Spring Ting 2009 Reviews

A forum where new and old games can be reviewed - an alternative to the reviews on the Adventures page of the main ADRIFT site. Also the place to ask for any assistance if you are stuck playing a particular game.
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Post by revgiblet »

Here be reviews, Jim lad. Thanks to all the entrants for their efforts and Cowboy for getting this comp off the ground yet again.


A most harrowing misadventure indeed, where one takes on the role of the titular bear and must help him find his way to school.

The player must do this in best CYOA style by turning to a variety of pages to read the next passage. This is done by, literally, typing "turn to page..." every time. I don't know if this was done to manage limitations (it essentially uses tasks as rooms) but it was unusual. In this respect, Mr. Fluffykins is nothing more than a true gamebook in digital form.

As such, it's quality depends on the writing and thankfully writing seems to be one of justahack's strengths.

I did not find the premise that gripping, and found that it was easy to break the rules by "turning to page 6" regardless of what page I was on and what options were offered to me (just like a real gamebook!). However, it was very well-written and carried off elements of satire well. I found the Curious George rip-off ending the most amusing, though it's a testament to justahack's skill that I was required to play the game until I had exhausted all of the options and read all of the endings.

Perhaps not the best game, but a very fine entry. You are not justahack.


Long story short - Reactor malfunction. Ship explode. You prevent.

Although this is more standard IF fare, justahack's second game still has CYOA elements. Different actions can be taken at different times, but when you select a certain action you are set on a path that you can't come back from. Like Mr. Fluffykins, it's well-written, though it contains randomness. Now, I like randomness as much as the next man but this is one of those games where the randomness dictates how you complete the game. Essentially, there are several ways to complete the game but some of them don't work all of the time. I'm not really a fan of games where completion of the game is taken out of your hands, but justahack has mitigated this somewhat by including a fail-safe, always-works option.

This was the entry that most endeared itself to me in the shortest amount of time. There are hints of an interesting back story and its enjoyable to play as well as well as gripping me in a way that Mr. Fluffykins didn't. However, I was unable to complete this game due to a few bugs. For example, selecting the computer option to raise the shields took me back to the conversation tree with the Chief Engineer. Another game-breaker was an inability to take the pulse rifle, meaning that I couldn't even complete the game in the idiot-proof way.

Having conferred with my fellow judge, it seems that ESS Chance falls foul of revgiblet Syndrome, where I discover and are thwarted by bugs that none of my contemporaries have problems with or even find. It happened with Beanstalk and Jack and now it's happened with ESS Chance. Once again, I blame the scapegoat - Vista - for filling my .taf files with non-existent bugs.

The good news is that, due to this, ESS Chance is probably even better than I think. Another fine entry and a deserved winner.

Sandy's Lost Doll


Under-implemented, with a few careless bugs (for example, the magical doorway that claims to lead to the kitchen but takes you to your parents' bedroom) means that this is the least polished of all the entries. There's very few clues as to what's going on, and I could only assume from the title that I was Sandy looking for my lost doll. It becomes clear after a few turns that I am either a child or that my parents have never really cut the apron strings, but I could not find out if this was a cunning twist or not because I couldn't complete the game. This is the sort of game that struggles to compete with entries like Mr. Fluffykins and ESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS Chance but it had something charming about it.

It turns out that I quite like 'charming'. I'm learning this about myself. It was the reason why I enjoyed A Witches Tale a lot, and it's the reason why I can't be as harsh on this game as some other individuals might be. I found it quite therapeutic to wander around aimlessly trying to find something that I could interact with. I got quite excited when I found there was a different response the second time that I played around with the toilet seat. This game actually makes me think there might be a market for a sandbox game that just lets you potter around a house trying on different pairs of shoes and making sandwiches to hide under pillows.

Homeless Harry

Burblesnot has already come to my attention on the forum by attempting to bring a little bit of anarchic humour to a hobby that sometimes takes itself a little bit too seriously. This seems to have carried over into his game.

It doesn't take long before it becomes clear that the goal of this game is, as Homeless Harry, to make the beast with two backs with a fellow vagrant. It's the sort of thing that could very easily be dismissed as a joke entry, but it quite clearly isn't. A lot of work has been put into it and it's well-implemented and written. The author acknowledges that the timed intro could be annoying after the first time, though I thought that it was quite funny.

However, I didn't enjoy playing this game. I didn't enjoy the concept, so I felt like I was playing it for completeness rather than because I wanted to play it. It was a chore, so I don't think that I was the target audience for this game. On a point of style, however, I also found the room descriptions were far too verbose and just couldn't be bothered to trawl through them looking for items that I could interact with. This was a shame because I gather that there were quite a few things in there that the player could do outside of the main quest.

So I didn't enjoy this because of the offensive adult content, and I also have to object to it on the grounds that one of Cowboy's rules was that the entries contained no offensive adult content. As a judge, I have to declare that this game has BROKEN THE RULES of the competition and therefore should be disqualified - which is a shame, because Burblesnot clearly has some talent for writing IF and this is a very competent first game.

Next time, please use your considerable powers for good.
"He who lives only to benefit himself confers on the world a benefit when he dies."


In Progress:- Watch This Space...

Post by Duncan_B »

Well, here were my thoughts on the Spring Ting.

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4th place/Disqualified: Homeless Harry, by Burblesnot.

[Disqualified for sexual & offensive content-- see rules.]

Homeless Harry
is grotesque, grossly overwritten, offensive, and annoying— and even if that’s what it set out to be, it’s not a good thing to be. I get the feeling its author is the kind that, when handed a colouring book, will start to draw on the walls (and probably not with crayon).

HH is a game you dread starting up a second time because you know you’ll have to sit through a terrifyingly unnecessary fest of wait taggery & big fonts before getting into it. Once you do get into it, the presentation is incredibly messy & a huge turn-off. Descriptions throw up on your screen. The most insignificant details seem to get turned into gigantic infobombs. My first instinct as a judge was simply to mark the game “tl;dr”. If I had NOT been a judge, I probably wouldn’t have bothered with it.

The story isn’t terribly compelling, either (in fact, it’s more repelling than anything). It’s linear, the protagonist is thoroughly unlikeable, and the experience feels unrewarding as a whole. While the writing holds to a very strong authorial voice & singular unity of effect, and (for those willing to wade up to their eyes in sludge) there really is some entertaining writing hiding inside those overblown infobombs, I just wouldn’t feel right actually recommending this game to anyone.

On a lighter note, morbid curiosity more than once made me wonder how a game like this might fare at the Erins...

* * *
3rd place: Sandy’s Lost Doll, by Sandy.

The first thing any player will notice about Sandy’s Lost Doll is that although there’s some degree of detail in most of the room descriptions, absolutely zero objects are implemented. Aside from lack of implementation giving the player no motivation to use “look”, and providing no clue further to use the specific syntax “look in X”, the game is unwinnable due to a coding issue that should have been caught in playtesting (Winning task’s restriction is “Referenced number must be equal to 2” rather than “mom must be equal to 2”).

Really, anything beyond the above is just nitpicking, but I will mention one specific room. “Hallway” doesn’t even really have a room description, just a mention that it is the hallway, and the directions leading away. There is also nothing to signify to the player that they ought to type “look for doll” here (and no reward for them if they do so). Properly immersive room descriptions & structured, well-paced signification are keys to writing good IF. A little playtesting can help develop these things.

Overall, I’m inclined to read Sandy’s Lost Doll as a sort of Rybreadish poetic experiment in some ways, where the player enters believing from the title and room descriptions that they will play as Sandy, but where they later discover through bleak and hopeless exploration of an imposter house that the protagonist is actually Sandy’s doll lost in a roughly describable, but inaccessible prison-world with no doors, no windows, and no exits dominated by the vague presence of overbearing parental figures and abandoned by children. Then again, I also get the strong feeling that I’m the only one who interpreted the experience of the game this way & that it’s not what the author intended. Plus, whenever I have to interpret something that way, it pretty much automatically knocks five stars off on the conventional rating scale. Unconventionally, though, Sandy’s Lost Doll gave me a surreal & chilly frisson for a few minutes, which is perhaps all I can ask of any game or story.

Reading revgiblet's review makes me wonder if, because of the lack of implementation, any given player is likely to essentially make what they want of the game... perhaps this is an important function of minimalism in IF...?

* * *
2nd place: Mr. Fluffykin’s Most Harrowing Misadventure, by Justahack.

The writing probably got perfect attendance at the same charm school where Homeless Harry was constantly & conspicuously truant. Structuring the game as a CYOA was a clever way to get around the task limit imposed for the competition, and allows for multiple endings (wins, losses, & otherwise) as a matter of convention. Clearly a lot of writing went into the game, and it was generally well-organised.

Still, the game suffered from some problems that kept it from taking first place. The story file contains a lot of spelling & grammatical errors, especially regarding the usage of apostrophes… “Fluffykins”, “Fluffykin’s”, “Fluffykins’”, and even just “Fluffykin” are all used inappropriately at least once. At times a player was given false choices or even no choice (only one page to turn to, or else the choice was simply forced on the player, as in the Candyland scenario), which I didn't think made for a very effective use of the medium as interactive fiction. One of the endings mentioned in the readme wasn’t properly implemented, so it didn’t work. It would also have been nice to just type in the number of the page you want to turn to rather than typing “turn to page X” every time.

A fun read, but it could use some polish.

* * *
1st place: ESS Chance: Reactor 1, by Justahack.

Not without its problems, the player might notice spelling errors like “greenhouse affect” even from the introduction, and one of the endings especially had a few sections that obviously lacked some proofreading. Dialog with the Chief Engineer worked out a little strangely in that if one didn’t expressly quit the dialog, one was assumed to still be engaging in dialog… this could interfere with trying to raise the shields, since that action shared its command with a dialog option.

As revgiblet says, I report no trouble with the pulse rifle.

For the strength of its story, its slick presentation, & its execution, ESS Chance: Reactor 1 stole this competition from the very beginning. It’s the only game in the Spring Ting that I felt was unquestionably worthy of a sequel (although any others who wish to make a sequel should not be discouraged). Command input was signified in a way that made the game accessible even to first-time players, and the sense of time, place, and above all urgency came on strongly (I specifically recall feeling alright about "greenhouse affect" because, hey presto, it's science fiction). It’s a tight game with few rooms, but several possibilities, and all a bit flabbergasting for a first game release. Two thumbs up, recommended.

* * *
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Post by Burblesnot »

The things I've seen...Clthuluths attacking Neko warships off the coast of Japan, the deadly twinkle of board raids and thread sages deep in the black of night. All these things and more. And now, time. Time to *FAP*

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Post by Cowboy »


A very mature response.... :p
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Post by ralphmerridew »

revgiblet: Allowing the player to turn to any page was deliberate. If you read the author's comments, it mentioned that there's a page that can only be found in that way.
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Post by revgiblet »

ralphmerridew wrote:revgiblet: Allowing the player to turn to any page was deliberate. If you read the author's comments, it mentioned that there's a page that can only be found in that way.
Thanks. I missed that.
"He who lives only to benefit himself confers on the world a benefit when he dies."


In Progress:- Watch This Space...
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