KMIST24 rvw

Thank you everyone for sharing together in this festival. Please find below some reviews, all of which will contain spoilers.

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PROSPER.0 by groggydog

The setting, in which you are a number-named drone for CORPOTech “requested to identify and fully purge any instance of poetry from the system. / This has come as a mandate from the Board Room. There is unfortunately no room for art of any kind in the Database of Subsumed Cultures”, lays it on so thick that I was buried for weeks, forced to learn the languages of the dark, burgeoning my pupils to cope until they covered each skullhalf and electrified my brain with every glint of silica or silver, crawling with the olm into underglows where the depths deepened into new understandings of themselves…

So though I did blinkrecoil reemerging into hypersurface aesthetics of “you are an efficient cog in the machinery of CORPO blight” versus a Shakespeare-quoting rogue AI promising to “bring the color back” through revolution, the allure here lies in the central mechanic of how you save the poetry from deletion. You’re given a chance to read a poem, peruse some data that thinly contextualizes the culture, then race to preserve individual words by clicking on them as the text is backspaced into oblivion. Holding the tatters, you’re given the chance to reweave the original meaning through remembrance of its impact upon you, painting with echoes to reimagine the song. These poems, themselves historical artworks which been crunchgrungled through several rounds of autotranslate, leave you grasping at their pixellated je ne sais quoi for almost the accident of meaning, syrupy saliences where “If the items don’t match, search To destroy what God in his mercy saves, The struggle is equally futile and weak Rather than receding waves.” In that struggle between destroying and saving, your click click curations of buried empires capture epicene crepuscula, scintillas of the loss of the whole: “moon climate eternal beauty feel the deception rapture stylized reality”.

Although the game gives you the opportunity to reconstruct entire poems from the salvaged words, I actually rather preferred the fragmentary ellipsicals that form as you tear out the words you could not live without, a la the complete works of a Greek, some Sappho voice choppy through the void: “Sometimes I can not say. / immortal / Sometimes lilies / All Peaceful”. Prosper.0 shrugs the same conclusion, this mixture of reverence and resignation, when the narrator complains about the difficulty of the task of encapsulating everything that is being lost in just a few words felt together: “Do you think that, if you had an unlimited amount of time and skill, you could truly write a poem that faithfully captured the spirit of an entire race? / Do you think that these poems, created by the races themselves, truly encapsulate the entirety of the spirit of their own people? / We’re all simply doing our best to reflect back the most miniscule portion of existence in a way that rings true, aren’t we?” In this tender tension, making patchworks of works you don’t understand to enshrine something, anything, against the nothing, “a complex and twisting horror” elegances the interplay of reading and forgetting, ghost whispers which will one day no longer haunt us is the sleeplessing fear.

The game forces you to confront how little of a text you can preserve in just the words, each poem you create a testament to the ones you could not, so naturally there’s an arcade mode. If poetry tetris feels a little flippant, then it harmonizes with the whole, the game gesturing at a frustration but delighting in the pure freeplay of its kintsugi.

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At the introductinon of this word, in this context,I feel there is nothing more the universe can show me. So long, and thanks for all the fish.

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Sometimes things just get crunchgrungled, you know?

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Crunchgrungling is an action applying to one visible thing.

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Well, there are certain conditions under which some things cannot be crunchgrungled.

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I love your writing, and am really appreciative that you reviewed my game.

and anyone who can teach me a new word has double the appreciation!

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Oh, wait, so PROSPER.0 wasn’t actually inspired by kintsugi? I’m actually really surprised to hear that, I figured that must have been one of the “seeds” for it.

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This is perhaps embarrassing to admit, but PROSPER.0 sort of came to my mind after watching the most recent Mission Impossible movie and then shortly thereafter reading Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin. There’s a game mentioned in there called “Emily Blaster,” I believe, that gave me the spark of an idea.

I truly wish I could say it was inspired by something as poetic as kintsugi. But no. Tom Cruise fighting an all-powerful A.I. construct is what did it.

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You Can Only Turn Left by Emiland Kray

When I first learned what REM actually meant, I struggled to sleep for a week. I’d start to drift off, then I’d shiverfreak up to tense and subterrified. The thought of your body paralyzing as some writhing nocturnal regime hallucinated you at random through blendered consciousness while your heartrate slipped closer to the totality of that unable to rise…

You Can Only Turn Left nods, pats me on the back, wordlessly passes me a cigarette (it offers me a light, but I politely decline, just like, holding the cigarette in my mouth, naïve goodfaith belief in this talisman of the vibes). At one point it just verbatim describes sleep paralysis. But mostly it tries to capture that half semilucid half semidreamy state that emerges not so much from liminal overlap as from waves sinusoidal.

The rangebound nausea uses it propulsive repetition to create a dizzy bedsickness where “Your gaze focuses on the world around you as you snap back from your daydream. Your eyes are sore and the skin on your face feels heavy. / There’s a dull hum in the room that’s not quite silence. The physical sensations of being awake are sharper than those experienced while dozing.” Before these aches can congeal into coffeegrounds morning grittiness, the tactility oozes away until “The world around you is grey and blue and everything is the texture of construction paper.” Back and forth we spill, asked again and again if we are sleeping or waking, less and less able to distinguish.

Through this hazebounce flutters memory fragments. Some of these lean towards the specificity of real recalled events, even as they threaten phantasmagoric details: “In the third grade, you raised and released tadpoles in your class. You remember standing shoulder to shoulder with your classmates as you surrounded the fish tank that previously was an incubator for the frog eggs. When they developed in the egg, their spine grew fused together in a ‘C’ shape.” In the reverse oscillation, we get fantastical episodes that mutter in concrete details that threaten to resolve the dangers lucid: “Stumbling forward in the dark, you see a snake made of composite board. You walk around the snake and you see that you can climb it! / It’s white and mustard yellow. It glitches between being serpentine to pixellated. Blocks seamlessly transform to scales before your eyes.” This glitchy indeterminacy underpins the core flinch of the germinating fear, which is the uncertainty that what you see will not resolve into something other. “Is this real” begs a pixelflickering line; in some sleepunwalking state the narrator startles awake having fainted on their face, chipping teeth, spewing blood. Sleep’s silky non veils you from the scarring permanencies that plash against your cuddled ups, anxiety of are you asleep at the wheel as absolutes race towards you. Loss of control threatens deeply uncomfortable gulfs below your step, through an unsettling caress from a serpent, through “Your arms and legs are pinned to the surface beneath you and your neck and head are cradled by something warm.” Several times the story threatens this starkening twist to the depths, but each time it oscillates back into the easy grays of twilight terrain, butterfly stomach beneath a blank mind: “Lined up in front of you was your grandfather, your father, your ex, your uncle, your aunt. / They stood in silence, untouching, unmoving but not frozen. They still drew breath through petrified lips.” This image, so ready to morph into a memory and its mental fractures, remains for the moment merely a black and white photograph, expressions as quiet as the object of things lost. How to resolve? Is something horrible going to happen? You descend a staircase towards a strange figure, stake in hand. Is it just your mind playing tricks on you? A crash jumps you awake: “Your cat has knocked over your nightstand and the lamp on top of it had shattered on the wooden floor. She ran away fast enough that you were confident she didn’t hurt herself.”

Perhaps in the yanking yet away from an answer, the trickling malaise muddies, bones the harrow: “Your nights generally consist of laying motionless in bed watching strange shapes grow and morph on the insides of your eyelids. You doze mostly, and hallucinate often. During the quiet night your mind tangles your dreams and memories together. Familiar mundaneity is combined with the fantastic. Sometimes it is charming, and sometimes it is horrifying.” So it goes, hinting at horror you’re increasingly too tired to dread. Even this statement of fact, so literal of intent that it makes the smallness of the aesthetic even more claustrophobic, seems to have run out of the energy to make you intuit it, simply printing the recipe for you to make it at home. Whenceforth from the nadir? There are several endings that tepid out the requisite hallucinatory annihilates, but they’re harder to reach then perhaps they need to be, so you loop through, back into the yawn in lieu of a scream.

This is where You Can Only Turn Left demonstrates a lack of direction that undermines its effect. Being performatively exhausted rarely makes you lively company, and the few noire flourishes, like using a physics check to test the dream level as if we’re in some Inception caper, instigate little intrigue beyond the requisite sigh back to tone. “To get to your 6:30 a.m. shift, you’d have to wake up around 5:30 a.m.” the game gestures with furtive intensity, forgetting that most of us, speaking of mundanity, wake up early and hate it.

If the ambition runs aground, at least this is credit to its taste, which refuses to settle into the creepypasta copypastes it sometimes mucks through. At its best, the half awake phantasms clayclump into Yves Tanguy drabscapes, making dream enough from drubs of color: “You woke up in the upstairs bedroom of the house that you grew up in. / There was no furniture in the room, and you even noted that there was no bed. Only the cold orange floor.” In this teasing of pure sight, we discover the work’s best line: “Rolling your skin off of your body, you are hot pink. The dead skin suit becomes a pile on the floor. / Your entire body emanates hot pink light. / You are fabulous and you are infinite.” Perhaps, with a few more loops through the enchantments of the inchoate, the author may guide us to a vision so frameable.

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Doctor Jeangille’s Letters by manonamora

What a wondrous, sappy tradition, the breathless letter. The rawly overworked declarations, with their extraexclamatory raptures of emotion which the voice could not carry so ostentatiously: “No words could ever express how deeply I miss your presence!! / No words could ever express how grand is my anger!!” An operatic tenor that confettis its cliches: “Memories of that morning still haunt me — seeing you, standing on the other side of that damned glass, your emeralds glazed by your sobs, your lips quivering, bidding me farewells. The breeze danced with your chestnut curls, untangling and entangling your so lovely locks. Your flushed cheeks, on which I had laid my kisses only moments earlier, were now beaded with tears … What torture it was to hear the whistle announcing the train’s departure, and to see you disappear in a cloud of smoke!”

With each curl of that smoke cursives new lines in the fine tradition of George Sand, fiery testaments to eternity that are undone with each tempestuous new whim, where sudden breaks of recrimination revel in the unbridling joy of a bridge burning to replace the yearning to cross it: “Viper’s tongue, insidious hatred, I despise you! I curse your name! You, who have given me so much pain… you have found the demise of my heart! Your words have trampled my whole being to dust. I wish you all the Evils of the Earth!” The finality feels good, until, a night sobbing into the pillow later, the throat throbs with the aches that there might be more to say: “I lay my broken quill at your feel, bowing until my witch’s nose reaches your unsullied slippers. My body, my heart, my soul… all my being at your disposal, for eternity. Make me your puppet, your doll, your slave!” Rather than stumble seasick from the waves’ violent rocking, we’re meant to enjoy the conflictions as Proustian pleasures, lavish each lurch of the ship, savor in each totalizing emotion the intoxications of love, flaring them to hyperbole so that they might still be felt over the uncrossable distance.

The game, alas, follows our lovers’ affectuations, which gesture more than they commit. The tropes which pulse the narrative are left unexpounded, fashionably prima facie. Nods of Parisienne glamor ghost the fallenness into provincial mundanity, but the decadent sensibilities are left offscreen, the province of the unheard interlocutor. Indeed, much of the relationship to which the entirety of our text is addressed responds only between the lines, a sense of a depth that rarely bubbles up to the surface to edify the reader. The absence at the heart of the story tautologizes. Similarly, there is a feint to Rousseauvian picturesque as a potential counterbalance against the complications of city life as our narrator makes peace with the slower pace of life, with “all these good people, with rolled up sleeves, working hard, coming and going all day long to bring equipment”, and slowly, rather than wistfully recollect capital absorptions, our narrator relates obsessively the small town small talk of lost sheep and a mother’s difficult birth as if they were fresh from the gossip sheets. In this could burgeon a character arc, but the hyphae never enmeshes with any concept more than the conjuration, merely a series of asides to render the setting less abstract.

A setting for what, we wonder, until aha a mysterious Comtesse moves in, “Pale as snow, with bloody lips, and eyes shining like polished gold.” If your eyebrow raised, congratulations M. Maigret, you’ve intuited the remainder of the plot, which dutifully marches through missing children called out upon the moors and a strange plague of itchy necks. If perhaps we’re meant to indulge in the thrilling dangers of supernatural romance, sadly we also find this relationship more implied than experienced, merely a series of foreshadowy nudges to drumbeat the compiling of tropes with the same listless sense of self evidence as they lead into a dramatic confrontation that makes you rather wish you weren’t being told second hand: “At the eleventh hour, Mlle Bouchon called me in her apartments (at the Marquis’s, hence), so to confess her scheming and plots during this dreadful affair. Oh, my beautiful Olympia, what else can I say except that you were entirely scrupulous about her! And of the villagers’ suspicions, too! Alice was not only in the throes of this mystery… she was the entire mystery herself!” With the requisite revelation out of the way, nothing is left to drive the text onto new incidents, so though “There are still a few knots in this affair to untangle, and documents to fill, before finally closing this chapter forever”, we exeunt upon the declarative: “a great void has been felt throughout the village.”

If the epistolary exuberances lose their pleasurably pulp sentimentalism along the way, so that we must simply take the idea of the story at its word, sometimes it’s the thought that counts. With a little whimsy, we may as well enjoy ourselves, for who can argue with such summery sentiments: “I wish for you a wonderful life, filled with new loves, joy, and health. Pray to remember spending as much time as humanly possible in the sun and eating lots of garlic!” If in some perfumes there is more delight, still all love is a rarity to be cherished beyond comparison.

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Holy moly that made my day!

Thank you so much for taking the time to play and write some thoughtful words about my entry ! I am so stocked about it !

:green_heart:

From the quotes, I think I know which ending you reached… I wonder if you’d have enjoyed Olympia’s ending path a bit more.

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I actually did Olympia’s ending the first time around, then the Comtesse’s ending. The Comtesse’s ending definitely reads more as a loss state.

Thanks for sharing your creativity!

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Oooh I see. Yeah that makes sense why one could read it that way. I’ve had another player thinking the opposite actually! But they also tried from the start to become a vampire so they were very happy with the outcome :joy:

:green_heart:

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Deep Dark Wood by Senica Thing

I’ve visited Slovakia only briefly, and glancing up at Bratislava Castle, which I didn’t have time to visit, made me wistful for all the other wonders of Slovakia I hadn’t time to visit, dreaming of a someday to return, wandering the mountain forests between Banská Bystrica and Kosice, discovering along a river some quiet village untouched by time, watching the stars slowly seep into the sky…

As life often goes, I have never returned. Those mountain forests remain redolent in my heart’s trove of pleasant could bes. So I am thankful for the opportunity to explore those forests, guided by the creative young minds of Senica, each one eager to show me where their dreams wander. Of course, our energetic explorers aren’t satisfied with a sleepy Rick Steves holiday: “You are entering a dark place full of unpredictable twists and hostile creatures,” we are warned, so we must tread lightly, trusting in our guides.

If you start feeling tentative, no worries, David is quick to set you at ease. Immediately we’re welcomed into a warm log cabin celebrating a Christmas Eve feast, graciously invited to join the festivities. This social fleetness, a polite world where everyone is very keen to introduce themselves and assist you immediately, is as charming as it is chipper.

Should you wish a little thrill of the danger initially promised, the Baily sisters gather around you all the forest’s predators, or at least those sufficiently pettable: wolves, foxes, bears, ravenous dog doctors. If you’re now worried about being eaten, you must also worry about what’s being eaten, with poisoned coffee and cupcakes galore. Even if you avoid these comestible anxieties, you might still wake up dead, and what’s worse, hungry.

Before we break for lunch, though, Hailey and Milka take us on a Halloween scavenger hunt. A couple of clicks through and a cursed doll was biting my hand while I was drowning beneath a lake. I take it that I’m losing the hunt. When I just managed to sweat myself back to safety, our guides reassured my halfdead delirium, “Don’t worry about it :).” So, sharing their relentless optimism, I returned for another try at the trophy, only to end up stuck in a basement with my simulacrum mom forcedrinking me Coke for the rest of my days. What a frightening world our authors have conjured! Strangely, this ending awarded me Main Trophy Number One. Encouraged by this progress, I tried again, this time happening upon a penguin I mistook for a handsome boy, reminding me that I need to update my glasses prescription. In my defense, penguins look like they’re wearing tuxedos!

Desiring a bit more control over my fate, I was happy that Leontine offered me the opportunity to help craft the narrative of IXI, who makes friends with all the animals of the woods and meadows. In each of these choices, we get to decide what happens to IXI in the encounter. Some of these animals, like a surprisingly carnivorous doe, are dangerous, but most are friendly, if sometimes a little lazy. Which, when you get to spend your days relaxing with plushy bunnies, sounds entire reasonable.

Unfortunately, not all animals have happygolucky lives, and Natalie takes us through the frustrations of a frog undertaking that most froglike of tasks, budget management. We must go grocery shopping and avoid expensive trips to doctors and dentists, so that our frog is free to enjoy the finer things in life, including this adorable line about painting a selfportrait: “It turned out very pretty (because you were on it) and cute.” Even with one eye on our bank account, we must find ways to avoid the frog’s everpresent ennui and cherish adventuresome moments, like seeing a sea turtle flying around a palm tree, which would surely leave David Attenborough lost for words.

Also keen to avoid sad moments, the Unicorn sisters soften the blow of their horror story with little baubles of cheer, like this one that lightens the mood: “You decide to explore the cellar and find a monster there. You become the monster’s dinner :)” Well, always look on the bright side of death, just before you draw your terminal breath! With this attitude, our jaunt about a haunted mansion doesn’t seem so bad: “What seemed like a horror movie can now turn into a weekend party. You order pizza and prepare for an overnight, lighting a fire to dry out your wet socks.” Sure, you get chased around a bit, but it never hurts to get a little cardio, and a fun round of hide and seek sure makes the time pass quickly. Why not learn to stop worrying and love the beast? Worked for Belle, at least. “You go back to your hideout, eat the pizza while the monster finishes its own dinner and then, with stomachs full, it is much easier to make friends … You watch some films on Netflix together and become friends for the time being?” Ah, the Netflix algorithm, a modern Scheherazade.

We wait for the beast to fall asleep, then make our escape. Needing to find ourselves safely on our way home, our final guide, Mushroom, winds us back through the forest. Additional dangers await us, of course: mysterious berries, mysterious old women, mysterious dinosaurs. Our guide, solicitous of our success, gives us multiple chances to evade these threats, always emphasizing which route might turn out the better, although emphasis on might: “I didn’t know that you couldn’t swim. If you had told me before, you couldn’t swim, I might have watched out for the rivers around…”

With a little more caution, I do manage to find my way safely on my way home, edified by all the adventures I’ve been taken on. Ďakujem za všetko!

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Kaemi, it is you and the reviewers team to whom all our thanks belong. After reading your piece and remembering all other lovely and truly arty feedbacks I’ve read at Spring Thing, I wonder whether these pieces are stored somewhere the same way as our games are. I will better store it myself for later translation (with your permission). It digests better when in mother tongue and attracts more effectively possible next years’ creative team. Thanks again. (our virtual forests and valleys are always here for you :slight_smile:

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Folks mostly post their reviews to IFDB (Interactive Fiction Data Base) for future reference, though often they tend to wait until after the relevant competition or festival is over so as to not influence new players (since a high or low rating might impact which games someone might choose to play, or subconsciously affect their opinions).

Here’s the page for Deep Dark Wood, and here’s the one for your anthology from last year!

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