Notes on Spring Thing 2023 (Juuves)

Not at all - actually a really interesting and thought-provoking review that I read through more than once and has spurred me to go and check out the game. Looking forward to more of your reviews!


This is a reasonable point, but FWIW, across three years of posting transcripts of pretty much every parser game entered into Spring Thing, IF Comp, and ParserComp, I haven’t gotten any negative feedback from an author saying they wish I’d only shared the transcript privately. Meanwhile, I’ve gotten positive feedback on doing so from other players/judges – as Andrew says, sometimes it’s helpful for getting folks un-stuck in a game without hints or a walkthrough, and I’ve heard from folks who don’t enjoy playing parser games but like the opportunity to experience them by reading a transcript.

I definitely agree that it’s good not to be a jerk when pointing out errors – in some ways I think knowing I’m going to post a transcript is a good reminder that I should be mindful about how I flag issues! – regardless. And if any authors out there would prefer that I don’t post a transcript for their game, definitely just let me know!

Back on topic, @Juuves, I’m looking forward to reading your reviews!


I took Garry to mean it was a bit much to include nitpicky spelling mistakes/etc. in a public review - I don’t expect many people aside from the author would read the transcript, although I could be wrong!


I tried to catch spelling mistakes, but I know during release-stage testing (about 30 minutes before the submission deadline) one of my live testers discovered an object that wasn’t conjugating(?) correctly, and I didn’t have time to fix it because I was scrambling on writing the how-to-play guide. So I’m curious to see who’s finding that one first, lol.

But both testers managed to report a few final crash bugs during the group phone call, and I fixed those before submission, so if anyone posts spelling and grammar errors publicly in a thread, I’ll be relieved that this is the worst problem they encountered.

My testers were absolutely amazing and we tracked down a ton of bugs during development, but I cannot claim we caught everything.

I would deeply appreciate bug reports, either public or in a PM. It’s all useful data.

EDIT: Mileage may vary with other authors. I’m specifically consenting to having bugs and spelling/grammar errors publicly posted.


I think public discussion of bugs is probably a good idea, since other players might find the info useful.

I personally wouldn’t like having a public list of my spelling and grammatical errors posted. I mean, I wouldn’t pick a fight with anyone about it, but I wouldn’t be into it.

That isn’t done in any other form of media criticism, so far as I know.


Guessing flamewars on Reddit, Twitter, FaceBook, and YouTube don’t clear your benchmark for “media critcism.” :joy:

Don’t worry, they don’t clear my benchmark either.


Even in MFA workshop, we didn’t give people redlined versions of their stories. Most people would have interpreted that as hostile/condescending. There’s just no way to do that nicely in that context. Which is my background.

Not that this would be the same thing!


Last year people for the most part gave us bug+ typo reports via DM. Some bigger bugs (but not the biggest bug!) got brought up in reviews, but once we reached out to the reviewer they were happy to give more details privately. People don’t generally bring up spelling and grammar in public reviews unless they’re a consistent issue, in my experience.

I’m perfectly happy with how that went and I’d be happy for people to continue with that this year, although hopefully there’s fewer issues to find this time.


I agree with everyone that it’s generally best to notify the author privately of typos and other one-off spelling/punctuation/grammar errors rather than listing them out in reviews, but when it comes to more pervasive issues (like consistently incorrectly formatted dialogue, which is pretty common) I’ve never known what to do either. Issues like that honestly do have an impact on my enjoyment of the game, so if I leave them out of the review it feels a little incomplete to me, but no one else really seems to bring up that sort of thing, so if I include them, I feel like I’m being nitpicky and condescending. And somehow contacting the writer about it directly feels like it would be even worse.

Your Post-Apocalyptic To-Do List (Again, Spoilers)

Hogs. Lots of hogs. Not a lot in the gameplay district, just crossing off things off a to-do list, but still weirdly amusing. I liked the red-blue theme design + the minimal sound effects that went on in the game. It got a bit tiring doing the same thing over and over again and having nothing quite of import happening, so I guess that it’s fitting that I got a rather premature (I’m pretty sure) and abrupt ending. Weirdly enough, the worldbuilding seemed pretty solid or at least prime for further development, if a bit on the satirical side (which I guess is a main point of the game anyways, so). Not a lot of replay value, because despite this game being pretty interesting and all, I did not want to go back and click through another 50+ times to find another ending. Blame me and my lack of patience.

Some Personal™ Notes

Sorry for the shortness of this one. Got some compliments on my review I wrote earlier in the day, which has (+ some other life events of the day) weirdly made me very anxious & feeling pressurized, maybe because I was personally dissatisfied with it. Also maybe because I’m not used to receiving this much reaction to my reviews, so they always seemed rather private despite my still releasing them into a public sphere. Might be why my words are kind of only coming out in short, erratic bursts (like this) right now. Will need to go retreat for a bit, work through some games w/o thinking about needing to review them, or take a break and do some other things for a while. It’s okay, not a big deal, don’t need much commenting on this — will deal it w/ it on my own.

I think this might be a con of reviewing games as I play. Might be much better for me to do reviews for the ones I liked after I’ve played as much as I can, but we all know that might never end up happening. I’m not sure, we’ll see.

Ah, the pain of being a newbie at things.


About being on pace … this looks like the first time you’ve reviewed or attempted to review a huge chunk of games, and it’s natural to need breaks.

I reviewed all the IFComp games for '21 and '22, and certainly I had ebbs and flows, and I often built up a potential backlog of entries I felt might be tricky to review, and there were even some I liked but I needed to take a step back. I’m inspired to make a graph, not to brag, but just to see what it looks like.

And I can imagine what you mean about reactions to reviews! It sounds bizarre/contradictory but sometimes I’ve needed to step back after a positive review of a comp entry I wrote (!)


Your feelings about posting public reviews are completely understandable. You try to grasp the game/story and then put into words what impressions it left with you, and note a few helpful remarks for the author, and give a general overview of the game for prospective players, and

That’s why I divide my Comp reviews into a thread for first impressions and remarks to the author on this forum, and extended reviews on IFDB for games which stood out.

Also, I don’t like to mull over writing down my thoughts after playing/reading. I like to immediately write my impressions down. Coming in fresh and still down in the story/game makes it a part of the experience, instead of a chore to be dealt with after.

Sometimes those first words will develop into a full review and I will post it on IFDB as is. Sometimes I let things simmer for a bit and then rewrite my review in a more analytical way. And sometimes I just don’t bother.

Don’t forget, you have no obligations. Playing IF is a hobby. So is reviewing.


I’ll go on reviewing here, but from this point on each review will also be concurrently posted on IFDB and will appear on the embargo date of May 13, 2023 (the day the ribbon nominations go out in-festival). So feel free to watch that space if you’d rather wait for the end of the competition (I say this with air quotation marks in place) to read the reviews. I’ll try my best to play through all of the entries, though I can’t guarantee I’ll (want or be able to) write a review for each and every one.

The Mamertine

The Mamertine is a Twine-ized parser game supposedly about you (the player) escaping a cult. I say “supposedly” because I barely saw any hints of such a story when I was playing.

I imagine there’s a lot of debate on “Twine” parsers / and a wide spectrum of them besides. Some of them are done so well that you forget that there’s any distinction between the two — Twine and parsers — and they rightfully ‘escape’ into having a whole new genre of their own’s. Some of them flounder, a little bit. The Mamertine was somewhere in the middle for me. The controls made the ‘parsing’ part of a parser easy — but at the same time, they prevented the player (me, at the very least) from feeling fully immersed in the game — this I could tell because I kept wondering during play if this and that ‘action’ or this and that ‘command’ might work better in a traditional parser format, instead of focusing on what I was doing and how I was supposed to solve the puzzles.

The puzzles and the endings were very confusing in this game. I couldn’t help but wonder what, exactly, was the point for some of them at several points throughout my playthrough. The problem is that the game lacks logical flow in many of its departments. e.g. The puzzles — you pull the lever? To make someone scream? What for? I thought you were trying to escape? There was also the sitting skeleton in the room you return to near the end of the game — is that the old man, and if so, how did he wither down to just his bones during the short period of time that we were gone? Is the implication that something happened during our brief sojourn into the outer walls to influence our perception of time or otherwise just make time go faster? But again, I ask, what for? There’s just too many questions and not enough answers. The ending, when it came, was just as abrupt and as nonsensical as many of the events that happened before. I’ve only managed to get one ending, with the variation of how many times or whether you managed to pull the lever at all. Let me know if there’s anyone out there who’s managed to get something different. But the author did describe their game as being “rather confusing” in the game description, so I suppose all of this should’ve been expected, anyways.

I looked up the title out of curiosity. Surprisingly, “The Mamertine” is a real place — an ancient prison used in Roman times — located in Rome, Italy. It’s obviously fallen out of use now, and was in fact used by the Christians for worship since medieval times (the site, at least, apparently not the prison itself), so I’m having a fun time trying to place the “cult” that the player escaped from — and, assumedly, had been brought back into — in history and recognize its historical significance, if there’s any to speak of in the first place (and though some of the tools that appeared throughout this game gave off the feeling that the game is based in if not modern, at least very recent times). I’m now just curious why the author decided to choose the Mamertine as the setting at all (assuming it’s even eponymous in the first place?). It just seems rather niche and sort of out-of-the-way, not an obvious choice for any author.

This game did make me think of other games with similar fuzzy categories — A Long Way to the Nearest Star or JELLY (my personal favorite), for games that also kind of attempted to destroy, merge, blend (I don’t know, okay) the boundaries between Twine/hypertext and parsers, and even The Master of the Land, though that one’s more of a conversation puzzle game than parser and a bit more far-off than the others. Anyways, what I’m mostly saying is that these types of games are an interesting developmental direction that should be further explored. (Cue tiny me cheering in a tinny voice at the back: Yeah! Break the boundaries, baby! Okay, that was embarassing. Ignore that.)

As afternotes — I liked the signage of the ‘cult’ in the story, as well as the background music, which is definitely not for everyone, but I personally found it suited the progression of the game very well — though it stopped quarterway during play for me. Visual design was okay; the fonts could have been done better. Some proofreading and work on sentence structure might be in order to fix a couple obvious mistakes (e.g. “You are you don’t think …” right in the beginning few pages) and to break up run-on sentences.


In a review, typos can be just as relevant as bugs. I don’t understand why it is worse mentioning typos than bugs. Anyone can make a typo. Of course, bugs can break a game but if not, I think they are similar to typos. However, it should be sufficient to say e.g. that there are lots of typos.

Having said that, I will be more careful about mentioning typos in reviews now (I hardly notice typos for some reason). However, I think it is much more important the tone you use to describe issues. Even a 1-star review should be written respectfully.


Note: I did not bother to tag spoilers with this one.

“Organizer’s note: This is a special entry, with four games presented as one. These games come from a classroom in Slovakia that encouraged students to enter a ‘mini competition’ called the Senica Thing. These students are looking to learn and grow, and would benefit from constructive feedback.”
— From the game blurb of Mirror.

I have henceforth decided to write my review in the form of letters (if it’s not too inappropriate).


Dear Lilian Lalonder,

Your game was very imaginative. The language is very evocative of touch, feeling. e.g. I liked that you took the time to describe the feeling of the glass under the protagonist’s fingertips, or how the unnatural weather affected them. The endings were very creative and branched out, which I appreciated, if a little abrupt at times. Sometimes I had a little bit of trouble following the storyline, so you could work on strengthening the links between the events that occur in the story and maybe even some elements of the worldbuilding. It might also be nice if the reasons behind why certain things were happening (e.g. the unnatural weather in the middle of August, the empty street and cars) were explained more.

Thanks! I had fun clicking through your game!

P.S. I really liked the titles for the endings you came up with! They were funny to read and generally encapsulated what had happened perfectly!

Dear Mihi,

The idea of forcing your readers to stop when they pick a ‘wrong’ decision is … a novel one. Generally I didn’t really understand why an option was there if we couldn’t really go through with making that decision. On the other hand it was funny to read how the narrator / the situation constantly changed to try to throw the reader off from making those particular choices, which despite reading as ridiculous, always had just enough logic to make it believable. If I’m honest, the ending was a bit infuriating because it really made it feel like the player had no agency at all throughout the course of the game (especially if you consistently chose the ‘wrong’ choices in the game).

I don’t think you need to dispense with the idea altogether, but I do think you might want to try exploring scenes where the action is allowed to take place? What happens if the player does make the wrong choice (i.e. instead of the narration just going “nope! you can’t do that!”).

Good job and keep on going!

Dear James,

Yours was the most alike to the traditional “parser” that I’m accustomed to seeing in the IF (interactive fiction) community. (Except, of course, that it was in hypertext.) Hence it felt very familiar and consequently was my favorite among the four (just as a matter of personal taste, nothing more). Your game really reminded me of (and I encourage you to check out these games if you haven’t already, they might help you expand on the ideas you’ve had thus far) mutiple-ending Twine games such as 16 Ways to Kill a Vampire at McDonalds by Abigail Corfman, or even Insomnia: Twenty-Six Adventures After Dark by Leon Lin, which was one just entered in this year’s Spring Thing (in the Main Festival)!

It was nice that we had a checkpoint to go back to so that we wouldn’t have to start from the beginning a bunch of times to explore all the endings. However, I’d advise against including things such as “You look around and find a secret trap door under the carpet. Do you want to explore it? YES / NO”. Who wouldn’t want to explore a secret trap door they find hidden under the carpet?! This is a very small nitpick, but perhaps try giving the player more realistic situations to romp around in.

Looking forward to more of your work!

Dear Dr. John,

I’m sorry, but I found your game very confusing. Who is IXI? (An alien?) Why are we observing him through a GLASS WALL? What’s the deal with the light? It seemed like we were supposed to turn it on, but I couldn’t understand the game enough to figure out a way to do that. It sounds like you had a pretty ambitious idea, which got lost on the way because of poor execution. It was also a bit annoying having to type in something (your name?) to the box every time I went back to that point to try and solve the game.

I’m not sure how much the language barrier played in making your game hard to understand, but perhaps try to go through your game from the position of a player — how much does each step make sense? Even better, get your friends or family to test your game for you. Or people you can be beside as they play your game, so that you can get feedback real-time on what’s exactly not working each step of the way through your game.

I’m not sure how much help I was, but I’d like to see you take this game further (the idea seems really intriguing)!



  • All four games would’ve obviously benefitted from better handling / editing of the English language. But we can obviously also be understanding in this case, as the authors are in Slovakia and aren’t expected to have a perfect handle of English. (I wonder, were the works originally in Slovak and then translated into English (the most likely case), or were they written in English in the first place (not likely)?)
  • I wonder if the students have been introduced to multimedia (graphics, audio) IF yet? Obviously it’s fine to have work in just text, but I’m curious to know what they would’ve done with images or sound if they had access to / knew how to incorporate such things.
  • The whole idea behind this bundle of works is very exciting. And novel, because I haven’t really seen anything like it in the IF community before (I haven’t been made aware of any if there is). There are jams, but they’re grouped more under systems or a general theme or by creative process, how it should go, instead of, for example, a single object, a single thing, as was in this case. e.g. I’m curious to see, if we throw the theme ‘Mirror’ to the IF creation community, what they would come up with? In fact now I’m thinking about an annual comp, where a rather tangible thing is selected (different each year) and the participants have to make works spinning off that one ‘thing’ — no restriction in system or type of game, so parser and choice-based and all the in-between or outside-the-box games are all welcome. But this is just a thought, I don’t have much realistic know-how or abundance of time, energy, skill behind it to back it up. There are already so many comps throughout the year anyways, and I’m not sure how much value this one idea would add to the mix. Anyways. It was just really interesting to see how differently each of the students’ games turned out and how varied their approaches were, in regards to a single thematic subject (which is an object). Some interpretations were quite creative, even if the gameplay was lacking. All were very personable. Endearing, even, perhaps.

And that’s the end of it! I don’t know the ages of the students exactly, but I hope I didn’t sound too patronizing with my words here.


Thanks for checking out my game. Well it’s more of an interactive schizopost that a game to be honest. I did not intend to make anything more than a tech demo for testing and showcasing the engine originally and the setting such as it is basically got tacked onto that. There could be a story there eventually, and I find your interpretations interesting!

I am curious when you say the system limited your immersion. Do you think this is a result of the verb choices being limited and made explicit to the player at all times?


I think so, maybe. When the verbs you can handle are already highlighted in the text like that, it can things feel very utilitarian as opposed to, I dunno, — there’s sometimes the intrinsic feeling of magic when you’re allowed to just poke around and discover the world as you would in real life (in traditional typing parsers), even if not all of the things examined upturn things useful in moving the plot/puzzle forward.

But I’m not sure. There are hypertext-style parsers too that don’t lack that feeling. Maybe it’s the addition of the controls that you had on the side that made things seem a bit finicky.


This is going to be short and consequently probably won’t be on IFDB.

Secret of the Black Walrus

When I first saw the title, I read it as “Secret of the Black Walnut”. This is because my family and the people around me otherwise have a habit of consuming black walnuts (its official name is the eastern or the eastern American black walnut — I looked it up; the scientific name is juglans nigra), whether wild or homegrown, which are very, very fragrant and also often very, very weird-tasting (in my opinion). As a consequence I went through the entirety of this game surrounded by a remembered smell and taste of these walnuts. Which is not a bad thing! As I’ve said, they have a very strong fragrance.

I liked the main character of the story. As a person of color myself, it was nice seeing her deal with the same problems and environment I and many other people of minorities deal with too on a daily basis. The story was easy to follow, but also a bit clichè — it didn’t have quite as many turns as I expected it to have. The writing was solid and well-paced. Presentation-wise, I think a little more could’ve been done — the solid blue background was nice, but didn’t too much for me otherwise. Choices-wise, well, I wish there was a bit more variety in terms of what we could opt for — often there seemed to be ‘right’ vs. ‘wrong’ answer that kind of cancelled out the effect of having two or more choices there in the first place.

The idea of a secret criminal society in London did sound very exciting, though! I wish we could’ve explored more of the criminal side in this story. Perhaps for a future installment? Wiggles eyebrows suggestively.

I will remember this story for its association to black walrusesnuts.


Thank you for your very kind review. In retrospect, I also wish I’d put more stuff you could do into this game. The comment I get from most players is that people simply wanted more.


Thank you for your thoughts, @Juuves. I appreciate that you took the time to play and review Your Post-Apocalyptic To-Do List.