Number of Reviews: 4
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Teaching a dog new tricks, June 10, 2022
Most of the Spring Thing games Iíve played so far have been relatively intense, so it was kind of nice to get another low-key entry after finished Orbital Decay. The Bright Blue Ball is a short, cute parser game pitched at IF beginners, and while its slightness, and slight wonkiness, means that itís probably less suited for that purpose than other, more robust efforts to create a parser-IF gateway drug, nonetheless itís a pleasant way to spend 15 minutes, with a few darker notes around the edges reinforcing how nice it can be to spend time in a safe place like this one.
Those darker notes are primarily about the situation that kicks off the action: this is the second Spring Thing game Iíve come across where you play a dog (the other of course being Custard and Mustardís Big Adventure), and as the story opens youíre with your human ďparentsĒ as you flee your home due to a bombing alert Ė the resonance with the war in Ukraine seems entirely intentional. Thankfully, you quickly reach safety, but along the way you wind up losing your favorite toy, the eponymous ball, and the game consists of solving three or four small puzzles to retrieve it.
Itís always fun to play as an animal, and BBB does a good job of providing smell-centric descriptions and a robust SMELL command to allow for olfactory exploration. The protagonistís canine nature also makes some traditional parser limitations more reasonable, like a one-item inventory limit thatís fair enough given that you have to carry things in your mouth. At the same time, I felt like the game sometimes didnít go far enough to commit to its conceit: the first puzzle, for example, requires you to find a key and unlock a door, which is a good introduction to a common IF situation but makes for a bizarre mental image.
Speaking of the puzzles, theyíre pretty much all of the medium-dry-goods variety, with one guess-the-action challenge thrown in on top. Theyíre all very heavily signposted, which is appropriate for the target audience, and feel satisfying to resolve. I did struggle for a bit with the first one, possibly due to some small bugs: I could smell something metallic in a table drawer, but after opening it the smell seemed to go away. I guessed that there was a key somewhere, which proved correct after I tried to TAKE KEY, but it hadnít to that point showed up in the description of either the room, the table, or the drawer. Similarly, I was briefly stymied once I started wandering the cityís streets because one location had an unmentioned exit (for anyone else who hits a similar barrier: try going north). I also worried Iíd made the game unwinnable when I solved the puzzles related to the little girl outside of the intended order, but despite the text seeming a little off-kilter it all eventually came right. As a final small niggle, X TABLE in the newsstand didnít result in any output, indicating a missing description.
None of these bugs did much to impact my enjoyment Ė I usually wouldnít list them all in a review, but since I donít have a transcript Iím doing so in case itís useful for the author. BBB is a fun, small game with a positive vibe that acknowledges that even when big scary things are happening in the world, small bits of kindness are important Ė maybe more important than ever (would that this message didnít feel especially timely, given the state of the world). I enjoyed my time with the game, and would happily play (and test, if thatíd be useful!) another game by the author.