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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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Grand Academy for Future Villains, by Katherine Nehring
An epic meta-narrative tale about a villain, April 7, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 2-10 hours
This game was a fun ride. You play as a new villain in a school for villains.

Everything is very self-aware; there are villains from every genre, and you study plot-twists and narrative arcs. Henchmen are trained on how to miss the heroes when shooting, etc.

What I think this game did exceptionally well was balancing your choices: there are 2-3 major things I wanted that I just couldn't do all at once (especially pleasing mom and becoming a monster).

I'm giving it four stars instead of five because I felt like the denouement was a bit rushed and I didn't feel properly satisfied at the end. However, I've had that feeling before with a few Choice of Games games (like The Sea Eternal), and usually I find a more satisfying ending on replay.

This game would make a great introduction to Choice of Games for people new to the company.

Disclaimer: I have worked for Choice of Games and received a free copy of this game.

I Think The Waves Are Watching Me, by Bob McCabe

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A bizarre game with great depth and replay value and tricky UI, April 5, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 2-10 hours
This was one of the few IFComp 2015 games that I never reviewed. On my old laptop, it wouldn't even run; every page of text would be immediately erased.

It works on my new laptop, though. And what an unusual game it is.

It runs in a command-prompt type window, and uses single-letter commands with occasional typing of names and numbers.

It is a surreal game, with huge standing waves surrounding a 25-location town and people getting murdered left and right, each murder announced by red lightning.

A hallucinogenic bunny hops around guiding you.

I've never come close to finding the murderer, but I've discovered many of the game's secrets over my 4 playthroughs. The best involved a tightly-timed sequence at a bar leading to a length CYOA sequence.

This is a game with several flaws, such as the fact that you can't scroll back through text due to it disappearing, and it's incredibly easy to hit a button and miss a whole page of text. There is no save command.

But these flaws enhance it; it makes you approach the game more cautiously. This game is a masterpiece in a way. But it requires length play.

The Eagle's Heir, by Jo Graham and Amy Griswold
A just-off-reality alternate timeline game where Napoleon survived, April 4, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 2-10 hours
Disclaimer: I write for Choice of Games and received this copy for free.

This game is set in an alternate reality where Robert Fulton had more freedom to work with steam and Napoleon survived long enough for succession to be a question. The game is meticulously researched to be as close to baseline reality as possible.

You play the personal bodyguard and childhood friend of Alexandre Walewski, the illegitimate but favored heir of Napoleon. You deal with court intrigue and assassination attempts as you mold the future of France.

I didn't like the beginning of this game, so much that I set it aside for months. I just didn't find it compelling.

But one of the biggest strengths that Choice of Games has is the length of their games. Once I played a few more chapters, I had spent so much time with these characters that I became emotionally invested. I was very satisfied with my outcomes.

I also enjoyed the chance you had to make major changes in the outcomes of different chapters, and to take charge.

I don't give 5 stars to all choice of games games; this one was, in my mind, special.

My Mind's Mishmash, by Robert Street
A 5-Episode virtual reality mecha game in ADRIFT, April 4, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 2-10 hours
ADRIFT usually has the weakest of the popular parsers (Inform, TADS, Quest, etc.), and this game is no exception.

The concept is interesting: you play as a human playing a virtual reality video game after the main game has ended. There are several layers of reality, similar to Wreck-it-Ralph. You play in a single layer, though.

The video game is about giant mechas fighting aliens. The after-the-game playthrough that occupies most of Mishmash is a stealth game using a 'ghost cap'.

I enjoyed the opening scenario, but the game quickly devolved into walkthrough-only territory.

Berrost's Challenge, by Mark Hatfield

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A bland but complex fantasy game , April 1, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 2-10 hours
This game hits up almost all of the classic overused parser game tropes: you are a wizard's apprentice in a fantasy town on a quest to get scrolls of spells by completing complicated fetch quests. The parser is another 'let's insult the PC' parser, and the game has hunger and sleep timers.

This style of game was popular for a time in the 90's (with Unnkulia and Westfront PC), but otherwise has continued to be produced since then on a regular basis.

Why do people still make it (even in 2018, years after this game)? Because it can still be fun, and sometimes overused tropes are overused because they're so good.

But in this case, I mostly felt frustrated. I stopped playing the first time I tried it a year or two ago because it was so frustrating getting killed over and over again in the windmill. This time, I completed the game (by (Spoiler - click to show)Taking several breaks to return the broom early).

I finally completed it now. If you're just hankering for some unforgiving old-school games, try this out. But I prefer some other more recent old-school games, like A Beauty Cold and Austere, or Speculative Fiction, or Scroll Thief, all of which had clever innovations.

Thaumistry: In Charm's Way, by Bob Bates

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A slick commercial game by a former Infocom author, March 30, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 2-10 hours
This game was funded by kickstarter, like Hadean Lands before it. It casts you as a novice magic user who is trying to save magic folk from discovery.

The magic system is a bit unusual; it seems to rely mostly on moon-logic. In fact, a lot of the game does. There's really no connection between things; it seems like the puzzles are mostly solvable by trying everything everywhere.

Many players enjoy this style of careful play, and the game has very positive steam reviews and ratings on here, and people I've talked to liked it quite a bit.

But I like puzzle games where you can plan ahead more, like Hadean Lands. I felt like Thaumistry kept saying 'I'll notice that you tried a reasonable solution, but it's not the one I want. Just wait and be patient, kid.' I ended up stopping playing halfway and through, and left it that way for months.

So it's not my style. But it is incredibly high-quality in terms of polish. It was beta tested over and over, and looks good.

The Lost Islands of Alabaz, by Michael Gentry

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A kid's story with 10 different color coded islands, March 30, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 2-10 hours
This game is really interesting. By the author of Little Blue Men and Anchorhead, it is intended for children and comes with a great set of supplementary materials.

There is a sort of tedious opening with a ton of hand-holding before it opens up to a wide world. I enjoyed the islands, especially the junk and dark islands.

I felt like the author was holding back a bit on some descriptions that could have been made biting and/or sad. But the sparseness was fun.

One of the last islands seemed like a big buildup to an anticlimax.

Overall, I have to say I enjoyed it, because I couldn't put it down, and couldn't wait all the next day to play more. So that's a good sign!

One thing that can seemingly lock you out of victory:

(Spoiler - click to show)The icefruit seed doesn't respawn correctly.

So I suggest that, to be safe, you save (Spoiler - click to show)before using it.

You'll know you did it right if (Spoiler - click to show)Something dramatic happens.

Guttersnipe: Carnival of Regrets, by Bitter Karella
A difficult and sprawling dark fantasy/comedy circus game, March 28, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 2-10 hours
I played this Guttersnipe game after I played the IFComp 2017 one.

This is a big Quest game. You play as a ragamuffin urchin who is trying to be the number one urchin of all time. The game uses a variety of humorous dialects to show character, including yours.

You enter a dark circus, and have to discover its secrets. This is a big game with a big map, with 1-2 puzzles per room. Generally, an item found in one room will solve one puzzle somewhere else.

I liked this game, and would have given it 4 stars, but I found it a bit difficult to complete, and I abandoned it partway through. If it had a complete walkthrough, I would probably give it 4 stars.

This author has a number of other games that are big and well-received, including Night House and the other Guttersnipe game.

Edit: I finished playing, and the parts I hadn't been able to reach were actually great! I wish this were ported to Inform or TADS.

Hansel et Gretel - La Revanche, by Corax

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
More combat innovation from Corax. A long battle game, January 17, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 2-10 hours
After seeing several gritty fantasy choice RPGs this last IFComp that were just okay, it's great to see a complicated and balanced combat system where you have to make real choices.

In this game, you take the role of Hansel and Gretel, in a more modern setting, as they track down and kill sorceresses one at a time. Over several chapters, you have to solve difficult puzzles in an exploration segment (which also unlocks 'fragments' or powers you can activate in later chapters), followed by one or more combat segments.

Combat has a relative positioning system where enemies are different steps in front or behind you. You can turn around, advance, use weapons of different ranges and effectiveness, make use of cover, focus and dodge, etc.

It's of similar complexity to Kerkerkruip. It's written using Vorple, so that helps the complexity, but it prohibits saving. The author has found a clever way past this using a password system, which transported me to the 90's and my time playing Willow and Punch-Out! on the NES.

It was very long; the challenge of the puzzles, complex combat, and playing in a non-native language made me take 2 hours for the first 5 chapters, and I don't have time to finish it right now, but a look through the walkthrough shows that it has a complex plot. This is a high-quality game.

Cryptozookeeper, by Robb Sherwin
A massive game with a modern setting, battling monsters and humor, December 3, 2017
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 2-10 hours
Cryptozookeeper is an XYZZY Award winner, and is one of the biggest games out there in terms of content, especially in terms of NPC content.

You play as a character who is sucked into a world where you can blend together DNA and create new monsters, who then fight each other in a pokemon-like system.

The system takes center stage story-wise, but not mechanically. The game is structured in a series of 'episodes', each of which results in new DNA for your devices.

The game has a ton of characters, many of whom constantly follow you around and talk and joke.

The implementation is selective; some parts are extremely detailed, while many synonyms and scenery descriptions are omitted.

This game is truly monumental. It also has a great deal of profanity and suggestive language.


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