Spring Thing: Vague

I am looking at another Spring Thing game, this time Richard Otter’s Vague.

Here is where we fill in the RSS feed with meaningless chatter of some kind. I’m going to use this space to mention that apparently PlayFirst is having an April sale, so if you’re thinking of trying Emerald City Confidential or one of the Chocolatier games, this is a good time to do it. I haven’t posted my review of Wandering Willows yet, but I’ve tried that too — it’s very cute and a bit more grind-y than I prefer, but very well polished; if you like the demo, you’ll probably really enjoy the remainder of the game. And in general I am in favor of PlayFirst’s branching out and sponsoring many styles of game beyond the typical match-3/time management/hidden object stuff associated with that market.

Anyway! With that spoiler-free bit out of the way, let us proceed to the game.

I am not encouraged by the opening of this, which explains that the player character has amnesia, and concludes:

Yet more badly written interactive fiction or does it all have some meaning?

1) It’s bad enough to give your PC amnesia. Drawing attention to the cliché does not make it any less a cliché. Andrew Plotkin does this at the beginning of Dreamhold, and is the only person I know who has gotten away with it.

2) It’s generally unwise to start off by encouraging the player to think he’s about to play something not-very-good. Andrew Plotkin does this at the beginning of Shade, and is the only person I know who has gotten away with it.

Don’t feel bad if your name is not Andrew Plotkin. He is also able to write mazes that don’t suck, which clearly means that he exists outside the normal continuum of IF design and the usual rules don’t apply.

That said, I enjoyed Unauthorized Termination, so let’s see what this one has in store.


Apparently what it has in store is an interactive advertisement for the author’s other games, only one which also manages to convey the impression that said games are underimplemented and not very fun. Self-deprecation is better than the opposite, I guess, but it doesn’t explain why Vague exists in the first place. I am really not sure what to make of this.

I’m apparently supposed to be giving messages to various characters to tell them which of Richard Otter’s previous works they come from. Though I have a pencil I am not allowed to write with it, nor may I circle titles on a magazine, nor may I cut or tear those titles out. Maybe I have to find that information written down in other places. And how am I supposed to know what locations go with what titles, anyway? I guess I could look stuff up on IFDB or actually play Otter’s other games, but as far as I can tell so far there isn’t much in-game hinting to help with solving the puzzles, which makes this less like a game and more like a homework assignment.

Also, the punctuation and spacing is extremely odd. The spacing may have to do with playing the game on a non-Windows interpreter, but the punctuation has to be thanks to the author.

My general impression: this isn’t very polished, the parser hasn’t gotten the kind of thorough work the ADRIFT parser really needs, and I have really no idea why I am supposed to want to play this through in the first place. I am not sure whether I have given it a fair shake, but the basic premise holds about as much appeal as one of those clip-show episodes of Star Trek: TNG, so I think I’m going to stop and put this in the “not for me” pile.

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