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

Potato Peace by ronynn
Playtime: 17 minutes

This made me want to talk about:

  • Like the author, I am also a “passionate potato enthusiast,” so common ground established!
  • The best element of the game is the humor and absurdism. The general tone is light but earnest, and several of the potato puns were really sizzling:

as tensions boiled like a pot of mashed potatoes about to bubble over, mysterious incidents threaten to turn Spudopolis into a salad of chaos

  • The other big strength of the game is the art—I really enjoyed it, it has a zany but heartfelt vibe that was effective in drawing me in
  • The worldbuilding is pretty thin, although that’s not necessarily a problem in a short, zippy game. Even with my attempt to give it a good faith reading though, there were some headscratchers (humans . . . eat potato chips in this world? wouldn’t that be cannibalism?)
  • The plot is also very streamlined, with key events speeding by without player input. Again, I can mostly accept that in the service of a quick game that doesn’t get bogged down. (No one is getting bogged down in this game.) And I liked the gesture toward an emotional subplot about the main character’s relationship with her father. There are a few spots though where the plot is SO unrealistic or implausible that it throws you out of the game (we hear that our investigation went so wrong that we . . . retired? Is that how we react to workplace setbacks normally?).

My fervent wish:
I would love to see the writing, which is a bit uneven, leveled up. Two ideas for consideration: (1) cut back on the similes, (2) try to be as specific as possible–concrete details make things seem vivid and engaging. For example, part of the player character’s rousing speech is described as:

You share stories of unity and friendship, reminding them of the strength that comes from standing together in the face of adversity.

Better than just telling the reader that the player character “shares stories of unity and friendship” would be actually writing in a specific anecdote. Ideally that anecdote would also tie into the rest of the game in some way, so maybe it happened during the investigation, or to the dad back in the day, or to the mayor earlier in his tenure (“Mr. Mayor, have you already forgotten how in your first year in office humans and potatoes worked together night and day to clear the harbor after the bridge collapsed" etc etc).

In conclusion, I think this game has a lot of promising elements (zany concept, funny jokes, great art), so there bones of a fun zippy game are all there, although there’s room to grow in the writing and characterization.

Gameplay tips / typos
  • Although I was briefly annoyed that it didn’t seem possible to cut/paste text out of the window, actually one of the bottom icons is like a “transcript” tab where you can cut and paste. Cool idea!