Last-Minute Reviews from THR

I thought I was the last person anyone would want to hear from regarding these games, being so inexperienced with the medium and gameplay idiom. More and more I found myself having Something To Say, though, so here we go with a few quick insights!

Fix Your Mother’s Printer

This game gave me a taste of how difficult it must be to build a player-morals game mechanic. The game gives you two or three options of things to text your mom to help her fix her printer remotely, but they’re fairly transparently nice or mean. I always chose the nice answer, obviously; I didn’t want to say anything that would hurt my mom!
Now, I did get the printer going, but I feel that the road to get there was pretty straightforward— just be patient and don’t put your own ego above her needs. I feel, however, that Mom herself was strangely uncomplicated in personality. There was never a moment when I couldn’t predict her reaction based on picking the nice answer!
Maybe not everyone has this problem (part of my specific neurodivergence?) but I kept expecting one of my innocent word choices to offend her, for reasons that would only have been obvious afterward. It would have been an interesting complication if you had to vary your answers, lest Mom start to think you were patronizing her or being sarcastic with your niceness.
Anyway, Mom is absolutely right about printers. They are unforgivably arcane by design.
Looking forward to the sequel, Program Your Mother’s 2005 TiVo.

Paintball Wizard

I came into this one with a bad attitude. I’m not a fan of frat comedies (“This Bra Bomb of yours had better work, Nerdlinger!”) and have honestly struggled to reconcile the continued appeal of Harry Potter with my belief in a basically good universe, so I expected two bad tastes that make waste together.
To my surprise, I found myself quite taken by the whole concept and ended up finishing with only a couple of peeks at the encoded hints, some of which I didn’t even need to decode!
As a non-potterhead, I may have been the ideal reader for this story, whose backstory almost felt more like Diana Wynne Jones in its flavor; I kept being reminded of Witch Week. These witches aren’t living in hiding from the rest of humanity, they’re an openly persecuted second-class citizenry— despite the fact that there’s apparently no magical blood or midichlorians or anything, and being a witch really is just about learning magic spells that anyone can do! At first blush this made me think, “but wait, now there’s no reason for them to be persecuted”… then I realized how much more realistic that was.
The game loop is great fun: Nail one of your paintball pals with a SPLORT spell, then go back to the loser’s lounge and hit them with a spell that lets you relive their memories through their own eyes, learning new spells along the way that will enable you to SPLORT someone else. Some other reviewers have seemed uncomfortable with this open (and consensual) merging of minds, but I found it a fascinating validation of the fraternity setting. What better way to make brothers out of strangers, than to share experiences of the past? The idea of building empathy by literally experiencing another’s most defining moments, what they thought and why they thought it— that isn’t just radical, it’s futurist.
I was able to acquire seven collectible coins. Did I miss an explanation for why I never got SPLORTed myself? Do you get that when you collect all the coins?
Looking forward to the equally suggestive wintertime sequel, Snowball Wizard. (Alt. title: The Snowhurler’s Apprentice)

We All Fall Together

This game put me in an unexpected and uncomfortable situation.
I’m not actually that big of an IF player. I’m a console guy, side-scrollers and RPGs are my jam, so I didn’t play most of the games that this community was built on. (Does Shadowgate count? Phoenix Wright? Trauma Center?) I think this gives me an advantage in some ways; being used to learning new controls for every game means I don’t get mad if a game doesn’t use standard parser lingo or whatever. The flip side of that is, what if I create something too similar to things everyone’s already played??
I’ve only made two IF games myself just yet, but my last one, The Hole Man, has a lot of things you can do in it: at one point, you find yourself falling from a tremendous height, seemingly for hours, and along the way you meet someone really cool who is also falling and is seemingly unafraid of meeting the fate awaiting the both of you.
This is ALSO the plot of We All Fall Together.
I don’t think this is ripping off my game specifically, of course. The Hole Man is still obscure enough that I’d be pretty surprised if Mr. Gonzalez had played it!
In a strange way, that coincidence makes the game the story of itself. Two people who’ve never met drifted close enough to have this same specific thought, and from there it’s either one’s choice to fall together or separately, but fall we do all the same.
(I do think mine was better, though— no offense!)
Looking forward to the cozy sequel, We All Winter Together.


Hey, we’re glad to have you pushing through some good reviews … as a bonus, we’re trying for 10 across the board before voting ends in 4 days, and your review of Paintball Wizard was the 10th! So yay there.


Thank you for your thoughtful review. I’m glad to hear you enjoyed “Paintball Wizard”

Regarding the protection Romeo experiences (never being removed from the tournament) the implication is that his relic of a pledge pin confers some magical protection.

Regarding the suggested title for the sequel I like it, but my next project is likely to be a parser game optimization puzzle inspired by Sugarlawn


Couple more! Why wait!

Detective Osiris

If you’re like me and you grew up obsessively reading and rereading Sandman, this game is right the hell up your alley. Or should I say, right the Field of Reeds up your alley.

Gods, ironically, are often portrayed with far more limited personalities than the humans they ostensibly rule over. Detective Osiris doesn’t do this, thankfully; in many ways it’s less a mystery than just a visit to the world of the gods, where you can hang out with them, talk about stuff and get a feel for their personalities. Animal-Head Crossing, one might say (except these aren’t the animal-headed forms, most of the time). My one major complaint: No Taweret? Where’s my perma-pregnant hippopotamilf?

The richly realized characters are a point in the game’s favor, but overall it’s mostly just conversations. I found a number of opportunities to go back and talk to the other gods and ask their opinions of characters I’d met since, which is nice; if nothing else, interactive fiction should provide the opportunity to get lost in research, Wikipedia-style, while still gently reminding you there’s a story being told as well. The plot does diverge a bit from the known myth of Osiris, but why else tell a story that’s already been told?

It would have been nice if there were a bit more puzzle solving and evidence gathering. Maybe my expectations are too colored by Ace Attorney there? It is a little clumsy to squeeze a straight-up sliding puzzle into a murder mystery, but confronting suspects’ lies with evidence and watching them squirm is always fun.

Knowing what I know about the evolution of Egyptian mythology and how various gods tended to merge over time, I’m curious about future games touching on the concept of Ptah-Seker-Osiris. We know Osiris was cut into pieces; what if he got jumbled up with other dismembered gods along the way?

Looking forward to the American mythology themed spinoff, John Henry, P.I.

Trail Stash

First off, is everyone aware that William A. Spooner was a real person? He was an Oxford don who died in 1930. Popular with his peers, but he had a way of transposing his thoughts before he could say them: once he recited First Corinthians as “For now we see through a dark glassly.” Most Spoonerisms attributed to him are much cleverer, but not his invention. One hopes that the Reverend, who resented his unpredictable speech pattern, might appreciate the immortality it has lent his name.

Anyway. Roofing might along!

I’ve played a number of this author’s games before this, and I’m always left with the image of that mind-twisting word puzzle from System’s Twilight having somehow metastasized, and now there’s lots of little word puzzles slowly growing games of their own. Like me, this is someone who read “The Mother Tongue” and “The Joy of Lex” a hundred times and is still finding new ways to play with words to this day.

Now I’m a chooser, not a parser. When I rate my games, I give an extra star for being choice-based. This is the first of Schultz’s word games to be in choice format, which means it’s already my favorite yet by default! And yet there are some persistent issues that are consistent with the other games in this series I’ve played.

These word puzzle games are always heavy on the interactive, but disappointingly light on the fiction. The game is one large maze of doors and keys, but there’s only just enough narrative in any given situation to explain why this spoonerism is solved by that spoonerism, and sometimes they come across as very contrived without a firm cushioning of literary fluff. If we had more of a backstory for this diverse world, more motivation for both player and NPCs, it would be a more orderly silverware drawer for your spoonerisms.

The other issue: maybe I’m just unobservant, but I felt like it was sort of random whether the keys I offered were accepted in spoonerized form or not. I mentioned the River puzzle from System’s Twilight; in this puzzle you’re given various words, and then must find ways to change and mutate them to form the answers to clues given elsewhere. I feel that this might have been a better setup for this game; if you were capable of spoonerizing your keys yourself, converting your own confusing word into one fusing curd before giving it to Middleless Muffet, the solutions would be more satisfying. In practice it comes across like you’re betting that the target may like either one of these two things you may be holding… sort of a Crow Dinger’s Shat dilemma.

(In fact, now that I’ve played We All Fall Together, it strikes me that games like this would work even better in Texture, with the drag and drop interface! That’s something to experiment with…)

I want to give this game an honorary Spring Thing-style medal for Author I’d Like The Most To Collaborate With. I love wordplay and puns, paraprosdokians and palindromes, and it’s always fun to write elaborate lore to tie disparate things together, like the Jig of Extraordinary Lentil Men. If Tom Swifty shows his face around here, I’ll stuff him so full of context he’ll croak!

Looking forward to the magic word square themed sequel, Sator Arepo Tenet Opera Rotas.


Build a Time Machine out of Everyday Kitchen Appliances and Travel Back to Correctly Connect Great-Grandma’s VHS to the Cathode TV so She Can Tape Matlock


Thanks for the review and ideas!

In the big picture, I was having trouble making things work in parser mode for a few years. And so when I saw a way to string together something reasonably coherent, I took it.

I have to admit I was fishing for big ideas like the above going forward, so this is a pleasant late surprise to me!


Thank you so much for playing and reviewing Detective Osiris! I really appreciate your feedback.


While I haven’t played it, I’ve been trying to read every review, and I believe a mid-comp update added explicit consent that was more implicit before.