Wolfbiter reviews Spring Thing 2024 -- Social Democracy (all main festival reviews complete)

Doctor Jeangille’s Letters by manonamora
Playtime: 29 minutes (20 minutes for the first playthrough)

This made me want to talk about:

  • The narrator, Isabella, is a great character. I love how she has specific personality traits—including that she’s prone to dramatic gestures, impulsive, and has a short temper (and I mean this in a positive way, it makes her interesting to read about). Her opening statement of purpose I can certainly get behind:

My dear, seeing you disappear in a cloud of smoke unleashed my deepest wishes for revenge. Even if I could not escape this prison on rails, be assured that I will do everything in my power to see him humiliated, to see all his relationships in shambles, to see him perish. Damned be Reason!

  • I enjoyed the rhetorical flourishes and gestures toward a period setting—I’m no historian so I can’t speak to accuracy but I enjoy it. I would have enjoyed even a bit more on the material reality of life at the time period
  • Since this is an epistolary game, I came into it a bit thinking about one of the famous entries in the canon of epistolary novels, Dracula (Reader, you can’t know how much I agonized about which portions, if any, of this sentence to blur). This hits a some of the same fun elements, you likewise get to enjoy the dramatic irony of picking up on clues before the characters do (she’s described as “anemic”! Everyone in the village suddenly has neck sensitivity!). Unlike in Dracula, I then immediately tried to get Isabella to be as cautious as possible via player intervention (although the player’s ability to change events seems pretty limited). [And on a later playthrough I tried max recklessness to see if I could get Isabella eaten, but could not (although I did get her arrested as an accessory)]. This comparison though, did perhaps lead me to expect/hope that the player would have more involvement in dealing with the vampire than I ended up getting.

My fervent wish:
This may just not have been the intended vision, but I would have enjoyed it if the game had turned the intensity up a few notches toward the climax—make me scared on behalf of the player character! Make something important hinge on a piece of information received (or not) from the correspondent! Torment me for caring about the Doctor and make me as a player afraid I’m not going to do a good enough job to save her! (The ending also felt a bit sudden, and adding some material near the end might help with that.)

All in all, a fun epistolary piece channeling some old-timey atmosphere and well, vampires.

Gameplay tips / typos
  • You can change the typeface in the settings (alas, I loved the ambiance of the faux-handwriting ones, but was getting nowhere so I used monotype)
  • In the letter after “because Mlle Bouchon is also looking for lucid companions, who have at least read the Classics” an errant paragraph break symbol is printed out