Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Spring Thing: Sunny’s Summer Vacation

Sunny’s Summer Vacation is a choice-based work from Lucas C. Wheeler that was entered into Spring Thing 2021

It chooses a premise (“You are a Corgi on a sandy beach”), and it commits. As that Corgi, you accompany your humans on a summer vacation. 

The player’s role is plot-adjacent; other characters come to terms with a divorce while the protagonist offers emotional support. Each day offers a new chance to play vacation-themed minigames, like volleyball and sandcastle building, which are meant to create some happy memories for the humans during a difficult time. 

Sunny’s Summer Vacation is described as a spiritual successor to Adventures with Fido, and Wheeler’s enthusiasm for Corgis gives both works an unapologetic charm. This entry improves on its predecessor by focusing on a smaller set of characters and a consistent story. 

Although the setting was entertaining, I had difficulty enjoying a few of the minigames. I had read similar concerns about Adventures with Fido — it felt like some experiences were designed by asking “Could this be programmed?” rather than “Would this be fun?” 

Sunny’s Summer Vacation is a solid work from an author who is dedicated to improvement, but additional feedback from thoughtful playtesters might have made it even stronger.

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Spring Thing: A Blank Page

A Blank Page is a choice-based work from Edu Sánchez that was entered into Spring Thing 2021.

This entry is described as a story about creative block. It’s short and relatable, but I approached it with some skepticism — can such an experience really be created on demand? 

The answer was a pleasant surprise. You cycle through a narrator’s creative routine, choosing different activities that might lead to the start of something meaningful. It’s presented in black text appearing on a white background, providing a mix of links that either cycle through words or advance to a new passage.

(Unfortunately, I noticed some minor typos and spacing issues that were more prominent due to the story’s clean presentation. On the other hand, the author is based in Spain, and their English is much better than my Spanish.) 

Intentional style decisions establish that this is not a joke entry. It’s a deliberately crafted experience offering a sense that something will happen eventually, after you experiment with the available options. These choices might be mere procrastination, or they could be an important part of your creative process.

I enjoyed the conclusion of A Blank Page because it felt like an authentic ending to the journey. Or at least it made a good place to stop. 

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Spring Thing: Journey to Ultimate Fightdown

Journey to: Ultimate Fightdown! is a choice-based work from Havilah McGinnis that was entered into Spring Thing 2021.

Fightdown! takes place inside an RPG that loses its “connection” right before the final showdown. The experience is like being on a movie set when the cameras stop rolling, and every character has something to say. 

This is a choice-based story where the player talks with other characters while they wait for their connection to be restored. Minor puzzles are involved in negotiating and trading items among the cast, which changes how the ending unfolds. 

I enjoyed how Fightdown! explored the relationships between its different characters. The story blends stock fantasy roles with recognizable Hollywood stereotypes to create entirely new personalities — and then it encourages the player to ask them what they think about each other. 

Does the embittered burnout want the hard-working underdog to fail? What does the overachiever think about a coworker acting like a role is beneath them? Text effects are judiciously applied to convey some phenomenal sarcasm. 

Overall, this felt like an approachable, safe-for-work version of Midnight, Swordfight. (It also reminded me of Janitor, asking the player to work behind the scenes for another person’s enjoyment.) Playing through to the end unlocks enhancements that make it easier to explore different branches of the story.