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Reviews by MathBrush

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View this member's reviews by tag: 15-20 minutes 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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Tally Ho, by Kreg Segall

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
An entertaining British butler adventure with a huge wordcount, July 3, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
Tally Ho was recommended for me to play in a poll on Games that Need More Reviews.

This is a big Choicescript game with 600,000 words total. In it, you play a butler in the Wodehouse style.

Your client is a spendthrift who needs to impress a wealthy aunt in order to pay off a debt. Hijinks ensue.

I'm not too big of a fan of actual Wodehouse novels, but this game managed to be outrageously funny in several ways. There are many paths to success, including theft, romance, intrigue, intellectual endeavors, and secret clubs.

The characters are refreshing as well. They are all deeply flawed but also have, generally, good hearts. You generally have many goals at once that completely contradict each other.

I appreciate that the other in fact wrote much of the game intending you to frequently fail checks. It's supposed to be fun and rewarding whether you do 'good' or 'bad'.

Paisley, by Chandler Groover, Failbetter Games

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
An Exceptional Story about the struggle between cloth and creature, June 28, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
This is a well-written Exceptional Story for Fallen London.

In this one, you find odd pieces of sentient Paisley clothing scattered about Fallen London. As you engage with it, you discover a strange past.

The story ends up ranging around several of game's most important factions.

The writing is tight and clever, with complex characters. There is a climactic battle that is more action-packed than most of Fallen London. Overall, highly recommended. Has Groover's signature creepy style and contains a great deal of Wilde references.

The Voodoo You Do, by Marshal Tenner Winter

3 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
A well-put together Speed IF with a surprising amount of detail, June 22, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes
MTW, the author of this short speed IF, has always had a talent for putting together locations and NPCs. Speed-IFs are usually very sketchy, but this game manages to have a large map, responsive items, good error messages, and even a conversation (which I know from experience is difficult to implement in a short time).

It involves the Voodoo or Voudon religion. While one part of it revolves around the use of (Spoiler - click to show)Voodoo dolls, which just tonight I discover actually originated in European druidism, most of it seems to represent Voodoo beliefs in a fairly accurate and respectful way, the kind of accuracy you'd expect in a game where you visit the Christian heaven.

I think Speed-IFs would be much more enjoyable to play if more of them were this well put-together. I'm not giving 5 stars, though, because even as a speed-IF it still has to compare to longer games.

American Election, by Greg Buchanan

2 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
A long Twine game with illustrations and music about Trump's election, June 22, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
This game is one of the most difficult to rate that I've had in a long time. Not to play, but to rate adequately.

What does a good rating mean? Is it an endorsement? Is it a message that says, 'Hey, I'm sure you'll like this game?" Is it an objective measure of technical skill?

This game is very long, 11 chapters of text that took me over an hour to play. In it, you play one of Trump's campaign staff as you aid him (with an in-game alias of Truman Glass) in getting elected, and the aftermath.

There's been a lot of talk on Twitter in the last weeks about authors appropriating others' stories. As a white able-bodied man, I have written protagonists as female, or disabled, or hispanic, without really thinking about it.

This game goes a bit further, in that the author writes the experience of a queer woman in America with a minority second-generation immigrant background. And these facets are essential to the story. I see in the credits that others were consulted, so it's possible that this is what they were consulted on.

The minority you are is an option, and Polish ancestry is oddly listed along with Hispanic, Black and Indian ancestry. Is this saying that Polish people have similar experiences with POC? Or is it saying that it's immaterial which one you pick? Other details are off; the twin towers attack is described as happening at sunset, when I remember it happening during early hours at school in the West.

What is the story? It portrays the protagonist as divided against herself, constantly experiencing ill effects that are contrary to the ideals of the campaign she works for. It's not a straight-up retelling of Trump, but it's close enough. It veers between painting Trump as a hideous cartoon and glamorizing him as a tough-guy mob boss.

Politics have belonged in Interactive Fiction for decades, almost since the beginning. Infocom even had a game that was just a big anti-Reagan message (A Mind Forever Voyaging). It's a medium especially well suited to political messages.

I don't know if I felt comfortable with this game's messages. Like Trump itself, it stated controversial things (like saying being anti-vaxx and pro-choice have to go together) and then played it off as satire.

I don't endorse this game, except for players who are interested in seeing a take on American politics. I do give it a 4 star rating on my scale, knowing that this will be effectively seen as an endorsement, as it will be fed into the overall average.

My scale:
-Polish. The game is thoroughly polished, with text transitions, styling, illustrations, and music.
-Interactivity. I am definitely anti-slow text but this was better than most, with fast-forwarding enabled by clicking and a fairly fast speed to begin with. Choices were sometimes clearly not important/not offering real choice, but in general I felt like my choices mattered and they were brought up again in the future.
-Emotion. Well, I felt a large range of emotions playing.
-Descriptiveness. The writing made me feel like I was there.
-Would I play again? This is the star I'm not awarding. I don't really agree with this game, and don't feel like playing again.

The Dilettante's Debut, by Hannah Powell-Smith, Failbetter Games

1 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
A well-written society story with horror roots, June 16, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
Exceptional Stories are odd games. They are framed within the larger Fallen London game, which takes months and/or years, yet they themselves can often be completed in an hour or two. They have a really, really big wordcount though compared to what it feels like, especially since they often branch significantly.

This one was good. There is a struggling family trying to re-enter society. You can support them or their snooty cousins. All along, though, the butler has his own plans.

I'm not opposed to society machinations, but they're not my favorite. I like Jane Austen but prefer the Brontes. This game has horror depths that I like, but the particular genre didn't grab me as much as it could. Hannah Powell-Smith's excellent writing skills makes it worth playing, though.

Please Answer Carefully, by litrouke
A short but effective horror game, June 12, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes
This game is centered around a survey and uses various literary and programming techniques to establish a creepy atmosphere.

I found it inventive and effective. My ratings are adjusted to the length of a game, so I consider this a 5-star game for a short, under 15-minute work.

Otherwise, I don't want to give away too much. Very fun!

Tallest Trees, by Peter Bates
A short fantasy tale with good worldbuilding and the promise of sequels, June 6, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes
I rate games on a five point scale. This is a shortish but broad Twine game where you are being hunted by something magical and must use your equipment to survive. It branches heavily, enhancing replayability.

Polish--The art is good, the game seems well-thought out and designed. Pretty good.
Descriptiveness--Very good. I could picture it all in my mind vividly.
Interactivity--It's hard to play without learning by death, so I struggled a bit with this one. And widely branching games are a bit frustrating at times because you have to replay the beginning over and over to see all the different ends, but it's totally a valid stylistic choice.
Emotional impact--I felt moved by the story. I like fantasy, especially TTRPG-adjacent fantasy like this.
Would I play again?--I've already played it a few times, so yes.

Beautiful in His Stasis, by Hannah Nyland
An unusual experiment in place and time; horror, June 1, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes
This game was interesting.

In initial appearance, you are in a house and have several options for exploring it, with no option allowed twice in a row but otherwise full freedom.

Over time, the game changes in both subtle and overt ways.

It works well technically, and the idea is good, there's just not much of it, and I feel like the concept needed a bit more time to come to fruition.

In any case, the author is clearly good at both writing and programming, so I'd be interested in further games.

Investigative Journalism: A Welcome to Night Vale Fan Game, by Astrid Dalmady
A polished and stylish Night Vale-style game with investigation and danger, May 28, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes
I grade games on a scale of 5 stars, in the following criteria:

*Polish. This game is very polished, with custom sounds, varying backgrounds and images, complex menus and text input.
*Descriptiveness. This game nails the Night Vale voice and has vivid non-descriptions of real things and real descriptions of non-things.
*Interactivity. I felt like my choices mattered and had consequences. The game wasn't quite linear and not quite lawn-mowery, and I felt good.
*Emotional impact. I felt amused.
*Would I play again? I think I would.

This is a game in which you have to track down The News, a wild beast which has escaped in Night Vale, a town where every conspiracy theory is true.

Tribute: Return to the City of Secrets, by Kenneth Pedersen

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A heartfelt tribute to an Emily Short game, May 25, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
Emily Short's game City of Secrets is a relatively-hidden gem. Started as a commercial project for a band, it's a sprawling city-based game that has much of the liveliness and intrigue of her later Counterfeit Monkey.

This game takes that same layout and room descriptions, but includes an 'Easter Egg Hunt' where you have to find 10 gems (and 1 super gem I didn't find) scattered throughout the layout of the game.

It does what it set out to well: encourage people to see and appreciate Short's setting and descriptions.

I had some difficulty guessing words (I'm used to Inform's synonyms like SEARCH being the same as LOOK IN), but the game had several hint systems, which was very useful.

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