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Reviews by MathBrush

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View this member's reviews by tag: 10+ hours 15-30 minutes 2-10 hours about 1 hour about 2 hours IF Comp 2015 Infocom less than 15 minutes more than 10 hours Spring Thing 2016
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Project Hyrax: Beyond Time , by MidnightOwl Studios

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A real-time messaging game with an involved story and some rough patches, September 7, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: more than 10 hours
I purchased Project Hyrax a month or two ago.

The design and formatting are well done. It's a text-based game where you receive messages from a time traveller.

The writing seems like it is not from a native speaker, with numerous typos and grammatical errors. Also, many of the choices are clearly irrelevant to what happens after, adding nothing to the gameplay, and only two choices are available at a time.

However, the timed messages and the length of the game drew it out to over a month as I tried to finish it to write a review. It eventually grew on me, and I found myself having a good time.

I would have given it 4 stars for that reason, but it froze on me after many, many choices, and I couldn't get it unfrozen.

Escape from the Crazy Place, by J. J. Guest, Loz Etheridge and friends

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A sprawling absurd Twine game with a tangled and deep backstory, August 20, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
Escape from the Crazy Place is a sprawling, labyrinthine Twine game with significantly more content than games such as Birdland. It's absurdist, surreal, dreamlike, and ridiculous.

It's history is almost more absurd (parts of this may be inaccurate; play the TADS version to see more). It began as a physical handwritten CYOA book in school over 30 years ago, passed around by students and added to over time. That copy was lost, rewritten from memory.

It became an online html game before anyone was doing much CYOA html, then it became TADS in 2006. Now, years later, it's been redone in Twine.

It has dozens of authors. It has parts that are clever and exciting.

But it also has parts that are less exciting. One reason passing around a physical CYOA book in school is thrilling is because you can see the heft and size of it and think, "oh man, this puppy is huge!". Flipping through can give you an idea of its contents.

Escape from the Crazy Place is online, though, so you don't really know what you're getting. And the first passages are the oldest, by those with the least experience, referencing 80's and adolescents. The first about also loops around itself somewhat, making it even harder to get a grip on the size of the game.

I kept pushing through (playing with my 6 year old son) and we found a lot of really great content. That experience made me think that this is a good game to play collaboratively, just as it was written.

Fhtagn! - Tales of the Creeping Madness, by Design Imps

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
An entertaining fusion of Lovecraftian horror with the roaring twenties, July 18, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
I received a review copy of this game, and played through a couple of games.

This is a single- or multi-player board game that goes through 6 rounds. In each of the six rounds, you are trying to increase your 7 stats. These stats allow you to pass challenges. In the end, you see if your stats will qualify you for a 'role', determining if you win or not. The roles have 2 hidden stat requirements which you must guess from their descriptions.

I've played many commercial IF games in the last couple of years, and I would put this one in the top tier in terms of polish. The music, graphics, animations, and overall presentation are professional and engaging.

Writing-wise, I was strongly reminded of Fallen London in its more humorous sidequests. You are playing as a cultist each time. A good amount of text was repeated on two playthroughs, more repetition than is typical for a pure text game, but less repetition than I'm used to in a board game. It allows for mods (several of which are already developed), which increases the replay value.

The game was charming and funny. I found myself excited by the game map with its bouncy art of classic locations like an old town hall, an asylum, a speakeasy, etc.

The interaction was a little fiddly. It took me two playthroughs and two readings of the tutorial to fully understand what was going on, and I'm not really convinced of the 'elder sign' mechanic. The game doesn't tell you how to pass certain tests, including the test to see if you win, but you can spend elder signs to see what tests include. Replay also helps you know what tests require.

However, I enjoyed both of my playthroughs. Because I hadn't paid for the game, I considered what price I'd pay for the game. I thought, "Is this $20 range like Sunless Skies? Because that would be pretty steep." When I saw it was $4.99, I thought, "That's more than fair for the price you're paying."

So if you're a fan of Lovecraftian references, gothic humor, Ruby Gloom-style art, or complex board games like Arkham Asylum, this is a good game for you.

The Weight of a Soul, by Chin Kee Yong

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A fantasy/medical mystery, June 14, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 2-10 hours
This game is advertised as being incomplete, but a very large chunk of it is done. Playing it is like playing 'episode 1' of a large series.

The setting is unusual: you are in a large and decaying city where magic and science are blended together. Scalpels and anesthesia blend with goblins and soul magic.

I found the opening to be a bit constraining (which is something I do in my own games, too), but that after that the game was rich and rewarding. Locations have several interactible details, conversations feel natural, and I felt like a real detective.

I enjoyed the large feeling of the city, something difficult to do right in an interactive fiction game. I did get a bit lost from time to time. Locations were unique and vividly described.

I would love to see this finished.

With Those We Love Alive, by Porpentine and Brenda Neotenomie

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A dreamlike dark fantasy in service to the empress, June 10, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
This game is one of Porpentine's best games, by her own admission and the acclaim of others.

It has music and takes the unusual tack of having you draw symbols on your skin as the game progresses. I chose not to do so, but many who have played have done so, and you can search for some of their images.

The game casts you as an artificer for a massive, insectoid alien queen. Isolation and body change are themes, as you wander a city and castle and spend time on yourselves.

The game has music and interesting styling. The story includes friendship and love and bizarre, alien history.

Jetbike Gang, by C.E.J. Pacian

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A twiny jam 300 word branching futurepunk story, May 23, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes
This is Pacian's only Twine game I know. Entered in the popular Twiny Jam competition for twine games of 300 words or less, this has a Time Cave type structure. You can see all endings by lawnmowering, but it might be more fun just to explore 4 or 5.

The story is grim and gritty. You are part of a jetbike gang, and the cops are coming. All of the branches are short, and they all paint out a dystopian world of grime and flame and bad relationships. It is a vivid world.

Human Errors, by Katherine Morayati
A help-desk for wearable emotion-manipulators. Fiction through bureaucracy., May 22, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes
This is a complex Twine-and-Javascript based game that reproduces the help-desk environment from IT. You are given a bunch of tickets or help requests to address. You can dismiss them, respond to them, rank their severity, etc.

But instead of normal IT, you're troubleshooting a device that creates impulses in others.

As you progress, your performance is evaluated, and others might respond to you. The story slowly splays out.

It's an odd story, too. Like Morayati's other works regarding technological dystopias (Laid Off from the Synesthesia Factory, Take), the game explores uncomfortable parts of the human condition.

The game takes real-life issues (like the below-minimum-wage oppression of gig jobs like Mechanical Turk, having to buy cheap knock-offs of products that can harm you, workplace harassment, etc.) which people have gradually become numb too and puts them in a startling new light by applying them to new situations.

If you liked this work, I strongly recommend the two other games I mentioned earlier.

Known Unknowns, by Brendan Patrick Hennessy

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
High school ghost investigation with teen romance, May 18, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
I had this game mixed up with the short Birdland sequel Open Up, and so I never got around to playing this until after the XYZZY Nominations. Then I had to see what it was all about.

Brendanís writing is what I wish I could write like. Characters are so vivid, and the text takes startling turns of phrase that you canít help from laughing at. The characters felt alive to me.

Part of that left me with a bad aftertaste in a way that a lesser artist couldnít do. The events in the game are the kind of thing I was terrified of growing up. My area had a lot of teen pregnancies and deaths from alcohol and drugs that affected people I knew. The idea of going to parties where all the highschoolers are getting drunk, watching each other have sexual experiences, using drugs, and having young men who wonít listen to Ďnoí (like Jayden) wander around seems like a reminder of personal nightmares.

But I donít believe thatís what the author intended. Games are a Rohrschach test that brings out whatever the reader is thinking. I wouldnít have had such a strong reaction to the game if Brendan hadnít written such strong characters.

The rest of the game is wonderful. The use of emoji is like a comedy version of 10pm, and the overall mystery and romance were well done. I liked the use of red options to distinguish paths that were very different from the others. It made choices feel more significant.

I also found the structure really interesting, with conversations like multi lane highways and exploration segments like city streets.

This gameís craft level is very high, and Iíve found myself thinking of it frequently in the last few days as Iíve been working on my own games.

Mystery House Makeover!, by Anonymous
A silly short game involving replacing lineart with clipart, May 10, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes
This was from the Mystery House Taken Over competition, where IF authors were tasked with revamping the old, famous adventure game Mystery House.

As far as I can tell, this game only allows directional commands, and all that happens in each room is that a piece of original, poor quality line art is replaced with a piece of badly cropped clip art as a joke. I found it amusing, but the game is so small and light as to be hardly there.

If anyone finds additional content, let me know and I'll revise my review.

Guttersnipe: The Baleful Backwash, by Bitter Karella
A clever puzzle game with lots of character and some bugs in the ointment, May 8, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 2-10 hours
I've enjoyed the full Guttersnipe sequence of games; they generally feature well-thought out puzzles involving an urchin doing ridiculous things and eating junk.

This game puts a spin on things by placing your long-standing help system and narrative device Percy the Rat in confinement.

It features stereotypical Italians as the antagonists, with names like Tony Macaroni. It would be somewhat uncomfortable, except that it's less of a parody of Italians themselves and more of a parody of gangster movies's and novels' parodies of Italians.

There were several bugs in the version that I played, but it made the game more interesting, as I had to type exactly the right command, and it became just another puzzle. But polish and interactivity correspond to two of my stars, which is why I'm giving 3/5.

Edit:

Since my original review, the game has been revised to fix many bugs, so I'm increasing my score to 4/5.


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