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Reviews by MathBrush

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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.

The Hall of the Fount of Artois, by Simon Ellis
A homebrew parser game that leans on classic tropes, May 2, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
This is a parser game written in C++. I played it on my own at first, but after I found it had trouble responding to several commands (and crashed after a few unexpected commands) I resorted to the walkthrough.

This game leans heavily on old text adventure cliches, especially making homages to Curses! and, perhaps, Scott Adams games.

Several scenes from Curses! are exactly reproduced, such as the delicately balanced key and the spade joke.

The worldbuilding was fairly well done, but I can't recommend this one due to the difficulties of the parser.

if not us: an interactive fiction anthology, by ub4q
An ambitious and sprawling collection of games, April 29, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
This is unique among IF; the closest thing to it I've seen is the current Spring Thing game Life in This Northern Town.

This is an anthology of five games: one inform game and four heavily modified Twine games.

I'll discuss each game in a minute. First, an overview: the folder from itch.io contains six images, one of each of the main protagonists together with a cover photo. The art is very well-done.

The general idea is that five heroes banded together, and then something occurred to them in the long run. The games focus on the beginning and the aftermath, skipping the traditional climax. It's contemplative.

Each game is named after a main character. Looking at the photos before playing is advised.

Alemayehu is the Inform game, and perhaps this should not be the game to start with when you're playing through. It is a constrained parser game, with a few actions primarily relating to other characters. It is a one-room game.that last a couple dozen actions or so.

Apollinariya is a textual labyrinth in Twine. The screen is split in two, with a table of contents on the left and text on the right. Your goal, if there can be said to be one, is to fill out the table of contents on the left, after which you can read the story as a whole. Links are unusual, as clicking on them reveals arrows going left or right, occasionally crossed out. To me, this was the weakest Twine game, as I ended up lawnmowering every link to get the last bits of story. But I enjoyed the final story.

Arzan is a heavily styled letter with a number of binary choices. in tone and styling it is reminiscent of First Draft of the Revolution. While the story is fairly linear, it offers some significant choices in terms of tone and emotion.

Cevahir was perhaps my favorite Twine subgame. Based on a taciturn character, it is minimalistic in writing but uses evocative visual imagery.

The final Twine game, Renatum An Amurum, uses retro styling, similar to text boxes in SNES RPG's. Similar to the Texture writing system, hovering over links provides additional context, but links are still clicked instead of dragged. This game requires replays to get the full story.

On the negative side, I found the new names and the obscure writing hard to get into at first, and I was surprised that the Twine and Inform games had been bundled up into applications.

I felt like I knew the characters by the end, which is a good sign.

American Angst, by m3g1dd0

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
An ambitious amnesia horror RPG with some rough edges, April 21, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
This game was not what I expected. With warnings about graphic violence and explicit language, the title 'American Angst', and the logo of an American flag-colored smily face, I expected something like a mix between 'The Purge' and 'Saw' and anti-Donald Trump revenge horror.

I got something else instead, and was pleasantly surprised. This game is an amnesia-based horror game that tells the story passively through set pieces, until the end when all is revealed.

It uses extensive styling, with special 'emphasis' boxes, an 8-bit looking battle interface, and special designs for links and devices. Profanity occurs about once or twice a screen, but my chrome extension blocked it easily.

The game saves automatically, and takes you back to checkpoints if you die.

I found the story compelling, and was surprised by the ending(s).

The game has rough patches, though. The credits don't list a single tester, and it shows. There are several mis-spellings (such as the word 'matrace' for mattress) and small grammatical errors (like 'the flashlight doubles for a nighstick' instead of 'doubles as').

Similarly, there are many game elements which should improve interactivity but end up not doing much. There is a panic stat which doesn't seem to do much besides letting you choose between having a panic attack or not. The battles are more random than strategy based. And choices aren't informed, some literally being 'left or right?' with no other information, making it feel like you don't have control.

Having had this game tested would have caught some of these issues. As it is, though, this is a well-done game and one of the best Twine games of 2017.

Ultramarine: A Seapunk Adventure, by Seven Submarines
A visual novel with combat elements set underwater, April 18, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
This was a first for me: a visual novel with RPG elements. I know visual novels are a big field, but I've generally played text-only games.

The art seemed high-quality, but characters would switch positions on the screen at odd times, which was kind of distracting. It was hard for me to distinguish the two male protagonists, who changed expression sometimes when they were talking and sometimes when others were talking.

The overall storyline was interesting, and seemed like part of a larger and well-developed world.

The RPG combat was fun, I don't see that a lot. I was allowed to go into negative MP with the main character, making winning easy.

Overall, I found some of the graphical elements unpolished, but the story very descriptive. The interactivity worked for me, and the combat and some of the decisions made me feel anxious for the characters. Overall, I feel satisfied with my playthrough and don't plan on revisiting the game. So I'm assigning it a score of 3/5.

Best Gopher Ever, by Arthur DiBianca

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A pleasant mid-length minimalist puzzle game that is kid-friendly, April 11, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
This is a game in the vein of DiBianca's other games, with an emphasis on a minimal verb set and getching puzzles.

You have to help sixteen animals in a gridlike town. Each asks for various things, and you have to help them. Some give hints, and others just add flavor.

I beta tested this game, and I enjoyed it then and now. Highly recommended for a pure puzzle experience.

Game Producer!, by Jason Bergman

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A puzzle game with intentional and unintentional insights to game industry, April 2, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
This game is a puzzle game with three difficulties (corresponding to more or less turns) and gender options.

You have to cram through a packed day of tasks to get a game produced.

I worked in the game industry in the early 2000's, and all of this was very familiar. The caffeine-fueled late nights testing bugs, the feuds, the wheeling and dealing, and the shiny, beautiful golden master CD. I was on the outside of it, but it was intense.

This game is really tricky, and not all solutions are coded for, even fairly reasonable ones.

This game also offers unintentional glimpses into game culture, which also ring true in an unpleasant way. The main puzzle involving a woman executive has her being embarrassed to ask you to open a box that she's struggling with. All women are assumed to have long hair, etc. The penknife you have is a Mexican penknife, about which the game says the following:

"* What's up with the "Mexican army knife"?

Again, no politics, I just needed something that could cut twine but still be flimsy enough to break off after one use. Given the comparatively small size and budget of the Mexican army, it seemed like an easy gag. Plus I got to put in a funny line about a hazy trip to Tijuana."

All of these things that I mentioned were fairly innocuous in the game culture when this is written, but don't hold up to modern scrutiny.

The Reluctant Resurrectee, by David Whyld

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
An amusing game with a unique PC, April 1, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
This game was influential on my own writing. In this game, you play as a disembodied eyeball which must solve various puzzles on a desk and on a fireplace mantel.

It's creative and its fun. However, I found the interactivity frustrating, and so I never completely engaged with the writing and the concept.

Unauthorized Termination, by Richard Otter

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
An Adrift robot murder mystery, March 30, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
This was a charming game, and in a genre I haven't seen too much of: a murder mystery set completely in a world of robots. Bad Machine and Suspended both give off the same vibe of this game, that of a purely mechanical society, but this game achieves a remarkable contrast between the impassiveness of the robots and the emotion of the investigation.

It suffers from ADRIFT's standard problems, but to a much smaller degree than usual. I did have some trouble guessing the later actions, but overall I found myself pleased by this game. I've been lucky enough to find a string of good games in a row this week.

The Big Scoop, by Johan Berntsson
A short murder mystery game with a mid-level of polish, March 30, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
This game was entered in IFComp 2004. It has two PCs, one featured in the prologue, and one who is a main character detective.

The opening scene was clever, but I soon find myself frustrated by small bugs and a lack of implementation. Without proper feedback, it was hard to know if I was on the right track or not.

The game has several puzzles which are fairly hard to guess on your own, and which seemed somewhat unfair to me.

Overall, it was interesting, and had a nice cat character.


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