Viv Dunstan's Spring Thing impressions

#1

Made a start on playing through the games. I’m aiming to - fingers crossed! - play them all before the ribbons deadline.

I’m pretty much lurching at them at random / what grabs me as I scroll through the list. So this is pretty much in any order.

Tonight I managed to play 5 games. Very positive first impressions.

Here are my first thoughts, with more to follow re other things on another day.

The Empty Chamber - nice whodunnit, which I couldn’t solve, but had enormous fun playing. Generally worked well, though some bits were under implemented. But yes, fun.

Writing Program Five - liked the premise, but I think I got rather stuck trying to uncover what was going on. I liked hacking into the underlying DOS-like interface, but never quite worked out what to do beyond that.

The Ballroom - liked this a lot, though I think like at least one other player it wasn’t what I expected. I thought changing things would subtly change the story, but it morphed vastly more than I anticipated! At the end - I think the end - I got to a bit with no more changeable options. Which felt like an ending, and a good one.

Porter Cave Adventure - ok this was a course project, and written as such, but I found it fun. Could have done with more implementation in places, but as a retro-style game - especially going back to Adventure / Zork era - it was fitting. Slight, but nice.

The Missing Ring - this is my favourite so far. I rattled through it at speed in about 25 minutes, skim reading a lot of the text, but very engrossed in it. To an extent playing was a process of rattling through lots of clickable sections in sequence, but I felt engaged, delighted by the story, and intrigued by the whodunnit. I didn’t solve the ending properly, but liked the ending as handled. All the characters felt unique and individual, with motives etc. Very well crafted.

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#2

And 3 more games played tonight.

Do I Date? - I wanted to like this more, but it asked my name at the start, which is a very female name (and I’m female), and then later I realised the game assumed I was a bloke. Which took me out of the story. I also ran into a runtime error, which crashed out the game. And the text was teeny versus the large graphics. But I liked much that it was trying to do, though I didn’t feel it engaged me enough with mental health things. At least at this stage of the writing. Maybe it will be developed more.

Dashiell Hamlett - I liked this, but had some problems with the Ink user interface, with text frequently appearing off the top of the screen, so I had to scroll up/back just to read it. This was in Firefox on my Mac. But I enjoyed it otherwise. I can’t remember much of Hamlet, and think it will work better for people familiar with the play than not. But yes, entertaining.

I Will Be Your Eyes And Hands - not sure about the customised font, which I found hard to read. However otherwise I liked the story. I was particularly amused by the repetitive machine operation bit, and wondered at one point (but didn’t try) what would happen if I messed about with the order, and if indeed that might be needed to move the game on. In fact I went back and had another go aftewards, ending up in the cell. So yes, fun. I also liked the graphical effects, e.g. the view from the window, and the process in the factory.

#3

Ok managed to squeeze in another 2:

Our Darkest Thoughts - I’m never a big fan of text slowly appearing on screen. I’m a speed reader, and don’t like to be constrained. This was an issue throughout much of the story, but luckily many parts let me rattle through. I found it quite an emotional piece. Stark text, but quite a strong sense of feeling. I found the repeated references to the knife disturbing, and was relieved it wasn’t a case of encouraging the player to commit suicide, as I feared. The story ended too quickly for me - I wanted to know more - but yes, well done, slow text aside.

WE R THE WORLD - This was very strange! I’m really not sure what was going on, or how much the choices I made affected things. There were a lot of sections to work through, to presumably unlock the ending, and after a while it became a little tedious, and I gave up part way through. However I was amused by the names in the list being anagrams of the real singers, until you worked through them. And my brain stubbornly refused to untangle the anagrams myself! I also wonder what anyone who wasn’t familiar with the mid 1980s American music scene might make of it. Even I was a bit baffled.

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#4

Among the Seasons - I really liked this Twine piece. It felt very strange and unfamiliar, as the viewpoint from a bird should, and the writing was strong and evocative. The story was also nicely paced, stepping through the seasons of the year. There weren’t many decision points, but I felt that they were significant, though I didn’t replay. I particularly liked the part where the game prompted me to enter the name of something shiny I would pick up, and I was very pleased with the ending I got. Great stuff.

#5

The Devil and the Mayor - another Twine piece, again episodic. Initially I found the clicking forward annoying, worrying there wouldn’t be too much proper interaction. But then things picked up in that respect. I particularly liked how the game let me choose from multiple reasons, mid story, clicking on them to cycle through the multiple options, before moving on later. I also liked how it used a small cast of NPCs and their evolving intrigues / plots well. I’m not entirely sure about the ending I got, but overall satisfied. A nicely varied piece.

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#6

Quiet - I really liked the premise for this, and I think it had an important point to make. But as a player I found it exasperating, mainly because I didn’t understand what the smileys and emojis that my character was meant to be using actually meant. I was very annoyed before the other character! I did pick up some of the meanings, which prompted me to go back and try again. But overall it was frustrating. Maybe a key of some sort would have helped? So yes, interesting idea, but not exactly successful for me.

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#7

Darkness - a very atmospheric piece, that made very effective use of colour and lighting to fit the plot. I wasn’t quite sure where I was, or who I was, but I found the story powerful, and I did feel that my player character developed during it.

San Francisco, 2118 - Frustratingly I ran into a runtime error, ?near the end. Before then I was intrigued, but confused. It took me ages to work out that (I think) it was telling two stories/timelines alternately. I also wasn’t sure what the graphics were for, though later they made more sense. Just a pity about the crash.

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#8

Escape! - An old-school type puzzle parser game. I liked much about this, and enjoyed what I did solve. It seemed very restricted in what you could tackle at each time, but that was ok, until I got terribly stuck. Also the hint in the SpringThing site blurb about "ask Fred why you are here” was nice, but Fred never came back in the bit I played, so I couldn’t ask him anything! To be fair I can be rubbish at puzzle games, but a bit more help/clueing might have been good. I even considered looking at the source code, but bailed out instead.

Founder’s Mercy - ooh scifi! And anything that refers to port, starboard, spinward and antispinward immediately makes my head hurt, in a good way! One downside was many objects had similar names, e.g. ">examine module / Which do you mean, the power module, a pressure regulation module, or the instruction module?” Led to an awful lot of typing or disambiguation. Sadly I got very stuck again, though the in-game hints reminded me of what I needed to do. I just couldn’t work out how to do it. Needed more explicit hints! However I’m likely to go back and have another go. It is a very appealing game.

Bullhockey 2 - I only got so far into this one for now, because it’s a very dense game. I actually found the world building a little overwhelming at first - so many objects in the opening rooms, so much detail to take in! It was quite a sensory overload. So I started just wandering around, trying to figure out what was going on, as you realise (well it was in the blurb) that your girlfriend is missing. I did feel confused about references to the older game, but will come back and have another play later.

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#9

69105 More Keys - Ok I think I get what’s going on here, and I fairly quickly narrowed down the keys in the two rooms. But I don’t know if there’s more to it than that, and if I keep replaying it will unlock more, or just present new similar puzzles. So perversely amusing, but I’ve stopped after a few goes. I can see the appeal of replaying to try to solve in fewer moves and there’s a definite satisfaction in narrowing down the number of keys each time. Oh and I’ve never played the game that inspired it.

a short walk in the spring - I liked this a lot, especially that it coped well with being skim read (the author encouraged speed/skim reading). As I read through it I didn’t work out the rules of progress, i.e. which choices were better than others, but after a few tries in game I got to a very nice destination. I found it even more interesting reading the author’s design notes afterwards. I admired the logic at play, and I found reading it a nice experience. So good stuff.

I’ve really enjoyed playing through all the stories/games, so thanks very much to all the authors this year! I have a clear idea of my favourite for Best In Show, but am going to have much fun now pondering my other ribbon nominations. Thanks again!

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