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

Interesting! I found I didn’t need this at all. By experimenting with turning the statues Only two of them auto-turned back, suggesting they were special. Sure enough, focusing on just them got it done for me! Also, because I had multiple runs, looks like they were randomized?

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I did the exact same thing (without font change), so I feel you brother. Grieved me enough that when I restarted, I shifted to Lectrote.

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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!

Rescue at Quickenheath by Mo Farr
Playtime: 47 minutes (35 minutes for the first playthrough)

This made me want to talk about:

  • The game starts with a bang and swiftly establishes: a comic mood, an old-timey setting, the romantic relationship between the player and their partner in crime (in the literal sense that they commit highway robbery together, and in the Tinder sense that they are into each other), and that the player has 1 day to save said partner from (kind of warranted) execution. I am a simple woman, this is working for me.

  • The writing was excellent. At times funny, (loved the push/pull door gag), sweet in developing the romantic relationship. Concise, but also descriptive and evocative when it wants to be:

The Queen is dressed in layer upon layer of robes, brown and bruise-purple. On her head sits a heavy-looking crown of four twisted antlers, one pair bone-dull, the other velvet-red and dripping.

  • Yes, puzzles are present, but the game’s not really about them. I was highly amused at the extent to which the game will help you through the puzzles (prison warden: no one is getting stuck today, buckoes). (Similarly, I replayed to get the true name wrong at the end just to see how the game would handle it, and it was honestly both touching from an in-game perspective and hilarious from a meta-perspective. Impressive.)

My fervent wish:

This is an excellent game and I don’t have much, but I’ll throw out two ideas about which I feel mildly: (1) I kind of wanted the opportunity to wrestle with the choice of whether to respect Aubrey’s choice not to return to fairy, despite the increased risk to their life, or whether to plot with their family to force them to go back against their wishes, and (2) neither Kit nor Aubrey gets a particularly deep characterization, which is understandable in a short game. But they both get pretty much only positive qualities. Does Aubrey have any flaws? Kit is frequently mentioned to be a clotheshorse with a poncy hat—do they hesitate to go digging or enter a lake because it endangers their clothes? A bit of scuffing might give them both additional depth.

On the whole, a delightful, bouncy game that spins an entertaining yarn in high style.


(Ed: My random play order put these two dream-inspired entries next to each other, so here’s a bit of an oneiric interlude.)

You Can Only Turn Left by Emiland Kray, Ember Chan, and Mary Kray
Playtime: 14 minutes (6 minutes for the first playthrough)

This made me want to talk about:

  • It’s a bit dangerous to make a game based on a dream, given that dreams are one of those topics that’s famously primarily of interest to the dreamer.
  • The prose is well written and effective. Several of the specific scenes are the kind of thing I’d expect as the introduction to a character in a book or movie. There’s a lot of vivid images, including the suitably portentous explanation of the title by way of deformed tadpole.
  • The audio and visual design elements definitely also helped successfully create an ominous and otherworldly mood.
  • I take it the structure was chosen to fit the theme, but the aspect where the player is mostly called upon to describe their sleeping habits began to feel slightly ridiculous, like being trapped in conversation with a host who only wants to talk about how well you slept.

My fervent wish:
I am probably not the ideal audience for this type of game–I would have enjoyed a more coherent plot because I tend to bounce off things that I don’t immediately get any hooks into, but I think that’s likely just a different vision than the authors had in mind.

In the main, an atmospheric and unsettling series of dream-inspired vignettes.


Thanks, but I don’t remember asking. by Mea Murukutla
Playtime: 17 minutes

This made me want to talk about:

  • According to the summary, this game is based on a dream, and indeed it successfully evokes a dreamlike quality, including because events don’t quite feel like they follow causality. As I mentioned in the previous review, I think re-telling a dream can be a high-risk choice.
  • The main character cannot form new memories, which others have noted echoes the main character in Memento (2000) (e.g., Tabitha’s review, Mike’s review).
  • On that comparison, , one interesting thing to me is that Memento is very interested in the ways that condition makes the main character vulnerable (think about the chilling scene where Carrie-Anne Moss’s character tricks the main character into doing what she wants). That horror-type beat is downplayed in the game. Although this game mentions that in the past, the main character thinks someone took advantage of her, it’s not really clear if this is true, or the specifics, and in the plot that we see the main character is perfectly able to handle herself. The aspect of amnesia the game seems to be most interested in is whether having amnesia would be an advantage or disadvantage in coping with trauma, both in that the main character is coping pretty well with the post-apocalyptic lifestyle (in contrast to the other characters), and in that:

I hear all that again when I read how “lucky” I was to forget all of this. She, on the other hand, had to bear this burden forever. She could not “check out” like I did. I can hear her scratching these words onto the pages, hours into the night instead of building shelter or finding water. How could I expect her to work as efficiently as I did when I “chose” to forget the trauma, and she wasn’t even afforded such a choice.

It’s an interesting theme to explore, if anything I would have liked to see it explored a bit more, and certainly hits on a conflict people have in real life when some people seem to be able to move on more quickly than others.

My fervent wish:
It seems like it might have been fun to have more variation in the endings / more player choice. Given the dreamlike setting, and that apparently quite a bit of violence is plausible in the setting, it seems like a LOT of different things could happen in the end, and I would have enjoyed more agency in deciding (and potentially some options that felt more cathartic or thematically resonant?).

On balance, an interesting puzzle-box, and it’s stimulating and compelling to put together the “reveal,” not sure the game does a lot to pay off the premise, though.

Gameplay tips / typos
  • Re: overall structure, the game does actually have multiple endings, and at least one of the early choices is surprisingly impactful.

Studio by Charm Cochran
Playtime: 54 minutes

For those who haven’t played—this game will be the most fun if you go in with zero spoilers, which here means zero reviews. I mean, sure, I blurred like 70% of this review, I’m doing the best I can, but it’s not gonna be the same!

This made me want to talk about:

  • Structurally, this game is two distinct halves: the first half is a distilled-down parser that elegantly provides backstory and character development through environmental story telling and “remembering” things; the second half is a taut, pacey timed thriller (I believe the game’s term is “home invasion simulator”). I really enjoyed how the halves fit together, the first half was an effective build-up of tension as you put together why some elements are so weird (the main character is either on the run from organized crime or in witness protection?), and not only does that explanation motivate the second half, but it also sets up the player with the knowledge of the apartment layout, the location of key items, etc. so the player is ready to hit the ground running. Or crouching, as it were.
  • Includes a lot of great quality-of-life features for the player (has a list of necessary verbs, often prompts the player with instructions about what still needs to be done, I was particularly worried that calling 911 was going to be a pain, but actually it was as simple as “text 911” while using the phone). In the second half, particularly, it was very easy to get the game to do what I wanted, even in a moment where was feeling a bit adrenalined-up and could tell I would be frustrated if I ended up fighting with the interpreter. And that includes somewhat unusual actions like crouching and hiding under things! And the intruder has a different routine depending on the state of the apartment (if you’ve moved stuff, etc)!
  • There were a few minor implementation hiccups (the game lets you “x ___” even if you’re not next to it, which confused me about where several things were; at one point I lost my phone but there didn’t seem to be an immediate notification, just later the game started responding as though I didn’t have it; I take it the safe is supposed to immediately cue the player with the code, but it only triggers when you “x safe,” which I somehow neglected to do the first time, kicking off a LOT of searching).
  • Includes humor, even when it’s tense:

The intruder will let out a noise of frustration. “Don’t tell me this is the one fuckin’ password that isn’t her birthday,” he’ll growl.

(OK, but, he has a point.)

  • I played through three endings: [1] fled the apartment without my stuff [2] called the cops, hid until they showed up [3] killed the intruder with the taser, which I kind of expected to be nonlethal, but so it goes, and there must have been many more endings available, I didn’t even use the duct tape.

My fervent wish:
So, I’m a bit torn here. My two initial thoughts were (1) I wanted a bit more catharsis from the endings. Maybe I just didn’t find the “best” ending, but even the ones that seemed pretty good are abrupt and don’t feel particularly complete because of the prompt to replay, and (2) I was kind of expecting, I dunno, a less straightforward handling of the premise?

But then in thinking about these together, it occurred to me that perhaps the fact that none of the endings are particularly cathartic is supposed to be realistic and reflect the precarity of the main character’s life and that she will never feel safe, which would kind of constitute an additional complication on the premise. But if that’s the case it could be spelled out more?

All things considered, a very enjoyable, well-written, and well plotted thriller with a compelling action set-piece


Oh yes… When I was testing this game, I strangled the intruder with the laptop power-cord for example.


Lol, for my part I got stabby with a kitchen knife. If these are just the tip of the iceberg, we may have a full on Home Alone situation here…



Turns out that Director’s Cut floating around the internet is a lot more gruesome and a lot less kiddie-friendly than the Chrismas classic we know and love…


Hey thanks for the review!

There are indeed a bunch of ways to kill and incapacitate the intruder, including several that as far as I know no one has found yet!


Excellent ideas, everyone. We’re a bunch of menaces.

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Alltarach by Katie Canning and Josef Olsson
Playtime: 1 hour 54 minutes total (1 hour 24 minutes for the first playthrough)

This made me want to talk about:

  • This game pays a lot of attention to the material reality of life in the 6th century Ireland, which I think is a really good thing in a historical piece. I also enjoyed the use of unfamiliar words and the hover-over annotations (very slick).

  • It features some beautiful prose:

Young men like that often house a terrible bitterness. And we write stories about them.

listening to the ceaseless sea, the sound that will background the actions of you both until the day you die

You trundle forward until the rain begins. Taking shelter under a rare fir, you look out and discover that you’re utterly alone. No birdsong suddenly abated by the downpour, no foxes foraging or insects scuttling. It’s a strange freedom, and the fear that comes with it nestles comfortably in the back of your mind. It watches and waits, actualises, sharpens everything.

  • Continuing that thought, this has a lot strengths on the story-side, and will probably be strongly liked by those who find the narrative to be in their style. I think that’s not precisely me, but I enjoyed the shape of the folktale and it definitely did put some images and situations in my mind that I found myself returning to after I was done playing.

  • Part of my issue is that I found it hard to invest in the main character because I didn’t really understand her goals. Starting with the brother–why are we so concerned about him? We both seem to be either old teens or young adults, and our peer Ailbhe seems to go back and forth to the mainland frequently, so why is it such a big deal to the main character if the brother left? (Relatedly, we are told later that the brother is actually very unusual among the fishermen of the island in never going to the mainland to sell fish, which explains why we might be surprised but also seems like the kind of thing that would have come up earlier!). I also felt some of the choices offered (to say what your character thinks about religion, or what they want in the future) didn’t actually change the rest of the game, so they just created a feeling in me that the main character was behaving erratically.

  • There were a few minor issues with state tracking. For example, I didn’t meet he mummer in my first play through but text still referred to him, also in my first playthrough I entered the pub through the backdoor, not by breaking in, but later people in the village were gossiping about how the pub had been broken into.

My fervent wish:
This work has a lot of narrative strengths, it would make a good novella, etc. I wish that it had done more with the game aspects by giving the player more to do. I got the distinct sense pretty early that no matter what I clicked I was going to be delivered to the same climactic confrontation with my brother. Similarly, there’s an inventory system but you don’t really even have to click into it, and I’m not sure it ever mattered what items I took? OK, I did play the drum once but otherwise not much was different when I left the island with nothing.

In essence, a well-written and crafted game providing a vivid take on life in pre-modern Ireland, and with the chance to spend time in unique areas and with a good variety of historically-inspired characters, with less of a focus on “game” elements.


I kinda love how our analyses overlapped in a lot of ways, but our conclusions were EXACTLY OPPOSITE. :rofl:


Haha, yeah.

I mean a lot of the time writing reviews I feel like I’m stirring the pot without a pot-stirring license, so keep that in mind, but I think part of it is it’s a bit easier to notice “hey, something felt off about [the integration of the narrative and the interactive elements” than it is to fix it!


Thanks so much for your review! I’ll see if I can fix those state tracking issues for our next update, and we’ll take the rest of your excellent points into our next project.


Do Good Deeds . . . by Sissy
Playtime: 28 minutes total (23 minutes for the first playthrough)

This made me want to talk about:

  • Modis has such a cute little smile in the art!
    timed text beloathed

  • Most of the text in the game is timed text, and . . . I dislike it! It makes the game take about twice as long as it needs to, and my engagement is worse because I switch to a new tab every time I can’t take waiting anymore. There was also a noticeable number of typos, and some text / interactions that felt unnecessary (before I can help the hare I have to introduce myself and ask its name and ask what happened and ask if it’s hurt? Mein Gott)

  • Look, I’m a curious person, so I did a playthrough and performed zero good deeds, and I can report back that there’s a “bad end” screen that tells you you made zero friends. Fair enough.

(OK, I did my experiment before I read this, but I stand by my methods!)

My fervent wish:
Within the theme of “helping others is good,” I wanted the selected examples to be a bit . . . weirder? My favorite was probably the one with the hedgehog (that led to the sea urchin joke), which had a pleasing sense of novelty and absurdity. Whereas, a squirrel forgot where they put the nuts? I’ve seen that before. Try channeling, for example, the joyous bizarrety of the premise of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. I also didn’t think there needed to be quite so many incidents.

At root, a sweet-hearted storybook of a game with issues of pacing and polish that make it hard to play.

Gameplay tips / typos
  • On squirrel page, check spelling of “squirrel” and “problems”

  • On beaver page, check spelling of “conversation,” “ignore,” and “skeptical”

  • On scarecrow page, check spelling of “continued”

  • On the bad end page, check spelling of “friends” and “alone”


A Simple Happening by Leon Lin
Playtime: 16 minutes (12 minutes for the first playthrough)

This made me want to talk about:

  • I rather enjoyed the poem generator—poems pretty good and the ones I saw were cleverly incorporating the themes of death and absurdity

  • It was an effective technique to write the spectators at the beginning as caught up in their own banal concerns and not caring at all that you’re going to die

  • The parser elements were fun and smoothly coded, it was easy to accomplish things. In particular, the action sequences were really seamless, which allowed a feeling of momentum (and it successfully performed a kind of sleight of hand where on my first playthrough I felt like I was lucky to scrape by and avoid disaster (phew!), where subsequent playthroughs reveals the feeling of peril as an illusion)

  • Right, so let’s tackle the ending:

you think, “Isn’t this story just An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge set in feudal Japan?”

(1) I read a whiff of apology here (ETA that isn’t the intended read, see below in this thread), which is unnecessary and ineffective—the game is already written! If the player likes it, the apology will feel like you’re telling them they were wrong to like it, and if the player doesn’t like then it the apology won’t help.

(2) I do think the ending is a bit frustrating. “It was all a dream” is risky in most media, and probably more so in a game where the player has been asked to invest their own effort. There may be valid reasons to still do it, but it’s starting from a bit of a disadvantage.

(3) somewhat complicating (2), I actually was kind of relieved at the twist ending, because it eradicated everything that had just happened. I wouldn’t say I’m a pacifist in my gameplay, but I felt kind of bad about slaughtering my coworkers! I take it it’s intended as an absurd blood-spurting-out-of-arm-stumps power fantasy, but I was a bit craving the other kind of power fantasy where I could run off without killing my (presumably) friends and colleagues of many years..

My fervent wish:
I wish the humble blurb got more attention in general. I use the blurb and the other front matter to try to get into an appropriate mindset for whatever the game is, whether that’s receptive to horror or receptive to romance etc. (I’m human, I have preferences, but I do try.) It goes down easier if you start on the same page as the author (it could be annoying, for example, to expect a puzzlefest and be examining everything if that’s actually not called for).

Here, I’ll just say I think the player experience would be improved if the blurb, cover art, or title conveyed that sort of slapstick, over-the-top feel of the game. Since I didn’t manage to pick up on that from any of the front matter, I came in like, emotionally braced to potentially encounter Harakiri (1962) in IF form, and it took me a while to un-brace

Ultimately, a quick, easy-to-play romp with a polarizing ending–but hey, it won’t take very long to find out how you feel about the ending.


So… a scientific amount of sociopathy then :]


Thanks for playing my game and writing your detailed review! I’m glad to hear you had a smooth experience with the parser and liked the poem generator (which was one of the first things I implemented).

I mentioned elsewhere I’m planning on writing a postmortem for this game (if I’m not mistaken, we can’t post one until after the festival is over?) but I do want to briefly address the ending:

I didn’t intend for it to be apologetic in tone. It was supposed to be more of a punchline to the entire adventure. But it seems I miscalculated badly and players have taken it as a lack of confidence in my story.

Thanks again for taking the time to review my game! I really appreciate it.