PB Parjeter's Spring Thing 2024 reviews

I played Michael D. Hilborn’s “Octopus’s Garden.”

The game falls in the “apartment” genre of IF, which, despite being pretty tropey, is also subverted pretty often, as noted in this list by @Mathbrush.

“Octopus’s Garden” is one of the subversive entries, I guess, because you’re playing as an octopus rather than any of the apartment residents.

The gimmick that I expected — that you have eight arms — doesn’t come into play. Or at least I didn’t pick up enough things to find out if that mattered.

In fact, you’re only required to use a specific octopus ability once (ink), and your only octopus-related limitations are your size and the fact that you need to regularly return to your tank for oxygen.

The way that the game handles your size is the most interesting of those things. There’s only a few rooms in the game, which means that negotiating furniture and fixtures is a big part of the game.

There’s a particularly intuitive puzzle where you need to open and close dresser drawers in order to climb the dresser. (I think that, later on, you need to close one drawer to descend in few enough turns, but I’m not sure about that.) This isn’t explained outright at all, so it’s pretty nice how logical it feels.

There are some awkward things. The game uses N/E/S/W etc., plus up and down, for navigation. Going down always takes you to the floor, but you have to specify what you want to climb, so it feels a bit uneven.

The clothesline is mapped north-south rather than up or down, but is also climbable, so that’s something for players to be aware of.

I think the game probably would probably benefit if it dropped compass directions altogether and used keyword-based navigation in the vein of Blue Lacuna. Then again, that might interfere with the turn-based based puzzle (descending from the dresser).

As for the story: it’s gently humorous and presented in an interesting way.

I initially assumed that the goal was simply to escape the apartment, based on the “change of scenery” in the game’s description.

In fact, you need to show your owner that her boyfriend is cheating on her by placing evidence of that. The octopus itself is blind to the nature of the love triangle in a kind of aloof way. You, the player, however, know that you’re setting up the scene in order to expose the cheating boyfriend, despite the octopus’ ignorance.

That seems like a plot hole, but the octopus also seems to have just enough awareness of what it’s trying to do that the situation kind of makes sense.

I think it’s helped by the fact that the player comes into the situation ignorant, but in a different way — aware of the human implications but unaware of the end goal.

As for the puzzles, some are more intuitive than others. I only think that one (the ink puzzle) was out of left field.

Then again, I’m not great at puzzles, so other players might find some of the trickier bits approachable. There’s a built-in walkthrough with incremental hints so I’d recommend it whether you’re good or bad at puzzles.


Review: Prosper.0

I got most of the way through Prosper.0 and then I accidentally lost … I guess I should have saved. I don’t feel too bad about only partially finishing before writing this review, since the game is currently the most-reviewed in Spring Thing. Maybe I’ll try again later but I think I saw enough to know what I liked.

Anyway, Prosper.0 asks you to take side in a conflict: either by working for an strict fact-cataloguing bureau or by helping a rebellious, poetry-preserving AI.

The game takes a pretty good approach to presenting the situation. The bureau presents you with data that has virtually no context. The AI is conversational and quirky, if a little off-putting, and talks a lot without telling you too much. Pretty much what you’d expect, but the presentation adds a bit to the experience. The eccentric AI’s notes are little askew thanks to the CSS styling, which is a nice touch.

The poems have been translated several times from public domain text. Unfortunately, they’re not really inviting for that reason, and editing/preserving them seems like a lot like the officially assigned busywork.

I’m not sure if anyone else tried this, but the AI chastised me for trying to delete every word in the poems. That was a nice acknowledgement of my intent, in a backhanded way. Other people seemed to like the editing process, though, so maybe they didn’t try it.

I also wanted to bring up Emily Short’s Endure, another poetry IF game. It repurposes a bit of the Odyssey and relies on very loose translation.

Both games rely on the reader projecting meaning that isn’t entirely in the poem. However, Endure seems to be more responsive because you can familiarize yourself with the untranslated text, if only because it’s short and repeatedly presented to you. The differences between each translation carry the meaning. I don’t know anything about the Odyssey, but I know how each micro-playthrough is different.

In Prosper.0, it’s entirely on you to decide what you mean as you see the poems for the first and last time. (Other reviews say that you can eventually reuse the text a second time in some playthroughs, so there is a bit more to it, but I think the point stands. This game is almost entirely on you.)

Prosper.0’s approach isn’t bad… I just didn’t really want to do it. Endure seems like a toy (someone else said it first), whereas Prosper.0 seems like work.

Dismissing Prosper.0’s poems as disposable busywork is a little harsh to the author, but then again, they’re not the author’s poems. I guess it’s possible that the author made the poetry tasks a little bland on purpose, especially because they chose to use public domain poems while creating seemingly original factoids.

I’m not really confident in any of this though. I noted that this is the most-reviewed game in Spring Thing, and it seems like everyone took something different away from the game, which probably is the most definite thing you could say about it.


Another partial review, this time for The Trials of Rosalinda.

As the Spring Thing site indicates, this is a full-sized game.

Most of the game’s early puzzles are intuitive. I finished the intro, courtroom, and carriage acts without hints, and finished most of the forest act with hints from @DeusIrae.

The rest of the game got more difficult due to the sheer number of rooms, items, and spells that could conceivably be combined. Unfortunately it was a bit too puzzle-heavy for me.

Still, I did better than I expected without hints, and some of my oversights are my fault. I got stuck twice in part because the game introduced a “fast travel”-like system. This system is very useful, but I failed to realize it excludes unvisited rooms. The travel system could be a little more clear if unlisted rooms were greyed out instead of totally unlisted.

The best puzzles involved Piecrust’s spells. Rust-making spells are really useful in sword and sorcery settings, it turns out.

I’m not going to comment much on the story since I didn’t finish it, and because fantasy is not really my genre. The characters are certainly endearing, though, especially Piecrust, so props to @agat on that front. Also, since many of the acts were self-contained, I felt like I got a full experience.

The multi-character system is also really impressive. I’ve mentioned the prequel’s same character system in this thread. People have described similar games there, just in case anyone is interested in mechanically similar games.


Thanks for playing, and taking the time to review my game, even though puzzlefests and fantasy aren’t your thing!

I’ll take into consideration your comment about the fast-travel system. I think I’ll modify it a little for a post-comp release to include “???” in place of locations that haven’t been visited yet (room names would be too much of a spoiler).

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That would definitely work. I’ve also DM’ed you a minor bug, nothing that broke the game though.

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I do like fantasy a bit, actually, I’m just not really super knowledgeable about it.

I read a lot of Terry Pratchett when I was younger and your writing reminds me a bit of his. I got quite a few chuckles out of things, especially your bad guy dialogues.

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So nice to hear that! I like Pratchett’s novels a lot, and his later Discworld books, which have serious plots and stakes that somehow work in the comical and absurd setting, definitely influenced the tone of Rosalinda a bit.


his later Discworld books

Interesting … Tekka, being an tough and super-strong character with a heart of gold, reminded me of one of the Discworld characters — probably from the late City Watch books or the Going Postal subseries — but I can’t put my finger on it. It’s been a bit too long to remember them all.

Was Tekka inspired by any particular character? Maybe it’s a broader trope or character archetype than I’m realizing.

She wasn’t inspired by any single character, although since she joined the Chosen in this game, if we’re talking Discworld, she could be seen as a bit similar to Detritus, the troll from the City Watch, I think?

But originally I just wanted to make a character who’s giant and strong, and very kindhearted.

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Sgt. Detritus might well be who I’m thinking of. :+1: