Viv Dunstan’s 2023 Spring Thing & Autumnal Jumble impressions

I’m hoping to get through some entries, though I have modest expectations this year. My neurological disease is progressing, plus I’m having recurring many months long flares. But I have a slight breather at the mo, so fingers crossed!

I’m just going to play those entries I can. I won’t write in depth reviews, but rather impressions / thoughts. Apologies to those authors I don’t get to. Thank you to all of you for entering this year. And to Mathbrush for taking on the organiser mantle.

More soon hopefully! And thanks to the other folks writing reviews.


Ouch! Won’t that hurt?

I’m sending my best hopes and my most flexible thoughts to your typing fingers. Curious to read your thoughts. (And even more curious to see if those typing fingers will come up with a new game…?)

EDIT: I’ve just found your thesis on Reading Habits in Scotland circa 1750-1820. Most interesting! I love when historians delve deeper into one particular subject instead of naming the great men of the era.
I think your article A Court in Decline is very interesting. You keep sending me on fetch-quests through history, finding more exciting articles along with your own work.


I hope you will get better soon.
Some time ago I write to you becouse I loved your reviews. I didn’t know about your illness. You’re welcome.


Secret of the Black Walrus by spaceflounder

This choice-based piece is a Victorian-set detective hunt, where you play a female detective. The writing is strong, the mystery intriguing, and as I played I felt thoroughly engaged in the investigation. There are some things that could be smoother. Eg when you are asking lots of questions it might be nicer if questions where you won’t get any new information weren’t presented again as choices after you have asked them. But it was remarkably good fun. Recommended to any fans of mysteries, detective hunts, Victoriana and Sherlock Holmes. And nice to have a female protagonist! Oh and I adored the cab mechanism.

I spotted a few small typos/errors. Here are the details for the author:


1/ In about: Are you a clever enough to discover … - remove a? Or add detective? This is also in the Spring Thing website game blurb.
2/ When you wait to see Aldi the only choice option is “Investigate trunk” but no trunk has been mentioned in the room description
3/ “I sensed he was about say something especially vile when I heard the blast of a revolver. It seemed loud enough to nearly shake my box to splinters.” - should have word “to” before “say”
4/ Not a bug as such, but would be great if the cab box responds to things like “221B Baker Street” (or Baker Street), Buckingham Palace, etc. Might be nice addition for any rerelease.


Write or Reflect? by Andrew Schultz

This is a Python piece, that combines ruminations on the process of writing (which could be any form of writing, but in this piece is chapter-based text) and some numerical tricks. I enjoyed the earlier parts of the experience more. I’ve written enough - including a very long PhD thesis - that I have lots of thoughts about writing myself! And indeed the balance that works or doesn’t for me between reflection and writing. The game captured that early on very well. However as it got further in and became more of a numerical puzzle I found it less satisfying. But I did get to a rewarding ending. Worth checking out anyway, if you can get the Python to work. It set me thinking afresh about how I relate to writing, and for that thank you very much Andrew.


Thank you for your very kind review and for finding those bugs! I will make some adjustments.


Thanks for this! The overall effect was what I was hoping for, but sorry it got a bit long.

I was worried about when I should cut off the numerical puzzle–I didn’t want the player to skate too soon, bot I didn’t want them to be left hanging.

ETA: also, noticed your post about getting it to work. Thanks again for taking the time to jump through those hoops for something I should’ve caught in the first place. It’s that much more motivation to send in an update that 1) prompts the player on how to install colorama if it’s not there and 2) can substitute the text-coloring if the player can’t install colorama.


Beat Me Up Scotty by Jkj Yuio

This is a fun spoof version of - no it isn’t, yeah right! - Star Trek The Original Series, where you are presented with a series of mini puzzles, and have to figure out the right word to use to solve the situation each time. Or you can type “pass”. I laughed so much throughout this, but I think it would work best for any fan of the series it obviously isn’t (yeah right!) based on. The characterisations of Scotty, Bones and Spock are nicely captured by the author. And there is a tongue in cheek humour throughout.

I did have a few problems with the interface. On Safari on my Mac it wouldn’t initially play the opening sound. I switched to Chrome, but after the first puzzle that no longer left the current puzzle paragraph clear to read. But that aside it was fun. Recommended, though especially if you’re a fan of Star Trek. I especially liked how it let you type “pass” if you got stuck, and that isn’t a game killer. And you can view the surprisingly readable source code to see how it works. An interesting system. Thanks to the author!


I think the colour is nice but very much not necessary. It would be fine to play it without it. And indeed to release it without it. Some people may have considerable problems installing colorama. So yup, not needed.


Stygian Dreams by Giorgos Menelaou

This is a combined parser/click game, where you can interact with elements of the text as well as type in parser commands. The game is set in Ancient Greece, and sees you try to uncover what is going on, including a journey into Hades. I definitely recommend playing it online because you will get images there. The images don’t appear - or at least didn’t for me - using the downloaded game file and an offline interpreter.

There’s a lot to like. There’s a lyricalness to the storytelling. However being relatively unfamiliar with the setting and the ancient Greek myths I found things quite incomprehensible in places. I also had difficulty understanding the geography and the directions. For example early on I was trying every direction to move things on, even though the game suggested I was following a clue character. This repeated trying west/north/east/south broke the immersion for me. I think clearer clueing would help.

I got to an ending where I think my character died, after dreaming of his wife for many years. Which was satisfying, but overly abrupt. I’d like to see that smoothed. I would also have liked to see some after game notes that you could read after finishing. There are also a lot of unimplemented scenery objects that are mentioned in the text but don’t respond to EXAMINE X. A fuller and richer implementation covering those would be well worthwhile.

I found quite a lot of typos, especially early on. Here are some notes for the author:


1/Orpheus’ lamentations of his own journey through these dark realms had seemed dramatic to you. But as you inhale air as crisp as that from the highest mountaintops … - should perhaps be mountain tops with a space?

2/ Heracles’ experience of the underworwld was also different. To him, it seemed almost trivial; but then again, what else could be expected from the half-divine son of thunder? - should be underworld

3/ There are a lot of double spaces throughout e.g. in “trembling of your newfound__companion’s” (between those last two words)

4/ You were never all that bothered by your form, then or now. Clad in a chiton and zoster, with your chlamys pinned on the right shoulder, you could very well pass as nothing but one of many. Only your sandals being of the finest leather would imply a somewhat noteable background. 2 - I’m assuming that “2” at the end shouldn’t be there


Yes please! I installed Python, ready to play this, and then I stalled when it wanted me to install colorama.


I wanted it to just be a nice simple additional feature, but it turned out the hassle for players has been a little too much! I think what’s really frustrating is, I threw a lot of plans for using color out the window, so I sacrificed a lot of user friendliness for relatively little functionality.

I was able to settle on a pretty simple way to proceed whether or not the end user had colorama installed. It needs testing.

Thanks for the additional encouragement! I’m doing a bit more testing today. My plan is to 1) have instructions on how to install colorama going forward and 2) if that doesn’t work, allow the player to proceed anyway. The coding feels like there’s nothing too tricky, but it’s got some tricks that have left me cautious.

The frustrating thing about installing packages in python is, once you’ve done it a few times, it’s relatively easy. But until then, it’s intimidating. And you think you remember how tricky it was, but I didn’t.

Thank to both of you for mentioning these things–this is Viv’s review topic, so I don’t want to hijack it too much. But I think it’s worth noting that while these sorts of concerns may seem hard to bring up, they’re very valuable and have pushed me to consider usability issues I’d glossed over.


I have been quite happy for this discussion here :slight_smile: Improving a game’s usability and accessibility is very worthwhile IMHO. Thanks to you both for your posts!


Elftor and the Quest of the Screaming King by Damon L. Wakes

This is a Twine piece with branching narratives where you are a legendary elf hero, tasked with saving a kingdom.

The writing is amusing, and I replayed quite a lot to see different endings. I never got a successful outcome one. However I ran into a bug. After facing the ogre single handed I got a mostly blank screen, just the red background, then two horizontal lines. The game had totally seized up.

I was also frustrated that at least in my Safari on my Mac I never saw the stats (e.g. HP, EXP etc.) on screen again after the opening. Given I was doing things to affect them I really really wanted to see them! That may just be me though.

But it was an amusing fantasy piece. Nicely short too. I’d just like to see it polished a bit more.


Hey, thanks for taking the time to play and review!

The «bad end» is actually supposed to be extra hard to get, so i’m impressed you actually managed to get that. As for the clueing, there’s definitely something to work on!

Thanks for pointing out the typos, i’ll get to sorting those and maybe uploading a solve-sheet, if only to show the intended route for the game.

-And to add the disclaimer that the game should be played online only! Vorple has that requirement after all.

Thanks again!

Sidenote: if you happen to remember what mentioned objects would need a description, that would be incredibly helpful!

And followup edit: I just realised that the overhead bar that hints on available locations as to what you can do next, is… not visible without vorple. Another reviewer had a similar issue, so that explains a fair bit. Adding the blurb about online only post haste!


The Familiar by groggydog

This was a delightful parser game, where you, a witch’s crow familiar, have to save your mistress. There’s a light touch to the writing, and it’s friendly to beginner parser players. The reduced parser helps, though I struggled with it in a few places - I’ll include notes for the author at the end. The fantasy worldbuilding is strong, and a series of fetch quests takes you through the story, plus extremely well written and nicely implemented conversations with various characters. Things got really frightening at times. In a good way. I’m still feeling relieved that I got a good ending and not a bad one as things played out! I was also grateful to the author for including a walkthrough (two versions). Oh and the artwork throughout is gorgeous.

Some extra notes for the author:

  • struggled to get to Valmai at the start, went to walkthrough to find had to type LOOK VALMAI
  • would be nice if allowed IN as alias for ENTER - I kept trying that!
  • ditto EXAMINE for LOOK
  • tried DROP FLOWER but had to DROP STALK (at the end)
  • and “Wah!” I just missed getting the secret ending. I was so freaked out by the end of the city fetch quests that I hurried back to our home, really worried the bird was going to get me, and I couldn’t spend a moment longer. So 3/4 bonds :wink:

I was using the online version through Vorple, but I didn’t see that overhead bar last time I played. It probably was there and I didn’t notice it. But I do see it now I know where to look.

Here are some unimplemented EXAMINE X objects I spotted. I can’t replay the whole thing, but these are some:


In Building Entrance: pool (or water), building
In Kapeleion: tables, shadows
All give “You can’t see any such thing”, which breaks the immersion.


Insomnia: Twenty-Six Adventures After Dark by Leon Lin

This is a short Twine game with multiple endings. I liked the intro explaining (especially for newcomers to Twine) how the interactive story and clickable links work. And I really appreciated the option in the game to go back to the last checkpoint if you reach an ending, rather than go back to the very start every time.

The writing is amusing, but I was initially wondering if I would explore too far, if things got too repetitive. But in the end I played through to see all the different endings. It’s a branching narrative, so they’re not too hard to reach, but it just takes time. The writing is a good reward though. Lots of amusing scenes played out, multiple genres, neatly written.

As an insomniac I could also relate to so much of this, albeit with more amusement than tossing and turning. Thanks to the author!


The Roads Not Taken by manonamora

This is a curious parser/Twine combo. I admire the author’s bravery for trying to implement a parser in Twine. Though I found it more often than not somewhat frustrating.

For example there’s a point where you are asked your name. Rather than just type that into the entry box you have to type e.g. “name Viv”. Which felt unintuitive.

Equally, common parser abbreviations like n, e, s and w for directions weren’t recognised, and you had to type the full words. And often I would struggle to get the game to respond. Not helped by the screen also often not scrolling down to show me when new text had appeared if I did type something recognised, so there were frequently times when it felt like I’d had no response but I just didn’t always see it before trying other commands.

There is a crucial choice moment where again I was running into a parser brickwall. I tried something different, and got an interesting outcome. Then replayed and managed to get a bit further through the choice, to get another ending. Then tried one last time and got a third ending. But I did not want to replay further. And ran into a bug when I tried to use BACK at the very end to go back to a previous choice.

The underlying story is interesting, intriguing scifi-esque, but I think this game might have been better if written as a more conventional Twine piece. Often I would be repeatedly typing C or CONTINUE to move the story on, which felt like little more than clicking “next” or “continue” in normal Twine. And then when I needed to use the parser I would struggle.

I’m going to add some further notes for the author behind a spoiler section.


Typo: “Hint: to get a list of possible action on this screen.” - “actions” would read better

So often I would struggle to interact with names/objects in bold. My first wish was to click on them! But even if I tried typing a verb object combo it often didn’t work.

The separate functions of KEY (list of commands) and HINT (giving a list of verbs) are somewhat confusingly structured

“Loaded” after typing an unrecognised command gets somewhat exasperating.

After the various endings I got I tried to go BACK to the earlier choice. I got this error:

An error has occurred. You may be able to continue, but some parts may not work properly.

Error: <<CountTurns>>: error within widget code (Error: <<replace>>: no elements matched the selector "#load").

Stack Trace:

And then this appeared on screen:


I really really wanted to just go back and change the very end, not have to replay through all the earlier bits a fourth time.


Thank you Viv for taking the time to review my entry. Sorry the experience was left to be desired.
By any change, have you downloaded your transcript during any of your playthroughs?

Thank you for the notes. I will try to get those fixed. Especially the Back issue.

I’m sorry to say, but I made sure the direction abbreviation were included in the game. You just could not always use them.

EDIT 22Apr: I’ve just sent a new version to Brian (should be online on itch now in the meantime), the scrolling has been fixed! (:crossed_fingers: it should work as intended) and the going back to the last passage choice too!