Thoughts on some of the Dialogue Jam games

I thought I’d try playing and writing about some of the Dialogue Jam games, especially as I failed to enter and so have no skin in the game. But then I looked and saw there are 35 of them. 35! Very impressive. But creates a sort of Edinburgh-fringe level of anxiety in a prospective reviewer.

Anyway, these are not really reviews. And I have not even attempted to look at all the games (maybe more next week. Maybe). Just some personal observations and musings. Useful if they are useful, otherwise take or leave at your pleasure.


Who Stole My Sausages? (Productive Pigeons)

You’re a detective, trying to work out who in your shared house has cooked and eaten a packet of sausages.

Has a fully functional clue mechanic, where you collect pieces of information from witnesses and then can use these (the game remembers them for you, thankfully) to show contradictions in other witnesses and thus wangle further insight. You get to make an accusation of what happened when you think you’re ready. You may be wrong. I certainly was.

You can interview your housemates at will, and will need to come back and re-interview them as you get more info.

I don’t know how common this detective mechanic is – I have seen something quite like it before in one of those Very Grownup games that I won’t link here – but in essence it’s kind of like Cluedo in that you check off what you’ve seen until you are confident of what remains.

Does it stretch the boundaries of pure dialogue with this? Arguably. But the characters are fun and well-delineated, even if they make up a slightly implausible household. The artwork is suitably witty. I did keep hoping that something deeper about the characters’ lives would emerge – I mean, most household arguments are not really, ultimately, about the sausages, right? – but that didn’t happen. It’s all just fun. But good fun.

Definitely one that deserves a life beyond this comp.

Mother (Cheng Min)

I think you’re a detective in this one. Certainly you have a colleague who’s referred to as an officer.

And you’re pitched straight into an interrogation. The case is complex – mistaken identity, assault, extortion. You don’t get to choose what to pursue, though, as you’re mainly just clicking to get the next line of dialogue. I suspect this is written by someone for whom English is a second language, but it’s all very tangled.

I hit an impassable dead link before being able to make much sense of things.

The Disappearance of Kevin from Finance (yveseas)

You’re a self-appointed detective in this one, perhaps because you don’t have quite enough else to do. The mechanic of pursuing your missing (or is he?) finance officer through the office email system (cross-referencing with variously-helpful colleagues), his twitter account, and finally the real world is fun, even if there’s nothing particularly striking about any of them (or is that the point?).

But (without giving anything away) the ending is a wee bit “but it was all a dream” – the stakes are suddenly deflated, which is a shame.

Another one with promise though.


Syzygy (HobbyLevelWorkingMother)

You’re an interstellar diplomat, dealing with the complexities of an upcoming landing on a new world. You get intelligence reports, and messages from the planet Syzygy and the arriving fleet. Luckily, you have an assistant to discuss all of this with before you compose your diplomatic responses. For some reason, in the far future, these exchanges are done by letter.

You get to choose from several options to compose each letter, and these are genuinely varied (you can be polite, demanding, warm, etc). Some of your correspondents even send you poetry, which is both fun and more functional that it might immediately appear.

Problem is, for me, eventually it all felt a little bit too much like hard work to actually be fun – a bit too much of a reading-comprehension exercise combined with (several) info-dumps.

But there’s lots of good writing (my favourite bits are the conversations with your factotum, which is often real dialogue – chat but with depth and immediacy) and I’d like to see more from the creator. The design is clean and effective too. It’s also nice to know that Douglas Adams is still appreciated all these years down the line.

A Winter Away (Jaylus)

Short, sweet and charming. You’re a duck who’s left home – quite a long way away - to be with your goose partner. You miss your home and family. So you write letters to your mum (and she writes to you); you also get to chat to the “mailbirb” who delivers them.

It’s beautifully made, designed and animated; it avoids cloying, right from the start, by touching gently on some sorer points about the cross-cultural experience.

The story’s neatly structured with a big twist and reveal, but you can’t do much to change it more than superficially. This one’s more about atmosphere and feels than interactivity.


Him (And Us) (alyshkalia)

Short and sweet: your S.O. sort-of wants to tell you about an awkward interaction they had earlier today. And will – at least a little bit – if you handle the conversation right.

Much as I might have liked to know more about what’s happened, that’s clearly the point – the relationship that matters is the one right here. The game’s exactly the right form, the right size and shape, for its content: doesn’t overpromise or drag. Also effective and unintrusive design.

I particularly liked that there’s a dialogue jam game here that rewards being a good listener.

Chatterbox (IchorOfRuin)

A very atmospheric chat sim, complete with bad grammar, typos and deep-felt grievances. And then it becomes something worse.

The concept (chatting about murders and then gradually finding you’re [REDACTED]) is a fine one. Maybe it needs another edit to really land – I find the links-that-look-like-links-but-aren’t a slightly unsatisfying representation of entrapment, and possibly the moments of realisation (for the player, and the character) need to be stronger / cleaner (I think this is why some commenters have not absolutely “got it”). But I enjoyed this lots.

Tell Me About Yourself (Freakish Games)

Um, not sure I get this one. You seem to be talking to the machine. It asks a few questions and then posits a sort-of puzzle that isn’t really dialogue and then shouts a lot with no way forward. I’m obviously missing something.

Pear Party (floodpoolform)

I don’t think there’s anything you can do in this one except derail this party conversation by talking about your specialist subject. Which is amusing enough as it goes.

BEER (Max Fog)

I’m not sure if it’s broken or I am. Or if either would be intentional. If not (or even possibly if it is) it’s quite a meta experience about a quotidian one.

I did enjoy the error message ‘“Happiness” isn’t valid syntax in Harlowe syntax for the inside of a macro call.’ We’ve probably all been there.

And the false endings.


LOL, that’s probably the game. But it’s intentional for sure.

You got that was manually written by me, …


:sweat_smile: I spent a good amount of time with Manon figuring out how to do that, so it really was interesting…

Thank god somebody saw them!!! Where did you get up to?

Thanks for the review, however confusing a story it may be! (It was originally a Really Bad IF Jam piece, so … it retains some of those humorous bad bits. All the stuff in red is sort of a “meta conversation” also happening about sort-of deleted scenes, if you will… Maybe one day in the future I’ll make a big game about that.


Ha, yes, I realised it’s not a real error (especially popping up in public). How far? Well, the hierarchy gets a bit muddled after the cashier gets involved but maybe waking up?

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Ah! Have you gotten to the (spoilers in increasing orders) “A supermassive”rainbowthe choice of colours and the scanners bit?

Oh I think I got choice of colours and then stuck on It’s beautiful / It’s ugly where nothing seemed to work.

Honestly I genuinely hate timed things in twine games so I must have liked it a lot. :rofl:

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Yeah, there is a counter. Once you click on the two choices three times, you advance.

Oh wait, do you mean you couldn’t click on the links for “It’s beautiful / It’s ugly” for some time? Yeah, I have no idea what that was about. It just happened. On mobile, you should be able to click them just fine, but not on desktop. Sorry bout that :laughing:

Thank you for sharing your thoughts—much appreciated!!