Rovarsson's Spring Thing 2024

>LOOK

You’re in a wonderful spring garden, filled with colourful flowers, all stretching their stems to get closer to the sun’s warmth.

>X FLOWERS

As you bend closer to the flowers, you notice something peculiar. Each flower’s coloured petals seem to open up into a swirling void. Inside the heart of each of these Spring Flowers is a story, waiting to be read.

21 Likes

>X TRIFOLIUM

image

This wild seamair óg thrusts up a slender stem topped by a bustly yellow flower between a bundle of three-lobed little leaves.

>SMELL IT

The subtle scent of the shamrock transports you through time and space to 6th century Ireland, to the story of…

  • Alltarach

Your brother’s been distant for months, ever since…

This morning you can’t find him at all. Asking around the village gives you an idea of where he might have gone, but do you dare follow him there?

At first, Alltarach's tone and presentation reminded me of the children’s adventure books I so love. Beautiful, sometimes lightly animated illustrations accompany the compelling, enthusiastic, somewhat naively innocent beginning of a seemingly straightforward rescue-story.
The large margins and copious whitespace give rest to the eyes, sucking the reader forward with the pace of the story.

Also typical of good children’s books, and a pleasing feature of this game, is the richness of the world and its history, conveyed in simple yet eloquent sentences.
A wealth of historical information is interwoven with the central narrative. Old Irish mythology and folklore, just in this period intertwining and overlapping with the upcoming Christian faith. Life in a fishing village, or as a sailing merchant, or as a nun in one of the new abbeys.
All this is incorporated organically, without text-dump asides, as part of the characters’ living world. Unobtrusive notes attached to Gaelic words help the reader grasp the meaning of important names and concepts, their place in the historical or mythological context.

During the adventure, you meet many interesting characters from all walks of life. They’re anything but simple cardboard clue-suppliers or sidequest-givers, it’s often not clear after talking to them if and how they have aided you on your search. Rather, talking to them reveals their look on life, their personal worries and priorities. If they do say something helpful, as an answer to your questions or in the natural flow of conversation, it feels like a genuine lucky present from Fate, rather than a reward for selfishly poking and annoying them until you get the answers you want.
The addition of a list of dramatis personae is brilliant. Not only does it give a short recap of the personality and background of each character, it’s also updated along the way so you can refer back to it to see the events that happened while you were with them, effectively giving you a condensed timeline of the entire narrative.

The further the reader progresses in the story, the more the effect of the children’s book naivety wanes. More and more glimpses of your brother’s and your parents’ backstory start to break down the innocent enthusiasm of the introductory chapters, replacing it with a more grounded understanding of the graveness of the situation. The reader’s whimsical preconceptions are gradually deflated by a growing knowledge of the brother’s life and burden.

A compelling interactive novella, good structure and build-up, well-written, touching.

12 Likes

>X COSMOS FLOWER

Pink and purple hued petals invitingly open up to a golden heart.

>SMELL IT

The delicate fragrance carries you back in time and toward the rising sun…

  • A Simple Happening

Okay, you lost your temper and crossed the line. In hindsight, throwing the teapot at your master’s head was a tad too much. But ordering you to plunge a tanto-dagger into your own abdomen is also overreacting a bit, no?

A Simple Happening has you playing as a samurai bound to honour and tradition. The introductory movement is one of ceremony and ritual, performing your final deeds amongst the living in a stylised and narrowly prescribed manner.

Befitting a moment of such significance, the author has spared no effort to implement the scene in deep (and sometimes unexpected!) detail. There is time and opportunity to savour these last moments alive, seated in the miniature rock-and-bonsai garden of your lord.

But then the stillness of the ceremony is broken, the moment passed, the respected ritual turned topsy-turvy. Tension heightens, passageways open up, foes are to be defeated!

Hai! Fuuuu! Wooo!
Hayatakarata!

Fantastic little game!


transcript:
RovarssonSimpleHappeningScript.txt (54.4 KB)

5 Likes

Thank you so much for your kind and considered review. We’re trying to avoid commenting on reviews too much so as not to fall foul of the unwritten rule, but we will say that we’re super pleased you found the character menu useful as it was an absolute chore to get working with Harlowe. Your thoughts on the illustrations, layout, worldbuilding, and characters are enormously appreciated.
/ Josef and Katie

2 Likes

>X ECHINACEA PURPUREA

image

Ashen cones atop dark-green petals. What strange magic crafted these flowers?

>SMELL IT
The Green Wizard Coneflower (Aha! Magic!) tempts many a butterfly with its enticing odour. Although you have your reservations, you give in and bring your nose close to the black cone.
In a flash you disappear, only to find yourself on a 7-way crossroads in a…

  • Deep Dark Wood

Dark Dream:
This piece sure didn’t steal its name! Fairy tales, slimy mushrooms, nightmares, Death, and a wacky wolf found eachother on the playground and started playing tag. It doesn’t get much zanier than this!
Many endings. The most memorable end-screen said this:

You are dead and lost.
THE END

Thank you Baily’s Sisters for the funny game. I laughed a lot.

Survive or Die:
You heard it. Strict adherence to the law of the excluded middle in this title. No third options, no sneaking behind the facts’ backs.
Oh my, Unicorn Sisters! What an imagination. I had to go back many times because of all the monsters jumping in my neck, but I finally made it out. Phew!
(Poor pizza-delivery boy though! I hope he didn’t taste of ansjovies… )
When I go to bed tonight, I’m going to check in all the corners and in all the closets!

Back to the City:
I like the first person. It makes the scary-chills feel personal.

There is a horse too. I don’t know why !! ->Hilarious!

A lovely story, David. I like all those nice things that happened in your game!

The Dark One
You just like killing off the player, don’t you Mushroom? (Are you the slimy mushroom I encountered in Dark Dream?) In many entertaining ways, I’ll give you that. I bet you were just laughing while you made this game and imagining new ways to make the player die. Thanks for the many deaths. You made me laugh.
(especially that white dinosaur!)

Halloween
The first time I opened the game, I got scared before I even started so I tried to GO HOME. I was delighted to see that even that choice gave me an exciting adventure!
I loved the meta-awareness of the genre: “Your parents got divorced. As usual in Halloween stories.
A bunch of bouncy-ball storylets smashed together to form a bewildering whole. I sat there going *WHAT?* many times. (UFO-and-duck ending, anyone?)
Hailey&Milka, you took me on a confusing but very entertaining tour! Thank you.

Why are you still here and clicking? The story is over.

Little Frogie

… a bear.
The bear ate you.
A sad moment.

Natalie, this was one of the first things that happened and I almost fell out of my chair laughing. Great dry humour!
My time with Little Frogie was very well-spent! We got up to all kinds of stuff. Even the sad or boring endings were fun. But especially when Frogie went “for a walk” and ended up in BoraBora!

A most adventurous moment. Indeed!

IXI in the Forest
I love this. It’s a narrative skeleton made up of archetypal root-stories. One-two-three events succeed each other quickly and lead to an inevitable conclusion.
Leontine, you have good stories. I liked Old Rabbit the most.
Best humour:
When I chose the option “Let IXI not escape”, the result on the next page was “IXI did not escape”.


This is a wonderful initiative. I love how the non-linear approach to telling stories opens up these kids’ imaginations so wide. They’re yes-anding themselves on multiple narrative pathways. The dry deadpan humour in some entries got me laughing out loud, other gamelets were sweet and cozy.

-Baily’s Sister,
-Unicorn Sisters,
-David,
-Mushroom,
-Hailey & Milka,
-Natalie,
-Leontine,
thank you all for a wonderful time!

And a big round of applause for The Land Owner who carefully pruned some of the entries and put this collection together. Great stuff!

6 Likes

The Land Owner tips his hat to Mr. Rovarsson for planting all those little seeds of healing herbs into the young forest’s soil.

5 Likes

Thanks for your review of A Simple Happening! I’m glad you enjoyed it!

2 Likes

I hope you enjoy the transcript.

1 Like

>X ALOE FEROX

A hundred bell-like flowers hang around a firm stem, fat sawtoothed leaves surrounding its base.

>SMELL IT

As you lean in to inhale the bitter-fresh smell, two of the succulent leaves split open, revealing their gel-filled interiors. Guided by sudden intuition, you place your feet inside, as if you were putting on comfy loafers. The leaf-loafers bring you to a land of…

  • Ink and Intrigue

A spy and emissary for King Stevik of Mirane, you are tasked with securing the assistance of the Kitherin-people of Ra’zai. However, the magic gate of the temple-city chooses you as the next warrior-mage apprentice.

I was very interested by the initial setup. I was preparing to choose either diplomacy, people skills, open argumentation or subterfuge, blackmail, pressure on personal weaknesses to convince the Council of Ra’zai to side with Minera against a mutual enemy. I really like the spy/emissary angle.

However, once I passed the magic gate and was chosen as an initiate, and especially once I met some of the other students and masters, I found I was juggling way too many balls in the air.

Spy for your King, convince the Council, train your other-dimensional familiar (or “kindred” as they are called in-game), choose and woo one of many love-interests,…

A lot of it feels formulaic, sometimes derivative.
The “wooing” was offputting, it felt mostly like I was picking my love interest and then dictating how they should act.
The abundance of choices in various domains of life led to loss of focus.

And I get that the amount of words is a selling point in these interactive novels, but sometimes less is more. There is an inordinate proportion of text dedicated to the physical appearance of things and people. (I know everyone and their cat’s eye colour and the size of their nose.)
Mind you, I’m not opposed to an elaborate description of the appearance of a person or a location. I’ve read Tolkien and Peake with pleasure. In this piece however, more often than not it devolves into a long list of physical traits and features without linking to a larger underlying feel of the world.

It’s not all bad. I enjoyed getting to know the characters, arguing with the Council, meeting my kindred. It does feel like a mishmash of all the elements that are popular (expected? mandatory?) in Choice Of Games, with too much emphasis on each of them to leave room for a focused and engaging central story.

But I can see this story being loved by enthusiasts of the genre. It’s a great setting, with interesting characters, and intruiging lore.

2 Likes

>X FLOWER DRAWING

Someone left a drawing of three colourful flowers here.

>TAKE IT

As you bend over to pick up the drawing, you feel yourself swallowed by the ground. You open your eyes to find you have to…

  • Escape from the Tomb of the Celestial Knights

This title sounds as if it could be spoken by a certain Hollow Voice, followed by three exclamation marks and a bellowing “Muahahaaa…” for good measure.

Despite the clunkiness of the parser and the world model being held together with crooked stitches, there is a decent skeleton for a classic dungeon-game here. Dark, dank, gloomy rooms. Mysterious statues, skulls and coffins.
And a maze… Well, not really. Not in the “twisty passages”-sense. The directions are easily mappable and are the same (or rather, reversed) in both directions.
When I arrived at the Maze Entrance, I got a premonition about the presence of a maze in the form of an error-message:

Error running script: Error compiling expression ‘inmaze’: Unknown object or variable ‘inmaze’

It’s the author’s first time parser attempt, and it shows. To be honest, the game isn’t ready to be published. There are errors and flaws in here that should have been tested, found, and taken care of by the author themself, not even to speak about the lack of outsider playtesting.

A word of advice for the author:
-Implement (give a description to) all nouns in the descriptions.
-Implement (make sure the game recognises) all reasonable synonyms for those nouns.
-If you’re going to use >USE [object], make it abundantly clear to the player at the beginning of the game. Most parser games reject using USE and use a list of standard verbs. (with the optional addition of custom words for a specific game) → See the IF-postcard: Interactive Fiction; Zarf’s Postcard (eblong.com).
-Give your rooms a Name. (“Fountain Room”; “Sarcophagus Room”; Spaghetti Room"; “Sneezing Elephants Room”, …)
-Test. Test. Test. (Yourself, but much more importantly: by other people.)

I tried SCRIPT to record a transcript. Although I got a response asking me to enter a filename, the actual recording didn’t work. (SAVE doesn’t work either)

Nice framework for an oldschool dungeon/catacomb crawl. Needs a lot more work though. As it is now, I would hesitantly call it early beta.

I can imagine this was a fun excercise for the author to learn a bit of parser-coding, but for an entry into an IF event, this is subpar.

3 Likes

>X OCIMUM BASILICUM

A heady sweet smell wafts from the leaves and flowers of this bush. The stalks rustle in the wind, you hear a rythmic voice within…

>LISTEN TO BASIL

There, underneath the rustling of leaves, a voice murmurs a poem. It speaks of rebellion, of a bard, of …

  • Prosper.0

See! This is how far it’s come. The A.I. aren’t even just our robocratic overlords, they’re our rebel leaders as well.

Prosper.0 offers a glimpse into a dystopian anti-culture. All these creative outpourings of emotions, all these grasps at meaning,… Pish-posh! Out with them.

A gentle guided meditation (in the form of bureaucratic procedure) on the importance of poetry (and by extension, art), and a welcoming invitation to the player to participate.

Good story, good characters, good mechanics. I enjoyed playing this a lot!


Basil whispered of summer sleep.

a fairy chorus, songs of welcome.

the sad man spoke of sunshine.

[J4K-B09C6]


To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,
One clover, and a bee.
And revery.
The revery alone will do,
If bees are few.
[Emily Dickinson]

8 Likes

>X CABOMBA AQUATICA

image

A small pond lies in the shade. Its surface adorned with a dainty little yellow flower. Underneath, the plant spreads out into large fan-like leaf structures, slowly swaying.

>TOUCH FANS

Mesmerised by the swaying motion, you reach out to touch the underwater leaves. Before you know it, you topple forward into the pond. Holding your breat and looking around, you see you’re now in…

  • Octopus’s Garden

At first it was great looking out the apartment window, the city at your feet. (Well, “feet”,… Arms? Appendages?) But you’ve grown bored of the view, you want a change of scenery.

Initially, I misunderstood the objective of the game. My efforts were aimed at a rather modest change of the view, while my PC apparently had a much more radical idea. (I was collecting coloured things to put in front of the window. Turns out Octo wants to move out of the apartment altogether…)

Once my (the player’s) and Octo’s (the PC’s) wishes and goals were aligned, I started to see the devilish cunning of the octopus’ mind in action. A few paragraphs that I had dismissed as colourful atmosphere to emphasise Octo’s alien distance to human undertakings turned out to be the key to fulfilling Octo’s wish.

The octopus point of view is convincing, with sharp observations befitting such an intelligent creature, combined with puzzlement about some decidedly human behaviours. The default messages are rewritten to reflect the strengths and limitations of the octopus. The puzzles are a great fit, both for our 8-armed protagonist’s sharp mind and for its peculiar physical superpowers…

Short, entertaining, and puzzling. I’d like to see this as the first of a series of games about this PC. (Octopus’s Castle, Octopus’s Elevator, Octopus’s Outhouse,…)


transcript:
RovarssonOctopusScript.txt (94.2 KB)

6 Likes

>X GARDENIA

On a bare patch of white sandy soil, a dry gardenia flower lies in the sun, its petals browned and brittle.

>SMELL IT
As you bring the flower closer, its petals crumble into dust and a hint of ash enters your nostrils along with the faint flowery sweetness. You sneeze, close your eyes, sneeze again. You look around and see you’ll have to tie up some…

  • Loose Ends

You’ve been summoned before one of the big guys, one of the powerful ones. There’s been a murder and you must investigate. Not for the sake of the victim or their loved ones, oh no… For the sake of discreetness. The whole thing was a tad too visible to outsiders, and we wouldn’t want to break the Masquerade, now would we? Especially not for something so banal as a measly human life…
Find the killer, the witness, and the evidence.

The introduction of Loose Ends immediately sets the tone. It feels like a mélange of detective noir, a maffia clan story, and of course VampireKindred-lore. (Varkonyi simultaneously in the roles of the Vampire Elder, the Don who makes an offer you can’t refuse, and the blonde Babe with the husky voice who just walked into your office with a backlit cigarette-smoke halo around her.)

The above blurred text is a little joke of mine, but Loose Ends is anything but a comedy game. While Alder Varkonyi was explaining the assignment to you in his office, it seemed straightforward enough. Once outside though, alone in the city at night, pressed for time and clues, it quickly becomes clear that this is no laughing matter.

The introduction offers few choices. Few, but critical to the course of the story to follow. Some basic elements of your character’s backstory need to be filled in, and they are important. (More so than, say, hair colour…)
The approach to obstacles, your PC’s favoured strategies, the talents you have access to, … All of this hinges on those first choices, and will heavily influence the perspective through which the reader experiences the story.

Then… Out of the office, onto the streets. The simplicity of the task-as-described crumbles. You’re dragged down a whorl of complications, you spiral down into an intricate web of loyalties and treachery, feuds and allegiances, innocence and deception.

Rather than disentangle yourself, the point of the game is to dive deeper and choose. Choose which strands to tighten and which to sever. Realise that danger is inevitable, whichever way you go, and make sure you are equipped for whatever lies at the end of your path.

You will meet many other characters, mortal and undead. Most of them have an agenda of their own. Consider carefully what your own long-term objective will be, whose personal aims align most with yours. Be aware that all choices are trade-offs, potentially lethal.

When I wrote this isn’t a comedic game, I did not mean there is no humour in Loose Ends. There is. It’s mostly to be found in the protagonist’s dry, self-deprecating narration. While there is nothing funny about the events and circumstances, the main character’s cynical reactions to them do have a certain amusing, if somewhat bleak, quality. The character-building choices from the introduction may have determined the backstory, the options in the game proper do offer enough leeway to steer your PC’s personality away from (or further towards) this cynicism and egocentrism. This provides a sense of open-endedness, of ongoing development to the protagonist’s character.

The writing as a whole is very good, both in its choice of words and sentences as in the overarching structure of the narrative.

The backdrop of the weather and the gloomy night-time city add to the harsh, uncaring cruelty of events. A range of feelings, both human and vampiric, are compellingly evoked, both in the story-characters and in the reader. Desperation and hope, strength and weakness, indifference and care, all these are spread along the branches of the narrative, in greater or lesser doses according to the chosen path. Not pressed upon the reader, but called forth by good writing.

The overall structure of this confusing web of choices and interpersonal relations is impressively realised. Irrevocable decisions with long-term consequences have to be made, based on incomplete information. Characters are bound by sympathy or enmity towards one another, causing consequences of your choices to ripple through the unseen social relations.

A tough game. Not because there are difficult puzzles, or because it’s hard to reach an ending, but because of the finality of decisions and the moral twilight of the trade-offs you must make on the way there.

Very impressive.

9 Likes

>X DANDELION

>LISTEN TO IT
You let yourself be swept away on the musical breeze…

  • Bydlo; or the Ox-Cart

An itsy-bitsy little ditty.

2 Likes

Thank you so much for the review! We’re beyond flattered, and so glad you enjoyed it!

vampire mafiosi, that is, a too attractive major plot device… (scribbling notes)

Best regards from Italy,
dott. Piergiorgio.

3 Likes

>X DRACUNCULUS VULGARIS

A black dragon’s tongue protrudes from a deep purple flower bowl.

>TOUCH TONGUE
The Dragon-flower’s mouth swallows you whole and spits you back out. You wake up in an unknown land. High above you flies…

  • The Dragon of Steelthorne

*BANG*! *HACK*! *SLASH*!

After sending wave after wave of soldiers into the fray, the army of straw-puppets is finally defeated. And with that, Lady Dupont d’Avignon Steelthorne’s training comes at an end, earning her the command of the Alenian Empire’s first “Landship”, a steam-powered armoured transport vehicle.

Fortunately, despite the introductory chapter consisting of a bout of combat training, The Dragon of Steelthorne offers a lot of options to steer clear of bloodshed and complete your tasks through diplomacy and negotiations.

Lady Dupont d’Avignon’s first real mission: unlock the mysterious abandoned city of Lake Phantom, pave the way for settlers and scientists. An enxciting exploration into the unknown, with only vague lore and ancient historical records as sources of information.

After a while I was really getting into the groove of exploring this empty city, finding out more about its history and its previous inhabitants. Then comes a sudden change of pace. A pleasant surprise: after cementing your hold on Lake Phantom, it’s time to start expanding it. In a fase of citybuilding gameplay, you must manage resources and time to build structures which grant benefits for your military or your citizens.
Through the game, Landship missions alternate with citybuilding fases a few times. The first managment cycle is rather permissive, but later on the needs of the upcoming mission will weigh heavier on the sorts of buildings to add to the city.

I felt that the passing of time was very well handled during the Landship missions. Even though its steam engine allows for much faster travel than horse-and-carriage, it still takes days to reach distant destinations, time well-spent getting to know your companions and building rapport or even friendship. A few short paragraphs during these sequences impress the distance travelled on the reader, as well as offering a view of the surrounding landscape.
Unfortunately, this convincing feeling of passing time crumbles during the city-building stages. At the start of a management fase, you’re told how many weeks you have until the next mission. Per week, you are allowed one action. This allows you to plan ahead which buildings to construct with an eye on the requirements of the upcoming task. Since my character Lady Dupont d’Avignon is the leader of the city, and as such she only has to put her signature on the construction paperwork (instead of heaving stone-blocks herself), this already put a bit of strain on my feeling of time-flow. But it’s easy to let this go as a trade-off for the sake of balanced gameplay.
A far more deleterious design decision is that the social management is directly linked to the city-management. Any time you choose to spend time with a companion to deepen the relationship, this choice also counts as one-action-per-week.
The first time I chose to visit a friend instead of constructing a building, I thought I’d be spending an entire week on a sub-quest with one of my companions, exploring specific regions of the surrounding lands, engaging in deep study of the city’s history, or getting a week’s worth of thorough combat training. Instead I got two or three paragraphs about a conversation or a hunting trip that could hardly have lasted an afternoon or an evening. It was very hard to reconcile this with the fact that as the leader of the city, I couldn’t be bothered for the rest of the week to sign some papers ordering the construction of a hospital.

The Landship with its steam-engine is a great moodsetter and worldbuilding device. It serves as a powerful symbol of an era where the balances of power are tilting. Unlike in harder steampunk SF, the technological advances and their consequences per se are not directly investigated, more mentioned in passing, their disruptive power looming in the background.
The steam-fantasy adventure that The Dragon of Steelthorne is focuses more on the political relations between three neighbouring countries, a sort of condensed fantasy counterpart ot the English-Chinese relations during colonial times.

As I said above, I was happy to lean heavily toward the diplomatic side of things. Fortunately for the story, when the stakes of the missions rise, so does the internal conflict for the player. As I put it in a PM to the author;

It’s actually good for the narrative tension to have His Majesty’s lust for conquering give a bit of pushback against my pacifist impulses. If it were up to me, we would all be having a picnic by the lake, peacefully reciting poetry and skinny-dipping. The most combat would be that of the pieces on the board during a friendly game of chess.

The entire journey through the game, the build-up to the final chapter and its definitive choices, was very engaging. Therefore, it came as a bit of a disappointment that the actual finale feels rushed. A bunch of loose ends and words left unspoken could be handled in some more in-depth conversations with my companions. Instead, I felt like these were brushed aside summarily, without closure apart from a brief mention in a choice-less paragraph of text.

Great worldbuilding, engaging main character, exciting story.

9 Likes

@rovarsson Thanks for the review. It was a pleasure to discuss the game with you and your thoughts about it over PM, as well as to read your review!

1 Like