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The Kuolema, by Ben Jackson

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Running tediously back and forth, June 10, 2024
by manonamora
Related reviews: springthing

This review will mostly focus on the Twine version, submitted to the 2024 SpringThing.

The Kuolema is a fairly large mystery adventure puzzle/choice game made in Twine, where the goal is to investigate an incident in the eponymous ship, retrieve an important device, and avoid international conflict. In this one-man adventure, you get to explore the ship (whose many rooms require a key to access), interact with the different objects (and bring them along), question the few survivors about the incident, and maybe learn a bit more about this whole... "deal" (boat, employer, device...). There are a handful of endings depending on a few choices made during the story. This version also includes a "Story Mode", which includes visible hints (helpful for the crossword especially).

The game plays on the conventional and expected twists (uh-oh, that's a dead body) and tropes (e.g. the really smart scientist turning cuckoo banana or the rugged security officer that trust no one) of the genre. And while the writing tends to be atmospheric and gradually will build tension, it switches up to a fast-paced action-focused sequence, which kind of turned me off. While the use of the Security Officer breaks the story into beats, I do feel like the game have worked better had you found no life on board.

With the move to Twine, the game managed to remove some clunkyness from the Google Form format, especially when "moving" forward in the story or trying to go backward, with the "return" from your notes and "rewind" if you die - though there is no UNDO (if you clicked too fast, missed some information or by mistake, too bad); the picking up elements and moving between spaces; or with an easier access to the inventory and notes (which are not always available).
However, it also rendered some puzzles tedious, especially the ones requiring to enter a code to unlock a safe or a door. There are 6 different section using a cycling lock (you click on each number until you have the correct one on the screen), ranging from 3 to 6 cycling link, often requiring an option at the end of the cycle - but unlike those real-life combination lock, you can only turn it one way (if you miss it you need to start again). After the second or third lock like this, that sort of puzzle ends up being more annoying than fun to solve.
I think I might not be the target audience for the 'running back and forth' type of puzzle (i.e. the puzzle at one end of the map can be solved thanks to an object on the other end), I found the running around pretty frustrating reaching the halfway point.

I didn't vibe with it as much as I thought I would. I think I found the game more interesting in its Google Form version, because of the limitation of format.

A note on accessibility: while it is appreciated the game tries to be accessible, with settings to toggle timed text (though the messaging section was missed), or turning some images into text-only version* (if not, you have have super verbose Alt-Text), I had some concerned with other aspects such as: colour-contrasting between text and background - especially with pop-ups and listboxes (when open, the options are barely readable) - as well as the text and image animations (a warning would have been nice, a toggle would even be better).
*It would have been nicer instead to be able to enjoy both the images and the descriptive text, having the later below the former (using something like `< details >`). Having to hover over/press the images would make them at times glitchy (if they ended large enough to read the smaller text).

A note on tracking information and choices: Like the Google Form version, this one tracks your choices and compares it to other players (you can see that at the end of the game). While this is expected for the first version because of its format (that's the whole point of a Google Form), this is not a native option for Twine. When using code to track and store information, players should be able to make an informed decision (whether to agree that their playthrough will be tracked or whether to play at all if they are not given the option). This should be clearly indicated when the player starts the game, rather than told at the end of the game or hidden behind a few clicks. [Note: this may have been changed since this review was written/queued]

A note on the final poll about AI use: since the poll is only available after playing through the game (which contains AI generated elements), the results will surely be biased in favour of AI, as opponents of AI are less likely to actually play the game (as mentioned by the author in the credits). This kind of go against the want of the poll to have an open discussion, as the pool of participants is already pre-determined with the placement of the poll (at the end of the game rather, adding a "wall" to access it). This is a clear selection bias.
This placement could be even used to invalidate users choosing an anti-AI position, as they still played a game included AI elements.

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Thanks, but I don't remember asking., by Mea Murukutla

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Too short for real consequences, May 16, 2024
by manonamora
Related reviews: springthing

Thanks, but I don't remember asking. is a short blurry Twine story, set in some sort of (post-)apocalyptic future, in which you are an unnamed woman living along in what seems to be a school (maybe a religious boarding school?). In comes to bother your tranquil life three individuals, two men and a woman, who snoops around and find things you'd rather not remember.

Vagueness here is important to keep the suspense of the game, as it is the "twist" of the story (though if you are a sucker for the (Spoiler - click to show)amnesic trope, the signs are all there).

Decisions must be made, though the choice is singular and not quite obvious at first (that is until you rewind and choose another path). It also does not seem to change much of the ending either, it seemed.

It is not so much as the shortness of the piece, but how far the story goes, how much you (the player) get to uncover the uneasiness you (the PC) feels around these strangers, and what ticks you when they snoop around (why can't you snoop around as well). As well, while you learn of past events, little is of true weight for the story - it always ends the same way.

I wish it went a bit deeper in the narrative choices, such as the gender of the characters clearly having an effect on their fate (it's clearly important to the PC), the importance of control and agency (ironic since we don't really have any), etc... a bit more exploration if you will.

That said: the (Spoiler - click to show)POV switch at the end sent a shiver down my spine.

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Deep Dark Wood, by Senica Thing

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Surprising Retruning Anthology, May 16, 2024
by manonamora
Related reviews: springthing

Deep Dark Wood is an anthology collection of micro games created by Slovakian children in Twine. Though the authors are different, the group is the same as last SpringThing.

In the deep dark woods, seven paths will lead you for a strange journey. Beware...

Back to the City: trying to go back home, you stumble upon a party. Stay or avoid it. Explore the forest or leave it. And find your way home. Maybe even help a stranger. It's a cute micro path.

Dark Dream: in this widely branching path, many actions are available to you to see this dream unfold, most of them quite dangerous. Will you know which one to take and wake up unscathed? For you must watch out, dreams often affect reality...
I didn't expect the whiplashing end screens, but it game be a good laugh. Surprisingly intricate!

Halloween: the Hunt has begun, and you might not be the hunter this Halloween, as strange paths are offered to you, many leading you astray. Will you find a happy ending? or live the rest of your life in misery (that is, if you survive at all)?
Another widely branching story, with many endings (I counted at least 8 of them in my playthrough). Some little text issues here and there. Surprisingly dark and gruesome at time. Would have seen something like it at the EctoComp!

IXI in the Forest:branching into on sentence passages, you are IXI, an enthusiastic character exploring the forest and trying to make friends with its inhabitant. Your actions determining widely different endings.
Another cute micro branching piece.

Little Froggie: life is filled with moments, some boring, some angry, some sad... and it's all about picking the right one to continue on an interesting path. Or you might end up emptying your savings for costly medicine...
Really cute! Some endings give me chuckles!

Survive or Die: it is usually not recommended to explore an empty home by yourself, or at all, that is if you want to avoid meeting scary monsters. But the true moral of the story is that sharing a meal helps calming everyone down, and look at things more rationally.
This one threw a curveball or two to get to the end. Good job on the misdirection!

The Dark One: with this ominous title, I sort of expected an unreliable narrator, and for many of the side/wrong paths, he indeed was! Leading you astray... Trust your friends, but trust yourself too!
Nice use of branching here too, twists, and paths to good endings.


I really enjoyed what the group had done at the last SpringThing, and I was really glad to see them submitting this year again. It is really lovely to see younger generations taking a crack at IF and creating even the smallest thing. I hope we get to see submission from the group next year, and all the years after that. And I hope the singular authors will continue to make games too!

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Rescue at Quickenheath, by Mo Farr

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Grinning all the way through!, May 16, 2024
by manonamora
Related reviews: springthing

Rescue at Quickenheath is a delightful fantasy swashbuckling Twine puzzle-y game, where you play as the dashing highway-person Kit Valentine, who just learned that their partner-in-crime, Aubrey, was not only captured but about to get executed at sundown! And only you can save her!

The premise is silly, the puzzles are pretty straight-forward, and it's pretty linear (afiak you can't lose). But boy, did I have fun playing through the game. The vibe was so big and bright, with hints of cool adventures behind you and hopes of more in your future. A daring escape plan you need to manage on your own, which will require some wit, definitely some crimes, and discovering life-changing secrets (though the games hints enough at it that you can make the connections pretty early on). I was seriously grinning all the way through the game.

While the first half of the game is pretty exploratory and lets you do things in whatever order you want to (sort of), the (Spoiler - click to show)Fae chapter is a bit too I'm-getting-pull-around-to-move-the-story along. I get that time is limited before Audrey gets the chop, but it would have been nice if the gameplay between each section mirrored each other a bit more (and adds a bit more to the stakes).

If I had something to add, it would be a (Spoiler - click to show) proposal at the end of the game. A (Spoiler - click to show)knee on the ground, grumbling because of the pain, lots of tears and happy yes type of proposal. All pointed to it, with (Spoiler - click to show)the ring, the True Name, and all the Aubrey loves you, you dumb-dumb.

Anyways... Be gay! Do crime!

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To Beseech Old Sins, by Nic June

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Anti-clamatic Guess the Link, May 15, 2024
by manonamora
Related reviews: springthing

To Beseech Old Sins is a linear sci-fi Twine story, part of a larger series, where you play as Epsilon, a superpowered (if you will) golem, part of a Throuple/Trio SpecOp team. Though your behaviour goes against every directive ever, you and your team are barely reprimanded because you are the best of the best. And this is why *you* get to go on a daring mission to win the war (or at least the battle). All the odds are against you, but luck is weirdly always on your side.

Yay, I thought after reading the long introduction to get here, some action, I get to do something! Let's take over the ship and... oh... they immediately waved the white flag. Ah... ok, then. Let's just read about how great we are, I guess.

While I do not have gripes with the kinetic type (having made and played plenty), I was sorely disappointed to see that I would not have any input in the story. The blurb talks about an admiral (your boss) wanting a swift victory but nothing goes as plan, and I sort of expected we would have to get down and dirty and fight (of some sort) or be forced to escape some sort of prison. But no, you just read about how you strut around with desire in your eyes (which is fine, just not what I expected).

I think my biggest issue with the piece was how I kept playing Guess What the Link Will Do throughout the whole game. Was I going to read a snarky observation or continue with the story? I could never tell, as all the links looked the same, and the one to move forward with the story never had the same position between passages (it was only obvious when only one link was on the screen). So, every time I moved to a next passage on the first link, I kept wondering what I had missed (was it important for me to understand? would it have helped provide more context?). It really made the experience frustrating.

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PROSPER.0, by groggydog
temporary Poetic end-a-eve-or, May 15, 2024
by manonamora
Related reviews: springthing

Note: I beta-tested this game.

PROSPER.0 is a dystopian Twine game with a very interesting gameplay mechanic. As an employee of CORPOTECH, you are tasked to verify the content of documentations, and to delete any file not including factoid (strangely resembling contemporary poetry). Do your task correctly and you are rewarded (by keeping your job), but do too many mistakes and find yourself on the CORPOTECH blacklist.

If you are lucky enough to go through more than one day of work (really, you only don't if you troll the game), and your screen may get visited by a stranger, who, unlike management, would prefer not to see all those poetic files lost forever. Though you cannot go against your overlords, lest you lose your job, the stranger proposes a different way of keeping these files alive: you reconstruct them... in your own way.

Until one day... You have to make a choice. A choice that could change everything... or nothing at all. But only you can make it.

And here it is, the interesting gameplay, word play, in a different way. As the words are one by one disappearing from the screen, you have the option to "save" them from destruction, leaving you the opportunity to use them afterward to create another poem yourself. You are even given challenges, like only be allowed to save or use a certain amount of words.

And there is no right or wrong way of making those poems, because they are made by you, a singular individual with your own set of words and endless possibilities. It is pretty poetic (eh) and I don't think I ever experienced this kind of interactivity in IF (so far).

Also, it made me thing of those word magnets you can get for your fridge, and create whatever sentences to display to the world. Except, only you ever see it. It's pretty cool. I've been messing around with the other game modes, because it's less stressful than during the game, and made some weird nonsensical poems, just for fun!

All I will say is Down with CORPOTECH!

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Potato Peace, by ronynn

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
In a world, where mankind and potatoe..., May 14, 2024
by manonamora
Related reviews: springthing

Potato Peace is a fairly linear game made in Ink, set in a fantasy world where mankind and potatoes live in peace and harmony (sort of). Until one day, the <S>fire nation</S>... urm... the Pie of Peace, symbol of potatoe-human relationships, is stolen. At the time, you were an investigator, child of a famed diplomat, tasked to find the statue. And it was with shame that you were forced to retire, when you could not deliver the goods, never learning of the mastermind behind this awful act.

That is... until the culprit shows up at your door to confess, asking you to participate in a bit of a charade to bring things back to where they were.

You are more pushed through the motions of things rather than exploring the mystery/plot or affecting your situation (save for the final beat of the game), which is a bit of a shame, considering the zany setting of the game. There are a lot of good bits about the worldbuilding already that would have been so interesting to get into (why are the population clashing? have humans stopped consuming potatoe? when did all of this happen?).

As for the Interface, it was a bit jumpy at times, and often, I found the AI-generated illustrations/mashups distracting (I was also really confused about the appearance of the woman on the screen, until I realised it was supposed to be me [the player] - I thought we were a man?). I would rather have had more text and exploration in the story than the pictures taking 2/3rd of the page.

The writing was pretty fun, and the puns made me giggle. It was a pretty nice distraction from the rest.

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Do Good Deeds..., by Sissy

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Be kind and become the Forest King, May 14, 2024
by manonamora
Related reviews: springthing

Do Good Deeds... is relatively short Twine children's story, where you play as Modis, an outcast elf on a stroll in the forest. Along the way, he meets many creatures in need, prompting him for help. Some of the animals require council, others your bare arms, and some a bit of wit, to help them out of their situation... if you choose to do so (because you can also ignore them). Depending on the amount of creatures, you get different endings.

At its core, it's a cute game, probably more aimed at children, with some inspirations from fables (The Lion and the Mouse, the Ant and Grasshopper, etc...). The "puzzles" are relatively simple, and if you mess up, the games lets you try again. And the interface with the custom backgrounds and sprites were really cute! It really gave off that children's book vibe.

Some stuff that didn't work quite as much for me:
- except for the white and maybe yellow-coloured text, the dialogue was often pretty hard to read, even with the letter border (often an issue with a multi-coloured background). The cycled link was sometimes impossible to read because of it.
- the timed/typed text was too long, and pretty unnecessary for the type of story. It hindered more the reading of the text than helped build it up.
- there were some awkward space between lines of text (unnecessary spacing) and a few miscoloured lines (switched between the interlocutors).

It was a cute little game, that could use a tiny bit more polish.

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The Case of the Solitary Resident, by thesleuthacademy

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Snooping around to connect the dots, May 14, 2024
by manonamora
Related reviews: springthing

The Case of the Solitary Resident is a murder(ish) mystery game made in Twine where you get to play the detective, tasked to solve the mystery. Receiving the case, in you go to the location to investigate, and find... a dead body. Ensue a search for clues by interacting with different elements around the apartment, and interviewing different suspects. When you are good to go (and found enough clues that the game lets you do so - I found 15 out of 16), you can move to accusing the correct suspect and explain how it all happened (got the cause right away, it was the last detail that just didn't come right away).

I love a good murder mystery, especially the impossible kinds where it isn't clear who did it. I think I found what had happened pretty early one, though I couldn't have answered the final question without going through the game (and even then, it got technical).

The investigating is what makes the game shine here, with your little commentary and (sometimes false) observations of what is there. Snooping around people's stuff to learn more about who they are and how they got here is always very fun (aside from, you know... the dead body in the living room). Collecting samples around the place was neat, it even lets you cut a piece of cheese for testing!

All the clues you find during your run is neatly tucked inside a case file, which updates as you find those clues or get notifications of sample analysis being done (that first one made me giggle). And you can even review the interviews of the suspects or ask them more questions as you find more clues.

I struggled a bit with finding the last necessary clue: I thought I would be able to visit locations or go back to the precinct to do some research about them rather than (Spoiler - click to show)finding their number in the victim's phone. It didn't make much sense when the information is given through text or by one of the suspect, to then go through the victim's phone about it...

I also found the interview bits a bit lacking, especially compared to the investigating part. You get to pick topics to ask the suspects but not specific questions (it would have been fun to maybe be more antagonistic than just one-tone). You also can't really confront the suspects on their answers ((Spoiler - click to show)I know no one is at fault in this particular case, but sometimes people forget they've done or said things, or remember wrong). A bit more background on the other characters or more optional questions would have been nice to make the case feel a bit more... real? A bit more fluff, if you will.

One minor thing: the stock image to represent the Police department has a sign saying Polizei (German for Police), but it seems like the case is happening in Australia? The mention of dollars threw me off at first, then I connected the dots when talking to the son to where we were. Also, no Australian accents?

All and all, it was a pretty fun game.

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Alltarach, by Katie Canning and Josef Olsson

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A deep-dive into Irish folklore and religion, May 13, 2024
by manonamora
Related reviews: springthing

Alltarach is a pretty large Twine game centred around Irish folklore and set in the early Middle Ages. Through a character study of your young protagonist Bríd, we get a taste of what might have been 6th century Ireland, its culture and customs. Between grieving lost parents, worrying about the disappearance of her brother, and navigating new land, we are taken in a coming-of-age adventure, where crude realities and disillusion slowly replace naiveté and childishness, as you uncover secrets and confront your beliefs.

The presentation of the game is really neat, with beautiful illustrations, reminiscent of children's books, incredible enticing prose and very helpful tooltips to translate/put into context local terms. As an interactive novel, it is a very interesting piece (and SURPRISINGLY LONG!).

But between the long pages filled with paragraphs, I felt like something was missing. Though it is interactive (you have plenty to ask and explore), it didn't always feel like my action truly mattered at the end, choices being there for the sake of helping the player getting a clearer picture of who the character is, rather than having true consequences on the story.
Even the final choice was not my (as Bríd) doing at all! But of another, who's characterisation is even more muddled and confusing than the main character. That was a bit frustrating.

And yet, I liked it. It had an unusual setting, really good pacing, and interesting takes. It's just missing that little something that would make it incredible.
Had this been a book, I'd have devoured it in one sitting.

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