Rovarsson's Spring Thing 2023

Step right up! We’ve got a wonderful batch of games and stories!

We’ve got Inform & Tads! We’ve got Ink & Twine! There’s some Adventuron in here! Some Python or Strand or even Google Forms! And @jkj_yuio just pointed out we’ve also got JavaScript! And apparently a weird hybrid beast of a parser in Twine.

Just read the titles out loud and you’ll be transported to a new world of imagination!

As always, impressions go here, extended reviews will be on IFDB.

I’m starting with Charm Cochran’s Red Door; Yellow Door, and I’m already sufficiently drawn in.

Step right up and sample the games!

> Spring Thing Festival of Interactive Fiction


Indeed. A great selection of different systems, even straight JavaScript. And there’s @manonamora parser in Twine entry. Which is most interesting.


Thanks! I missed the JavaScript one, and a parser in twine deserves a separate mention.

  • Red Door Yellow Door

But… but… I only wanted to play a game. A childish little spooky sleepover game… And now… She’s just…

This game starts out innocently enough. The youngest of the girls must take a tour through her own subconscious, aided and guided by her big sister’s voice. Soon enough, things take a turn into creepy territory.

The map of this game is splendid. It enhances the hypnotised-disoriented feeling of the little sister wandering through her own dream-world by looping back on itself in unexpected passages. Some locations are obviously dream or nightmare stuff, while others seem like minimalist doubles of familiar rooms. I don’t know which is spookier…

The hypnosis-game setup invites the player to enter in a sometimes confusing web of player-PC-agent-narrator relations. The different girls’ voices add to the confusion as each responds in their own way to the traumas that gradually come forward out of the shadows of the dream-world.

There are a few gaps in the implementation, but nothing too worrying or distracting. The most glaring one I found was that “sister” was not a synonym of “Claire” in the endgame where she dies while reciting Babel-verses.

Very moody, in places actively scary. There are happier endings to be found, but the one I got feels just right (in a horror-story wrong way…)


Hey, thank you for the kind review! I’m glad the confusing-hypnotic-dreamlike tone comes through. I’m also definitely collecting those little bugs and implementation things for an eventual post-comp release.

  • Galaxy Jones

Zim! Voop! Vlam! This has tempo!

Lara Croft and Ethan Hunt were zapped by a merger gun and the resulting heroine stars in this loving pastiche of action SF.

Classic videogame use of space, climbing a tower to the end battle. On the way to the top, glimpses of the city on the Mars surface give intruiging context and history to the setting.
Calmer exploration parts with more traditional gathering of equipment and adventure puzzling lead to frequent action sequences, fighting and blasting your way to the next level.

The game could have used more time for editing and polishing (@rileypb, transcripts are underway), but that didn’t spoil the fun at all.

I’ll write a more expansive review for IFDB tomorrow. For now: great fun!

  • The Sacred Shovel of Athenia

There’s a certain family of games I enjoy very much, where the author picks a particularly zany fantasy premise and then follows it through in deadpan style. Yes, Another Game with a Dragon and Augmented Fourth are prime examples of the style I mean.

Sacred Shovel feels like it could be a little nephew to these. It has the absurd starting point (make a cat happy to get a shovel!), and the oldschool puzzles-and-cardboard-NPC vibe. However, the thing that sets the aforementioned games apart is their meticulous implementation. Despite reaching dizzying heights of ridiculousness, they are incredibly robust and trustworthy under the hood. The Sacred Shovel of Athenia does not, unfortunately, meet these standards. (@AndyG , transcript sent to you in a PM)

There are a few glorious moments though. I especially liked the twist on one of the oldest puzzles in the adventure book. The Cat-NPC is also a delight to see prancing around with her tail above her arsehole as cats do when they’re happy.

Another round through the testing-and-editing mill to shave off the splinters, and this will be a very pleasant game.


Thanks for the review @rovarsson - Again, appreciate the time people are spending looking at this game and sending transcripts of their game play to help me understand some of the places this game could be improved on.

Exactly the vibe I was going for :slight_smile: and understand that that may not be everyone’s ‘cup-of-tea’.

I was aiming for something similar (robust and trustworthy) but never quite reached the standard that perhaps should have been reached for my first foray into an IF comp - I was actually quite satisfied that I had a working game, with a story that had a beginning, a middle, and an end. Something which I had failed to achieve before!

I see from your transcript that you played release 12 version which was the original release I sent. I have updated it (now release 15!) which fixes some of the bugs people have picked up on, and has since been pushed to the comp releases. I am definitely going to produce a post comp release that hopefully incorporates as much a possible from the findings of everyone who played the game - Many thanks, AG

  • Nothing Could be Further From the Truth

First off, I have to say that I went toetipping anxiously into this game after skimming @AmandaB 's and @jjmcc 's reviews. They scared me enough that I spent my first playsession in an exploration frenzy from the moment I noticed I had freedom of movement. This actually led me miles away from the solution to that dreaded puzzle (hiding the bodies, which was actually quite easy), but it did give me lots and lots of knowledge for later parts of the game. I also got used to the try-die-repeat nature of many of the puzzles.

Secondly, Nothing Could be Further From the Truth strengthened my impression that there is a rising trend of re-gamification of IF in the past years. After the glorious decades of stitching an IF game tighter to narrative and plot, imposing unwritten (and written, cf the bill of rights) rules from the story-telling plane on IF pieces, there has been a resurgence of the game-for-the-sake-of-the-game. I see this in the increase of optimisation games built for replayability, and games with waferthin frame stories to camouflage the puzzle box that they in essence are (Arthur DiBianca’s for example). Nothing Could be Further From the Truth throws out the notion that the PC should be able to solve the game on their own, without the crystal-ball powers of the player who has already seen five ways to die in the future. The player avoiding death-traps that could not be known to the PC is integral to this game, as it is in Super Mario Land.
Just throwing this out there.

Without further ado:

Bunnies in the Dust


Nevermind that blaring alarm. Just a final dusting of the Director’s door sign and she’ll make her way outside to the Plaza in your own good time, thank you very much.

Oliva Mirram is a cleaning maid in the Lab. And now it appears she took a little too much time to respond to the evacuation alarm. Best to sneak out before anyone notices, especially the scientists responsible for the alarm…

There is a lot to like about Nothing Could be Further From the Truth . There’s also a lot to complain about. Since I don’t like doing the latter, and also since this review is based on the 2023 Spring Thing comp-version, I’ll just briefly list the negatives here. I can still reference them as needed in the rest of the review.

-Inconsistent directions: I have absolutely nothing against an idiosyncratic directional system. Do make it consistent though.
-Synonyms, or the lack thereof. In a tense situation, I like many words to be recognised for the same object.
-Alternate commands, or the lack thereof: A bunch of solutions rely on precise input, where I would have liked the game to respond to more ways to phrase the same command.
-Unhelpful and actively misleading responses, or the abundance thereof: I skimmed accross the surface of a solution without grasping it on multiple occasions because of this.

Particularly the latter two can make progress difficult. There are hints available, but I found that persistence and patience work just as well. (Edit for the curious: I spent about 8 hours on it, in front of the screen. Add at least another few hours where it was simmering in the back of my mind.)

So, a few naggles up front.

----But man this is my jam!----

A long and engaging parser puzzler set against a dystopian SF backdrop.

Big, eloquent text dumps for introduction, cutscenes and outro. The author chooses to emphasise the “writing” part of a text game with verbose and detailed initial room descriptions. These make for very evocative first impressions of the various locations, although they could be trimmed down to more utilitarian length when the player types LOOK or enters the same room a second time.

The tone of the game is hard to place. It’s a mixture of the commonplace cruelty, humiliation and snitch-encouraging culture of an authoritarian state, and scenes of relieving, even cathartic humour. I was particularly impressied by the juxtaposition of the horrible treatment of citizens who broke the rigid rules in some low-level way in one corner of the Plaza, and the slapstick demolition of a vendor’s stall in the opposite corner.

During the game, tension rises with the stakes of the puzzles increasing, both for the protagonist personally as for her fellow citizens.

The first acquaintance with the protagonist was very impressive. She made a well-rounded and realised impression, with references to her hopes and dreams and fears. She even comes accross as somewhat naive and innocent while at the same time being purposeful and strong-willed. The layering of these personality traits made her feel believable in the context of the setting.
As the game progresses however, I felt Oliva Mirram’s character flattening out. The puzzles took center-stage and Oliva’s personality was overshadowed. She became more and more a vessel for my commands instead of her own person where I could look over her shoulder.

The majority of the puzzles are traditional adventure fare. Manipulating machinery, finding ways to unblock passages,… Many are of a larger scope than usual though, requiring the player to connect pieces of information found in different locations and in different times during the exploration of the map.
I found all of them very strong conceptually. A big part of my playtime was devoted to not-playing while letting the importance and connections of items simmer in the back of my brain.
The game also uses distractions and diversions very effectively to send the player looking in the wrong direction. On several occasions, I realised after taking a break that I had been trying to solve a puzzle with the wrong object or in the wrong order. The feeling of this realisation clicking into place in my head was great, the main reason why I love puzzle games.
Unfortunately, the inadequate implementation of alternate commands and helpful responses to failed commands introduces an extra layer of confusion that interferes with the intentional complexity. It makes it hard to differentiate between legitimate false leads or red herrings on the one hand, which I deem crucial to the compelling experience Nothing Could be Further From the Truth offers, and clumsy unintended responses or oversights that obscure the game proper with clutter.
The game is quite harsh and unforgiving when it comes to killing off the PC when using a wrong approach to solving a puzzle. Expect many premature endings with well-written humorous death-scenes, and a lot of try-die-repeat. I like this, but it’s probably good to know beforehand to anyone wanting to tackle this game.

As an avid map-maker, I enjoyed drawing the Lab and its surroundings. I also saw deeper meaning in the map organisation. The setting of a Science Laboratory Complex in an authoritarian society was reflected in the organised and orderly layout of the facility, while the underground crawlspaces on the fringes of the map were associated with the more chaotic rebel elements.

The author assures me that there will be a post-comp version which will be more polished.

In the meanwhile, Nothing Could be Further From the Truth struck me as a diamond in the rough. Wholeheartedly recommended.


Thanks for your review, @rovarsson! The feedback is much appreciated, as was the energy.

After typing out the sentence, “This game isn’t for everyone” several times over the past few days, I started to wonder… is it for anyone? Now I know; it could be if it were cleaner! Indeed, I’m collecting transcripts and impressions and will work to improve the game in the coming months.


As I stated most emphatically:


I’m looking at the list of games on the Spring Thing page to choose my next one.

Did I miss something? Is there an extra judging category this year?

Use as many of the alphabet’s letters in as long as possible a game-title. Preferably more than once.

Because a lot of the contestants certainly tried.


quietly crosses Lady Thalia and the Exquisite Catacombs of Xerxes off the title list


Lady Thalia and the Quick Brown Fox that Jumped Over the Lazy Dog!


I think she’d prefer a sphinx of black quartz.


I regret I have but one heart to give to that response.


Please make that game.


  • The Withering Gaze of the Earth

Dropped on the docks of an isolated island, the rickety wooden stairs to a beach house overgrown with prickly greens, the railing shattered by a fallen broken branch. There is an enormous knowledge-gap between the player and the protagonist at the start of The Withering Gaze of the Earth.

Slowly, through associations brought on by examining the surroundings, through sparse communications via radio, and most importantly through flashbacks to several important episodes from the main character’s life, the player fills in the blanks and gets an idea of what the point of this lost-island-exploration is.

Well, partly… The player soon understands the minimal objective of the protagonist from simply reading the presented text. The why is hinted at, but remains obscure. The isolated incidents from the flashbacks can be woven into a background story with a lot of speculation on the player’s side. By the end, it still feels as if the protagonist is floating disconnected, unreachable to interpretation.

I liked this mysterious aspect. It’s something I admire in good short stories too: present the readers with a thin slice of occurences and let them figure stuff out for themselves.

Is the story intended to be symbolic/metaphoric? Probably. Even if it weren’t, it sure would be easy to stick some deeper meaning to it.

I prefer to keep to the horror-story on the surface. It mostly works. The gradual investigation of the island is creepy, as are the suggestions of people? things? demons? that might be looking for you. The most horrific however are the more sadly mundane things that happen to the protagonist in the flashbacks.

I felt the oppressive tension of the looming evil figure at the end throughout the story. Unfortunately, the actual confrontation fell flat for me. I assume the point was to show the confidence and determination of the protagonist crumbling in the face of this awesome power the evil figure has over them. It failed because the main character sounded more like a spoiled brat whining than a fully developed, if traumatised, person breaking.

The writing overall was effective, especially in the evocation of the outdoors locations on the island, as was the use of background colour to signal changes in setting and atmosphere.

I liked it.


Though I think she’d also prefer to avoid catching Hjelmqvist-Gryb-Zock-Pfund-Wax syndrome from, say, Emily Jung Schwartzkopf or Marvin Schwartzkopf.

Not sure if she’d be interested in dermatoglyphics, mind.

(Why, yes, with a name like Andrew Schultz I notice these things more than most.)

  • Elftor and The Quest of the Screaming King


---“Oh bugger, this shouting spell-virus has infected my keyboard too…”---

“One well-aimed shot with a broad-tipped axehead-arrow from your Elven bow leaves the capslock button cleft in twain.”

There. That’s better.

Thanks for the laugh.

One bug: When I confronted the orphan-killing ogre in single combat, I ended up on a blank page without links.