JJMcC's SpringThing23 A-S-T-O-O-T

Wow, feels like IFComp just ended! Since I am just creative enough to assemble frameworks, but not creative enough to do anything different after I’ve done it once, I will again be reviewing according to a standard metric. Given the looser, shoot-from-the-hip sensibility of Spring Thing, I will not be numerically rating entries in my reviews. Instead, here is the Spring Thing criteria:

Spice Girl: Which Spice Girl is closest match to this game? Scary, Sporty (ie gamey), Baby(light/gleeful), Ginger (non-CWM/political) or Posh(Artistic Ambitions). Or None. Probably quite a few none.
Vibe: Playful, Dramatic, Hilarious, Dour, Pulpy, etc, will invent ratings as needed
Polish: Gleaming, Smooth, Textured, Rough, Distressed
Is this TADS? : Yes or No. I have biases here. :]
Gimme the Wheel! : If it were my project, the next thing I’d do, if anything.

I was able to keep a (mostly) daily pace during IFCOMP, not sure that will pan out here or not, but giving it the old college try. Also in deference to the criteria modifications, I am renaming my review thread. JJMcC’s Assessing Spring Things, Out-Of-Time.

I regret nothing.


I absolutely love this idea!




This is the best criterium I have ever encountered. Hands down.


I’m guessing you won’t be playing my game this year? :joy:

Seriously, it’s much better I promise you.


Lol, no way dude, you don’t get away that easy! Time is my enemy, not will-to-play. :]


Yay, excited you’re reviewing again! The new rubric looks awesome, I’m looking forward to seeing it in action.


I consider myself pretty Spicey, as this was my sister’s favourite band in the heyday, but I confess to some confusion.

What’s non-CWM? And whatever it is, are you saying Ginger is neither CWM nor political, or that she’s non-CWM and she is also political?

And what’s with the Posh artistic ambitions? This doesn’t seem the most representative quality of the dullest member of the group. (Except in Spice World the movie, where she was suddenly full of life).



It is admittedly a superficial criteria, more engaging the band members on their face-value iconography, rather than a deep personality dive. In the same way that if I were grading on say a KISS scale, I would rate Paul Stanley as “Love God” and not “Super focused grinder, kind of full of himself, middling talent.” (Interesting sidebar: that description could equally apply to Gene Simmons, with some additional kinky undertones. Those two are definitely brothers from another mother.)

Lol, ok my phrasing is wonky there. It’s the latter. Because right or wrong she was most associated with the “Girl Power” message, and the press seems to have decided she was the political one. CWM is Cis White Male, the status quo “Girl Power” usurps. From accounts I’ve read, she never intended that as her Hill To Die On but press gonna press. Also, that Union Jack dress.

Answered above I guess. Notwithstanding her stage presence, “Posh” suggests to me a (perhaps sly) gesture at elevated culture.

I also don’t find Scary Spice particularly terrifying, but there it is! :slight_smile:


Heh, thanks.

Mel B seems to spend a lot of time here (Australia) judging on things like The Voice or whatever, and appearing in weight watcher type ads. Not very scary.

Posh has consistently stunned me with how boring a person can be. Her interviews and manner and words would put anyone to sleep. She also used to purposely avoid smiling to keep wrinkles away. Maybe she still does.



Beat Me Up Scotty by Jkj Yuio
Playtime: 20 min, finished 76%

Off to the races! Using a personal randomizer for Spring Thing, and it did right by me. Great game to launch the Thing with. BMUS is a wryly funny word game. It’s what happens at a pitch meeting when 8 people are brainstorming, and seven say “Whatever we do, we have to avoid Guess-the-Verb. People hate that.” Then the eighth says, “Team, I got it! The game IS Guess the Verb!” I am just giddy at the subversive audacity.

Ultimately it is a word game/vocabulary test. But if a spoonful of sugar famously helps the medicine go down, what does a cascading deluge of sugar do? Makes you cackle like a rooster in a madhouse is what. You launch from one terse absurdist scenario to another with the perfect amount of lubricating text: almost none. And you guess the verb. All you know is, it starts with B.

The tone is just perfect for this game. It opens with comedically exaggerated denial of the obvious that builds on itself recklessly. I am a sucker for blithe denial of the obvious, when it’s not being used to corrode democracy. Then it smoothly shifts gears to serially casting NOT familiar characters into absurd scenarios, all to wring that B-verb out of you. I wasn’t counting, but you get 10-15 of these and you’re done!

This game knows exactly what it is, clicks along crisply, delivers the chuckles, and finishes without overstaying. Like an appetizer at a 5 star restaurant - it’s gone in a moment, but lovely while it lasts.

Only a few notes on polish: I found early inclusion of images set a graphical expectation the rest of the game did not deliver on. Would strive for a more consistent application: more or none. Really dug the combination of hyper links and parser input. Also liked the text color fading for older input and bright for new, though in a few instances the new text faded with the old. Would have gone with icons instead of loose “I” (inventory) “L” (look) and “U” (undo) letters in the corner. Nits really, a really smooth presentation.

Spice Girl: Baby Spice
Vibe: Playful.
Polish: Smooth.
Is this TADS? No.
Gimme the Wheel! I would focus on making failure more fun. The PASS capability is nice, keeps things from dragging which would be death for this thing. In one instance, I failed to guess, hit pass, and the transition text obliquely let me know what it was I failed to guess. It brought a knowing laugh at myself - of course that was the word, dummy! It seemed very much in the spirit of the game but I did not see that again. (Yes, I PASSed more than once.) I would do that every time. Alternately or additionally, I might add some code to detect multiple failed guesses (say, 3) then have one of the NOT Enterprise crew chime in with a hint. Both seem in the light spirit of the game, and would smooth out the drag of “I just can’t think of it!”


Insomnia: 26 Adventures After Dark by Leon Lin
Playtime: 40 min, 26+ Endings

Talk about right-footing me. Something about “An enthralling tale with more than 25 endings!” when the title proclaimed 26 just tickled me. The intro screen further cemented my good will by providing 4 hilariously disparate possible endings, only to sadly tell me no, those don’t count. Between the instructional text and these examples, the stakes and purpose of the game were communicated economically and amusingly: FIND ALL THE ENDS!!

After that it is a click-select exercise to explore all the narrative branches. Some very short, others long and extended, only a few reconvergent. The scope of the game is about right to keep all branches in your head, almost. Like most time loop games, after reading text once, you madly click past text on subsequent cycles to get to the new stuff. A bit of a chore for long paths, but the game is smart about rewarding your perseverance with skip-ahead, jump to branch-point, and achievement unlocks to keep things moving after you collect enough endings.

There is ample wit on display. Which is about the coldest, least convincing way to convey the pleasant humor of the piece. (“Oh really, ample wit you say? Well ha ha HA indeed.”) It was at its best when it ramped from mundane to transcendent dizzyingly fast. I chortled aloud at “Have you touched the divine?” Mostly I was just kind of smiling as I went.

At about the 30min mark, I started questioning myself as I continued, “Is this too long for what it is?” Just asking that question felt like a yes. The more interesting question is, “Why so?” Here’s what I came up with: the early promise of the game was 26 wildly divergent endings and paths, the humor residing in the disparity. I didn’t count, but it felt like the truly disparate endings (and make no mistake, they’re in there!) amounted to a third or less, the rest being variations on them. Meaning you get a few unique, then 4-6 variations of one, 2-3 another, 3-5 of another and so on. To me, this chipped away at the early promise enough to let me feel the time. And some of these variations were noticeably less ambitious than others. If they had been more audaciously varied, I think it would better justify the length.

The work was well polished, no noticeable bugs. Most interactions are single-screen easily digestible chunks. The early warning screen was notably longer, and by notably I mean I didn’t realize I needed to scroll for an embarrassingly long time. Otherwise, definitely a smooth presentation.

Spice Girl: Baby Spice
Vibe: Comedic Time Loop
Polish: Smooth
Is this TADS? No.
Gimme the Wheel! If it were mine, I would invest in committing to the bit: reduce or even eliminate the endings that are modest, reasonable variations. The more tortured the logic, the funnier it’ll be. Just test myself to see how many unconnected bananas end states and scenarios I could pack in. More than 25!


I Am Prey by Joey Cramsey
Playtime: 1hr, in tutorial mode with Sneak off, escaped!

Ok just up front, let me say I’m going to do my best to stay neutral on this but you should know my biases:

  1. I’m a TADStan. Full bore. While clearly pushing me one way, there is also some back pressure in that I can’t help but constantly think ‘ooh, nice use of OutOfReach Container object…’ ‘aah, they maybe implemented it this way…’ ‘ehh that prepositional variable is off…’ which fights engagement.
  2. Triggered is too strong a word. Maybe Tweaked. I get tweaked by ‘things stalking you’ games. It gives me anxiety way out of proportion for a guy typing on a keyboard.
  3. The TADS author board is populated by a wonderful cast of Mensch and SuperMensch. (And me.) Even among that Menschy population, Joey stands out among the Menschiest.

What I’m saying is you will have to judge how successfully I put all that aside. Anyway, this is surely the best game of the Thing, probably the year, maybe all time.

No, let me try to run at that again.

The setup is, you are a new life form in a sci-fi closed base setting, pushed into a life and death game of cat and mouse by a chatty but mostly unseen Adversary. WHY ARE WE ALWAYS THE MOUSE IN THESE THINGS??? There are two supporting docs you should absolutely secure before playing. A map and a rule book. I was a bit put off by the rule book. It is certainly complete. It also throws a LOT of information, gameplay reveals, and commands at you, before you have any game context. I definitely felt information overload reading it, the anxiety of needing to remember lots piling on my ‘I don’t like being prey!’ anxiety. Which is weird, because I am also a board game guy, and it certainly is not excessive in those terms.

On the other hand, the map is both cool and vital. Don’t try to play without it.

After the preliminaries, you wake up from your sci-fi cocoon and must parser your way to freedom! Despite the nervous wreck it made me, the stalking aspect is absolutely crucial to this game. Between that and the Turn Counter (or, as I though of it, the Stalker Progress Tracker) you are immediately focused on optimizing everything you do. Given I was playing in baby mode, maybe I didn’t need to be so nervous but whatever. The environs are economically described, in the sweet spot of having personality but not weighing down with repetition. There are some ‘gamey’ aspects (like letter coding segments of corridor) that at first feel weird to read, but quickly settle into transparent map orientation shorthand. Though god forbid you don’t have a map. (To be fair, there are accessibility hooks I did not test drive that may alleviate this.)

I really dug the parkour element of the game, though I chafed slightly at calling it ‘parkour.’ Practically speaking, what it amounts to is finding hidden areas and exits in rooms by scrambling over stuff. That’s cool! As a word though, ‘parkour’ evokes a kinetic, acrobatic dance of sorts, and this is not that. This is finding hidden areas and exits. What it does do is make even the most spartan of rooms intriguing with possibility, and often rewarded! There seemed to be a few glitches once you parkoured (yes, I will be making up verbs in this series of reviews too), specifically around what was visible/reachable from different perches, but rarely and nothing fatal. At least on baby mode.

Two more quick quibbles. One, I think the Adversary needs just a little more spice. The impulse to let the reader’s imagination do the work is good, as I think we are meant to be unclear whether they are human or not. (Sidebar, there are some enigmatic things you can find that beg all kinds of intriguing questions.) It would be even better with just a few unexplained and disconcerting details. “The voice somehow catches when making glottal sounds, in a way human tongues never do.” “Every now and then, a dragging sound accompanies the footsteps.” “I catch a glimpse of cold, unblinking eyes. I’m not sure if it’s a trick of the light or if they glowed with a frigid inner light.”

Second, I think the search puzzle could be a little harder. In assembling all pieces of your getaway, you find over half of them in one place! Maybe there was a randomization at play or maybe it was baby mode?

Yeah, I’m overcompensating on the negative. I really had a blast playing this, and in particular liked the additional nuance of the parkour mechanism. Notwithstanding the mechanic’s name, it made what could have felt limiting and sterile breathe a bit with its own vibe. And I didn’t mention the stealth capabilities which were also crucial to this! You can manage or be tripped up by slamming doors. You can peek into and around areas before bumbling into your pursuer. There are atmospheric cues that help you gauge how close your pursuer is. All of these really push you into the role in an effective way and make the game feel more fair. While I didn’t include my IFCOMP metric of Would play after comp? I definitely will.

Prolly also devour the source code like a novel.

Spice Girl: Scary Spice
Vibe: Controlled Panic
Polish: Smooth
Is this TADS? YES, oh gods of my fathers! Lo’ the clouds didst part and the skies were rent with sweet music… sigh

I feel like my randomizer, by putting this so early in my queue, kind of sabotaged this bit. Stinkin’ algorithm.

Gimme the Wheel! While spicing the villain seems an obvious next step, if it were me I think I would instead focus on internalizing the rule book into the game. Not just cut and pasting it into HINTS/HELP, ( I mean definitely do that, but the author seems to already have that planned) but introducing mechanisms through early gameplay. “He’s almost caught me! As I duck into the Lab, I reflexively SLAM the door behind me. I hear his satisfying cry of pain and the sound of feet staggering. That gave him pause, I reflect with momentary satisfaction. What do I do with the bought time?” If narrative alone can’t get the job done, “(I have unlocked SLAM DOOR!)”

jjmcc_iap23.txt (80.6 KB)




You are far too kind! :grin:

You are far too kind!! :face_with_spiral_eyes:

Oh. Oh, you are going to have an absolute trip when I release the source code! :laughing:

Heyyyy, same!! I had a really difficult time testing this, as a result, lol!

I 100% understand. The original design was going to be more accurate to the name, but then stuff happened, lol. But yeah, I absolutely get this; solid point! :smiley:

(I have so much lore that I plan to hide in the post-comp version, oh my god.
I have this whole story written up, but the comp version had to be more gameplay focused. I am positively exploding with excitement!!!)

It is random, but the randomness does seem to have a noticeable weighting, which you correctly point out. Thank you for the feedback! :grin:


I’m so excited to post the source code for this. You have no idea.

You’ve read my mind!! :grin:


Sorry, I’m sleep-deprived as I respond to your review, so there was a delay until I remembered I wanted to respond to this too:

So, so much credit goes to the amazing testers that helped me out.

Seriously. I had an absolute rockstar crew. I credit all polish to them.


The Kuolema by Ben Jackson
Playtime: 3hrs, finished, good guess author!

IF in Google Forms. What even is my life right now? Of course, in five years, I’ll be typing “Live IF via GMAI, what even is my life right now?” I guess I should enjoy the ignorant bloom of youth. (Because that phrase TOTALLY applies to me.) Look even if Kuolema were terrible, the chutzpah of a Google Forms implementation alone would rack up goodwill points from me.

But its really not. Terrible I mean. Yes, it’s an abandoned mystery ship carrying a terrible secret on stormy seas. But it’s a pretty good abandoned mystery ship carrying…etc. Roger Ebert famously said (paraphrasing) “It’s not WHAT it’s about, it’s HOW it’s about it.” And Kuolema has a long laundry list of things it does really well. For one, it feels like a well thought out ship, inhabited by a well-thought out crew. Every location has a reason for being, its absent inhabitants real motivations and impact on their environs. The puzzles have at least some rational motivations, though lordy the code pads. The mystery is capably rendered with the requisite twists that satisfy, if not amaze. The overarching plot is that nearly impossible sweet-spot balance of grounded and goofy. All of this is upper tier IF stuff.

I think though, its not so secret strength is its art. The rendered style is moody, a little dark, but consistent and immersive. Most especially the artifact and document art, which smoothly integrates you into the experience. You get to see corporate letterhead, “hand” written journals and notes, technical manuals, promotional posters, scientific and casual computer screens, and all of it feels perfectly designed.

In most ways, it might as well be a worthy choice-select IF from any number of systems. So let’s talk about the strengths and challenges of the GF implementation.

The game goes out of its way to, ungenerously, apologize, or more generously, set player expectations for the GF experience. The first caveat that drew extreme skepticism from me, was the statelessness of it: the game would only intermittently remember your inventory, or things you knew. You would have to track them on your own, in a separate document. Pencil? Paper? Like a STREET CORNER BOOKIE??? But man did I get whiplash turning around on that. Turns out, the quickest way to get me to engage deeply is to write stuff down. I actually knew this about myself, I often map as I play, but to be told I HAD to was a shock. Regardless, once I accepted the inevitable, I got into a rhythm of game screen/note screen that was just fun and immersive. Look, spreadsheets are a hobby of mine, leave me alone.

So points for GF on that one. Definitely making a limitation into a strength. On the downside, statelessness also meant that revisiting locations, you were often treated (with minimal shading) to outright repetition. You can have the same conversation as many times as you want, (mostly) without acknowledgement that you’ve had it. To be fair, GF is far from the only platform to see games with this weakness, and even games that successfully mitigate it, do so with caveats of their own. Minimal points off.

I think I’d call it an unmitigated success, except for one thing that bugged me all out of proportion. In order to advance the story, most pages would close with a radio button list of options, and a BACK/NEXT button pair. Meaning every time you wanted to move on, you needed two clicks: radio-select option, next button. That is twice as many clicks as necessary. It didn’t help that oh so frequently a page down was necessary too. It sounds small but man did it grate! I really enjoyed the game, but I think I would have enjoyed it twice as much with half as many clicks. Could GF really not support direct links there? Or was this a perverse choice by the author? What did I DO to them???

(No significant comment here, but feel compelled to convey the abject terror this caveat brought out of me: “If you accidentally use your browser’s back or refresh/reload controls, it will entirely refresh the page, taking you right back to the start.” Back/Reload is as unconscious as blinking for me.)

As far as polish, the artwork and page layout lent a really professional air to the proceedings. The only thing that kept it from being gleaming was some wonkiness in the progress tracker. I think maybe I solved a few puzzles “out of order” and got to watch my progress meter dance back and forth a bit. Not a deal breaker, but definitely a distraction. Don’t start me again on the radio buttons.

Spice Girl: Scary Spice - I may never look at Refresh buttons the same way.
Vibe: Pulpy
Polish: Smooth++
Is this TADS? No.
Gimme the Wheel! Dear God I would drive myself to the madhouse fixing that double click. I would engineer a hostile takeover of Google for the express purpose of deploying their entire software development capability on only this until it was fixed. If that’s what it took.


Thanks for playing all the way through and for writing up your great review!

Brutal :rofl:

Thanks, this perhaps gives a clue as to my day-job :wink:

Really glad you ended up enjoying the forced note-taking! I appreciate it’s not for everyone, but my hope is that in doing so, it makes you feel like you’re taking part in the ‘detective’ work.

Ah, not much I can do about that one. Google has made a few slightly odd UX choices with Forms. Occasionally the whole tool can feel a little ‘work in progress’ - they only recently added the ability to use Bold and Italic text (which this story kind of relies on). Adding something like simple variables would be a (literal) game-changer. Perhaps one day they’ll release an IF friendly fork or something, where they address all these downsides - well, you never know!

Fair point, I’m guessing that was towards the end of Part 2? That part is the most non-linear with several objectives on the go that can be solved in pretty much any order - so the progress bar was always going to be a little ‘best guess’. I think the simplest solution is for me to remove one of them - that way it won’t be possible to see them in the wrong order… done. Thanks for the feedback!


Aesthetics Over Plot by ro-han
Playtime: 20min, 3 endings

This entry lives up to its title, without doubt. There is a loose plot about finding a job, but so not the point of it. This is another (the third so far!) IF patterned after a joke: setup and punchline, no goal but to make you laugh. This one struggled a bit to find its footing, I felt. It is rife with misspellings, awkward sentences, and questionable grammar. An early gag about mistaking computer for social networking was structured too loose to land, but there was something there. It just felt like the language was making me do a lot of the work to find the humorous core of the idea.

When comedy is most effective on me, not only do I not have to work, the language is a full partner in laughs. It is the sharply honed needle that injects that uncut, industrial strength funny right into my brain. Which is not to say that there were no chuckles. In selecting a book (after selecting your wardrobe) to prepare for your party-cum-interview-opportunity, two options are:

2. How to gain friends and influence people by Dale Carnegie :
    Talk about networking while networking to network the network
3. Business at the speed of thought by Bill Gates:
    Business business, business is to business what business.

The first one tickled me, but right on its heels I was brought up short by “I don’t know how to read that.” There were some other amusing bits: the protag’s spider sense, continually misnaming the ex (once I realized it was not a typo), and especially one ending reveal about your host. The sum of these and other gags leaves little doubt that the protag is not going to be a model employee wherever they land. For all the successful gags, there were as many or more that elicited “I think I see what they were going for there” instead of a laugh.

It’s short, as far as I can tell at most 3 potential jobs you choose from, then done. While the selection of potential bosses was daffy, I felt they could be MORE widely disparate to really land the absurdism. A sentient cactus and an urbane donkey felt somehow more similar than different to me? Maybe that’s just me?

All in all, I found I was working too hard through the language to find the humor. There were a lot of frenetic, goofy ideas on display, but more often than not they were undermined by the sentences they had to inhabit. It was thankfully short, a soul of brevity and all. But I appreciate it more when I don’t have to work so hard for my laughs.

Spice Girl: Baby Spice
Vibe: Playful
Polish: Rough
Is this TADS? No.
Gimme the Wheel! For sure spell and grammar checking are the next stops if I drive this bus. It would both sharpen the laughs and improve the polish in one fell swoop.


It was in fact there. But the real reason I’m responding again to this thread is to say…


Those were the two words notably missing from my review. As a dude that devoured Cussler back in the day, this is meant as high praise.


High praise indeed - thanks!

1 Like