Wynter's Spring Thing 2022

Since we are at the end of the festival, I thought I’d leave a few closing thoughts about my story and about the others that I’ve read. I’m grateful to those who have read and reviewed Thin Walls, and pleased that it has generally gone down well. I hope @rovarsson didn’t lose too much sleep.

I came up with the basic idea several years ago when I was in an awkward housesharing situation and read Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves; I noted down a few ideas, but didn’t go back to them until the autumn of 2020 when a lockdown was looming and I wanted to have a proper go at writing something in Twine. Although the basic idea was mapped out by the end of that year, I tinkered and rewrote again and again: I’m glad I took the time, as I was really happy with the final result.

One feature I ended up regretfully removing at an advanced stage in the editing process was in the party planning scene. One of the characters was to have turned to the reader, breaking the fourth wall (because all the walls get broken in this story, right?), and asked you if you have Spotify. If you answered yes, you would be put in charge of playing the party music by clicking on links which would open up Spotify in your browser. But it ended up being unworkable: I wanted it to just play one song and then not move onto another, which was apparently impossible. That would have been a particular problem for the last song in the sequence (I was going to have John Cage’s 4’33" - which is nothing but silence - open up when the music stopped in the story), because there’d be nothing prompting you to close the window. A single playlist would have worked, except that the time taken to actually listen to all four songs in full would be far longer than it would take to read the relevant text. Also, in the last month or two before submission, I became aware that Spotify was in the news because it was hosting anti-vaccination podcasts, and I didn’t know how big that story was going to get. In the end, the easy thing was just to remove the feature altogether.

I wanted to encourage the reader to explore the house independently, open doors, look in cupboards, be curious, click on links, notice that some things are different at different points. So I was heartened by @deusirae’s review, which suggests that that’s exactly how it’s being read. I wanted to provide just a little bit of a challenge when the reader has to figure out where to go next, but I didn’t want this to be too taxing: after reading @mathbrush’s review, I now think I have overdone this element a bit, but he has marked it as being a one-hour read, which sounds about right to me. I am considering getting an itch.io page and uploading a slightly edited version in which there is a little more signposting (e.g. the upstairs kitchen should be unopenable until six chapters have been completed, prompting the reader to go in there only when it becomes necessary to do so). I’d also like to put in a couple more responses when you prematurely open the door under the stairs, purely for the fun of it. And I’d like to insert the cover art into the front page if I can figure out how!

Having deliberately incorporated a number of different Twine techniques into the story, I now feel fairly confident at using it, at least in its Harlowe incarnation, but I would like to improve my knowledge of CSS and other visual effects. The easiest way to signal which passage was narrated by which character was to use passage tags and then to assign a background colour (some of which were chosen for specific reasons) to each tag via the stylesheet. For reasons I still can’t figure out, instead of filling the screen with the colour and letting the text run across it, this results in a narrow coloured panel against a black background, with a reduced space for the text. I ended up quite liking that effect: it looks like a kind of pop-up window against the background of the black frame, which is used for the second-person frame narrative sections, and which unifies the whole story. But it does make it harder to read on a phone (and I think the chapter called ‘Knowing the Score’ must be pretty much impossible). The only way I can find to fill the entire screen with a background colour is to include formatting instructions in each individual passage, and I’m sure there has to be a better way.

The festival has been a really great experience, and I have enjoyed the other games I have played: I will follow up with a few thoughts on them, and a couple of longer reviews. I do intend to carry on with Twine: at the moment, I’ve got a couple of possible projects in mind, one relatively simple; another much longer, more gamelike, and more fantasy-ish. If I ever get around to them …


Thank you for your concern. Since I read Thin Walls I’ve been sleeping just fine.

The only problem is that my bedroom seems to be getting bigger…

And I’m sure I had a girlfriend somewhere…

And my son…



Since I guess it’s OK to post reviews now …

I never had any particular expectation of playing through all the games, especially since parsers and other puzzle games tend to take me ages, so I gravitated towards shorter, choice-based games.

A few thoughts on some of them:

Crow Quest
This was great fun. I loved the narrating voice of the titular crow, whose name I have forgotten (‘Corvid-19’ won’t do, apparently). The artwork was excellent. I laughed out loud at

U can see all the stupid twolegs walking about, and all their poxy cats, sneaking about on the fences.
When ur in charge, all cats will be exiled to Sutton Coldfield.

At the time of playing, I happened to be in the West Midlands of England, not all that far from Sutton Coldfield, and for some reason that cracked me up!

The Fall of Asemia
I had a slight hiccup at the start of this: I couldn’t see the ‘start’ button, and scrolling down didn’t do anything. Eventually I reduced the zoom in my browser and that did the trick.

Very atmospheric use of music, and a really unique use of Twine, based on symbols (and in some ways reminiscent of Phenomena). At first it was hard to tell what the relationship was between the changing symbols and the translation; by reading the excerpts through the eyes of the translator, I felt quite distanced from the events being described, which I think was entirely deliberate. How can you break through the barriers of language and of experience to understand what happened in Asemia? I think I need to go back to this one and pay close attention to how the translations change.

Fix It
Brief but effective: the choices you make don’t result in the change you want. Simple but good use of text effects to unnerve and irritate the reader. I kept debating with myself whether it was more or less effective for not naming what it was that was discomfiting you so much: on the one hand, to name the thing might have given the reader a better idea of what kind of triggers provoke this kind of response; on the other, not naming it means that the trigger could be anything and so the game focuses on the uncomfortable sensation that won’t go away.

Good Grub!
Short, accessible, funny. Made me want to play.
The sequence which begins with driving a car to the interview took me completely unawares and made me laugh out loud.

More to follow …


Let’s Talk Alex
I would recommend this to anyone who wanted to know what choice-based fiction can be. It’s relatively simple in its design, but no less effective for that: it’s very well written, very unnerving. I played it through a couple of times and got the same result: I want to go back to it and try to get a better/worse ending.

Orbital Decay
The author only came across Twine while applying for the festival … sorry, what?! This is one of the most polished, multimedia-confident Twines I have ever come across. Some great graphics, particularly at the end, and a really good, atmospheric soundtrack.

Writing a puzzle game in Twine is potentially a challenge because the options are laid out for the reader already, but a way around that is to have lots of options so that the signal is hidden amongst the noise. I took a few tries on this one, and found a way of exploring every location before making any irreversible errors. Part of me wanted a bit more detail about the world which the PC is living in, the mission, and what has happened - but perhaps it was all the more evocative that these things are only briefly sketched in. It took me several plays before I managed to get to the good ending, and held my attention through all of them.

Like @mathbrush I found that the text does not line up in a couple of places (the numbered list of protocol, and the list of destinations at the end), and I was playing using the Edge browser. But I’m sure that is easy to sort out. A very accomplished game.

More to follow …


You, Me and Coffee
This was, I think, the first story that I read when I started the festival, and I became very fond of it - I made sure to play through all the permutations, seeing all the different facets of the two characters’ relationship, and get the hidden ending. Even then, there was a lot of untold history between the two, making you guess at what actually happened. The length was just right.

It was great to see a story told in Bitsy. The story could have been told without the graphics, but they added charm and distinctiveness. I have a little bit of familiarity with working in Bitsy, and if I had more of a visual brain I think I’d try writing in it myself.

Confessing to a Witch
Obviously, this is only the very start of a story, but the setup and the graphics were strong, and I would like to see more from this!

This was a great idea - Choose Your Own Poetry. I loved playing about with this and getting different permutations. Looking back, it pairs really nicely with The Fall of Asemia - the reader clicks on different options, and gets different results.

I have played this several times, including in the German version, and have been delighted by the silliness of it and the narrative voice. Even though this game is in ‘one and a half rooms’, I am still struggling to get above 21 points out of a possible 60! I will keep persevering with it, as I like the comic tone.

When I initially read through the list of games, one which jumped out at me was Externoon - maybe I’ve reached that stage of life where I want to run away and join a commune. The online link didn’t work, and when I downloaded the game I couldn’t get it to run; I understand that others had better luck, but still encountered problems partway through. I am, however, intrigued by the description, and would definitely like to give this one a go if it is reuploaded at a later date.

I will post longer reviews of New Year’s Eve 2019, Tours Roust Torus and The Hole Man soon …


This is really interesting. I’ve toyed with the idea of a game where you turned on a “radio” that linked externally to a private YouTube playlist where the material included normal music interspersed with creepy sections of static and custom in-world radio commercials that gave hints, but that does create a lot of accessibility and other logistical headaches.

Being a huge fan of music and sound in games, I’ve been cracking into Sugarcube and really liking the more complicated audio controls (including playlists!) that can be taken advantage of. Unfortunately there’d be an issue with copyright music if songs were embedded in the game instead of playing externally, but the same effect might be possible with a well-curated selection of creative-commons songs.

I’m a fan of House of Leaves, so this has piqued my interest in eventually diving into this game.


I’m a fan of House of Leaves

I saw what you did there … :wink:

1 Like

New Year’s Eve 2019
You are Qiuyi/Karen Zhao, a young Chinese-American who is home from university and celebrating New Year’s Eve with friends and family - except that you suffer from terrible social anxiety and really, really do not feel like celebrating or even socialising at all. It’s six hours until midnight. How will you fill all those hours?

This is a thoughtful, character-heavy narrative written in Dendry, a choice-based format which is well suited to this story - she feels trapped, her options limited. Various social interactions are on offer, but all are difficult; other possibilities include taking a walk, eating from the buffet (I did a lot of that) and playing interactive fiction to pass the time.

This game did a really great job of simulating a social event that goes on for too, too long, and the feeling of having to find something to do to fill all those empty hours - and yet even though the evening is boring, the game itself held my interest really well. If you check out the ‘Credits’ page, there is a Spotify playlist which I would have played while reading if I’d known it was there, for extra atmosphere!

This is a really polished, professional game, and I must check out the prequel.


Tours Roust Torus
Unlike others, I hadn’t played any of @aschultz’s wordgames before, so except for the information that this game was something to do with solving anagrams, I was a bit at a loss, to begin with. The setting - a doughnut-shape, or torus - was intriguingly bizarre, as were the room descriptions. Eventually I realised that I was supposed to take the room names and rearrange the letters into a word, using the room description as a hint. Once I realised that, the seven answers were not excessively difficult to figure out, but were enjoyable to unpick.

In the final section I again became uncertain what I was expected to do. When the game told me “You feel fortunate you were able to turn this into something”, I assumed it was hinting that I should supply an anagram of the word ‘this’.

Yeah, that’s not what you’re supposed to do …

Fortunately, @MathBrush’s review gave a hint which was good enough to help me figure it out without actually spelling it out explicitly, and I got to the end from there.

Nice little brainteaser where the biggest puzzle is to work out the rules of the game; I can certainly say that I enjoyed this.


The Hole Man
I’ve often wondered what it would be like to write a full-length novel in Twine which branched off in all kinds of different directions, with a really long reading time, so you could end up reading several completely different novels depending on which path you took. Or simply a vast fantasy world, which you could explore at your leisure, finding more and more places to discover and be delighted by.

I mention this because @TeeAitchAre’s The Hole Man goes some way towards achieving both of these objectives. You start out preparing for jury duty, and have your identity - your whole self - stolen from you, and end up in a kind of surreal world. There is a whole world in this game to explore, and though the different branches often overlap, the game area is big enough that there were plenty of new things to discover. You drift from one setting to another, whether realistic or pleasantly surreal, almost without noticing, just as if you were in a dream. It’s funny in places (such as, when asked for your favourite genre of writing is, and you say ‘interactive fiction’, the narrator calls you an “apple-polisher”), bizarre, whimsical, and philosophical.

I love games with a strong sense of place, and particular of fantastical places, so I enjoyed simply getting lost and wandering through this world - often I would wander around in circles, coming to places I had been to before; at other times I stumbled upon whole areas I had never been to before. Although the place descriptions mostly don’t vary when you return to them, I did appreciate the ‘hint system’:the slow loris in the tax office will tell you which areas of the game aren’t worth returning to, and which require more exploration. Although of course the real problem is finding them again….

If you wander far enough, you encounter one of several different Men, each of whom has a bit of wisdom to impart, and whose job you are allowed to take over, if you wish. If you do accept, you reach an ending; if not, you collect a token from each one and carry on with your quest towards one of two winning endings. I must check out the ‘secret ending’ spelled out on another thread.

If I am correct in assuming that it is impossible to lose the game, and that it doesn’t matter which order you find the Men in, then there may still be a few glitches in this game. On an early playing (when I did not save), I encountered the Go Man. I later began a new game and started saving my progress, but after I had found several Men, I realised that the Go Man was not among them, and I could not get to the place where I knew to find him. Also, at this point in the game, I found that if you turn down the Drill Man’s offer, he bores a hole for you to go somewhere else, but there are no links at this point, and I had to use the back button. I’m not reporting these in order to pick holes (as it were) in the narrative, but simply because I loved this game, and of all the games in Spring Thing 2022, this is the one that I kept coming back to.


Thanks for the review! I’m glad you were able to get over the initial difficulties, and when I was @'d on this topic, I noticed a lot of other works I wanted to check out. So I have a lot of reading to do here.

It’s always tough for be to balance “initial difficulties which make things rewarding” with “throwing too much at the player.” Because what I find most rewarding is saying “Gee, that almost threw too much at me … but ‘almost’ is the key word here. I figured things out!”

It always feels like there are better ways I can clue something. Aaron Reed has given us just under 2 weeks for final touch-ups. So notes like this help me to poke around and see what I can come up with.


Agreed. Even in my own story, which wasn’t really a puzzle at all, I wasn’t sure where to strike the balance between shepherding the reader sequentially from one chapter to the next, and making it so hard to figure out that they give up in the end.

I want to give your other anagram games a go now!