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Reviews by MathBrush

IF Comp 2015

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Birdland, by Brendan Patrick Hennessy

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A long, well-developed 'dramedy' about summer camp and dreams, June 26, 2016
by MathBrush
Related reviews: IF Comp 2015
This game from IFComp 2015 is, in my opinion, one of the best Twine games of all time, and certainly the best outside of the well-developed horror/darkness segment.

In this game, gameplay is split up between a summer camp with a slice-of-life scenario and dreams with an absurdist take on talking birds. As the game progresses, the two halves become more related.

The game takes a stats-based approach, with a twist. You develop statistics at night during your dreams; in the day, it affects what options you have for various activities. At first, I felt like the stats didn't matter, because scene follows scene in the same order regardless of your actions. However, on replay, I found that some of the best material is contained in stats-enabled actions.

This story is long and has several surprising turns. It's split into several days, each of which can be accessed independently in case you can't finish in one sitting. Because stats seem to be reset each night, I don't think you lose anything just skipping ahead.

The game includes some mild summer-camp-normal sexual references near the beginning, and one branch of one scene contains strong profanity.

Recommended for everyone.

Edit: When I played through again, I counted the distinct pages I viewed, and I took 234 choices/pages to complete the game.

Laid Off from the Synesthesia Factory, by Katherine Morayati
An experiment in making parsers more storylike. Near-future sci fi, February 3, 2016
by MathBrush
Related reviews: IF Comp 2015
This game focuses on a career involving mood-altering or mood-activated equipment; however, the real story here is a slice-of-stressed-out-life story of a woman, her career, and her love interests.

This game responds with story text no matter what you do, and it's purposely written in a style that can jump back and forth between different topics. This allows the transcript of the game to read as a short story.

It also presents a novel challenge: decipher if your text comes from real commands or the 'floater text' (the name for the text from wrong commands). It helped me a lot to just type important keywords. You'd think UNDO would help you figure out what's real and what's not, but it's cleverly been disabled.

Worth checking out.

(note: I beta tested this game.)

SPY INTRIGUE, by furkle
As of now, longest Twine game ever. Part crazy, part deep, February 3, 2016
by MathBrush
Related reviews: IF Comp 2015
Spy Intrigue is not my type of game. But it is an incredible game, which I have played through twice, and is excellently crafted.

It is a game of layers. It literally has two layers of text, interwoven within each other.

It also has two levels of meaning. The top level is just crazy and silly (you very quickly learn that most spies have died of "spy-mumps"). But there is a much deeper subtext in the game, much like another 2015 IFComp entry TOMBS of Reschette. Both games encourage you to look under the standard shoot-kill-loot structure of normal games and see what existence would really be like for protagonist and enemy.

That's probably the deepest contribution of this game: to show the protagonists humanity. The author has succeeded in a very well-crafted game, which I feel should be nominated for several XYZZY awards. She has done an excellent work here.

As I said, this isn't really my type of game; I'm not into profanity or sex, of which the game has it's fair share. But it's certainly never exploitative, and it all makes sense in the context of the game. I will also always fondly remember (early spoiler)(Spoiler - click to show)"OATMEAL TIME."

Taghairm, by Chandler Groover

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
An experiment in player agency and in creating an uncomfortable feeling, February 3, 2016
by MathBrush
Related reviews: IF Comp 2015
I played this long (but purposely repetetive) IFComp 2015 Twine game twice, about two weeks apart.

Let's just say what it's about now; this is a game whose experience does not depend on spoilers.

You are enacting an ancient scottish ritual where you are trying to summon a demon by roasting cats alive over several days.

In the game, you repeatedly click on the same thing over and over again, with some procedural text generation changing some minor details.

The game changes over time, but it takes a long, long time to do so. In the mean time, you can, as I did the first time, just start letting cats go and give up on the whole ritual. In fact, it may be cathartic for some (including myself) to play again and just let all the cats ago.

You have to roast somewhere between (Spoiler - click to show)40-100 cats to reach the ending.

I did not listen with audio, as I never do, but many say it contributes to the experience, for good or for ill.

Much Love, BJP, by Megan Stevens

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
An only mildly interactive Twine game with photos, but a powerful story, February 3, 2016
by MathBrush
Related reviews: IF Comp 2015
This game was written both for IFComp 2015 and for an undergraduate research project at Hope.

It is just a choice between three linear sequences. After each choice has been picked at least once, two more open up. There are scattered photographs.

Interactivity-wise, this game doesn't make any groundbreaking changes. But the story is great. It is based on real-life journalist Marie Colvin, a war correspondent with an eye patch who died in an explosion.

I played this game twice, 3 weeks apart. The first time, I was rushing through IFComp, and dismissed it. But the second time, it struck a real emotional cord with me, and I really enjoyed it.

Midnight. Swordfight., by Chandler Groover
A one-move game combined with an alternative, time-warping reality, February 3, 2016
by MathBrush
Related reviews: IF Comp 2015
Midnight, Swordfight was an IFComp 2015 game. This game is a one-move game like Aisle or Rematch, where you are in a duel with a countess and have only limited actions available. Innovatively, these actions are listed in a playscript in your inventory.

Another innovation is that you can enter an alternate reality, where you can travel through and around time to change the setup of the duel.

The world is mysterious and bizarre, with some of the darker parts of Lewis Carroll mixed with David Eddings mixed with all sorts of things. The game is dark, and contains explicit descriptions of sex and intense violence (although the violence is not to the level of, say, One Eye Open). The worksmanship is impeccable.

Map, by Ade McT

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A mid-length puzzle-less parser game about choices with a cool map, February 3, 2016
by MathBrush
Related reviews: IF Comp 2015
This was my absolute favorite IFComp 2015 game. In Map, you play a woman with a troubled relationship with her family members. You spend most of the day alone in your house, and as you immediately learn, the house is slowly growing new rooms, which is reflected in a map you carry.

During the course of a week, you have the opportunity to (Spoiler - click to show)go back and make changes in your life, which affects your current life greatly. This allows for a lot of flexibility in gameplay, and many endings.

The feeling of the game is poignant and thoughtful, and mildly creepy, especially when strange things happen and noone, least of all YOU, seems to care.

Love this game.

Edit: Before I posted this review, I went through and played again. It was a slow start, but I teared up during the last few days of gameplay. This game really gets me in an emotional place. It had an emotional impact on me that rivals games like Photopia or the Warbler's Nest. It affected me a lot because many decisions revolved around family and relationships.

Life On Mars?, by Hugo Labrande

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A mid-length parser game with an intriguing in-game email system, February 3, 2016
by MathBrush
Related reviews: IF Comp 2015
Life on Mars? is an IFComp 2015 entry that is a translation of the winner of the French IF competition of the same year. It was one of my favorites of IFComp.

This game centers around a woman stranded in a lone base after a terrible event. Her main access to the world is a computer terminal with e-mail. The game has implemented a marvelous e-mail system, with dozens of e-mails to read, with each sender having a different personality. The thoughts and replies of the woman are typed out in real time. The speed of the typing is adjustable; the default is too slow for most people, and the fastest is too fast, so make sure to play around with it before diving in.

The atmosphere of this game worked well for me. Outside of the e-mails, there are a few puzzles and a good amount of exploration. Overall, I would highly recommend this game, especially to fans of puzzle-light games such as Photopia.

Koustrea's Contentment, by Jeremy Pflasterer
A long TADS game about immortals and ennui, February 3, 2016
by MathBrush
Related reviews: IF Comp 2015
This game was the longest game entered in IFComp 2015, and I enjoyed it. It is complex and long, and well-detailed.

The game is centered around the tedium of immortality. You find yourself a brand new immortal, in a sort of retirement home or country club for immortals. Each has immersed themselves into some sort of activity, whether artistic endeavors, sports, art, or insanity.

The game has a very ancient and purposely static feeling. It implements a 'zz' command that lets you wait for a very long time. It has a few puzzles requiring long patience, and repetitive actions.

This all meshes very well with the story, and when things finally start changing, it makes it more exciting.

Overall, the feeling of this game was similar to the Myst series, but with more people. I recommend it.

Kane County, by Michael Sterling, Tia Orisney
Twine survival game with inventory, set in southern Utah, February 3, 2016
by MathBrush
Related reviews: IF Comp 2015
I'm from Utah and I love the desert, so this IFComp 2015 Twine game intrigued me.

It's a long-form Twine game about surviving after an accident in the desert. In real life, the Utah desert is very dangerous to be lost in, and that's reflected in the game.

The main idea is that you have water supplies, food supplies, and tools. You constantly make decisions about where to look for water, where to sleep for the night, whether to risk a boat trip, etc. Each option carries an associated cost in terms of water and stamina, which you don't know ahead of time.

Overall, it ends up being a bit like Oregon Trail. There are two main ways of surviving. I came close to finishing both trails, but I died at the very end each time, which, as I said, isn't too far off from reality.

This game is well-written. I wasn't a huge fan of the visual layout, but overall, it was pretty good. I have to admit, I probably would have enjoyed it more if I hadn't died right at the end a few times, but I've heard the authors are thinking of making the ending a bit easier.


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