Viv Dunstan’s 2023 Spring Thing & Autumnal Jumble impressions

Thanks so much for spending time with my game! I really value your feedback on the metatext, since I think it was the hardest to write (except for the ending).

I’m grateful for your review; thanks again.


One more comment re Repeat the Ending. As I said to Drew elsewhere I could have written so much more about this in my review. I sort of wish I had. But I feel very strongly that this is a game best discovered by each player afresh. And I absolutely didn’t want to spoil things. If anything my review underplays how good it was. There are many more things I could have acknowledged. But that way lies spoilers. And I wanted to avoid them! Try it out anyway folks!


I’ve earmarked another 4 games for playing next. Fingers crossed I may get to a reviewed total of 20 by the competition’s end date. No promises! But very much enjoying my time playing Spring Thing this year. Thanks to all the authors.


Marie Waits by Dee Cooke

This is a time-limited parser game where you have to escape from a very dangerous situation. It is briskly written, with lots of atmosphere, scares and tension. However I found that I was often fighting the parser. The experience could have been smoother. I don’t know if it being in PunyInform was a factor, but e.g. if I had a key for something that it obviously fitted UNLOCK X wouldn’t smoothly work. I had to type UNLOCK X WITH Y KEY. There’s also quite a bit of juggling tools, where again you need just the right command. So I think this could have benefited from deeper playtesting. However it was exciting to play, and the concept is strong. I got a good ending but also had a look at what happened when time runs out. So good stuff, but playtest more, and if possible smooth the player experience.

Notes for author

I especially struggled to interact with the floorboards. Eg I couldn’t get good responses to EXAMINE FLOOR. Also LIFT FLOORBOARD WITH CHISEL didn’t work. I really had to use the walkthrough at this point.


Thanks for the review! A lot of the less-smooth issues may be due to my inexperience with Puny (unlocking commands etc. have to be explicit by default and I haven’t looked into how to change that yet), but I’ll be collecting and adding more command synonyms for a later release.


Your Post-Apocalyptic To-Do List by Geoffrey Golden

This is a very wacky short Ink piece, where as the opening says:

Today is your first day as a mutant hog farmer in the wild wastelands of Arizoona.

It’s bonkers, but highly entertaining. Surprisingly effective at world building. And it does have depth in terms of being a state management game. You are limited in what you can do each turn, and always need to do more than you have time for.

I only played through once but really enjoyed it. I didn’t encounter any bugs, and it was solidly implemented. I was pleased to see in the credits at the end that there were a lot of testers. This game certainly made me laugh a lot. Thank you!


Etiolated Light by Lassiter W.

This is a moderately long (I wouldn’t say “short” as the game card says) Twine piece, that is gothic horror and very spooky.

When it started up with

You are sitting in the office of an official

I worried how the writing would go. “Office” and “official” felt too similar to be effective writing. But you are a child at this point, and the opening captures that characterisation well.

As the story goes on you get drawn into a dangerous world of mysteries. And it’s really compelling, and disturbing. Quite horrific in places, but not so much gory horror as spooks.

There must be multiple endings. I got a not great one, and the game doesn’t allow you to step back, and I didn’t want to replay all the way through. But I very much enjoyed the experience. I also liked how it offered multiple choices re gender in places. And how later individual choices already done are differently coloured (though this may not work for players using screen readers).

I noticed quite a lot of typos (to be fair out of a lot of written text that you read), so will note them below for the author to potentially fix.


One smiles and the others’ face slackens - other’s

In the corner is that same butterfly from earlier, helplessly flapping it wings. - should be “its wings”

You wake up the find that every light in your bedroom has been turned on. There are even lights that’ve been moved in from other rooms. - should be “wake up to find”

And it isn’t just Cessair’s room, not just the window. That’s where the spider lays but its web - it’s web extends over the entire back of the house. - it’s should be its

The days pass by in a hazey blur. You think you hear things: footsteps, something moving behind the walls, tapping on your window. - hazy?


Thanks for playing and for the very nice review. I take “bonkers” as high praise! :crazy_face:


Lady Thalia and the Masterpiece of Moldavia by E. Joyce & N. Cormier

This is a Twine game, that’s a mix of historical, crime and social niceties. It’s the latest in a series featuring gentlewoman thief Lady Thalia. I can’t recall if I’ve played any other others. This game is perfectly playable by people unfamiliar with the others.

I really enjoyed it. The writing was strong, and the mix of game play elements worked well. There are four acts to the story, so you get a sense of progress. It took me about an hour to play through in total, and I read pretty quickly for reference.

Some of the elements involved social interaction, and conversations. And this was very well implemented. Others were more of a traditional crime heist. Even almost a maze element at one point. Which I didn’t make the best job of, but had fun. Everything leads up to a dramatic ending, but along the way there are unexpected developments, new foes to encounter, and intrigue to uncover. Even during the heist you have many options of how to approach it, e.g. what route to take, how to interact with things, how to respond to problems that occur. It’s just delightful.

If you like Jeeves and Wooster stories, or Arsene Lupin, do check this out. And even if you’re not familiar with them but enjoy a good interactive story it’s a good one.

Note for the author

I noticed a typo near the end, just as I was about to steal the fresco:

Your task list is as follows:
• You’ve collected all your tools.
• You’ve cleared a path to the best of your ability

  • i.e. a blank line between the “You’ve cleared a path” line and its full stop.

Oh and my final finesse score was 31/39. I was pretty rubbish at scouting out the maze and turning off alarms. I was relieved I got away with things!


Oh absolutely, very much so!


Thank you, Viv, for playing all our games and for finding time to comment on each separately. Truly, this becomes the best part of the THING - the metatext life on this forum, the reviews (as far as they are nice like yours) and the satisfaction when the reader makes it through the puzzles. It will be easier now to persuade authors to join next year.


Thanks for the excellent review, and glad to hear you liked it!

Oh thank goodness. Coding aside, this has been something we’ve consistently worried about/struggled with as we get deeper into the series, so I’m very glad it’s still accessible to newcomers.

Also, thanks for the heads up about the typo! @EJoyce or I will get on that promptly.


Aesthetics Over Plot by ro-han

This is a short but entertaining Twine piece set at a party where through social interactions you need to try to get a job. It’s branching, and there are bad outcomes, and then others where you can get on better, and move the plot on. It is also possible to go back to previous choices, and try different routes. The writing is fun, though there are quite a lot of typos, including in the game blurb on the competition site. I’m going to include notes for the author in case they want to fix some of these later. But that aside it’s briskly written, amusing, and I felt a sense of immersion within the story. And I was happy exploring different endings.

Typo notes for the author

Some of them anyway. I stopped noting them after a while. But definitely recommend fixing the competition website game blurb ones.

[competition website game blurb] After losing your job as a well paid biologist, you have been living rather … let’s say frugally. With the oppurtunity of getting invited to one of your buccaneer friend’s party/banquet (really though?), you are determined to get the next job. But your potential bosses involve a omniscent mind reading cactus, a really cool donkey, and a wall. How would you win the job? - opportunity, omniscient (and put an before it not a)

Too bad you were fired about an year ago but none of your friends know that. - should be “a year ago”

ofcourse your experience as a biologist - missing space in “of course”

The crowd disperses as you make your way through. “The tshirt is doing it’s job just right” you say to yourself. - should be its


My dark secret is that I was also awful at the maze exploration portions when I tried to test them without the pre-drawn map in front of me.

Thanks for the review!


Thanks for reviewing the game, and thanks for the typo notes, I’ll fix those asap.


Red Door Yellow Door by Charm Cochran

This is described as a short game in the competition listings, but I’d say it’s medium length at least, and possibly longer.

It starts as a visualisation game among four young girls, where one sister guides another sister through a stream of consciousness exploration of a strange imaginary world. It turns into something much stranger and darker.

The implementation of the parser game world is light at best, a series of well spread out rooms, with scattered objects. Initially it does feel as though it’s insubstantial, a meditative experience that you could just step out of. But then things take a turn.

I think there are several endings. I got a bad one. And played through trying to get to a better one. I had a clue I think re the meat and horsefly and the tower but I couldn’t find the solution to picking up the meat. Even though I had a plastic bag, that I think I should have been able to use.

The game has no hints or walkthrough. This was a problem for me. I play for fun, and although there’s a marvellous old tradition of hard parser games, nowadays people tend to like to have the option of clues to fall back on if necessary. Some of us very much so. I would ask any parser game competition entrant to consider including a walkthrough at least, if not a full blown hints system. Because for me banging my head against a puzzle isn’t fun any more, even if it’s something I was willing to do in the 1980s.

However, that said, this is a highly intriguing work. I loved the commentary and chat between the girls early on. And some of the spooky stuff is so effective. Just leave some clues for players.


Structural Integrity by Tabitha O’Connell

This is a LGBTQ novella adapted into multiple ending Twine form.

There’s quite a lot of interaction with your partner, and a lot of choices about how to speak to them. But often early on I felt it wasn’t offering me the chance to explore difficult choices. There were things I wanted to say or do that weren’t offered to me. Which is maybe not surprising if it’s adapted from a novella.

However it does something narrative wise part way through that totally switches around, and I found extremely satisfying. I only played through to one ending. There are multiple choices you could make and change how it ends up. But i felt interactive, and exploring the characters, and reaching a satisfactory resolution.

So yes, initially I thought this was going to be far too linear and not interactive enough. But then things flipped, and it took a totally fresh approach. Well done to the author!


Right??! That one got me too, and it still haunts me! 2nd’d on the hint/walkthrough also.

Reading other peoples’ experiences with Red Door, Yellow Door makes it even more intruiging than when I was wandering around the hypnosis-world alone.

@vivdunstan , @jjmcc : The plastic bag is not enough, you need rubber gloves from the dream-kitchen.


Thank you! I wondered if there might be something like that there and was planning to go have another look. Will in a mo. Cheers!