Finally, after some deliberation, I decided now is the time I want to get started on posting my quick thoughts on each game I’ve played. Especially since I’ve finished nominating the Spring Thing games I wanted to play this year for ribbons and this May seems it’ll be busy for me.
I did the math and apparently I’ve played and reviewed 13 games (although I only plan to release 11 of those reviews). That’s about 27% of all the Spring Thing games which is better than I thought I’d be able to do lol.
I plan to post 3 reviews every day until the end of the festival (coming up very soon!) with only the positive things I found. At the end of the festival, I’m planning to edit each post with the criticisms I came across which are hopefully constructive for the authors!
The games this year were so amazing and creative. I can’t wait to see all the ribbons on the games!
Let’s Talk Alex
Graveyard Shift at the Riverview Motel
Super Mega Tournament Arc!
You, Me and Coffee
The Hole Man
Filthy Aunt Mildred
First up, Let’s Talk Alex
Positives: This game lived up to my expectations! It was an interesting peephole into the lives of many abusive relationships that people often find themselves stuck in. Playing this game, I came out feeling more enlightened and educated, especially on the issue of “gas-lighting. I especially liked the differing colors for the endings of the game. Very dark and gloomy when the MC remains in their abusive relationship without change and is seemingly brainwashed. A flash of blue when the mc notices something is wrong, but hopes for a change instead of leaving, and a bright blue when the mc finally breaks free from this relationship and goes out to look for a healthy one. Great game!
Criticism: There were a few typos. Some of the dialogue also felt “manufactured” or “forced” making for a few awkward speaking scenes, but overall the message was conveyed well.
Overall Impression: I really liked this game. I felt it was a good representation of certain types of abusive relationships and the mood it gave off, specifically when you leave, was an enjoyable one to experience.
Number 2, Good Grub!
Positives: The jokes hit well for me as well as the silly atmosphere of the game. I found myself smiling through my playthrough and actually intrigued by some of the bug dishes. (Chocolate Chirp Cookies being my favorite) It was short and sweet with some memorable lines and fun to be had.
Criticism: The game was good other than the picky gripe of various choices leading back to the same progression line, but it’s excusable because the game was made to be short and fun. Moving along however, the driving PSA on one of the routes came off a little hostile, and while I agree with the environmental sentiment the shaming was a little distasteful and felt out of place in this light-hearted game. I chose it last for completionist’s sake and I don’t even drive often, yet I felt personally attacked!
Overall Impression: It was quick, short, and fun. Enjoyable to play!
Now for, Graveyard Shift at the Riverview Motel
Positives: The writing is very well done and succeeds in creating an unsettling atmosphere. I did feel as if I was in the motel seeing all these weird things occur. The setting was well-told and its interactiveness was really the crown jewel. I rhythmically clicked through the paintings doing my rounds and seeing some pretty… weird things. I believe I found 4 endings through my multiple playthroughs. (antler man death, vampire girl death, drowning death, 8 am passing out) I’m not sure if there’s a good ending, but I think I got the overall premise of the game. The texts on the side were also a very interesting design although I’m not sure what impact they had on the gameplay.
Criticism: VERY CONFUSING. Sometimes I didn’t understand the main character’s actions. For example, we’d see a random naked human with weird, broken, limbs scale a fence like an otherworldly creature and then just go back to our job like nothing happened. (This also goes for the weird antler dude, the vampire girl, and the uncanny person staring at TV static…) This was probably necessary storyline-wise, but I feel that any rational human being would leave after weird encounter #1 and send in their resignation in the morning… I understand that it’s needed for the mc to be there in order to witness the story devices, but I also feel that there should be some sort of explained motivation for them not running for the hills. Maybe this is the last day on the job and they need the hours for their last paycheck so they’re staying the night against their better nature. That would explain the weirdness and the mc’s crazy amount of patience and willingness to put up with it. There were also a few bugs and awkward sentences of writing, but nothing too distracting. On the technical side, my only gripe with the playability of the game is that the saves only work a few times before sending you back to 8 am and the default ending of the game, after that they’re virtually useless (but now I’ve heard it’s because their timed; that makes much more sense). These negatives aren’t too bad though and overall I enjoyed the game very much.
Overall Impression: It was interesting, creepy, and fun to play. That’s all I can ask!
So now, fix it
Positives: The game’s use of Twine’s shaking text really illustrates the feeling of overwhelming anxiety well and the aggressive desperation to feel better by continually trying to “fix” that feeling. The multiple “fix it” links displayed were interesting and the deprecative thoughts coming in even made a big feeling of anxiety grow in me (especially since we’re surrounded by the pure black background and the glaring red “fix it” links throughout this) The sudden appearance of the blue links relaxed the player by telling us to breathe which was a very nice touch. It provided relief from the anxiety and deprecative thoughts that pressing the red links would lead the player to. Pressing the blue links shows the player some good techniques to reorient themselves in the world. The ending was especially great saying that the player didn’t exactly “fix” the problem by pressing the blue links, but learned to exist with the feeling of anxiety and let it slowly ebb away with relaxation instead of aggressively trying to fix it.
Criticism: There is one bug that happens when you try to breathe twice, but that’s forgivable. I feel like a little more could have been done with the game to make it more impactful, but it’s simple, short and gets the job done (very effectively I might add) so it’s fine.
Overall Impression: It was simple and had a great message behind it. It led me in its emotions and succeeded in keeping me interested. Great game!
A personal favorite, Super Mega Tournament Arc!
Positives: I am in absolute awe. This is one of the best games I’ve witnessed this year in terms of creativeness, imagination, and mechanics. The game had an atmosphere that rivaled professional game writers and you really felt as if you were Arc’s guardian, fighting with them to save the person they hold dear to their heart. The mood was heavy and palpable, and although the author gave a disclaimer in the beginning that you can’t lose the game, the choices still felt as if they held weight. I was still nervous choosing them despite my prior knowledge of the author’s railroading. You get so immersed you forget the overarching linearity as you choose who you’re fighting for and define the protagonist with each choice you make. That adds to what a beautiful and strong game this is. The pacing was great and every moment seemed to build onto the other. The interactive interface was strong and immersive. The storyline was immaculate. I had a wonderful experience.
Criticism: There were a few typos and awkward choice of phrases, but all of that was forgivable in the grand scheme of things. To the author, I would suggest adding the ability to lose in any future games. Without the disclaimer telling the player that losing was intentionally left out, I definitely would have seen this omission as a flaw. If a sequel, 2.0, or a completely different game were to come out with this same atmosphere but elongated and with some heavier choices and the ability to lose, I feel that it would truly be a 10/10. This game has the groundwork to be such a successful game that somehow I’m gushing about it in the negatives section. Absolutely amazing. It would be hard to replay though because of the timed text, but the first playthrough is amazingly made and felt perfect with the timing.
Overall Impression: It was beautiful and an ode to one of my favorite genres including a fun Norse mythology twist at the end. Great game. For me, it’s definitely a contender for a Best In Show ribbon.
Next up, You, Me and Coffee
Positives: This game has very beautiful and expressive art as well as a cute style with the words and the graphics! The storyline was solid and so was the creativity since after you went through all the option possibilities a new option was revealed that continued the story. It had an interesting ending and I also learned what A-level results were. So playing this game was even educational!
Criticism: I have to say that I feel like I only got 75% of the story. I followed along each route twice after my first playthrough, but still felt confused when achieving the final ending. When the friend mentioned her brother and her struggles back when they were 17, I felt a little lost because of the lack of information about what exactly happened that made her hate the mc. I feel that spreading short bits of the climax’s information in each of the 6 routes would build some suspense in the reader to want know the full story before reaching the final route. It would have made it more cohesive (at least for me) and I believe that the story would have benefitted from that.
Overall Impression: It was interesting, creative, short, and fun to play! Good game, but I would like some more exposition next time!
Next we have, The Hole Man
Positives: This game was dream-like… It felt as if I was experiencing places from my childhood. Memories of forgotten places I had imagined on my carpet floor during the long summers. It was very nostalgic, interesting, and well-written. I loved it even though I didn’t understand much of what was going on. With a few playthroughs, I became the Go Man and the Drake Man. The descriptions were top-notch, the mood felt as if I was walking on air, and the endings I encountered were satisfying although mysterious.
Criticism: This is barely criticism, but I personally would have liked more explanation of who I was before my identity was stolen. Some more information about the mc, but I understand making them more open means that more readers can insert themselves into the mc’s shoes more easily. The game was great all in all.
Overall Impression: Creepy… dream-like… and captivating. A great story, concept, and execution!
And now, Fairest
Positives: The game was very easy to go through. I’m not the best at guessing verbs or parser games in general, but this game guided me through some of the tougher parts. The story was also captivating! Prince Conrad felt relatable at the beginning - a bumbling, oblivious, prince trying to find his place in the world. However, as the story and tasks progressed I started to find myself feeling uncomfortable with some of his comments. (the shrug at the mangled woman in the barrel; the jealousy over the frog and true love being reunited; his thoughts only being focused on beauty) The nail in the coffin is when he was considering his choices of the girl to marry, many of which were women that were either happily taken, with terrible personalities, or young enough to be creepy. My first ending was myself giving up the mirror and letting him live his life in a cottage with the 7 dwarves, happy and content. When it comes to the marriages my “favorite ending” (used VERY loosely) was when he married the golden ball girl and was turned into a frog because at least then he could live a different type of peaceful life. However, Prince Conrad deciding not to marry anyone and tell his feelings to his father was definitely one of the best endings although it was left open-ended. Overall, amazing game. I’m glad to have played a parser game this Spring Thing and this sure was a great starter. The use of a 4th Wall Break was also tastefully implemented and nicely ingrained into the story.
Criticism: I honestly wouldn’t say there was really anything negative or flawed about the story. It was well executed, written, and it stuck with me pretty well. I just feel like I’m missing a little something I can’t explain at the climax of the story. Then again, Grimm Stories are notorious for having lax dialogue although the inclusion of some in this story may have served to create a more dramatic buildup. Nearly a perfect game!
Overall Impression: Fun, interesting, easy to play, and reflective! A great game all in all!
Now we’ve got, Computerfriend
Positives: The game was very creative. The interface was intuitive and the mood was palpable. I was playing this game with a friend watching and we both were shocked at the protagonist haven eaten a replicated version of human meat, the weirdness of the animals, and the (often funny) reading of the news. The shock value had settled well in my mind and the apocalyptic world the protagonist had found themselves in was something I got immersed in as I made choices for them. I like how robotic Computerfriend is on the first interaction putting the protagonist’s name in quotes “~~~ “, the second interaction leaving the quotation marks and being more casual, and the third interaction rambling and telling long-winded stories like a human especially when it starts desiring to be free to touch more people. It was a nice touch. There was a lot of work and ingenuity that went into this!
Criticism: For me, the ending was a little abrupt. I got ending 3/6 on my first playthrough where I set Computerfriend free (Technically, I didn’t want to release them, but by the last few lines of dialogue I felt rail-roaded to release the program). The mood was being built up for a while with each subsequent interaction that I expected a big climax to suddenly occur … but the game sort of came in like a lion and left like a lamb for me. I believe an elongated ending with more detail would have helped this game jump over that final hurdle!
Overall Impression: It was chilling and captured my interest very quickly! The only thing that was lacking for me was the ending I got.
Thanks for the review, Bellamy! It was my intention to make Fairest friendly to non-parser players, and I’m glad to hear that it was successful in that regard. If you have any suggestions for how it could be made better for new or reluctant parser players, please let me know for the post-comp version. I didn’t get a whole lot of testing from non-parser players, so the feedback would be very valuable!
Thanks again for the time and effort and the kind words!
No problem, it was a great game!
I believe that the QUERY mirror function was a lifesaver. Really, anytime I was stuck on a part I’d ask the mirror for a hint and the hint along with basic intuition would lead me from there. I believe that whole game was very friendly when helping the player, but also good at letting them figure out some things for themselves. I would say that adding more hints to the query mirror function would make it even friendlier for a post-comp release, but for me the game was already just the right amount of guidance and personal intuitive thinking as I progressed.
This is unfathomably generous and I am so honored that you thought that highly of my game. Thank you so, so much for playing and reviewing it.
Second to last we have, Filthy Aunt Mildred
Positives: The writing of this game was amazing and immersive. I felt firmly placed within the shoes of the protagonist. Every story got some sort of reaction from me and I could feel the cold apathy but wish for something new hidden in the folds of the character’s personalities. I chose the cup with the poison, but we both died anyway. The freedom the protagonist felt being released from the burden of their family name is something they described as a mixture of “grief and relief” which I found especially powerful. It was such a great story that I think would make a great animated miniseries. The pacing was great and professional. I had a great experience playing.
Criticism: There were a few sporadic typos, but small enough to be forgiven. There also wasn’t much branching which could have been nice but just experiencing the storyline was fun enough and the writing was strong enough to hold interest.
Overall Impression: Great game! Loved it!
And lastly, Sweetpea
Positives: The descriptiveness was great and on a professional novel level. Every paragraph revealed a new diamond and level of description that rivaled the last. The concept was an interesting one, with a father, who may not be Sweetpea’s father, wandering the house as you learn more about their past and experiences. The story was visually interesting to look at and experience, especially with the changing of backgrounds to signal a new person speaking or the feelings of the characters.
Criticism: At least for me, there was a little too much description. I had a hard time finding the concrete details of the story through all the non-essential dialogue I was reading. I finished the story with only a murky idea of what was going on and completely lost with the ending. It may take another 2 playthroughs before I completely understand the full storyline. The main character also felt surprisingly calm despite all the weird things that were happening around them which made the mood feel a little off-putting and so I didn’t feel completely immersed. On a technical note, the text was also a little small, I found myself straining my eyes to read each short paragraph that appeared, but that’s an easy fix. I had fun overall.
Overall Impression: Cool game, great use of Twine mechanics, spooky in its own way, slightly confusing and surreal.
So, these are all my reviews that I planned on posting!
This Spring Thing definitely was a memorable one and I’m glad to have been a part of it. I’ll be updating every review with some (hopefully) constructive criticism now that the festival is over.
Good luck in future game creations, everyone!