Spring Thing — The Milk of Paradise

Comments on the Spring Thing game Milk of Paradise after the cut. They are mildly spoilery, and if you’re judging Spring Thing you will probably not want to read them until you have formed your own opinion. So I am doing my usual thing with competition reviews and cutting my RSS feed length to summary form so that my remarks don’t show up in Planet-if.

Call now for your free Ginsu knife set.

I complain frequently against games where the authors did not seem to know what they were trying to achieve: sometimes very technically competent pieces of work that nonetheless came out drab and uninspiring because there was no coherent notion of the experience intended for the player.

“The Milk of Paradise” is just the opposite: I had a pretty clear sense of the experience the author was trying to evoke. There was clearly supposed to be an unnerving process of discovery as the player came to wonder why his memory was missing, explored the evidence before him, identified the narrator/parser voice as someone other than himself, and began to realize what was going on. Besides this, there was supposed to be a strong — if rather stereotypical — style to the speaking voice, supporting the exotic milieu. A couple of times I thought of zarf, and a couple of times of Jon Ingold, and those are compliments.

Unfortunately, there’s a lot missing here as well — rigor in the craft of IF, coherence in story design, even proofreading. An exotic prose style calls attention to your writing and requires more control over language than the author showed; there were some infelicities of punctuation and word choice that were fairly wince-worthy. The final revelations did not make much sense and did not produce what I think was the intended sensation of clues clicking into place — and to really get a satisfying reveal, the game probably also needed to be longer. Finally, there were just a lot of things left undone in the implementation: descriptions left out, possibilities not accounted for. I wasn’t allowed to go swimming in my clothes, but going swimming with a full goblet of wine was apparently no problem. KISSing the nubile maiden who has been presented for my future delectation produced only a default response. Undressing in front of her elicited no reaction at all. These might be forgivable blemishes on a larger, mostly-well-implemented game, but in a piece as short and focused as this, they seriously impede engagement.

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