Wynter's Spring Thing 2023

Congratulations to all this year’s authors! I don’t expect to have the time to do justice to all of the games, and will probably lean more towards choice-based as it’s harder to get stumped on them. So where better to begin than …

Insomnia: Twenty-Six Adventures After Dark, by Leon Lin

This is a solid branching-narrative Twine story which begins with trying (and mostly failing) to get to sleep at night. It’s got a kind of immediacy to it, and it’s easy to get hooked into the story. The branching paths do sometimes meet, but mostly it’s a story that leads out into all kinds of different directions - you get caught up in shady dealings at work, or end up in a monastery, for instance - that were unexpected and made it a good, unpredictable read. A good innovation, for a game with “more than 25 endings” is that, when you’ve reached a few endings, it makes it easier to navigate them. For example, the game opens up a list of the endings found so far, and (later on) gives you the option to restart from the last significant branch-point, two design points which should be widely used amongst games of this kind.

I found 19 endings, and thought my browser (set up to reopen old tabs on startup) might have saved my progress, but it didn’t. I may re-read and try to get all the endings on another occasion, because it does stand up to replaying very well.

One thing I did expect was that the various narrative threads would turn out to be dreams, which was not the case, unless that’s something you find out at the end (the “at least 25 endings” for a game called “26 adventures after dark” suggests that there will be a final ending).


Etiolated Light by Lassiter W.

This one is a short/medium-length Twine narrative about being pushed into an early marriage with the child of a strange, wealthy couple, and going to live with your new spouse on an unnerving island, unable to leave. It reminded me a little of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, even though the narrator of that gets married willingly: it had the same sense of not being wanted and not being able to escape.

The game does a great job of creating a Gothic atmosphere, with a protagonist who feels distinctly out of place and in the dark about what is going on. I say ‘in the dark’ but the palette of this story is one of light and brightness, and the haunting emptiness of those, rather than the shadows and night-time that I would expect of a Gothic tale, and Lassiter pulls this off well. At the very beginning, you are prompted to provide your own name, and it is suggested that the name is something to do with paleness; later on, a character remarks that the colour white, rather than having connotations of purity and goodness, feels empty and hostile.

The choice-based aspect of the game allows you to choose the gender of the three protagonists - I played twice, and experimented with these - and also, wisely for a game that turns on the main character’s powerlessness, the extent to which you decide to cooperate with those around you.

The overall look of the Twine interface was very nice, and the writing was good.


Red Door, Yellow Door by Charm Cochran

I haven’t finished this one yet, or even done much more than get properly stuck into it - see the above comments about parsers - but I noticed that this one hasn’t yet received any reviews, and I wanted to be the first. Because I suddenly realised that the author had also written one of my favourite IFs of last year, A Thousand Thousand Slimy Things, and that made me abandon my usual Twines-first strategy.

The setting of this one immediately appealed to me: four girls who are playing a kind of Bloody Mary-style psychological/supernatural game, in which one of them enters another world.

A very interesting innovation is that it is not the ‘you’ character who actually performs the action. You are Emily, and you put your sister Claire ‘under’; she tells you what she is seeing and interacting with in this other world, and you tell her what to do (of course, Claire still has her own mind: at one point she refuses to eat or touch a rancid piece of meat.) Meanwhile, your two friends occasionally chip in with their thoughts, or laugh at something on their phones. I found the frame setting and narration completely believable, fresh, and appealing, and loved the kind of split viewpoint: I’ve already nominated it in this IFDB poll, where it fits just perfectly.

So far, I’ve done a fairly thorough exploration of the game map, found a few objects, and got an idea of what the main theme may turn out to be. The map is pretty large for a short game, and most locations are not described in the thorough, languid detail that I tend to value in parser games. But that’s absolutely right for this game: Claire is feeding back descriptions to her friends, and is more interested in the basic details - where she can go, what she can pick up - than in giving emotional descriptions of places. Although it’s not a timed game, as far as I can see, it feels like something that should progress fairly rapidly, as a game between friends would do in real life. Oh, and it’s got a cat in it, which is always a major plus.

This is only the third game that I’ve spent significant time with, but I think it is likely to be one of my favourites. If I have more thoughts about this one, I will come back to this review and edit below.

Edit: I’ve found my first ending. Sorry, sister, I screwed up :frowning:


Hey, thank you for the thoughtful review! I’m glad you enjoyed ATTST, and I’m glad you enjoyed this!

Don’t worry–seems like everyone ends up there the first time.


Structural Integrity, by Tabitha O’Connell

A very nice-looking Twine, and rather like a short story in its ability to communicate a lot in what only takes a brief time to play. I very much liked the use of differently-coloured links for different purposes - blue to add extra description, red to move the story onwards - a technique I’ve been considering for possible future projects.

This falls into the genre of slice-of-life relationship-based stories, centring on a disagreement between a couple and how it ties into the hidden faultlines of their relationship: the title is elegantly apt. The story is told from different viewpoints, often flitting back and forth, which I wasn’t initially expecting, but it’s done very well. I wasn’t sure what the setting is supposed to be - one of the characters is supposed to have worked as a messenger, delivering messages across the city, but that’s the only real indicator: the story centres on a situation that could happen in all sorts of worlds. There is a cat in this story, too, which I did appreciate.

As with Insomnia, at the end, you reach a page listing all the endings you have reached so far (I think I’ve found the best and the worst), plus the achievements you have reached, and yes, cuddling the kitty counts as an achievement, , so again, it has some good replay value.


I’ve somewhat dropped the ball with Spring Thing this year, but congratulations to everyone who took part - and I do intend to review The Sacred Shovel of Athenia, because how can I pass up another IF cat?!


You’re in good company–well, I hope, because I didn’t get as much done as I wanted, either, and I still have stuff to review!

I know I’ll be cross posting to here and IFDB, at least for a bit.