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.
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. At the end, you reach a page listing all the endings you have reached so far, so it has some good replay value.
Four girls are playing a kind of Bloody Mary-style psychological/supernatural game, in which one of them enters another world: just how real is this going to get?
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, although Claire doesn't always go willingly with your suggestions. 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. It even has a cat in it.
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. But this game can go from innocent fun to real horror very unexpectedly.
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 novel 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.
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 stories. 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.
The branching paths do sometimes meet, but mostly it’s a story that leads out into all kinds of different directions(Spoiler - click to show) - you get caught up in shady dealings at work, or end up in a monastery, for instance - that are unexpected and make it a good, unpredictable read.
I'd seen Clickventures referred to on the IFDB but not actually encountered one until now.
This is a whimsical short game about trying to evolve into a duck. I'm no scientist but I'm fairly sure that some of the evolutionary pathways described are slightly less than accurate, which is part of the extremely silly fun of it. I also enjoyed the fact that there is a side branch of the story where you can spend several turns as a (Spoiler - click to show)capybara, a creature which I am quite fond of, although that story doesn't end well.
After numerous playthroughs, and a rough idea of which pathways were dead ends, I (Spoiler - click to show)eventually managed to evolve into a duck via the most unlikely route possible.
NOTE: as explained below, I think there are a couple of bugs in the "play online" versions: read on if you are stuck.
I'd been looking for a new, medium/large puzzle game to play, but I often find parsers difficult and slow to get off the ground, and tend to give up on them very quickly. First Things First finally broke this streak.
You are off to return your time travel books to the library when you discover that you've locked yourself out of the house. Quite coincidentally, an actual time machine materialises in your neighbourhood (you accept this in a somewhat matter-of-fact way), allowing you to visit a further four time periods, starting from before the house was built, and ending in an apparently dystopian future.
The puzzles are pitched at just the right level: difficult enough to get me thinking, but not so hard that I gave up. Notably, they are often of the kind where, just when you think you have solved the problem, another barrier turns out to be in the way, and what was apparently a simple goal gets further and further away: truly infuriating and deeply satisfying. (Spoiler - click to show)For example, you try to plant a tree. One bottle of Miracle-Grow is not enough to get it to grow large enough, so you need to figure out a way of taking all the bottles. When that's done, it turns out still not to be enough, so another bottle has to be acquired. The tree allows you to get into an otherwise unreachable part of the map to pick up an object which you had been looking for, but the next problem is getting out, and so on. Some puzzles have more than one solution.
The game was written with real attention to detail: it's a joy to see how the descriptions of different parts of the map change as you alter the past and the future. The tone shifts a great deal, encompassing tranquillity (the woodlands that were there before the house was built), urgency (long passages of dialogue with a major character at a crucial part in the game) and occasionally terror(Spoiler - click to show): there is one surprisingly unnerving sequence, which some players might miss, where you grow the tree to its full extent and fix the roof but do not install a lightning conductor, and then go into the +10-year future and attempt to climb the tree. The game goes to considerable lengths to instil a sense of growing panic as you lose your grip, and fall to the ground, leaving you alive but unable to move. Playing with (Spoiler - click to show)the bank while having time travel abilities is also great fun.
However, I ran into a wall at an important point in the story: in the section called "Outside the Executive VP's Office", the game froze: in the middle of a block of text, there should have been a "press any key" option and there wasn't! I was using the Parchment interpreter on iplayif.com (the "Play Online" option above) - there seems to be something wrong with it. So I restarted using the elseif player ("Play Online in Browser"), which has a separate window for typing in commands, and that did the trick.
Unusually for me, I didn't need to resort to a walkthrough: the in-game hints were enough. However, I ended up consulting it because, close to the end, I got stuck in a loop which may be a bug because it doesn't make sense as a deliberate way to get the player stuck. (Spoiler - click to show)If you just walk into the museum, the young man will offer you a tour, but there is no way of accepting it: typing "yes" or "follow young man" just lead him to repeat his offer; you can't even move beyond this point. I checked the walkthrough and discovered that there is a note underneath the doormat, instructing you to knock on the door. If you do so, you can type "yes" in response to the man's questions, and "follow young man" should work also.
It looks as if First Things First has been relatively underappreciated in the twenty years since it came out, and undeservedly so. If you're looking for a well-thought-out puzzle game that will neither be a pushover nor impossibly taxing, this could be the one.
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. A very accomplished game.
The title (from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner) almost makes it sound like this game is going to be amusing, except it's anything but.
You are lost at sea, alone, and have a number of choices to help you get out of your predicament. Consume your supplies, or save them for later? Save your strength, or row - and in which direction? Try fishing?
But all this is just a distraction from what is really going on. There's a tale waiting to be told, and you'd prefer not to tell it ...
A Thousand Thousand Slimy Things has a solid enough story, and makes worthwhile enough use of a choice-based interface, to be a decent read in its own right. But what raises this game to being something truly special is the use of simple graphics (well, one particular graphic: you won't have to play for too long before you'll know the one I mean), and, above all, the music, composed and arranged by the author, which is by turns awe-inspiring, evocative, and sinister.
I've played three times and I think have only reached two distinct endings, but I believe there to be at least four. It'd be nice to know how many there are, because this is definitely worth a few replays to appreciate in full.
I had long marked Bee for reading one day, but was disappointed to see that it was no longer available as the original platform was now defunct; thanks to the efforts of the author and of Autumn Chen, this sweet story is now getting the readers it so well deserves once more.
The unnamed narrator, perhaps 11 or 12 years old, is educated at home with her younger sister. Her life is shaped by the seasons of the church, the homespun ways of her frugal parents, the trends of her local home education circle, and a long-running desire to win a national spelling competition.
Each 'turn' in the story gives the reader a set of options, which recur throughout: the chance to review some spellings; a social engagement; household chores; services for different times of the Christian year. Within the chosen passage, more options nudge the narrator towards different actions, subtly shifting the story in one direction or another.
Gradually, four different endings emerge. As with any choice-based fiction that commands my attention, I was pleased to read this one over and over, each time uncovering a few different passages, and moving the story in a different direction.
The subtlety of the story comes from the fact that the narrator's family are presented as trying to be distinctly different from the world around them while also avoiding real fanaticism. The narrator sometimes wishes to please her parents, while also displaying a streak of sarcasm from time to time. Above all, she begins to get a sense of how her life could unfold after the competition and once she has a chance to live differently one day.
A really lovely story, and worth the wait.
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 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 always 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 (Spoiler - click to show)(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'(Spoiler - click to show):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... As a Twine writer, I found myself thinking about how the game had been constructed: which passages linked to which, and when variables came into play.
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. (Spoiler - click to show) 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'm not sure what the promised 'special surprise' was, although I did appreciate the 'I'm not a man' ending.
Of all the games in Spring Thing 2022, this is the one that I kept coming back to.