Graham's incoherent Spring Thing cries

Here are some thoughts on Spring Thing games, as I play through them.

I tend to be positive in my reviews, because I like playing games and I know how much work it takes to create something. I play on my phone, which means I tend to avoid parser games, and I am bad at puzzles, so I tend to like narrative.

I won’t play all the games. I’ll just pick ones that I think fit whatever headspace I’m in and however much time I have.

Oh, and other reviewers are posting “What kind of X is this game?” at the end of their reviews. I like this, so I’ll post the cover of an independent roleplaying game that I think has a similar vibe.



I liked this a lot. It’s weird fiction done well.

The weird bits are unusually written and they avoid cliché: for example, I haven’t seen a golden ichor leaking from dead people before. (I write weird tabletop roleplaying games and I’ve seen a lot of cliché!)

It helps that there isn’t any Lovecraft here. This is a good for two reasons: one, he’s a massive racist and I’m glad to see him ignored; two, you never get that moment where it becomes clear which Lovecraftian trope is being referred to (“Oh, they’re Deep Ones”).

Maybe I’d have preferred the weird elements to be introduced more slowly. I think the first weird element is the “ontological engine” with “occult symbols”, which I took a moment to adjust to. And, although I liked the weird elements, I’m not totally sure I was creeped out by them. Perhaps that doesn’t matter.

I liked the metaphor of growing up as a monster for queer experience, especially the street harassment scene.

Overall, I really enjoyed this, thanks very much. It reminded me of this…



This was great. It’s a well-written romantic piece, about the tension between a romantic relationship and destroying a beloved theatre.

In the early parts, I liked that it wasn’t obvious which option to take. Do I ask Kel what he’s doing, lying on the floor, or is that prying? Is it fun to tease him or not? Later, some options seemed to be clearly better than others (should I be slightly dismissive of Kel or really dismissive?).

I sometimes felt the story was steering towards a “happy ending”, in which the two stayed together, and I wasn’t sure that was necessarily the best ending. Was there an alternative happy ending in which the two realised they weren’t really meant to be together? (I do know there are alternative endings in which the couple split up - but it felt that they were phrased as the “second best” endings).

The UI worked well. There were just a couple of moments that I found a bit difficult: first, I’m colour-blind, and I couldn’t always tell the difference between black and red, which meant I couldn’t tell the difference between a non-clickable “Yaan” in bold black and a clickable “Kel” in red; second, there was sometimes an arrow to continue the text, which I found a bit hard to click on.

I liked the switching between viewpoints, which seemed seamless. (Edited to add: I’ve read Josh’s thoughts on this and my reaction was rather different. I liked the text “You are Yaan”, “You are Kel”, because it made it clear what was happening!).

Although the text says that it’s based on a novella, I didn’t feel I was reading a novella-in-game-form, and it worked well as interactive fiction.

It’s a great game, thanks very much. It reminded me of…



Weird space fiction is my jam. This game reminded me of Stanislaw Lem’s Solaris or perhaps the film Moon.

I liked the story. I liked the duplicate people and the messing with identity. I didn’t understand the whole plot although, if I’m honest, the writing was quite long and I did find myself skipping in places. That’s a personal preference and it’s something I’ve found before with games written in a similar way.

I liked the UI, including the buttons that flickered between “Advance” and another word.

That was an interesting one and it’s made me think. Thanks for putting it together. It reminds me of…




Well, holy shit. This is a whole game written in Google Forms.

It’s really good. It’s set on board a ship and there is a real sense of place about it, especially the final rush upwards to escape. It’s a puzzle game and I’m not usually good at puzzles, but they were fun and - with one exception, see below - they seemed fair.

This is clearly an experimental game to see whether you can write IF within Google Forms. So it seems silly to criticise the reasons why Google Forms didn’t work perfectly for this, but here they are anyway.

One, my Internet went down in the final section and I needed to play the whole of Chapter 5 again (it helped that all my previous responses were saved); two, it was frustrating in the first chapter to try lots of doorways, only to find they needed keycards, which meant I needed to keep clicking “Back”; three, I managed to start Chapter 2 twice, by talking to the guy in Cabin 2 twice; four, there was no way to save of course; five, there was just a general feeling that I couldn’t walk away from the game, and indeed some memorisation was required (e.g. remembering what Dr Vrieman’s original vision, which was written in his diary). I did like the clues when you entered the wrong passphrase (e.g. “You might want to try the Science Lab”).

The writing was excellent and so were the illustrations. I’m amazed how much work went into the game.

The walkthrough was also great. I only needed to use it once and I think it’s helpful if I spell that out. In the final puzzle, you’re required to find a makeshift piece of wire in your backpack. I was absolutely convinced I’d found it, because there’s a piece of spiral wire that binds one of the diaries together. I tried typing in “wire binding”, “diary wire” and so on, until I eventually consulted the walkthrough and found that the solution was totally different. I wonder whether it would be worth changing the image of the diary so it’s not bound with a wire?

There was a brief reference to cosmic horror in the story, but it wasn’t really explored. It felt like a change of tone, given that the game was mainly a thriller. I wondered whether the game would work without the sea monster.

This was a lot of fun and was obviously a huge piece of work, thank you! It reminded me of…


Hi Graham, thanks so much for your review, appreciate all the comments! As you suggest, it’s a bit of an experiment, Google Forms will never be a perfect IF format, but it does have a few strengths and I’ve done my best to work with them.

Due to it being an online only medium, I’ve been able to go in and make a few tweaks based on your comments to help improve the experience (I do hope that’s not considered cheating?). I’m impressed you only stumbled over a single puzzle - and that’s the one where you actually managed to find a solution I hadn’t considered. I’ve now adjusted accordingly so others won’t suffer the same fate!


Minor improvements and bug fixes are not only allowed but encouraged! It improves the experience for everyone.

Making large chunks of new content would be discouraged, as such last-minute content is often very buggy and if done right provides an advantage other authors didn’t have.


Sounds fair, thanks for clarifying, yes these are definitely small ‘user experience’ tweaks only.



This is a game of bite-size fiction, in which your choices lead to different stories. The idea is that you play several times to discover all of the stories.

I liked this. I had fun exploring the different choices. It helped that the game was genuinely short and the writing slick, which made it quick to get through several playthroughs.

Although the game starts in a modern-day corporate world, the stories you end up with are very different from each other: kidnap by aliens, being blown up, etc. So this isn’t about exploring different aspects of a larger story: it’s about finding several very different stories.

The corporate story is, I think, deliberately “normal”. This meant I wasn’t always invested in it: there was a limit to how much I cared about the"deal" I was putting together! I wondered what the game would be like if it was set in a more fast-moving genre (e.g. a spy drama, a murder) and if the individual stories had more coherence.

I had fun exploring, thank you! I can’t think of an indie roleplaying game with a similar vibe, but here’s one that does something unique with storytelling.




I really liked this game.

It’s a Gothic story, based around an arranged marriage. It successfully creates a wonderfully bleak atmosphere and there are genuinely chilling moments, which I won’t spoil.

The textual tricks (shaky text, different typefaces etc) didn’t really work for me. When I see something in a typeface that’s intended to signify horror, it often find it takes me out of the game, rather than creeping me out.

I also wondered how interactive the game really was, other than one final choice. Oh, and a tiny point on the beginning: I found it difficult to answer the two opening prompts to create your name, which meant that - on my first playthrough - my character was called “Violet Ointment”.

Like I say, though, I genuinely liked the game. I thought it was strongly written and told the story it wanted to tell. It reminded me of this classic indie roleplaying game…


I did actually have some spots where I was worried people might think ‘oh there’s zombies’ and get into the mindset of zombie apocalypse, which isn’t really what’s going on at all, so trying to avoid just replicating common tropes of weird fiction and horror was definitely something I was trying to do. I’m glad that seems to have worked.

Anyway thanks for the review! I think I’ve heard of Bluebeard’s Bride but I haven’t looked at it at all.



This is fascinating. From reading the blurb, the intention is to tell a story through a To Do list.

It’s very successful in this. Crossing off items from the To Do list is satisfying and makes for a lovely, low-maintenance way to navigate a narrative. From playing the author’s Adventure Snack games before, I’ll guess that a secondary intention is to create a short but satisfying narrative, and the To Do list is ideal for this.

I liked the minimal sound design too, with the hog noises, the swiping sounds and the ambient background sound that fades quickly.

You don’t get the time to do everything on the list, so you must choose what to prioritise. I can see this working really well, but for me it didn’t quite work here. I’ll try to explain why.

There were three “essential” tasks to do: care for the hogs, clean their waste and guard against bikers. I basically found that the only way not to die was to do these on alternate days. So one day I’d care for the hogs and guard against bikers, then the next day I’d clean waste and do one of the tasks I needed to progress my career, and so on. This became a bit mechanical: it was more of a memory game, making sure I didn’t leave a task undone, than an interesting decision in what to prioritise.

(Now I’m wondering what an alternative would be. You can imagine a situation in which, when you leave the toxic waste, this creates a new task you need to do - e.g. “disinfect the hogs” - rather than a chance of death. So it opens up the story rather than stopping it. Hmm.)

The comedy style didn’t really work for me. That was surprising, because I played the author’s game Use Your Psychic Powers At Applebees, which also had comedy names, but the characters had heart and the location felt real. Here, I found the references to “Doody” and “Uncle Crankpot”, together with some of the jokes along the way, took me out of the game.

That sounds like a lot of negatives for a game I thought was pretty successful. For me, this was an experiment in telling a story using a To Do list and I thought that worked really well. It’s making me wonder what other stories you could tell in the same way. Interesting.

Here’s another apocalyptic game, which has less comedy but I absolutely love.



Thanks for playing and giving a thoughtful review, @Graham! I really appreciate it.



This is an atmospheric and interesting mystery.

I’m fascinated by Victorian London and this game felt strongly rooted in this setting, which is a tough thing to do well! Even more impressively, it didn’t stick to familiar locations (e.g. the Houses of Parliament) and didn’t feel cliched. I appreciated that the lead character. an elderly Asian woman, lived out towards the docks in Shoreditch.

I wondered whether British, rather than American, spelling would have fitted the setting better. It was a bit jarring to read words such as “traveling”. But only a little.

The characters were engaging, too, and felt believable.

The mystery itself is a clever one and I enjoyed figuring out what happened while exploring the crime scene. After that, the text tells you the answer to the mystery as the game progresses, and I admit I’d have liked the chance to figure out what had happened for myself.

The main challenge was remembering the keywords that the text gave you (which was easy for Astley’s Circus but much harder for 123 Spaulding Road). For me, then, it became a memory game, and I wondered whether that was the intent.

The author writes that this game was prompted by the question “What if interactive fiction had been invented after the development of the smartphone?”. They also say “Make sure you take good notes!”. I feel there’s a tension between these two, because if you’re playing casually on your smartphone, it’s hard to take good notes. I played on my smartphone while sitting on a coffee shop. I didn’t take notes, because I’d have needed to switch back and forth with another app.

It’s a nice game and I wanted the story to continue! Since it’s an investigative game, here’s a tabletop roleplaying game with fascinating investigative mechanics.




This is written in Python, which is why I wanted to try it. Python is a simple but powerful language, so it seems really well-suited to IF.

The game is ostensibly about writing. Each turn, you get two choices: “Write” (W) or “Reflect” (R). You can also chain those choices: WW, WR, WWW and so on. But you can’t write or reflect too many times in a row…and so it quickly becomes a little puzzle.

It was fun! I started by making notes, then fired up an Excel spreadsheet, and it was satisfying to solve.

I’ll just note a couple of things: first, I largely stopped reading the text in favour of solving the puzzle, which is probably fine; and second, it took me a while to realise I was meant to be finding valid sequences, and it finally clicked when I read the help.

I can’t really think of an independent tabletop roleplaying game with a similar vibe, so here’s one that uses a tower of dice, called Hell for Leather. As a fun fact, there is another roleplaying game called Hell 4 Leather, and that’s because both games came from a competition called “Two Games One Title”, in which…well, you get the idea.

Hell for Leather


Thank you very much for your kind review! You bring up a very good point about taking notes. I wanted to emulate the actual crime-solving process by having the player write down clues during the investigation. In this day and age, most folks (myself included) use a phone to take notes. (It feels weird just saying that. 25 years ago using a phone to take notes sounded like crazy talk.)

For the another game like Black Walrus, I might code a kind of interactive detective journal. Thank you again!


Thank you so much for playing and for the lovely review!

I appreciate this, as that’s exactly what I was going for. :smile:


RE: Etoliated Light

I actually really liked the prompts. Usually when presented with “what is your name?” prompts I just mash my fist on the keyboard. Here, I took the time to identify as “Bilanca Mezcal.”

(It may seem like I am randomly answering old posts. Actually, I wait until I publish a review before reading others’, which attaches me to old posts. It’s new to me!)


Completely understandable. You want to come to your own review fresh, with the experience of the game still untainted by other people’s words and thoughts. I try to do this too, but not as a rule. Sometimes I’m just too curious…


Ha, I’m just working up my review of Protocol and figured I’d check what others had written to see if there was anything obvious about the plot I was missing – your sentence here made me laugh because I have this line in my notes:

This is like a Lem novel – kinda Moon-y, too.