Josh's Spring Thing 2021 Thoughts

I kinda liked it better when we had threads per game, felt like it got more discussion going, but I guess this is the way we’re doing things now…

Today I played:

Excalibur (J.J. Guest, G.C. Baccaris)

Disclaimer: I spent a few hours throwing together the “here’s where the boxes go” part of the CSS for J.J. a few years back)

The story of a possibly-apocryphal (?) 70s science-fantasy TV show, as told through a fan-wiki.


If you’ve seen much of J.J.'s work you probably have a good idea of what to expect from this. Well-written, a little zany and off-beat, with lots of quirky little human touches to the characters.

I did have a little trouble getting into this: it didn’t feel like there was a great introductory article, and I had a hard time following the action in the first episode’s page. But that could be a stylistic “this is a wiki written by crazy fans who sometimes leave out “obvious” things because everybody knows that” choice?

And it could perhaps have been a little more densely cross-linked in places.

But it was a lot of fun and does a great job of capturing the feel of a fan wiki. I must have spent a good couple hours chasing around through this maze.

Journey to Ultimate Fightdown (Havilah “mwahahavilah” McGinnis)

Set up like an isometric click-to-move-your-character videogame like the original Diablo or some such. The “connection” goes out just before the dramatic final battle and the “actors” are left wandering around talking to each other while they wait.


Sort of the usual “minions complaining about their corporate overlords” schtick, but relatively light and fun, not too dark. Each character has one “inventory item” (the player character has three) and you can trade the items around and talk to everybody about everybody else, and there are funny ending bits based on who has what item. If you give a character the “Crown of Agency” then they take over being the player and go on a rant about their pet peeve in lieu of the final battle. How many of these combinations did you write endings for! This is nuts.

A little slow-paced what with waiting for your character to walk around and the dialogue being cut up into tiny pieces that reveal one line at a time, but snappy enough that it’s not too painful the first time through.

I did several quick playthroughs to check out various characters’ victory rants and then one long one to get the connection restored with the original player still in control and to try to match up a whole bunch of items with characters. It says “short” but this could easily eat up an enjoyable hour or two…it did for me.


Copper Canyon (Tony Pisculli)

Teens in the wild west facing off against bad guys with guns.


The author says: “Developed for a game company with the brief to create a satisfying, branching narrative with relatively fewer, heavier-weight decisions.”

Yup, I can see that. This is fairly short, fits solidly in the kids-adventure-story genre, and was a nice bit of fun.

I feel like the writing was a shade young for the teenagers in the story, even allowing for the usual “write your protagonists a year or three older than your target audience” thing. And the text is presented maybe a third or quarter-chapter at a time. Ink deals with that fairly well but if it were written from the ground up as an IF piece I’d expect it to be presented in smaller chunks for pacing even in the stretches without choices. There’s a little of that here, but only at major tension points.

The choices are nicely handled, I thought: choose what you happen to feel like and the adventure keeps going either way. They’re all two-way choices but they all felt reasonably balanced, not falling into the “one is clearly better” trap.

The supernatural bit toward the end was a nice twist, but felt like it belonged. Sid Fleischman it ain’t, but it’s a fun, solidly-constructed adventure if you like kids books, which I definitely do.


Take the Dog Out (Ell)

A tiny cosy parser game

I’m not sure how I could have found out to do the thing that lets you find your shoes: I didn’t see a clue anywhere that the object you need to interact with even exists? Otherwise a nice tiny parser scenario. The last 5 points was a nice touch, as was using the clock/turn-counter.

I don’t think I saw the mild swearing that it’s tagged with? Though I wasn’t really watching for it.

Wintervale (Ethan Erh)

Something something the final days of a small fantasy village built in the bones of a dead frost dragon.

Big (?) fantasy Twine, needs proofreading

This is tagged as “short” but the author’s note says “be ready to set aside an hour or two.”

I suspect English isn’t the author’s first language, it’s sort of purple prose combined with lots of missing connecting words and odd phrasings (I’m pretty sure I know what you mean but that’s not quite how that word works kind of things) and misspellings. And it starts off with the usual fantasy infodump (though that’s in side passages so you can just skip most of it).

I didn’t quite have the patience right now so I set it down after about 20 minutes. Which is a shame, because the author obviously put a lot of work into this.

And you start off by getting a monocle that lets you see hot and cold spots in the current room, so it’s not entirely the usual fantasy cliches.

Rough, but feels like it might reward patience if you can look past the surface problems? I might come back to this one for another try later.