly, leading, and direct conversation here:

Protocol, @30x30

This game is a King vulture, and here’s a look at the sweeter side of that weird and wonderful bird with the most uglycute baby ever:

And for @radiosity , since I didn’t get to finish his game, but since it is about going up against a malicious adversary… a peekabooing parrot.

I’m going to have a little interview with Drew Cook @kamineko about his game posted sometime soon. Since I tested it several times, I know what bird it is, so I’ll use that as a teaser. It’s a sad lonely neglected African grey parrot with a lot of special powers and endearing qualities that have long gone unrecognized:

Stay tuned for my chat with Drew, and for more reviews of shorter games.


Hi, so sorry it’s been behaving badly for you. The only thing I can think of is that you have same page open elsewhere (another tab / browser / device etc.) - that could well confuse it (it will think two people are logged into the same account and try to refresh the page each time to keep them both ‘up-to-date’). I totally understand why you’d be frustrated with it, but if you ever get the energy to try it again one day, just check you only have it open once. Thanks for trying!


I loved that cassowary video! I imagine it was curious about the recording device. The woman holding it held up rather well - just like you. I mean, you did make some real progress.


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…)