Mike Russo's Spring Thing 2024 Reviews

The Truth About PRIDE!, by Jemon Golfin

I’m not quite sure how folks decided Bitsy should become an IF platform – from its Gameboy aesthetic, I’d imagine it’s mostly used for throwback action games? – but I’m glad that they did. Sure, its affordances seem to encourage the use of graphics and keyboard-based (but non-parser) interfaces, which I suppose aren’t the best fit for IF, but the plucky, lo-fi vibe is dead on, and every piece of Bitsy IF I’ve played has stood out from the crowd. The Truth About PRIDE! is no exception, with gameplay based on navigating a black-and-white sprite through a series of top-down labyrinths. That could describe any number of puzzle games, but here, text is clearly the central element, so yeah, it’s unique but fits comfortably into the IF tradition.

The experience on offer here is simple, as befits the presentation: you’re given a choice of six mini-mazes, each corresponding to a character in “PRIDE!” When you bump into certain icons within each of these smaller areas, you get a few sentences that aim the concept of pride, which is interpreted as a flexible acronym – the author’s chosen a few resonant words that start with each letter, like posture and professionalism, and relates them to the central concept of having confidence in and valuing yourself. You have the option of bringing the experience to a close after finishing each maze, or restarting again, and if you complete all six, you’ll pick up clues to a puzzle that unlocks a final area and a couple more small challenges.

I’ve already used the words “small” and “simple” a fair number of times in this small, simple review, but I don’t think those are critiques; the author’s kept their ambitions aligned with their design, and I spend a satisfying fifteen minutes working through it. I will say that the game’s exhortations to positivity struck me as pleasant, but not especially impactful – they’re pitched at a high level of generality so I assume just about everybody can nod along, but that means they lack the specificity that can make a moral or philosophical point linger. At the same time, I suspect part of the reason these affirmations didn’t register that strongly for me is that I’m a straight white middle-aged guy: pretty much all of Western civilization is designed to tell me that I’m important and my life and thoughts are valuable 24/7. There’s a reason why capital-p Pride was started by non-straight people, after all, and while it’s nice that the author made a game that speaks equally to more or less everyone, I think grounding it in a more particular set of experiences or perspectives could have given it more resonance.