Reviews by Rovarsson

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Budacanta, by Alianora La Canta

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Save your spoons for when it counts., April 15, 2021
by Rovarsson (Belgium)
Related reviews: Slice of Life

I pressed play, a pleasant melody started playing in the background and an in-game version of the author of Budacanta, Alianora, started explaining her circumstances to me:

She's going on a solo-trip to Hungary for a motorsports event and she would like your help.
Oh, and she's autistic.

In the introduction, Alianora explains a number of important concepts to you, like "passing", "spoon theory" and having to use a mental emulator to run a neurotypical brainsimulation to avoid a pass-fail.
This may sound like a bunch of technical jargon, but it's explained so patiently and with so much humor that you will understand easily.

Now, the game-part of Budacanta is a spoon-management challenge. Actually: preserving energy by soothing Alionora so she has enough energy to take on the challenges that are so important to her. Like talking to strangers, taking the bus in a foreign country with a very basic knowledge of the language and eventually going to the motorsporting event.

This game was a great learning experience for me. In fact, I think it would be good learning material for anyone who interacts with neurodiverse people regularly in some way.
Heck, I don't regularly interact with anyone who's on the autism spectrum (that I know of. they could just be good at passing...) and I found it immensely interesting to get this guided tour around a foreign brain.

This is also the comparison that Alianora draws in the game: visiting a foreign country (alone) most resembles what she does daily.
There are weird rules that everyone expects you to follow as if they're self-evident, but as a stranger to this land/mental state, you cannot see what's so obvious about them at all. So you do your best to pass as "normal" and not break the rules too much.

It's very important that Alianora doesn't want to stay in spoonsaving mode all the time. She wants to live life to the fullest, take on challenges and enjoy them and learn from them. It's just that the way her brain is wired means that she has to be extra careful what to spend her energies on and when to reload her batteries.

Alianora's enthusiasm throughout the story is contagious. She tells her story in a bright and friendly way. What I found most touching was her completely straightforward honesty, the very direct and explicit way she reports changes in her emotional state or talks about her weaknesses.

The Spring Thing version I have played ends after the first big challenge. If the upcoming full game is anywhere near as good as this introductory excerpt, I'll be jumping up and down to play it.

Very impressive and funny and interesting and bright and sparkling...


Those Days, by George Larkwright

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Dusk and dawn of a friendship., April 15, 2021
by Rovarsson (Belgium)
Related reviews: Slice of Life

Those Days is a slow-paced and thoughtful piece about life, growing up, friendship. It's nostalgic, a bit sad and a bit uplifting. As I said: life.

The main character reminisces about those endless days of childhood, spent with his best friend.

It's quite a stretch to call this an interactive story. The interactivity is limited to clicking highlighted words now and then while the railroaded story inevitably unrolls.

The clicking does serve another purpose however: that of pacing the story and forcing the player to take in the deeper meaning of the short paragraphs. This is helped by carefully judged timed text that slows down the reading tempo just enough to aid in letting the words sink in.

I really liked the changing background colours. They came across as symbolic of the different stages in the life of the protagonist and of the state of his friendship with his best friend.

A moving story that makes excellent use of the Twine-format to enhance its impact.


Some Space, by rittermi

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A cabin in the woods...*, April 14, 2021
by Rovarsson (Belgium)
Related reviews: Puzzler

First off: Some Space is beautiful. There are background images of stars and nebulas while you play, and a soothing soundtrack.
I quite liked the lettering, but I do think it might be hard for people with certain eye-problems to notice the clickable words.

Playing the game left me with a split experience.

The main body of the game is about your PC who has moved to the Koilan planet for a new job. Unfortunately, the Koilan have a very vague and roundabout way of communicating. Everything they say is interpreted by you as one or other code, even with the universal translation goo you drink at the beginning of the game.

I thought the code puzzles were cool in the way that ten-year-olds playing spies think secret messages are cool. (This is a good thing. I liked playing spies as a ten-year-old. Still do.) I can't elaborate, just be ready to look up resources (very simple recources) out-of-game/on the net.

Throughout the game, you keep getting hints that something's wrong on the home-front. It's a vague but effective method of characterization that the PC keeps ignoring certain messages, without the player having any choice in the matter.

After happily breaking different codes and translating secret messages, the game suddenly changes tone. Very soon after, it comes to a screeching halt, leaving the player wondering about the small but intense bits of backstory that were just revealed.

I really don't know. I liked a lot about this game, but it didn't feel like an integrated whole.

*You'll get it when you play it.


Mean Mother Trucker, by Bitter Karella

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
I love the smell of armadillo in the mornin', April 14, 2021
by Rovarsson (Belgium)
Related reviews: Comedy

You're a big trucker with a soft spot for the waitress in a rundown truckstop. You'll have to prove to her you can safely take her accross the mountains to take her away.

Looking for ways to accomplish this, you meet a bunch of colourful characters, each with their weaknesses you can exploit to get a step further to your goal. (I was intrigued by Ranbir the shop owner.)

This could have been a fun comedy game, were it not that it's badly executed.

There are a bunch of typos and missing spaces, not enough synonyms, and often there is a blank line missing above the parser prompt, gluing the response to the previous command onto the next command line.

The game suffers from shoddy implementation. OPEN DOOR gets a response that refers to an obstacle that you just got rid of for example.

And I cringed when I saw this:

(In Convenience Store)

>BUY SODA

"Nothing is on sale."

Not only is it an unforgivable oversight not to implement BUY in a store, the author also managed to use the wrong expression.

[Edit: the expression "on sale" has different meanings in American and British English. Only in American English does it mean "being sold at a lower than usual price". I was wrong, the author was right to use "Nothing is on sale." in this way. Since this was the most grating flaw I experienced, I upped my rating by one]

Two or three more sendbacks to the testers and a lot of attention to detail could make this game a fun little comedy. As it is now however, the lack of careful finish got in the way of my enjoyment.

I look forward to a post-comp release of Mean Mother Trucker, where I might dive right into the comedy.


Wearing the Claw, by Paul O'Brian

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
(Dis-) Illusions, April 13, 2021
by Rovarsson (Belgium)
Related reviews: Fantasy

This game was a lot better when I played it ten years ago. Or is it I who have come to expect better?

Wearing the Claw is a very traditional fantasy adventure. It's played completely straight. No tongue in cheek, no subtle (or blatant) irony.

I really like traditional fantasy played straight. A lot.

After "The Testing", you are chosen as the worthy young man to find the Pendant of MacGuffin, ahem, Elinor, to lift the curse beset upon your village by an evil wizard. You are to gain entry to the Fortress where it is held and bring it back. No objections from me here. More than half the fantasy stories and games I know start off like this.

But then the game falls short on many points.

Apart from a longish text dump-introduction and a similarly long epilogue, the actual story is hurried. There's not enough attention to tempo to let the player sink into the story or the character. Everything seems to happen one thing after another at the same just-a-bit-too-fast pace.

The view of the magical island across the sea raised expectations that weren't fulfilled. After a literally linear path (one east-west dusty road) I had hoped for the map to open up and become more complex upon entering the fortress. Instead I found one north-south path.

The first puzzle sets a good theme. It's about deception, and one hopes that this will be explored more fully in the rest of the game. The other puzzles do indeed repeat the theme, but they do not widen it. They're similar variations on the theme without becoming more difficult or complicated. As such, they also do not become more rewarding, rather the opposite.

The story itself has the same problem. If only it had broadened in scope to weigh some of the personal or moral implications of deception... Perhaps by adding alternative ways to overcome the obstacles...
Maybe your character could also have become a more three-dimensional person then.

But these are "if"s and "maybe"s that cannot be changed.

The game as it is still has its good qualities. It's competently written. It has a ton of optional responses to unnecessary actions. You can greatly add to the fun in this game by trying many things that are outside of the main quest.
There is a magical gadget that changes the way you view the world, so there's some fun in re-exploring there.

All in all, this is a fine, uncomplicated adventure. It's just that it seems to promise so much more...


Misty Hills, by Giuliano Roverato Martins Pereira

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Waiting for your ride..., April 13, 2021
by Rovarsson (Belgium)

You just missed your tram-ride and now you have half an hour before the next one. What will you do to pass the time?

Misty Hills is a pleasant visit to a quaint imaginary place. There are some people there to meet, some tasks to find and carry out or some small walks you can take.

There is absolutely no pressure here, no score to aim for or objective to reach. You're really just passing the time and letting things come over you.

Each path I took had its own little surprises. Each time I got on the tram in the end, I had a smile on my face.


So I Was Short Of Cash And Took On A Quest, by Anssi Raisanen

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Mmmhhhm... Chicken, April 11, 2021
by Rovarsson (Belgium)
Related reviews: Heist

A short and breezy peek at what should be a really fun game once it's gotten a bit more substance. The author submitted it to the Back Garden of the Spring Thing to gather feedback. It's acknowledged in the ABOUT-text that it is now too short and not fleshed out enough.

However, what's there is certainly enough for a light-hearted and funny diversion. This little gamelet is playable all the way through. It has an intro, a midgame and a conclusion of sorts.

A total of four puzzles are there to challenge you. Of these, the first is a great pointer to what SIWSOCATOAQ or its sequel could become: a fun and slightly off-kilter challenge that does not take itself too seriously.

Good for half an hour of fun.

(I'm particularly interested in the north room on the second floor...)


Lady Thalia and the Seraskier Sapphires, by E. Joyce and N. Cormier

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Gracious theft., April 10, 2021
by Rovarsson (Belgium)
Related reviews: Heist

You are quite the sophisticated art-thief, choosing to perform your particular art as stylishly as possible.

You also can't stand being talked down to by snobbish Upper Class-Ladies.

So you decide to stick it to Lady Satterthwaite, robbing her of not one but three family heirlooms without a trace of your stealthy little self.

Lady Thalia and the Seraskier Sapphires is a delightfully funny heist-game. I very much enjoyed finding out what angle to use in my conversations with the different characters to get information or favours.

In fact, these conversation-puzzles make up the most part of the obstacles. You can get quite a good feel for the kind of person you're talking to from their response to your first question, so you can tweak your approach accordingly.

I especially enjoyed talking to your Scotland Yard-nemesis. There is a real chemistry between the protagonist and the detective trying to catch her.

There is also some traditional code-breaking involved, but I believe you could circumvent that by making different choices.

The writing in Lady Thalia really sparkles. It's fast-paced, funny and engaging, with just a sprinkle of backstory involved.

As I said: Delightful!


Wintervale, by Ethan Erh

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Iterations of a snowy day., April 10, 2021
by Rovarsson (Belgium)
Related reviews: Fantasy

Wintervale starts off as a run-of-the mill story about a fantasy town. This introduction was nicely done, with a history of how the town got its name and a list of the different fantasy races living together in Wintervale, listing their strengths. Apparently, the town is special for having all these races living together, as they are mistrusting towards each other in the neighbouring lands. Unfortunately, this information is of no consequence to the rest of the story.

The innkeeper of the town goes down to his drinking hall to investigate after he was rudely awakened by riotous noises in the streets. During this first investigation he is killed, only to re-awaken on the same day.

From here, the circumstances of the innkeeper's investigations turn darker and more confusing. Through multiple re-awakenings, the player must guide him on a search for what exactly is happening.

The game is written with a lot of enthousiasm, and I felt this pull me along while playing. I was gripped by the mystery of the broken glass in the tavern and the riot outside.

I must add however that the sense of mystery was helped (?) along by the unclear writing. The game is riddled with awkward turns of phrase that present your surroundings as more obscure than the author probably intended.

There are also many misspellings ("environment" is consistently spelled "enviornment" for example). The game definitely needs another round of proofreading by players fluent in English.

I liked Wintervale a lot, but perhaps more for the promise it shows than for the story it is in this iteration...


Copper Canyon, by Tony Pisculli

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Mine, April 10, 2021
by Rovarsson (Belgium)

Twenty two good men died in the mine after an earthquake. To add insult to injury, some hoodlums take control of the town and deny the families their grief-benefits, robbing them of even the possibility to pay for a church-sevice or a proper burial.

As the son of one of the miners, you gather a group of young kids to stand up to the thieves.

At first, Copper Canyon reminded me of the Peter Pan-movie Hook. A bunch of kids resorting to tricks and mischief to shame the bad guys into drooping off. The story evolves into something much darker and more serious however. This transition was gradual enough to be believable, there was no sudden jerk in the story. This is mainly due to the excellent prologue reverberating through the story.

Having played through only once, I don't know how much the choices in Copper Canyon change the course of the main story. They certainly do offer the player an opportunity to flesh out the protagonist, to fill in his character by exploring what he does in certain situations.

Although I think this piece could do with some more characterization, and some more exploration of the effects of the deaths of the miners on the rest of the town's population, I really liked it.

A good read.



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