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Reviews by MathBrush

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A Study in Steampunk: Choice by Gaslight, by Heather Albano

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Strength through length; a compelling and long Victorian pastiche, August 25, 2017
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 2-10 hours
I played a Study in Steampunk after I had spent several months rereading the original Sherlock Holmes stories. I had discovered that Sherlock was very different from modern versions: no "elementary, dear Watson", a lot of strength and physical activity, minimal pipe use, etc.

So when I started this game as John Watson and my friend said 'the game's afoot', I rolled my eyes. I couldn't get into the storyline about dueling empires with mechs and soul-draining powers.

But I tried again two more times, and on the third time, it stuck. I think the first chapter just wasn't as strong as the later ones; the game began offering really intriguing role-playing choices, and ended up setting up several compelling life-and-death situations that were effective.

The decisions were effective, I believe, because the game is just so long. It has a lot of minor faults I would usually take off points for (like obvious choices between being good/being evil or by-the-numbers genre scenes), but the author clearly has a deep understanding of long-form game design that just makes it fun.

I enjoyed it more once I realized that it wasn't really a Sherlock Holmes knock-off; it was really the author's own vision, with some Sherlock-related elements. The author cites Dracula and Jack the Ripper as inspirations, too, and these are almost stronger; supernatural life-draining is one of the main game topics. It also suggests Jekyll and Hyde as an influence, but I saw nothing of this in my playthrough.

This game is effective because of how long it is, and is definitely worth its price.

La Tour d'Orastre, by Corax

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A very well-developed RPG with shops, battles, and a huge tower, August 6, 2017
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 2-10 hours
This is a big game. You have a long, opening sequence (very long!) that is entirely linear, then you begin the actual game, which is one of the best RPGs I've seen in text (Kerkerkruip is the other, and they're roughly equal in quality).

You are on a sort of elevator-like platform, and you ascend from level to level. To ascend requires 3 keys; each level has 8 doors with a variety of challenges. These challenges include trap-filled pathways, combat, mini-games of cards/fantasy chess, and occasionally some bizarre extra paths.

Everything is hyperlinks, making combat much more enjoyable than usual. Magic is simple. There is a complex money system, and most levels let you pick between seeing an armorer or an apothecary.

More than anything, it reminded me of Final Fantasy VII and Conan the Barbarian. The enemies start out as zombies and humanoid fungus, but you eventually find Guards of the Tower, Captains of the Tower, and Swordsmen of the Tower, much like Shinra Tower in FFVII.

I got to the 7th stage, but was unable to defeat the end guardian.

The story and writing is exactly the sort of thing TSR was putting out in the 90's. You're in a sort of dreamworld that is stable, and are hired out as an assassin, with the king as your target. The monsters are generally right out of a D&D handbook. There seems to be some mild racy parts, but my French vocabulary doesn't include that sort of thing, so it's easy to self-censor.

Domicile, by John Evans
A big, ambitious but buggy game about a magic house, August 1, 2017
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 2-10 hours
Like all other John Evans games, this is a really big game that promises some cool stuff (being able to cast all sorts of spells and having a portable house), but is not able to deliver on its promises.

The walkthrough is interesting, though, and worth checking out.

Sophie's Adventure, by David Whyld
A massive adrift game with text dumps and pop culture references, August 1, 2017
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 2-10 hours
This was David Whyld's first IFcomp game.

This game is just really, really big, with tons of conversations and features.

It's just too big; page after page of text dumps make it difficult to pay attention to what you're trying to do.

It involves a fantasy land where everyone references american pop culture and you learn DnD spells.

Sweet Dreams, by Papillon
A frustrating and hard graphical adventure about dreams, July 16, 2017
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 2-10 hours
This is a point and click adventure. I couldn't get past an ogre, and from reading reviews, I don't know anyone (except maybe one person) who actually beat it; there's an ogre that's hard to get past.

You wander around a girl's boarding school at night before discovering an unsavory conspiracy involving scientific experiments on dreams.

Curse of Eldor, by Stuart Allen
An overly ambitious, under-implemented fantasy fest, July 16, 2017
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 2-10 hours
This game had just too big of a scope and not enough polish to work out. It is a sprawling fantasy game, with a village and a town and a tower and an underground dungeon and an island and so on and so on. It has a homebrew parser. Contrast this with The Land Beyond The Picket Fence from the same year; its homebrew parser is much more polished, the map is tiny (7 or 9 or so locations), and its slick and smooth. Both games probably had roughly similar amounts of work put into them, but Eldor is just spread too thin.

However, Stuart Allen released The Unholy Grail the next year, which is a fantastic game, so I strongly recommend it.

Castle Amnos, by John Evans
A large, sprawling fantasy castle with big bugs, July 16, 2017
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 2-10 hours
I was excited to finally play the first John Evans game, as he had become a legend in my mind from his other games.

John Evans is known for entering massive, extremely bold games into the comp that are just not finished. Games where you create the world, or where you can do anything you want, that kind of thing.

Castle Amnos is actually relatively tame and finished compared to the later games. There is a castle with five floors, reachable by an elevator whose buttons seem to work randomly. I was able to learn a variety of spells. It seems the game is mostly unfinishable, but the textdump showed me the ending.

Overall, it was fairly fun.

Got ID?, by Marc Valhara
A big, difficult game about buying beer while underage, July 16, 2017
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 2-10 hours
This is a big game with a lot of personality. I haven't heard of anyone who's actually finished it, though.

You play an overweight, nerdy character who wants to be popular with the head cheerleader. You are going to try to get underage beer. It has a Jim Munroe sort of feel.

This game is full of NPCs and things to do and strange subplots, but its somehow hard to achieve anything besides wandering around. This is a game that would strongly benefit from a walkthrough. As it is, the hints are good, but each hint leads to other hints you should do first and the first steps are never really mentioned.

Happy Ever After, by Robert M. Camisa
A long fantasy time travel game in an uncles' hotel/museum, July 16, 2017
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 2-10 hours
This game seems strongly influenced by the previous year's massive Mulldoon Legacy. You are investigating your uncle's museum/hotel, and you discover a crackling energy portal leading to ancient times.

The game has some tricky puzzles, and the published version is in fact not completable. However, the source code provided does compile correctly.

I found the game to be fun but to have way too many 'guess the author's brain'-type puzzles.

Stranded, by Rich Cummings

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A graphics-heavy, big game with a huge swamp, July 16, 2017
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 2-10 hours
This is a big, old-school game with tons of pictures. Expect quicksand, killer mosquitoes, a big maze, a light puzzle, a hunger puzzle, searching many random objects, etc.

I played with the walkthrough, but this would be a big, big game without it.

Story was pretty good, but navigating the swamp was tedious. The puzzles weren't too bad. Randomly has a troll.


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