Charm reviews SeedComp!

I didn’t get my entry done in time to submit it to SeedComp (here’s hoping for Spring Thing!), but that means I’m free to write some reviews with much less conflict of interest! This is my first time writing reviews like this, so they may come slow and some may be a bit short, but nonetheless they will be.


free bird. by Sarah Willson

Full disclosure: this game did use my seed “Room; Closed Door,” which challenged authors to create a room escape game using only nouns and adjectives—no verbs. free bird. combines it with another room escape seed: “Feathered Fury” by Amanda Walker, which instructed authors to write a game where you play as a bird of paradise trying to escape from the hideout of a group of poachers. This combo didn’t even enter my mind as I perused the seeds, but this game combines the two with impressive synergy. Each passage is a series of adjective-noun pairs, mostly disconnected from each other to communicate our feathered protagonist’s individual isolated impressions. This immediately puts us in the bird’s headspace both in terms of cognition and confusion, as it’s hard to extrapolate much past the limited information we get.

Still, the protagonist manages to display a good bit of personality. When we look in a mirror early in the game, it describes itself as “handsome macaw.” It has both a good deal of empathy and of pragmatism, able to recognize other animals’ plights and wanting to help even in the narration outside of the player’s choices. It can also pick one thing up at a time in its beak to use as a tool, which makes for some interesting puzzles. I will admit there was one point towards the end where I felt a little stuck, but exploring further revealed sufficient cluing that I’d missed.

The author has described free bird. as “hopepunk,” and I think that’s a perfect descriptor for a story that grows to depict a communal effort to seek freedom, make positive change, and enact radical kindness. I think we could all use a bit of that—even those of us who can’t fly.


I really appreciate this kind and thoughtful review! Your seed was very inspiring, and I’m glad my hopepunk intentions came across. :slight_smile:


Right? I never would have seen the connection, but the verbless writing really helps make it clear that the PC isn’t human in a really charming way. My experience with parrots (which is considerable) really squares with the PC-- birds are really object-oriented.


Well, I had hoped to get a lot more of these done a lot sooner but let’s see if I can cram a few more in before the voting deadline.

After the Accident by Amanda Walker

(Full disclosure, I beta tested this)

This game is challenging. Not because it’s hard—in fact, what in other games might constitute puzzles are simple and well-clued enough that they really cease to be puzzles at all (but then, puzzles are far from the point of this experience)—but because of the core emotional truths it communicates.

The first half of this comes from the PC’s state after the accident itself, which is full of impressionistic fragments tumbling over each other unpunctuated, everything coming too fast and too bright in waves of sensory detail and memory that, at least at first, add up more to overwhelm than actionable information (this is praise). The second half is the meat of the story, as we see some of the scenes that led up to this moment, minutes or days or weeks before.

I won’t spoil what’s going on past that, other than to say that I found the main NPC detestable to the point where I sometimes had trouble sympathizing with the protagonist’s plight—I couldn’t really see much reason for them to have stayed for so long, having only the information presented in the game. This is at least partially due to my own experiences with people like that NPC (I would use his name, but we never learn it—which I think is a good choice), and my knee-jerk unwillingness to engage with them. However, I did love how tightly bound together their story was, with Chekhov’s guns being established backwards in time as the world of the present slowly expanded around us.

Overall, I think this game is worth your time, so long as you feel you can safely engage with the tough emotions and experiences at its core.


Thanks for the great review, Charm! I’m looking forward to your Spring Thing game (reciprocal testing is so awesome)!