Spring Thing: A Game of Life and Death

Spring Thing reviews continue, this time with A Game of Life and Death by Kiel Farren, a CYOA made using the ChooseYourStory site. Spoilers.

Ill-Advised Things To Put In Your Blurb, Volume IX:

I am NOT, I repeat, I AM NOT responsible for the choices YOU make in this game. 

Sorry, buddy, ain’t no amount of all-caps bold underline gonna to make it so. You create the possibility-space, you’d better take some ownership. (The actual game doesn’t seem to contain any content that would motivate this kind of hand-washing.)

chooseyourstory.com has been around a pretty long time – since well before Twine was a twinkle in Chris Klimas’ bloodshot, goat-pupiled eye. I poked around on it briefly some years back, and my impression was that its artistic culture tended strongly towards long chunks of text between choices, a fairly narrow scope of choice, and little or no state-tracking on the mechanical side, with the writer side being mostly unadventurous genre pieces with an emphasis on adolescent thriller stuff, rendered in pedestrian prose.

Game conforms to at least some of this. The prose isn’t broken, but it shows little evidence of craft, spending a good deal of time on waffling and wandering into unnecessary tangents. The setting is campy genre horror, with a dose of fourth-wall wackiness thrown in for good measure. (You’re a schoolkid who goes to rescue their friend from a haunted house; encounters include cannibals, a sexy vampire, a dinosaur, and Coyote.)

On the other hand, there’s more player freedom and state than I anticipated; you have an inventory (although actually using it is kind of awkward). After the intro, the game transitions to a fairly traditional adventure-game format, with a house-of-locked-doors opened by inventory puzzles.

It makes some use of graphics, but more in a clip-arty style than anything that gives an aesthetic component to the game. It’s not used in a very consistent way: some NPCs get character graphics, some don’t, and there doesn’t seem to be any particular reason why. To me, the main effect of the art was to make the game feel amateurish without adding any useful information, but this might be different for an audience unaccustomed to all-text games.

There is a great deal of death, and it took me a while to notice the UNDO function at top-right. Even with that, it’s not plain sailing: there are some puzzles of the use-X-in-situation-Y variety, and some gentle riddles, and that was fine, but then I found myself confronted with some monsters that I couldn’t figure out a way around, and at this point my patience ran out.

As a first game, an exercise to prove that you can use a system and produce a working, non-tiny game, while doofing around and not taking anything too seriously, this is fine. But as a comp entry, it’s a bit flat. It’s not even the subject-matter, necessarily – I can get along with doofy randomness as long as it’s funny. The next, vital step is moving beyond ‘I want to make an adventure game’ to ‘I want to use the medium of adventure games to do this thing.’

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10 Responses to Spring Thing: A Game of Life and Death

  1. Lucas says:

    If you can’t even finish a game you shouldn’t be allowed to write a fricking blog entry about it. You’re probably jellous of the authors who got featured stories on there, there are good games on it, quite a few in fact, and it’s not ok to give your oppinion of a site you went on a long time ago and you probably didn’t even get to know anyone on there.

    • Sam Kabo Ashwell says:

      If you can’t even finish a game you shouldn’t be allowed to write a fricking blog entry about it

      No. If someone doesn’t finish a game, that’s pertinent information to both the author and a potential audience. That shows that someone didn’t like the game enough to complete it.

      there are good games on it, quite a few in fact

      Cool. Recommend some. If there are games on chooseyourstory that contradict my earlier impressions, I’d be delighted!

      and it’s not ok to give your oppinion of a site you went on a long time ago

      I was up-front about the limitations of my understanding; that was rather the point. If I had said ‘I know all about chooseyourownstory, and it’s like this’, you’d be right to object. But I didn’t.

      and you probably didn’t even get to know anyone on there

      I’m not sure why this is relevant.

      Okay, that needs to be expanded a bit. You’re upset because I’m criticising a game without being part of the specific community that forms a context for that game. That’s a valid point, if the game was only intended for consumption within that community. But A Game of Life and Death was entered into Spring Thing, which is a pretty clear signal that it’s intended for a broader audience. You can’t do that while expecting that it only be judged according to the standards of the community from which it came.

      • Lucas says:

        Ok, so first of all, there’s a walkthrough in the forums if your stuck on anything. It’s a puzzle game, what do you expect? Second, There’s Dungeon Stompage, which is sort of a rpg thing where there’s items and variables and all that. There are alot of other games. Normally I would suggest endmaster, but his stuff can get pretty graphic, and it’s mainly text, he doesn’t have a single game with items and variables and stuff. Also, I’m not sure why I put that thing about “not knowing anyone” in there, I guess I just wasn’t thinking. I suggest you give chooseyourstory another try, because though there are many crappy games, there are good ones as well. Hell, you can even put a toppic in the forums asking what games would they suggest.

      • Lucas says:

        Here’s the link where they are discussing the spring thing games. I should warn you they don’t have very high oppinions of you. http://chooseyourstory.com/forums/the-lounge/message/11975

      • Sam Kabo Ashwell says:

        The job of a reviewer is not to court the approval of authors or their communities, nor is it to be an authoritative expert on games. It’s to accurately reflect their experience of play.

      • Sam Kabo Ashwell says:

        Also, I didn’t mean to give the impression that I require heavy use of state-tracking in a game or anything – I prefer it, obviously, but the biggest thing that matters to me in IF is strong writing and subject-matter. I’ll put Dungeon Stompage and endmaster on the to-play list.

      • Molly G. says:

        It ain’t my blog so it’s not any business of mine, Lucas, but that link you gave out does not paint your community in a very good light. I mean yeesh, that one guy who wishes the creator of that Hexagon game was Peter Pears just so they can hate him even more is really grinding my gears for some reason. Maybe it just doesn’t capture them at their best?

      • Aman says:

        Yeah, sentinel is a bit of a loudmouth. Unfortunate, but he doesn’t actually mean much of what he said. Most of us are better then that, when in our groove (though the community has been going down hill recently)

  2. Sarah says:

    Oh, don’t worry about that guy, he’s just really sarcastic and likes to go on huge, over the top rants about things that ever so slightly annoy him at most. (Picture him talking with the Nostalgia Critic’s voice and his sense of humor might make more sense) :p

    • Sarah says:

      Also, I’m not sure who Lucas is (I can say for sure he’s not one of the writers because they would’ve at least spell-checked their comments :p) but I’d say he’s being very inaccurate by saying that the site has a bad opinion of Sam. People might not agree with everything he says but most people seem to appreciate his honesty and the fact that he’s brought some valid points to their attention.

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