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Ratings and Reviews by MathBrush

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View this member's reviews by tag: 15-30 minutes 2-10 hours about 1 hour about 1 hours about 2 hours IF Comp 2015 Infocom less than 15 minutes more than 10 hours Spring Thing 2016
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The King of the World, by G.A. Millsteed
A story cobbled from great pieces but lacking in cohesion and pacing, May 19, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
This story is an interesting mix. So many of the concepts it has are great: how do men and women with power like Gods of different elements find a way to defeat someone who is almost impossible to reach in their domain?

Betrayal, love, power, it's all here. A mysterious library, a maze to navigate.

But there are a few key flaws that I believe the author could improve on for the next game. If they fix these kinds of things, I think they could make truly awesome stories.

First, the pacing is off. The things that break up a story are compelling plot twists and choices. The most boring part of the game is first, and it's marked by a single choice in a sea of 'continue' style links. Incredibly momentous events are marked and gone in a moment, but a long march with stats and a maze search take up a large chunk of the game.

Second, cohesion. Are you a tender romantic or a ruthless conqueror? Both. Do you seek the favor of your partner or destroy their world? Both. Is your brother a power-hungry madman or a gentle friend willing to step aside for you? Both.

I feel like these problems could be solved simultaneously by adding significantly more choices. These choices wouldn't have to branch the game; the author has already showed the capability of writing such choices (like flavoring your brother's personality, affecting stats, or navigating). You could even have meaningless choices that have a small paragraph in response but don't affect anything else. Then you could react to crazy stuff and make those moments longer.

First Things First, by J. Robinson Wheeler
Explore a mid-size map over 5 decades. Well-crafted, great puzzles, May 8, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 2-10 hours
First Things First was nominated for an XYZZY award for Best Game, and won Best Puzzles, among others.

In this game that starts out very slowly, you quickly progress to an interesting situation similar to A Mind Forever Voyaging or Lost New York, where you can investigate a mid-size map over 50 years using a time machine. Your actions in certain time periods strongly affect the future in interesting ways.

This is definitely the best long-form time travel I have played, as I felt Lost New York (which explores New York over a century or two) and Time: All Things Come to an End (which explores many epochs in a linear fashion) had relatively unfair puzzles.

IFDB has version 3.0, but the walkthrough is for 1.1, so it didn't work in places. I am a walkthrough junkie, so it was hard for me to beat it, but I was able to guess from the walkthrough what I should try next, and eventually worked my way through it.

The game has good characters, beautiful settings, and a bit of a confused plot, which is natural given the main gameplay mechanic.

For simulation fans, it has an interesting money/bank account/investment system.

Strongly recommended for everyone. (Note: the first area seems incredibly boring, but it gets better and better. I started to like the game as soon as I made it into (Spoiler - click to show)the garage.)

Ostrich, by Jonathan Laury

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A political game about censorship and dystopia, May 2, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
I'm giving this 4.5 stars, rounding up to 5 on IFDB.

Ostrich is a multi-day Twine game set in a country similar to modern-day America.

In this story, you play the role of government censor, deciding what does and doesn't pass into the news (and later, branching out into further works).

The interactivity has a nice pattern to it: an ongoing saga in your daily commute, with choices remembered over time; your actual job which is graded and performance mentioned; and your evening rituals, which gain importance as the game progresses.

The first few times I played this game, I had the impression that it was fairly linear, but after multiple replays, I've realized that it has quite a bit of freedom. I felt like it did a good job of balancing hard choices in some bits.

There was something just a bit missing from this, though, that would would have made it a classic. I can't identify what it is.

I recommend this author's other games, as well.

Terminal Interface for Models RCM301-303, by Victor Gijsbers (as VigiMech Corporation)
An excellently polished short sci fi game with multiple endings , April 25, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
This game by Victor Gijsbers contains many of the best elements from his former games, including an examination of player agency and strong NPCs.

You play as the commander of a mech, complete with manual and custom parser messages. Unfortunately, your visual components are damaged, so the on-scene pilot Lemmy has to do the talking for you. But Lemmy's quite the character, making life pretty difficult.

The parser is constrained to those verbs recognized by the mech, and even by the nouns which Lemmy 'tags'.

This game is shorter than I would like, but it's pretty good when my main critique is that I want more of it.

Contains some strong profanity in some paths.

Tethered, by Linus Åkesson

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A smooth puzzle game with compelling backstory built with new language, April 21, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
This is the author's showpiece for a new language, Dialogue, that compiles to the Z-machine format.

Showpieces for new languages are a varied lot. Curses!, the showpiece for Inform, is one of the best games I've ever played: huge, puzzly, with deep connections to literature, religion, mythology and history. Ditch Day Drifter is sparser and smaller, but still pretty fun. Bronze and Floatpoint, showpieces for Inform 7, are both intensely detailed games.

This game takes a different tack. Instead of a massive adventure, it's a compact puzzle game in the snow. You play as a couple out climbing a snowy mountain, and must solve puzzles involving classic adventuring situations/items like darkness, ropes, and large pushable items.

I found the story in this compelling, as well as the puzzles. One of my favorite IFComp 2018 games.

Writers Are Not Strangers, by Lynda Clark
A complex sci-fi choicescript game that ponders the nature of writing, April 20, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
This is a complex game, which makes sense as it is part of a thesis. Unlike many IFComp games, it's less of a short story and more of a novella that should be played slowly, perhaps overall multiple days. It's not as long as a full-length Choicescript game, but it's still very hefty.

Such longterm playing is facilitated by the excellent save feature, one of many advanced design features. This game has been heavily modified from baseline Choicescript.

The main conceit of the game is that you are asked at several points to evaluate the quality of writing, and the game looks deeply into the relationship between reader and writer. The first few short stories are takes on famous writers, and some of these are just fantastic (I especially enjoyed the riff on Metamorphosis).

It also includes science fiction elements and some post-modernism.

Dreamland, by Tatiana Statsenko (as eejitlikeme)
A small series of dream vignettes , April 20, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes
This game is fairly simple, but a pleasant way to pass the time.

You are given warnings about how what you do before bed affects your dreams. Then you fall asleep.

You experience 3 dream vignettes, one with a puzzle, one with little agency, and one with a few moral choices. The order you experience these vignettes in depends on your earlier actions.

This game would be good for an interactive fiction class to analyse, because it has some delayed branching, a variety in choice structures, and is small enough to digest.

However, the game itself isn't strongly polished. I had the impression of grammar mistakes at times, and the visual presentation could be developed more.

The Bones of London, by Gavin Inglis, Failbetter Games
An exceptional story that digs into London's past, April 20, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
This Fallen London exceptional story was well-put together but didn't appeal to me as much as the others.

In this story, you explore the names of the London streets. If you've played Fallen London, you'll know that the names are all different from real London, with jokes and allusions taking place of the actual names.

This story has you become a surveyor and a recruit of a group trying to discover the 'bones of London', the true names and map. And that's pretty much it.

For fans of London itself, map enthusiasts, and Fallen London fanatics, I recommend this game.

I highly recommend Gavin Inglis's other material, and his writing in this game. It was just the concept that didn't appeal as much to me.

HOJOTOHO!, by Cash DeCuir, Failbetter Games
One of the best exceptional stories. A band of youths in Fallen London., April 20, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
Several others had recommended this exceptional story to me. And I found it really was as good as they say.

In this game, you encounter a band of children, just as much heroes as your character is, except in their own sphere.

You take part in their adventures, seeing Fallen London through a child's eyes, and encounter a bittersweet story of growth and loss.

Highly recommended.

Written in the Glim, by Mary Goodden, Failbetter Games
A pleasing monthly story involving 'astrology', April 20, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
This was an excellent addition to the Fallen London mythology. I played it several months ago, but forgot to write the review at the time, so pardon me if there are errors.

I strongly remember the 'astrological signs' in this story. Of course Fallen London is under the ground in a giant cavern, so the existence of stars and astrological signs is a somewhat contentious subject.

The story takes you into a strange world with insects and caverns. Very fun.


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