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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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4x4 Galaxy, by Agnieszka Trzaska

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A lengthy procedurally generated space exploration game on a grid, April 8, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
This game is one of the most interesting of Spring Thing. You have to explore a 4x4 grid of planets, with 4 'safe' planets in the middle, 8 dangerous planets on the edges, and 4 really dangerous planets in the corners (at least, that's how I interpreted it).

The writing is grounded in the pulp sci fi of decades ago, and has a lot of tropes from an older time, like 'impressing the natives' and taking treasures from their holy sites back to your society's museums.

The gameplay has a good rhythm of exploring, buying and selling, kind of reminiscent of Fallen London.

I really enjoyed this at first, but on each of my playthroughs, I hit a kind of wall at the end where I knew exactly what I needed to do but the resources seemed like a lot to acquire. There are some shortcuts (like special ores giving tons of crystals), but I felt each time like the interesting content ran out before the final quest did.

However, that might be due to my timeline in playing every game. Perhaps if I took it at a more leisurely pace it wouldn't be a big drawback, and I don't know if the author should change it.

Catch That Kitty, by Rohan

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A kind of confusing Twine game about gangsters and...stuff, April 8, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes
This seems like a first-time Twine author's game, with at least no broken links.

The writing is rushed and seems untested. Here's a sample:

"He pulls out a big rotten fish and throws at you, it hits at at the head and knocks you unconcious."

There is some funny humor, but a lot of it didn't make sense even as nonsensical humor.

I think this just needs to be heavily revised. At its best, it could end up like the madcap game Escape the Crazy Place, but at its worst it still represents a step forward for the author.

Braincase, by Dan Lance
An in-depth and fancy-looking cyberpunk crime game, April 7, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
There are two cyberpunk mystery games in this Spring Thing, and there were at least three last year in IFComp. It's a good genre; Delusions did it back in the 90s, and there have been some other good games in this field.

This game is definitely creative and unique, though. It features some really nice retro-looking UI and some flashing graphics.

The story is about investigating the memories of a deceased individual who had a bionic bow implant on their arm. You're working for the police department.

It focuses on the experience of surveillance and on the way that humanity can be degraded by a police state.

I didn't find deep emotional fulfillment in it, but it gave me a lot to think about.

Quest for the Homeland, by Nikita Veselov

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
An Ink game about managing a group of 100 people, April 7, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
This game is written in Ink, always a smooth-looking choice for an engine. The styling is good.

Some of the language could admittedly be more polished. The author admits that English is not their first language, and it shows.

The interactivity is fairly satisfying but not all the way there for me. The same actions might save you or not in different playthroughs. Is it random or stat-tracking? It's hard to say.

Overall, it's interesting.

The Golden, by Kerry Taylor

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A very short Twine story with allusive worldbuilding and implied relationships, April 7, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes
This short Twine game about some disaster making people not want to go out (at first seeming like Covid, later not so much).

It satisfies my 5 requirements for stars:

-Polished. This has great understated use of color and is organized neatly, with an interesting mechanic at the end.

-Descriptive: The house, people, and items and even mood were palpable to me as I read.

-Emotional impact: I could really feel the emotions the game was pushing out, maybe just because of my quarantine experiences.

-Interactivity: The card game was a nice change, and I felt like my choices in general had some kind of impact, if nothing else than in my roleplaying.

-Would I play it again? I already did. I like the feel of it. Might play it again.

Sunless Skies, by Failbetter Games
Bigger and in many ways better than the original, April 6, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: more than 10 hours
Sunless Sea is a cornerstone of narrative-heavy games. Sunless Skies, the sequel, is better in many ways.

But not in all. I bounced hard off this game for a couple of reasons.

First, the controls require more practice. You have a slippery little flying locomotive that can strafe and aiming is hard.

A bigger issue that almost killed the game for me was the pacing. Sunless Sea had islands grouped in sets of 4-6, with the more dangerous and interesting islands found to the south and east. You could sail east and see everything dangerous, die, and restart, but it was all technically accessible early on. The 'safe islands' near the home port were more safe and boring.

In Sunless Skies, the map is way bigger (with 4 huge worlds), but your entire first world is like that 'safe' region. Ports are gentle and nice, and everything is slow paced. I almost lost interest.

But the other worlds are far better for my tastes. London is full of politics. You can join the rich in their fantasy lands that are gilded cages or you can work to rally workers to rebel against their masters. You can betray Victoria or nurture her child.

Eleutheria is full of darkness and poetry. It riffs on one of the most popular Exceptional Stories of Fallen London (Hojotoho) and has the same vibrant and dangerous feel that Saviour's Rocks or the Chelonate had in Sunless Sea.

The Blue Kingdom is small, but its ports have tons of options, and its 'small ports' are bigger than many of the real ports in the other worlds.

The story content here is immense, with more choices that you can take. Descending in a bathysphere through a black hole was amazing, and confronting Victoria with the true contents of the Serene Mausoleum was also excellent.

Highly recommended. I've played more than 60 hours and have quite a bit left to go on my current storyline, and I plan on doing a different storyline afterwards.

Sunless Sea, by Failbetter Games
A huge treasure trove of gothic horror stories with a boat mechanic, April 6, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: more than 10 hours
This game is visually lush and rich, but its heart is storytelling.

In this game, you pilot a boat from port to port. You start on the fringe of existence, able to die from a few hits by passing monsters, losing your crew to mob bosses, or running out of fuel or food. Slowly, you crawl your way up to being able to afford more and survive attacks. It calls itself Roguelike in combat and I feel that's accurate.

But most of the gameplay is stories. You discover ports which come in increasingly exotic sets as you get further away from home. At first, you discover things like an island of liars or a mysterious military station accepting coffins and nothing else. As you expand, you can find a terrifying castle of ice or an island of guinea pigs and rats. At the very edges, you reach the truly horrifying or truly cute.

Stories range from diplomatic negotiations to bizarre rituals to painful torture and so on.

The Zubmariner expansion adds a ton of stories but not much new in the way of equipment. The main Zubmariner storyline (Immortality) is excellent, and the new ports are some of my favorites (I enjoyed slowly turning my organs into crystal and injecting myself with solidified regrets).


I put about 76 hours into the game+expansion, and plan on playing again in the future.

Hawk the Hunter, by Jonathan B. Himes
An expansive but unintuitive tribute to Hawk the Slayer, April 6, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
This is a big Quest game entered into the 2020 Spring Thing.

It's clear that a lot of love and hard work has gone into this game, and it is very detailed and at times evocative.

However, adapting other works, especially static stories like film or books, is tricky. It can, as in this case, end up with huge worlds and confusing maps, tons of NPCs each with small parts, etc. This, plus the randomized combat, gives a feeling of an old western false-front store, designed to look big but needing a lot of work in the background.

A walkthrough would improve this immensely. On the plus side, it made me want to watch the original film, which I think is one of the author's goals.

Khellsphree, by Ralfe Rich

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A young orphan gets tangled up in a fairytale amid a difficult life, April 6, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
This is a long Twine game entered into Spring Thing. It has a long storyline about a boy who's orphaned and ends up taking care of a younger child while older friends take care of him. He gets involved in a fairy story in a way. The game has long linear stretches with some 'dynamic text choices' and a few binary choices that do seem to affect the storyline.

I grade on a 5 star scale:

-Polish: This game is not polished. There are many typos and other grammatical errors, due most likely to the author being a non-native speaker.

-Descriptiveness: This game is very descriptive, with characters having distinct personalities and voices.

-Emotional impact: I got into the story, so I'm giving a star here as well.

-Interactivity: It was hard to know how much I affected the game, but I affected it somewhat and didn't feel locked out.

-Would I play again? Probably not.

So I would give this 2.5, rounded up to 3.

composites, by B Minus Seven

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Classic B-Minus. A short, surreal poem in Twine format, April 5, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes
B Minus makes what I would describe as anti-games. Just like Ryan Veeder likes to do counter-culture things like making very elaborate set pieces that are useless in the game or giving anti-climactic climaxes, B-minus likes to have functionality that's not all that functional.

In this case, it seems like the links might have some kind of strategy or purpose, but instead it's more like file folders, with the game ending if you get too deep.

The writing is opaque and symbolic, with elaborate language and constructions. I learned the word "aubade", a poem appropriate for dawn or morning.

B-Minus is an author that either pleases you or puzzles you, but I feel pleased.


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