Viv Dunstan's Spring Thing 2021 impressions

Sorry it’s taken me so long to get to start playing some of these entries. But I’ve been very ill. But I’m going to see if I can get through some before the voting deadline. I’m going to be pretty much lurching through the list like a giant pointing device though, going for what grabs me at the time. And probably more likely the shorter entries! Thanks to all the competitors this year. It hardly seems any time since I was an entrant myself :crazy_face:

My thoughts on each game will be short and succinct, but hopefully constructive for the competitors, and interesting to read.

12 Likes

Take the Dog Out by Ell

This is a nice, short parser game, about taking a dog out. It’s fun to play through, and Muffins the dog has real character that shines through! Though having looked at the walkthrough after I found some of the puzzles a little unintuitive, and the game could do with smoothing in terms of commands understood, aliases etc. However I solved it to a good ending, though not reaching maximum score. I’d recommend that the author adds a full score optional breakdown at the end, so you see where you did well, and maybe where you missed out on things. Woof!

7 Likes

Miss No-Name by Bellamy Briks

This is a branching Twine piece where by backtracking you can reach all the endings and I did for my own satisfaction. That underplays it though because the writing is really strong, and you should play through to experience that. I also found it encouraged me to think really carefully about what choices I wanted to make at each point. Not necessarily the choice that would give the best outcome game-wise, but what felt true to my character as it was evolving through the story. Good stuff!

4 Likes

Picton Murder Whodunnit by Sia See

I was surprised that a whodunnit with lots of suspects and questioning could be played so quickly, but it does merit its “micro” tag in a good way. The whodunnit is set up at the start, and you can question suspects scattered around different rooms of the property. At least one of the NPCs can move (I was struggling to catch up with him as he moved about!). I opted for the guilty suspect being the person whose story didn’t match up with other people. I’m not sure I had entirely the right idea, but I did get the right person in my run through. I gather it’s different every time. This is fun, though I haven’t replayed to see how well the different characters are portrayed when it is their turn to be guilty. Good stuff though!

5 Likes

A Blank Page By Edu Sánchez

Ok this one I could relate to on lots of levels. I write creatively, interactive fiction particularly, but also write regularly as an academic. And imposter syndrome and the challenge of a blank page are ever present in both of those fields.

The story sees you as a writer starting on a new piece of work, and challenged by distractions, shortages of ideas, and a major case of imposter syndrome. The distractions are numerous, and for a long time I seemed to be making no progress overcoming my writing hurdles in the game. But then the mood gradually started to lift, and the story reached a positive ending.

Creative writing is hard. This captured that experience nicely. And praise to the author for a well written piece in what I believe is not their native language. I really enjoyed reading it. It also makes me itch to do some more creative writing myself!

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I’m happy you’re healthy enough to play some interesting entries, and thank you for your positivity :smiley:

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Glad you could join in and that you’re well enough to at least get a taste.

Enjoy!

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Copper Canyon by Tony Pisculli

Going into this it looks ambitious with 10K words and 15 endings. But I’m not going to try to get them all, but just play through once.

One downside is that visually the game defaults to a fairly pale grey text - quite small - on a white/cream background. This isn’t the easiest thing to read. So my first task was to fiddle with the colours in my browser, temporarily, to increase the contrast.

The story sees a group of youngsters in a mining town try to save their town from bandits. The writing is good, but there are an awful lot of “continue” prompts. Interactivity is relatively low, although you do feel that choices are significant.

On the downside against that the main part of the story sees you try to deal with three bandits in particular. The main character comes up with some great ideas for dealing with them, but this isn’t something you as a player can influence very much. It mostly just happens. Your major choice is in which order to deal with them. So yup, a certain lack of agency there.

Having said that the story then went in an unexpected direction, and i was thoroughly gripped through to the end. I was also very pleased with the ending I got to.

But maybe reduce the “continue” elements a bit, or add more player interaction if possible? Writing and story excellent though.

3 Likes

Fish & Dagger by grave snail games

This is a parody spy thriller.

Note the images that appeared in game seemed to take a very long time to load. I don’t know if the graphics were large, or timer delayed, and/or my Internet is just rubbish :wink:

The game assumes you have access to a phone camera to unlock a QR code mid game, but does provide a workaround. I did not have a phone camera so used the workaround!

More frustratingly from an accessibility viewpoint it insists on sound to play, though it isn’t essential to plot. And the graphics on screen behind the text make the text often extremely hard to read. I’m having some accessibility issues here …

Once things start it’s a fun story, with some good narrative twists, including meta textual stsuff. To be honest I’m not remotely sure what was going on, but it was a fun ride! The overall ending is foretold at the start, but quite how you get there and the exact details will vary. I was happy with the ending I got.

I just wish it was a bit easier on the eyes and had fewer accessibility issues.

3 Likes

Misty Hills by Giuliano Roverato Martins Pereira

Ok firing up this Twine one, and looks like you’re waiting for a tram, and there is inventory/stat management on the left side, which looks fun.

On the downside there’s a typo on the opening screen: "You only victory” should be "Your only victory”. Which isn’t encouraging, and isn’t the only typo in game. But I like that there are lots of options right away, and feel that I’m right into the action from the start.

It’s a very short piece, but quite atmospheric. I did feel very much as though I was a traveller having a pleasant interlude in an extremely weird fantasy land. In fact it finished a bit too quickly for me. I’d have liked to linger there for longer. Though I guess that’s the ever-present hazard of being a traveller with limited stop times. Nicely done.

3 Likes

Ned Nelson Really Needs a Job by Eric Crepeau

Another Twine piece, this time about a job where you don’t really know what you’re getting into.

This game is brutal, in more ways than one. It’s branching, but there are many ways of reaching a premature ending. There’s no way to backtrack to replay, short of going back to the start.

And the content is increasingly dark. I think there should have been more of a content warning for this one. Basically I quickly reached a point where I just did not want to play any more!

I would not recommend this for younger players, and even older ones might find it too much to take after a while.

But it is well written, albeit grim. But not for me I think.

1 Like

Perihelion by Tim White

This is a puzzle-based Twine game, that turns out to be about rescuing an alien who lands on your planet.

I’m afraid I got stuck solving this. There are multiple locations you can travel to, unhindered, and it looks like you need to do specific things at different ones at the right time. Which if you’re not there at the right time means a lot of waiting/sleeping, or revisits later. Which in itself leads to a lot of repetition. Eventually it wore me down a bit too much!

Despite that the alien world is nicely presented, and I really did have a sense of place and otherness. I just found the gameplay somewhat frustrating, and I didn’t finish it.

1 Like

[PYG]MALION* by C.J.

Crikey, that is an interesting title! The blurb also grabbed my attention nicely.

This has a mix of graphics and text, though is generally clear to read. I really appreciated the user interface option of pressing the SPACE key to advance the text. Though against that there was a lot of advancing the text to do, analogous to “continue” links in more conventional Twine games.

The user interface lets you select words to alter them e.g. are you a God, or a Goddess, or a Goddex? But it also lets you click on them to see more details. This mix of response type was somewhat confusing, but that’s a relatively minor point.

The game ostensibly is a whodunnit, as you quiz suspects about your murder (yes really!) in a mysterious mansion. But I think it’s less of a whodunnit and more of a wheredunnit. Or as another way of saying it the murderer isn’t so important to the plot, even as you reach the end game, but it’s more about the exploration and atmosphere before that point. It’s a bizarre scifi setting, reminded me a little of Michael Moorcock’s The Dancers at the End of Time with everyone known by titles. Very immersive.

Having said that there is a climactic “Who did it?!” at the end. But again I don’t think it matters so much what you say here, or whether you get it “right” or not. The ending after this point was somewhat disappointing to me if I’m honest. But I did very much like the exploration before then.

1 Like

I think those will be the only entries I get through before the voting deadline. Sorry for the others I couldn’t get to - though may still review in future - and thanks again to all the entrants, as well as playtesters and the competition organisers. I really enjoyed the variety I played through, even in my brief burst.

10 Likes

That’s OK, our games will still be there if and when you wish to play them, and it’s more important to pace yourself at a rate of gaming that is fun for you than to get through a set number of entries.

3 Likes