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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 2 hours IF Comp 2015 Infocom less than 15 minutes more than 10 hours Spring Thing 2016
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Le Donjon de BatteMan, by BatteMan
A french parser game with a compact dungeon filled with traps, January 23, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
This is a polished parser game entered in the French IF Competition. It comes with nice feelies and runs on retro devices as well as in-browser.

You wake up in a dungeon with four exits, wearing an empty scabbard and some armor. In each direction, there is some kind of threat: a trap, a monster, a guardian, etc. and you have to defeat them all in turn.

I thought this was fun, but also very hard. It includes some forms of interactions which I consider unfair, like having to die to progress. I was very happy the author provided a solution! (although one line of it provokes an error, but it's okay and doesn't affect the end result).

The author seems to enjoy IF a lot and I look forward to any future games.

Heroes of Myth, by Abigail C. Trevor
Heroic choicescript game with great freedom and decisions about truth/lies, January 23, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
I love this game. It combines two of my favorite genres: high fantasy (such as Heroes of Kendrickstone or Choice of Rebels) and contemplations on the nature of storytelling and truth (like Creatures Such as We or the opera Capriccio).

You play as one of four adventurers who years ago staged the end of the world, with yourselves cast as the saviors. You, an illusionist, were crucial to making the world believe that a demon horde was going to destroy them all.

Unfortunately for you, the omens etc. are repeating, and it's not you doing it this time.

While there is a lot of action in this game, there is just as much or more political intrigue and contemplation about your past and your roles.

Most choicescript games (mine included) lock you in to certain paths after a time. This game has a lot more freedom, letting you choose over and over whether to reveal the truth about your lies or not, whether to fight the demons or befriend them, whether to pursue a romance or not.

Some people on the forums disliked that, feeling that it was the game heckling them to change their mind. On the other hand, I've been frustrated by other games where you can't change your decision once you get new information.

The author does a great job of making choices about balancing your interests and not just pass/fail. The game sets you up to be loyal to certain people before you discover awful truths about them, and sets you up to hate people before discovering wonderful things about them.

It is possible to 'fail'; early on, I had three goals when a demon came through a portal, and I failed all three, and considered restarting the game. But I didn't, and ended up having a good time anyway.

I also appreciated the ending. It provided satisfying conclusions to all stories (at least my ending did), with the characters you were invested in all going off to do their own thing and asking your final advice. It gives you a way to choose for yourself how to wrap up their character arcs. It does the same thing for you, offering you many final positions.

So, I think this game is great. If you don't like frequent philosophical introspection, it might be better to go with one of the other 'high fantasy games' (like Kendrickstone, Affairs of the Court, Choice of Magics, or Choice of Rebels), but if you're interested by the idea of dealing with a web of lies of your own creation, this is a game for you.

It's also very long. I played every evening for 3-4 days before completing it.

The Covid Assignment, by Northwind

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
An educational CYS game about covid with math tests, January 23, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
This game from the CYS website is a difficult, branching game about Coronavirus. I found it surprisingly informative and I learned some things I didn't know before.

You play as a professor recruited by the government in the early months of Covid to help them understand the spread of the disease and to make recommendations about it. If you do well, you have the chance of moving up and influencing public policy.

Part of 'doing well' includes doing well on difficult math questions about things like exponential growth and infection transmission.

This kind of math test hasn't always done well in IF before, with games like #vanlife and A Final Grind inserting frustrating calculations in the middle of otherwise normal stories. But in this game, the choices are fair, and undo is available at any time. It uses math to teach instead of punish.

That being said, it's pretty hard, and the questions involve policy as well. In my best run, when I thought I was very successful, I only ended up with 14/50 points!

+Polish: The game is generally well-polished.
+Interactivity: I'm not usually interested in 'only one right path' games, but it's fair and gives you a chance to try again.
-Emotional impact: The topic and mechanical approach left me feeling distant from the story, making the whole thing a thought exercise (though a welcome on).
+Descriptiveness: Especially good at putting difficult concepts into understandable language. I swear a lot of people should try playing this to understand coronavirus better.
-Would I play again? It was interesting, but it more made me interested in looking up what it said to understand it better rather than replaying.

Kerguelen 1991, by Narkhos

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A mid-length French Ink game with art and animated logic mini-game, January 20, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
This is a game in the french comp which is very technically proficient and uses figurative and descriptive language (which left me running to Google Translate more often than not).

You are a bestselling author who ends up on an island looking for inspiration for his next book. You have a phone with little minigames on it that remind me of Lolo on the SNES (mostly involving pushing sliding blocks around).

The island is fairly small, and soon bizarre plot twists happen.

I believe there is some branching in this game. In my branch, I found a minigame where you use a radio to solve a maze and another minigame where you visually push blocks around (like the cellphone puzzle) to open a door, but Jack Welch said he found a Towers of Hanoi minigame, which I did not encounter.

Overall, the story was interesting and it was complex, but I'm not sure how well the disparate elements tied together. Overall, though, it was polished, descriptive, compelling, and had good interactivity.

T-Rex Time Machine, by Rosemary Claire Smith

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A shortish and adventurous game with an unconvincing plot, January 18, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
This game is fairly short (170K words but with a lot of branching, so smaller playthroughs). In it, you play as a young academic who has invented time travel. You use it to go back in time to study, hunt, or film dinosaurs while dealing with a rich kid who has stolen your credit for inventing time travel.

Skills were fairly easy to figure out, although they didn't vary much throughout the game. There are a few romance options, although most are on your rivals' team. The writing in each scene was well-done, and I felt like I had a variety of goals I could accomplish.

The overall plot, though, just didn't make sense in my head, and didn't mesh with my experiences or expectations. The way that people react to the existence of time travel, the things your character fixates on, the way people react both in the past and when you return, it just doesn't make sense to me, personally. But the rest of the game is not bad.

Saga of the North Wind, by Tom Knights

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
An army simulator and adventure game set in Slavic folklore, January 16, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
I really went back and forth on this game. The overall storyline is compelling to me: you are a new chieftain of a nomadic tribe in the steppes which is rapidly being overcome by an evil warlord who uses dark magic. The gods tell you of a safe haven in the far north, the Valley of the North Wind.

Gameplay generally consists of choices that affect your whole tribe and choices that affect only yourself, sort of like Choice of Rebels or Stronghold: A Hero's Fate.

This game is often morally ambiguous. There are outlaws that you can ally with to destroy towns or fight against, with little immediate impact. Frequently you yourself will be alone or in a small group and come across strangers who you don't know if you can trust or not.

It makes for an interesting game. It's also a hard game. There are several options that are literally 'go left' vs 'go right' with absolutely no strategy possible, just dumb luck. And there are definitely wrong choices in other parts of the game. I used a lot of my money early on and soon found myself with 0. It locked off major portions of the game, including one agonizing scene in a large city where you are there for three days, but every single option requires money, so I had to just pick 'do nothing' for three days in a row.

Overall, I'd say the game is a mixed bag. I definitely enjoyed it, though, and would rate it above average. Since I went back and forth on the score, I'll use my standardized scale:

+Polish: The game is very polished.
+Interactivity: Despite the randomness, I felt the game was responsive to my choices.
+Descriptiveness: The writing was pretty great, I felt.
+Emotional impact: I was invested in the story.
+Would I play again?: Yes, there were several mysteries unsolved, like the nature of the 'Eight'.

Choice of Zombies, by Heather Albano and Richard Jackson

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Short, branching zombie survival game with lots of replayability, January 15, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
This is another game from near the very beginning of Choice of Games, and I think this one works well.

It's different from more 'modern' games in that each playthrough is short and there are a lot of ways to mess up or die early. So if you screw up everything your game can be significantly less than an hour, with a 'successful' game being a lot longer.

But the shortness of the dead-ends go well together, since it encourages replay and (more importantly) this game has a lot of different paths to success. You can meet completely different characters in different playthroughs. I'd say about 30% of my two playthroughs was repeated material.

I enjoyed how the stats were clearly differentiated from each other. Although, the game kept relationship stats hidden. There doesn't seem to be any romance in this game (though sex is mentioned). Each stat gets used in a variety of ways.

The characters all have different interactions with each other, some of them detesting each other.

All in all, it was short and fun.

To the City of the Clouds, by Catherine Bailey

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
An early choicescript game with a dissolute archaeologist MC, January 14, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
Well, if you enjoy games where you can play as a hard-drinking, cheating professor, stealing artifacts, snorting lines of coke and hitting on students, this is definitely the game for you.

That's not really my style. This is an early choicescript game. In the beginning, they had 3-4 pretty great games in a row, but they didn't really know what worked, and that resulted in a string of very short games with weak use of stats, unfulfilling scenes and hit-or-miss humor that was often miss. After that, they hit their stride with some games that are still awesome to this day (Slammed! and Choice of Kung Fu, for instance).

That said, this game is still well-polished, with few, if any errors, and the interactivity generally worked for me. I had to sweat over a few choices, and they had actual consequences.

At 68,000 words, this game is a tenth of their most recent game (Luminous Underground) and a little less than half of the average game.

The story is about you, an archaeologist, hearing rumors of an ancient Incan city, the 'City Lost in the Clouds'. You have to dodge Columbian militia and ancient spirits to explore the city, and then safely make it back.

This game was recently in the 'Most underrated Choicescript games' poll, and was second to last (before Treasure Seekers of Lady Luck, which I actually like). If you play even 1 or 2 choices of the demo, you'll instantly know if you like it or not.

An Odyssey: Echoes of War, by Natalia Theodoridou

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Sing,O Muse, of a complicated game, child of Homer and Choicescript, January 12, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
This game, in my opinion, faithfully captures much of the feel of the Odyssey.

In it, you play a greek hero (or from a neighboring country), child of a god (which one is your parent is selectable), trying to get home after sacking Troy.

It recreates many of the familiar scenes but leaves several surprises. So, for instance, you can visit the Lotus eaters or the cave of the cyclops, but you could just as well end up recreating the Labors of Hercules.

This is currently one of the top contenders for 'Most underrated game' on the choice of games website, and it makes sense, both that it is underrated and that people like it.

It makes sense that it is underrated because it uses loss, failure, and fate for a stronger narrative. I've seen before that Choicescript games that focus on those tend to be less popular, since they make players feel like their choices either are wrong or don't matter.

On the other hand, they do combine to make an interesting tale, and I felt like the ending choices especially did a good job of setting up competing interests.

It was a bummer that the game sets you up as married and also as having many possible love interests. It's completely faithful to the original story, but it makes all romances besides your wife cheating.

Overall, the writing on this is strong, at the expense of reduced player freedom.

Spy Mission, by Ogre

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
A spy game with many different branches, endings and items, January 12, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
This chooseyourstory game has a setup that's a lot more complex than most. You have an inventory, stats you can train, etc.

You are an ordinary man in an ordinary job when a mysterious package changes your life. You're taken to a spy agency and given a dangerous mission.

The opening segments have an inventory with clickable links, but later on that seemed to disappear in favor of choice-based inventory (like when choosing what to take out of your trunk).

The pacing is good, with a strong overall narrative arc. Some of the endings happen a lot sooner than others (I think there are at least a couple dozen endings), so it can be worth backing out and trying again, even if you get a good ending on the first try.

Here's my five-point scale:

+Polish: This is a pretty complex game and I didn't run into any bugs/spelling errors.

+Interactivity: I really felt like I could dig in and strategize and try different things. Even with unlimited undo's, you can get so far into some branches that it's hard to cheat the system, which is nice.

+Descriptiveness: Most of the characters are just spy stereotypes, but the level of action was good.

+Emotional impact: I felt interested in the game and enjoyed seeing what came next.

-Would I play again? On the one hand, the game has a lot of endings and different replayable parts. On the other hand, I feel like the whole thing could use just a little bit more 'something' to be completely compelling, like a really cool opponent or a love interest (or someone who's both!). I know that's not very specific, and maybe that already exists in one of the other branches, so this is totally subjective.

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