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Reviews by MathBrush

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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

2 of 2 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.

Don't Push The Mailbox 2 And Aisle, by Ralfe Rich

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A short one-move tribute game with some entertaining responses, May 15, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
This game was entered in the Emily Short Anniversary Contest.

It's a sequel of sorts to Pick Up the Phone Booth and Die, Aisle, and Pick up the Phone Booth and Aisle.

Like those games, this game is centered on having silly or weird responses to individual actions you can choose. These games usually require a ton of different actions to see all of the content, but this game isn't quite as expansive as the others. There are a few references to Emily Short and the contest.

The Underoos that Ate New York!, by G. Kevin Wilson
A cute little game about mutant clothing, May 13, 2020
In this relatively short game set inside your house, you wander about trying to deal with your clothing that has come to life. You have to subdue and wear each piece to win.

The clothing acts like NPCs, and are pretty amusing. The puzzles are light and I finished in 15 minutes.

The story is simple, the puzzles are simple, the writing is plain, but the game concept and execution is a lot of fun.

Short fun game.

I changed my scoring system after I gave my original 2 star review. My new system uses these criteria:

Polished: I encountered no bugs and only a few whitespace issues.
Descriptiveness: It's a little spare but is packed with jokes.
Emotion: It is funny, if a bit silly.
Interactivity: I found the puzzles satisfying.
Would I play again? Probably not. I didn't think of it until a commenter reminded me.

The Prongleman Job, by Arthur DiBianca

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A heist game with a limited parser--but watch out for the owner!, May 13, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
I helped beta test this Spring Thing 2020 game.

In it, you play as a someone trying to rob a house for an organization of thieves.

Like DiBianca's other games, you have limited parser options here. All interactions are performed by typing the name of the object you are interacting with.

The puzzles are interesting, with puzzles involving far-flung parts of the house, searching puzzles, combination locks, etc.

The owner can come back at any time, and discerning the patterns of his visits is one of the biggest puzzles of the game, one which I didn't see for a long time and which really surprised me. I'm not sure it worked for me completely, but I enjoyed this game well. If you're a parser fan, this is one of the best parser games released this year, and definitely worth checking out!

silences, by beams
A '2-command' game in texturewriter, April 16, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes
This is an odd game. I was excited to see it used texture writer, a system that often produces unusual games.

In texture, you slide 'action' blocks onto 'noun' blocks. This game switches that around a bit, more just sliding one of two nouns (eye, shoulder) onto adjectives and nouns.

It took me a while to figure out the functionality (which is (Spoiler - click to show)'eye' provides a description using several adjectives while 'shoulder' adds the word to a sentence, except at the very end where you get one or more endings.

I didn't really know what to make of it all, but it worked for me, the discovery of the use of the nouns providing the same kind of feel that solving a puzzle does.

My favorite insight was realizing (possibly incorrectly) that the game provides insight into the author's feelings about themself.

Monk by the Sea, by Elizabeth Decoste

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A great first parser game that needs a lot more polish to be a finished work, April 16, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
This is an introspective parser game set in the world of the paintings of Caspar David Friedrich, one of my favorite artists. It revolves around exploration and small, one-item puzzles in the classic Zorklike mode.

I've seen many first parser games (including my own, a game I never released), and they are almost uniformly buggy and unfinishable.

This game has surprisingly few, if any bugs, which is a welcome surprise. However, it is lacking a lot of polish. I had to decompile the game to find the ending. Some suggestions for the next game:

1. Having one or more beta testers can alleviate almost all problems, if you implement their feedback. Intfiction.org is a good place to find some.
2. Room exits should be listed in every room unless finding the exit is a (hinted) puzzle, like a maze.
3. It's good to have either everything have a description or nothing to have a description. It takes a long time to describe everything, but it's often worth it.
4. Some puzzles may need cluing (like the magpie puzzle). Having a beta tester or two can help here.
5. Having instant deaths and disabling UNDO is a pretty frustrating combo. There's been a lot of debate over the years on whether disabling UNDO is worth it, but it's worth knowing that some interpreters have built-in UNDO that works even if you try to disable it, so some players will always have UNDO.

Overall, I think the author is capable of creating truly great parser games given enough tester support. I'd love to see more!

So Are the Days, by Dawn Sueoka
A clever and complicated collection of poems in interactive form, April 14, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
This twine fiction has 4 poems presented in different ways.

One offers choices that don't seem to change the story, instead indicating how you personally feel about your choices.

Another uses some kind of randomization to present a series of tiny vignettes with random names. You can move backwards and forwards in time during the vignettes.

The third uses a grid of text, and you can reveal more or less of the grid.

The fourth is my favorite, with a physical space you can move through and some interaction.

The writing has evocative moments, but the choices of interactivity distance me from the text more than drawing me in. I felt more alienated than invested.

This reminds me of a lot of early works by people who are now well-known/professional IF authors, so I'd love to see where this author goes next.

Napier's Cache, by Vivienne Dunstan

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
An unusual historical parser game, April 11, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
I beta tested this game.

Napier's Cache is in an unusual niche of historical fiction, and is based on a family story of the author.

It is fairly linear in story with nonlinear interactions in each 'phase'. You first have a small treasure hunt, followed by a dinner scene, then another treasure hunt and a simple maze.

In design it reminds me quite a bit of Christminster, an early (pre-IFComp) inform game that was well-regarded at the time, that also had you doing things like eating at a dinner with scholars and discovering the history of old alchemists.

Overall, the quality is well-done, and most reasonable interactions are coded for. I enjoyed each iteration of this better than the previous, and I believe this is something to be proud of.

4x4 Galaxy, by Agnieszka Trzaska

2 of 2 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

2 of 2 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

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
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

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
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.

Shades of Yesterday, by Gavin Inglis, Failbetter Games
A slightly confusing Exceptional Story about the colors of the neath, April 5, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
I found this exceptional story rather confusing. It seems to mostly relate around an elaborate pen show. You begin to discover that the seller is using the colors of the neathbow, a set of colors used throughout the game and featured prominently in Sunless Seas. Colors like Irrigo, which brings forgetfulness, or Violant, which fixes things in memory.

There is a love story and a confrontation, but this story never really gelled in my mind. It was my first exceptional story in years, so perhaps I had just forgotten how to read them, but it's hard to say. The rewards were good, though.

Go Tell the King of Cats, by James Chew, Failbetter Games
A cute exceptional story about a cat reviewing a life ill-lived, April 5, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
I recently started up my Exceptional Friendship at Fallen London again, and this is the second story I played.

You discover a cat that wants a new start on life, but to do so, you must provide character statements from their old friends. The cat wasn't that great of a person before, so the statements are fairly offensive, and you have to decide whether to share what you learn with the cat or not.

Overall, this was charming for an exceptional story, with some good lore here on Parabola and the King of Cats.

GUNBABY, by Damon L. Wakes

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A madcap baby-mecha twine game, April 4, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes
This game consists of the following elements:
-Custom graphics and animations
-Custom sounds
-4th-wall breaking goofy storyline
-A baby in a robot suit destroying things

These elements are all good in themselves, but this could have used a few more pass-throughs. The sound is loud and has no visible controls. The choices imply freedom without granting it or even, after choosing, the illusion of freedom. It implies strategization while taking it away.

The concept is funny, and I laughed, though, which is what the author wanted. So I believe that the author has been entirely successful in their goals.

JELLY, by Tom Lento, Chandler Groover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Food-based horror, love and rituals and an ASCII map, April 4, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
This is a twine-based game with an ASCII map where you leave little footprints as you travel across the map.

This is food-based horror, a theme that occurs fairly regularly in Groover's repertoire. But it's a bit different this time. This time, you are food: you're jelly, and you're crossing the landscape, trying to get ready for a picnic, and trying to understand what was lost.

It's a live-die-repeat game, where you have limited turns to accomplish your goal. Surprisingly, your actions before death linger, letting you make lasting changes to the landscape.

It's gross, with flayings, immolations, and a lot of devouring, but it's definitely not the grossest Groover game you've ever played.

The final puzzle was beyond me (I didn't realize a certain ordering was different than I thought), but the copious hints smoothed that over.

Weird, and fun.

The Land of Breakfast and Lunch, by Daniel Talsky

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A first parser game with a surreal world and vivid imagery, April 3, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
This game is made by 1/2 of the team that made the excellent rabbit-based game Ürs a couple of years ago. It's a first try at making a parser game.

Programming-wise, it has a lot of things covered: edible food, rideable vehicles, conversation, active animals, devices, untouchable objects and other things difficult to program.

I was looking for more cohesiveness in the story or setting, though. I felt like the individual elements were interesting, but as a whole it didn't gel together. Its sparse, linear, fantasy setting reminded me of the Bony King of Nowhere, but it didn't have the common thematic elements that tied that game together.

There is one puzzle in the game which I only discovered by decompiling the source code. The author mentioned how no beta testers discovered it, but that the solution should have made sense.

This is an interesting point. The puzzle involves selecting one object out of many and using it in a location far from where it was found with little indication of any connection.

I've found that 'good puzzles' typically come from either:
-learning a complicated system with learning tasks followed by complex tasks
-setting up expectations and then subverting them, or
-providing a set of rules that players can strategize with.

The author framed this as a kind of learning exercise, and has shown great skill in programming. I believe that with practice, they could create truly great parser games, and look forward to any games they create in the future.

A Murder In Engrams, by Noah Lemelson

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A good first-effort murder cyberpunk murder mystery in Twine, April 3, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
I love a good mystery in Interactive Fiction, and I was excited to see how this one would play out.

There a lot of ways to do mystery in IF: have the mystery play out linearly or as a results of puzzles (so the gameplay doesn't involve the actual mystery); hunting for specific clues; and actual deductions by either the player or the character.

All versions can be made into very engaging games. This game does pretty well, but it didn't quite reach the level of pure satisfaction.

This game, according to the author, is "a small project I made to learn Twine and experiment with Interactive Fiction in general", and it's much better made than many other first efforts.

Story-wise, it's a cyberpunk mystery where you have to search people's memories (or engrams) on the 'net. Gameplay-wise, you're hunting for a motive, means, and murderer.

States of Awareness, by Kerry Taylor

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A short, pleasantly surprising short zombie Twine game, April 3, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes
This short Twine game has you play as a young character surviving alone after some time of zombie-style apocalypse. You have to make some critical decisions regarding an old acquaintance.

I thought at first that this was just a heavy-handed riff on the coronavirus, but then it took a turn which pleasantly surprised me and which I'd like to see more of in Twine. Thoroughly enjoyable.

The author's conent warnings include profanity and a non-consensual kiss.

Assemblage of Angels, by Els White

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A short fantasy love story about invention and angels, April 2, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes
This is a shortish Twine game by Els White, author of the popular Twine game To the Wolves and writer/designer under Spider Lily Studios.

This game isn't meant to be epic, just a simple love story, but it has fairly heavy world-building done through implications. I felt like it explored class politics, transitioning, gay relationships, theology, etc. all in ten minutes.

There are some nice visual effects that add to the play (you literally assemble a visual angel), and I enjoyed the time I spent playing.

Another Love Story, by Hélène Sellier

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A charming and chilling story of nature, photography and love, April 2, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes
This is a Ren'Py story that uses beautiful photography with a mostly linear story broken up by binary choices.

These binary choices always have an immediate effect, but I don't know if their influence lingers later on.

I love the type of story. It's almost like a romantic version of the Turn of the Screw. The hero is confused, foggy--possibly non-neurotypical. They have someone at home--sister? caretaker? spouse? And they encounter someone in the woods. But who and what are they?

The answers are never fully revealed, but gradually hinted at more and more. I found it effective.

The Hive Abroad, by Laura Michet

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A well-written sci-fi tale about belonging with non-linear narrative, March 22, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
When I was a kid, my dad had tons of sci-fi books from the 50s and 60s, and my grandmother had huge boxes of Star Trek books. I read Asimov and Clarke and all the others.

This story reminds me of a lot of sci-fi from that era: humans and aliens trying to understand each other. I guess that's always been a huge genre, even now with shows like Steven Universe exploring the same thing.

In this story, you play a human in a future version of the universe where aliens have established diplomatic relations with earth. You have tried to renounce your identity and become an alien, and humans are in an uproar over it.

The story is presented non-linearly, with custom-made graphics to take you from section to section. Generally, you can choose to see another cutscene before or after the one you're in. However, going forward and then back doesn't bring you back to where you were; it seems like you always see new material.

I enjoyed the story, and found it polished, descriptive, and emotionally satisfying, but I don't feel an urge to play again. I'm satisfied with the story I found.

La Malédiction dont vous êtes le héros, by Nighten
By repetition, gain the power to change the story, March 12, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
In this French IFComp game, you see (in a linear hyperlink format) a teenage couple who are checking out the moon with a telescope.

After one playthrough, you earn 10 points that can be used to go back and change the story at 4 critical points, for a total of 16 possible endings.

The writing is well-done, but as another reviewer noted, it is repetitive, especially since you only get 10 pts per playthrough and any choice you make spends that 10 pts. You'd basically have to play the game 4 times with no choices in order to play the ending that uses all 4 point spending opportunities.

Sétanta - Au Cœur Du Labyrinthe, by Luigi June
An intriguing take on Celtic mythology (in French), March 5, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
I love the story of Cuchulainn. I remember learning about it in college, how he can get enraged and have his feet turn backwards and his face puff up with only one eyeball and all sorts of weird things. Then he appeared in FF12, which was cool.

This is a game about Cuchulainn, and it's also a game that largely consists of an unfair labyrinth. Basically, you can go left/right, etc. and it doesn't give you any hints about what's coming up. I would take off a star for that, but Cuchulainn adds it back, so there you are.

I only played to one ending, because it's in fairly complicated French (harder for me to understand than the other French games in this comp). I might try it again though. Interesting game, and I think it's in Ink (plays like it, at least).

Une affaire rondement menée, by Dunin
A truly clever concept with some rocky implementation, March 2, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
This murder mystery is fairly compact and has some intriguing characters. It also has extra-fancy design. It's written in Ink, and works by clicking text (with links not receiving any special formatting).

It has lovely images of the murder suspects, whom you can learn about one at a time. You play a police commissioner (I think?) attending the 'big reveal' of a professional detective.

Slow-text didn't really work for me (and I never really like to see it), although it contributes in a minor way to the overall puzzle. I was also confused by the fact that sometimes the same action would result in me being called an 'imbecile' while at later times in the same playthrough it would work. After seeing the solution, I think I get it, but I'm not sure that was a good design decision.

Overall, the French IFComp continues to lead the IF world in technical innovation. I'm excited to see what comes out next year.

Pensées Profondes, by White Fangs

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A long, obscurely written French Twine game with minimal choices, February 28, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
This is game that is hard for me to review, in many ways.

First, it was difficult to play. It is in French, not my native language, but it also is written in a very allegorical and elusive style. It is very long, with at least four chapters each with a dozen or more pieces. I encountered a bug while looking at my objects list at the very end of Ch. 3 where the link to return to the main story disappeared.

Also, it's hard to say what score to assign. According to my rubric, I give 1 point for being polished (it is), 1 point for being descriptive (which it also is), and 1 point for interactivity (despite the fact it's linear, giving me a choice to see the objects page or not was in fact useful). But I didn't feel an emotional impact as the scenes were too disconnected, and I was too exhausted by it to play again. I believe that many of these problems would be mitigated for a Francophone.

Si j'avais su..., by Eve Mercé

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
An amusing French twine game of unintended consequences, February 23, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes
In this game, which has beautiful graphics, you have risen to the throne after your mother was accidentally poisoned by a drunk witch.

You have numerous binary options, and one (or both) options will have humorous, unintended consequences.

It's not too long, but it is polished, descriptive, and amusing. However, I found its interactivity a bit frustrating at times, but I could see my self playing again.

Sam Fortune - Private Investigator, by Steve Blanding

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A solid noir story marred by 'guess-what-the-author-is-thinking' situations, February 10, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
This game is long, well-written in the noir style (where men drink hard liquor and every woman is beautiful.

It's framed as a radio play, and has two acts. You end up doing daring things, with cat-and-mouse chases, throwing punches, etc.

Unfortunately, many of these things are under-clued or involve non-intuitive actions. This makes a walkthrough almost required to play through the game.

La fée des rêves, by Eve Mercé

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A cute, funny French game about dreams and fairies, February 6, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes
I've long enjoyed games about fairies, other worlds, and dreams. This game doesn't branch much, but provides plenty of humor and child-like fantasy.

You play an insomniac who is visited by the dream fairy. The dream fairy attempts to diagnose your insomnia, taking you from person to person to try and find someone who can help.

Karma Manager, by Jérémie Pardou

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A game about getting points in the cycle of Karma, February 6, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
I like the idea of this French IFComp game. You have different stats, and you are constantly reborn, changing your stats. You try to gain Karma during each lifetime, eventually ending the cycle.

I found it a bit opaque (although it was not my native tongue!) Each binary choice would affect your stats, and sometimes you'd have big non-interactive sections affected by those stats, some of which would give you karma.

It was pleasant, and I enjoyed the writing, but I didn't feel like I could strategize despite the UI heavily suggesting strategizing.

Héméra, by Narkhos

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A short French potion-making game, January 31, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-20 minutes
The theme of this year's French IFComp is cycle and/or revolution.

In this short Ink game, you are in a looping timeline where someone knocks on your door, demanding a potion.

You have a grimoire with two potion recipes in it, alluding in a riddle-like way to different herbs. You have to select the right herbs like a combination lock.

Not being my native language, some of the clues were difficult. Also, one very particular path in the opening sequence gives you, in a non-intuitive way, an extra helpful book.

So it was fun and looks nice, but was a bit frustrating.

Dungeons & Deadlines, by Miles Matrix

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Daily grind as an RPG-can you survive 62 days? I couldn't, January 28, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
This game is kind of a blend between micro-text RPGs (like the Twinyjam game 'RPG-ish') and Fallen London (except instead of random cards you get fixed cards with random-ish effects).

It has some actually pretty good 8-bit music and a custom display. You are trying to survive 62 days, keeping your esteem, family, health, and stress at healthy levels.

I liked the conceit, but 62 days is really long. I died around round 39, and had seen a lot of repeated text. Maybe that's the point? Maybe you're meant to die?

I had two different encounters with sexual content, roughly as explicit as a PG-13 comedy in the US.

Edit: The game has been updated, including trimming the timeframe down substantially. Check it out!

Keepsake, by Savaric

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Short IF game about crime that messes with IF conventions., January 18, 2020
I had an idea for a creative game that messed with conventions of interavtive fiction, and I searched to see if someone had done it.

Savaric did it, and they did it well. This is a crime game with moral choices and a somewhat branching narrative.

The game has only a few items and characters, but the characterization is good.

I recommend that everyone tries it. Saying more would probably be a spoiler.

The Fog Knows Your Name, by Clio Yun-su Davis

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A relationship-focused horror game about the fog haunting a small town, January 16, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
I purchased this game because it seemed interesting. I'm a sucker for good horror stories.

The concept is that the dense fog in your town is rumored to kill those who have wronged others and not confessed. After an argument with a former friend, he dies, and you are the last person to see him alive.

The game is split between two main modes of interaction: deciding which of your many (well-written) friends you'll spend most time with, and deciding whether to believe in the fog monster or be a skeptic and deal with the real-life problems in the town.

I struggled with the first chapter or two, as it was more relationship-focused and I'm more into fantasy and sci-fi aspects of games. But then it picked up steam, and I ended up enjoying both facets of the game, and had a satisfying (though 'losing') ending.

Virgin Space, by Billy Y. Fernández

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A media-rich space exploration game, January 14, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
I really enjoyed the presentation of this game. It has background music, and an animated star background.

It has a different emphasis then most space sci-fi, almost like a space retelling of some fairy tale. The worldbuilding is good, with weird creatures. The writing was evocative and clear, although there were a few tonal decisions that I think might have come from the translation. I got stuck on the main puzzle for longer than I had thought I would, but I finished the game in about 15 or 20 minutes.

There's an itch version and an e-reader version, which is nice for people looking for more interactivity on the Kindle.

The Empty Chamber: A Celia Swift Mystery, by Tom Sykes

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A pleasant little murder mystery in 1950's England, November 30, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
This game is a fine addition to the long tradition of murder mystery interactive fiction games.

This is a one-room game. You, Celia Swift, are aiding Inspector Land in researching the mystery of an orchestra member's death.

There are two phases: a puzzle-based investigative phase, and a deduction phase.

The investigative phase requires patience, and the deduction phase doesn't give too much away if you guess wrong.

The one thing that mars this game is the large number of unhelpful responses. If a second edition were released, or a similar game released in the future, I would wish for more custom responses.

Be There!, by William Dooling

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A SpeedIF ADRIFT game made in 4 hours. Make your meeting, or explore a city, November 26, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
This game has a lot of good writing and layout, but it suffers from the 4 hour time limit. Very few actions are implemented, even ones close to correct. ADRIFT is especially poor at using responses to incorrect commands to guide the player toward correct commands, and this is no exception. Even consulting those who've won, I haven't been able to complete it, only getting to the (Spoiler - click to show)Runic Doorway in the icy plains while holding the book and wearing the costume. Then I'm stuck.

I enjoyed the writing, but much of the game is difficult to discover. Well-done for a speed-IF, though.

Quite Queer Night Near, by Andrew Schultz

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Schultz's second rhyming pair game, this time with a spooky theme, November 26, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
Like Very Vile Fairy File, this is a game about rhyming pairs, where you must type in the correct rhyming pair to progress forward.

Like the main game, I found this one enjoyable. The map is short, with 5 or 6 rooms. Some of the rhyming pairs were hard to guess, but unlike the main game, the constrained atmosphere kept guessing from getting tedious.

The Halloween theme was also appropriate, and I feel like the rhymes all made sense.

The use of the word 'queer' in the title would seem to indicate some kind of connection with queer sexuality, but seems to be used in its older sense here of 'unusual'.

A Journey to Omega Station, by DWaM

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Haunting sci-fi horror involving plunging into a new world, November 24, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
There's a specific kind of story I really enjoy, where people travel to an alternate, darker version of our reality. Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, the Dragonlance Test of the Twins, the IF game My Evil Twin, Stranger Things, etc.

In this well-developed Twine game (which has nice styling and graphics), you play as a Diver who enters various breaks in reality, trying to reach a specific location that will allow you to rescue a real-life runaway.

It's not too long, about 15-30 minutes. Most of the choices seem flavor-based, which was just fine with me.

Raishall, by Jac Colvin

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A short choicescript game with horror elements and moral choices, November 23, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes
This is a Choicescript game written in less than 4 hours for Ectocomp 2019.

I had a lot of fun with this one despite its size. The author managed to cram a lot in. There's a 'build your monster' segment followed by a series of moral choices. It provided a feeling of agency beyond its substance and had solid writing.

Loved it! If you want more monster stories from this author, they also wrote Each-Uisge from IFComp 2019.

holloween spookie adventure chapter 1, by rhl2123

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
The very beginning of a Halloween game, November 23, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes
I'm pretty sure this game is the result of someone opening up Quest for the first time, putting in some rooms and an object, and sending it out. Probably a younger person as well.

There's nothing wrong with doing that, but it's not really a game. It's three locations and an item and nothing else. In addition, it's released as the code for the game instead of the finished game itself.

I'm glad the author figured out how to use Quest, and if they want to make longer stuff, more power to them.

Day of the Dead--One Soul's All Souls Procession, by Shadowdrake27

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A branching short story about returning on the Day of the Dead, November 20, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
This ChooseYourStory game is short but offers real consequences to actions. You play as a recently dead teen who comes back on the Day of the Dead and discovers the truth about their death.

There are 7 endings advertised, of which I found 2. I would consider both of my endings failures, but they were interesting failures.

The writing seems a little off here and there but it's descriptive enough to make up for it. Overall, I found it to be a compelling tale.

Pumpkin Pie for your soul, by Nils Fagerburg

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A difficult pie cooking game with a gorgeous aesthetic, November 20, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
Visually, this game is a treat. It does for a parser game what has been increasingly common for high-end Twine games over the last few years: custom fonts, background images, special styling (here marginal notes). I love it, and, having tried for a long time to style my Quixe games, I know how hard it can be.

Gameplay-wise, this is polished for an Ectocomp game. You have a ghost that randomly curses things, and a big recipe sheet that tells you how to cook things.

I didn't do too hot, getting 42 on my first attempt and then (undoing for more chances but messing up) getting a 0.

Untitled Nopperabou Game, by Stewart C Baker

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A clever ghost game with good Twine programming, November 20, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
This is the kind of thing I really like to see in Ectocomp: an experiment that stretches the boundaries of IF in interesting ways.

In this game, you play a Japanese ghost who frightens people by removing its face. There is an expansive map with different locations to visit and numerous NPCs.

What is clever here (and which I like) is that you have a to-do list you can visit at any time that tells you what your next steps are (without telling you how to accomplish them) and gives hints of what else lies in the game (with obfuscated 'Bonus' achievements).

It also includes a text-entry puzzle, which seems to be case-dependent (since an answer I tried with lowercase turned out to be the right answer when written in uppercase). The game does provide progressive hints, though.

I think the concepts in this game are interesting and worth trying out in a larger Twine game.

Limerick Night, by Pace Smith

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A limerick-styled short horror game, November 20, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes
Another Smith limerick game
But this isn't more of the same.
Instead of a jolly
heist or other folly
You're seeking to kill or to maim.

Who then is your target, your foe?
A vampire's the one who must go.
Or 'wampire' I mean
(since that's what my screen
displays as the name of the foe.)

But to my surprise there's a twist!
I had guessed the genre, and missed.
It's truly perturbing
This game is disturbing
So keep it right off your kids' list.

If you liked the Heist game, here's more
That also deserves a good score.
The writing's well done
I found it quite fun
So I'll give this short game a 4.

(Edit: improved with suggestions from A. Schultz).

The Village, by Helene Vitting

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A story about a terrifying small town, November 19, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes
This game has you travelling to live in a small village where electronics are banned, church is every night and the rules must be enforced.

This is a common theme in horror (like Midsommar), and this pursues a lot of those tropes.

I found the story interesting and exciting. The formatting threw me off, since the paragraphs sort of ran together. All in all, though, it was a fun short horror experience.

Sugarlawn, by Mike Spivey

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
An excellent optimization-based treasure hunt with good humor, November 19, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 2-10 hours
I beta tested this game, and I love it.

You play as a contestant on a reality show that apparently involves finding antiques while wearing a chicken suit (?).

You run around a mansion gathering items while a timer ticks down each turn. Some items are easy to find, while others require a great deal of ingenuity.

Knowledge is the key in this game, player knowledge and not character knowledge. You can learn secret codes that help you succeed. There are secret bonuses. On top of all of this, all of the items have an 'optimal placement location' that gives you even more money.

This game has more narrative than most shameless treasure hunts, and a lot of funny lines, but the focus here is on getting the best prize. Your host comments on your score each time, and you are able to replay as much as you want in-game, with it being interpreted as re-takes of the show.

Love it, think it's great, and I think people will be playing this one for years. I play IF for many reasons: love of stories, love of characters. This game satisfies my itch of 'take/drop/N/E/S/W', which is the same reason I love the original IF game Adventure.

This game takes about 30 minutes to finish the first time but hours to get a good score.

Summer Night City, by ghoti

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A challenging Twine game about dystopia and intrigue, November 19, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
I beta tested this game.

Visually, this game is nice and polished, and the text is free from typos and bugs.

You play as a man blinded by the government and sent to work. While at work, you encounter a cast of characters entangled in a web of intrigue, and must make your own decisions and what to investigate and who to help. There are 6 different endings, some of which can happen unexpectedly, which makes this game pretty difficult (especially with no undo feature I saw.)

The first chapter's text is incredibly dense, with a lot of big words and long sentences. Once other characters are thrown into the mix, the pace picks up, and the dialogue especially is fresh and well-written.

I would love to see a dialogue-only game by this author (like the very popular games Birdland and Hana Feels). As for this game, I was interested enough to play to several different endings, and felt satisfaction at reaching a good one.

Gone Out For Gruyere, by B F Lindsay

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A 'cheesy', compact puzzler, November 19, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
I beta tested this game.

In this game, you are bullied by cheese. In a bizarre twist, you find yourself in a sort of pocket-dimension blocked by an enormous, rude wheel of Gruyere cheese.

There are eight corridors leading from the cheese, each heading to a different area containing useful items.

Some of the puzzles can be pretty tricky in this game, and some of the concepts can be very difficult to puzzle out (like what exactly is the nature of the (Spoiler - click to show)'hole' you find). But it's compact nature means that there are only so many things you can try before finding the solution. I found this game to be pretty amusing!

Skies Above, by Arthur DiBianca

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
If you want to fly higher you gotta train harder!, November 19, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 2-10 hours
I beta tested this game, and was delighted to do so.

This is a big game, DiBianca's largest (except perhaps for The Wand). I played it for well over 2 hours (maybe 4 or 5) while beta testing, although I was trying to be exceptionally thorough.

Basically, the game is full of little minigames which give you better and better rewards as you understand them better and as they synergize. Your airship captain gives you goals to hit and you do them. There's an economy that grows in scope over time, and a lot of little lovely surprises.

There are puzzles here, but not in the traditional sense. It's technically possible to win just by doing the simplest of tasks over and over and over. The real joy here is in optimization, similar to Sugarlawn from this year's comp.

Strongly recommended, and lots of fun!

Frenemies; or, I Won An Andy Phillips Game!, by B F Lindsay

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A loving tribute to/light parody of Andy Phillips in a single room, November 19, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
Andy Phillips is a figure in the IF community known for occasionally releasing massive IF games that generally feature science fiction of some sort, large maps with a few puzzles available at a time, and deadly women.

In this game, you're a super-fan of Andy Phillips who has been locked in by his roommates. You're wearing a jumpsuit from an Andy Phillips game and you have tons of memorabilia around the rooms, all of which is directly based off of the games.

There are a few start puzzles and then one main one, getting out of the room. I found the starter puzzles not too hard, but the main puzzle requires few leaps of intuition. Given the constrained size of the game, however, it's possible to suss out the solution after time, and there is a great help system.

Language Arts, by Jared Jackson

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Pure puzzle with a moving interface. Programming local movement, November 19, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 2-10 hours
I beta-tested this game, but only got to the first part/tutorial.

Now that I've seen the rest, I'm really amazed. I love it!

I don't know if I can recommend it to the general IF populace. In this game, you have a very restricted programming language that moves a block one tile at a time based on conditions that only detect the block near it. This is very similar to my PhD research in almost convex groups and subdivision rules (which were also determined locally by rules), so I have a soft spot for this kind of thing anyway.

The framing story is very light. There might be a big reveal at the end for all I know, but everything else is just sort of fluff to introduce the puzzles. The puzzles are quite hard, and require a great deal of trial and error and a little bit of praying for success or cursing at failure.

Pas De Deux, by Linus Åkesson

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A daring experiment and a taxing challenge, November 19, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
I beta-tested this game.

Åkesson is one of the most successful creators of new parser languages in the last few years. His new A-machine and Dialog language have proven to be powerful and smooth, and its default messages are, perhaps, more appropriate than Inform's default messages.

This game is a great departure from usual parser fare, and a bold choice for IFComp. You are a conductor, and you must follow a real-life score (from the Nutcracker Suite) and cue everyone at the right time. The real score is contained in the game, as well.

This is like no other game I've seen before, and playing it is extremely taxing. I felt like I was burning calories as I played this game. Even slight errors can cause havoc in the orchestra. And if you play perfectly, a problem arises that is outside the scope of the score, providing a 'lousy last point' puzzle.

Is this well-done? Yes. Is it innovative? Definitely. Is it a great display of the Dialog language's capabilities? Absolutely. But is it fun? For me, playing felt frustrating, but winning was truly enjoyable. So if you're going to play it, try to schedule time to finish it!

For the Moon Never Beams, by J. Michael

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A compact teen horror game with difficult puzzles , November 19, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
I beta-tested this game.

This game is is a horror story that effectively borrows elements of both games and pop-culture from the 80s. This is a monster-focused horror game set with two kids driving the boy's car to prom, with the date wearing the boy's ring. It brings to mind the music video for Thriller or parts of Back to the Future.

Gameplay-wise, this has elements from older games as well. There are numerous timers on the game (including one that killed me off at 70 points as I was playing the competition version), a maze, and a complex machinery.

I like this game, both as a tester and as a player. It can get frustrating at times, though. I recommend playing past the first scene and seeing if you like the overall feel of the game or not.

Additional Tales from Castle Balderstone, by Ryan Veeder

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Short horror parser games connected with a backstory, November 19, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
Like the original Balderstone (which you don't have to play to understand this), you are at a gathering of horror writers who tell 'stories' which are minigames. The order of the stories is randomised.

The games are coded well, and the tone varies a lot, sometimes dramatic, sometimes silly, sometimes frightening, all sort of tongue in cheek. Many of them have twists, whether geographical or as a meta-narrative etc.

I came, I saw, I had fun, the stories aren't really related, so why don't you just go try it out and see for yourself?

Once upon a winter night, the ragman came singing under your window, by Expio

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A very descriptive speed-IF game with a timer and pretty gross ending, November 19, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
My reaction to this game was "Wow!" followed by frustrated noises followed by "Ewwww".

This is a speed-IF, so programming and grammar bugs are here, but I was so impressed with the vivid writing and setting as the game began. A mysterious ragman comes into your house and gives you 5 heartbeats (or game moves) to give him what he wants.

But it doesn't tell you what he wants. I spent a long time guessing many different things, and I was frustrated.

The solution was, frankly, gross. Not that I think (Spoiler - click to show)breastfeeding is gross, but the fact that (Spoiler - click to show)the monster would desire it. It's written fairly similar to rape, in the sense that a man is demanding use of a woman's organs.

The Reptile Room, by Elizabeth Smyth

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A short speed-IF twine game with a surprising amount of worldbuilding, November 18, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes
This game is very small, smaller than almost all the Twine games in IFComp. Made in 4 hours for the speed competition known as Ectocomp, it seems the author spent most of the time working on polished writing and world building.

I think it was very successful. I found myself repeatedly surprised as I read, each time realizing how the surprise connected with proceeding material. The author does an excellent job of choosing what to reveal and what to imply. I'd give more details, but it's better to just play it yourself!

There's some violence and brief strong profanity.

O Verbo, by Janos Biro
A charming short creating tale with a difficult puzzle in it, November 16, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes
This Portuguese game is a nice, compact Twine game about creating something when you are an omnipresent, solipistic being. There are a lot of options, and the consequences of them can be unexpectedly amusing and spot-on.

Many options lead to a sort of puzzle, which gives you more and more hints. I had difficulty with this, especially due to the language barrier.

Overall, the writing and the interactivity was very satisfying.

American Maniac, by MelonPro

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A bloody and violent short Twine game, November 14, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes
In this game, you are a maniac who shoots all of their enemies with a shotgun at a party.

Half of the game is devoted to saying why you hate people, and the other half is devoted to gruesomely describing the blood and guts that come out when you shoot them.

Their are numerous typos and errors. Given its poor taste, I cannot recommend this game. Even if it's somehow a parody, a non-American's perception of Americans, I think it could have been done less offensively.

Witch Beyond the Woods, by Bitter Karella
A unique way of telling a horror story, November 13, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
I think this story (and the generally similar piece The Curious Incident at Blackrock Township) shows Bitter Karella's range. Most Karella games are light-hearted dark humor Quest games with characters that are exaggerated, sometimes even caricatures.

This Twine game goes to the opposite end: it uses stately language, academic and poetic, and is built around mimesis. The game is framed as a translation of a German poem, with academic footnotes attached. (Spoiler - click to show)I was unable to find any of the references in real life (i.e. outside of the game). But it was so convincing that I felt I had to find something on some of them. The 'translated folk poetry' bit was really convincing, too. Overall, it gave me a better idea of Karella's range.

The academic process of hunting through footnotes is close to lawnmowering, but I found that it really helped the main idea of the game ((Spoiler - click to show)presenting the narrative as real).

As for the content of the poem itself, I found it really well-done. It reminded me of Gawain and the Green Knight or Der Freischutz.

When He Died, by O Bluefoot

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A Halloween first game based on a song. , November 13, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
This parser game is surprisingly well-done for an author's first game. It's basically an implementation of a world based on the song "When He Died" by Neil Cicierega. You are a forensic photographer, and the gameplay is actually very similar to Hanon Ondricek's underrated game Transparent, where you take photos of supernatural events in a mansion.

Here is my ratings scale, one star per category:

Polish: This is the star I'm not giving. There are some issues, like repeating the description of the staircase in the first room, and it could overall use some more beta testing to find synonyms and things to implement. Overall, though, the implementation of a camera is impressive, and the game handles several complex commands and interactions in a smooth manner.

Descriptiveness: This is lovely. Many of the good ideas are taken directly from the song, but I've learned from experience that turning good material into a good game is not trivial. Nice background for the PC.

Interactivity: I turned to the hints once, but otherwise I was pleased with my agency in this game and felt like my actions mattered.

Emotional Impact: Again, the best parts come from the song, but they hit home for me. Had a lot of fun here.

Would I play again?: I'd be interested in revisiting this in the future.

If this is the author's first game, I can only imagine what a longer, heavily-beta tested IFComp game might be like. Very good!

Crumbs 2: The Will of the People, by Katie Benson
A short Twine depiciting a near-future Brexit scenario, November 12, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes
Katie Benson has a specific genre of games she makes that work pretty well. They are Twine games with some light styling and multiple endings, with a branch-and-bottleneck structure.

Structurally, they're all very similar, but Benson has done a lot of exploration of controversial topics, innovating in the subject matter portrayed rather than in the mechanics.

This game is a sequel, and has the player working in a food kitchen in a version of Britain where the British Jobs Act has given subsidies to companies hiring British citizens (I think).

I found two different endings. There was one encounter that occurred twice in the game with identical language (Spoiler - click to show)(talking to the cop), but it was otherwise a smooth experience.

The Crimson Terrors of Delamay Manor, by Logan Noble
A short Lovecraftian Halloween tale, November 12, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes
I've rated this game on my 5 point scale:

Polish: The red color on the choices is a nice effect, but typos and grammar problems drag this point down.

Descriptiveness: Very good! Lots of vivid images here.

Interactivity: The available choices felt pretty satisfying, especially for such a short game!

Emotional Impact: The shortness and over-the-top-ness limited the emotional impact for me.

Would I play again?: I tried all the options, and I think I've seen everything I need to here.

Edit: Overall, I would say that all of the problems could be fixed by having more time. As a Speed-IF, this is good!

Wild Party, by kunludi

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A bilingual javascript game with some inventory management and conversation, November 11, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes
This one was a hard one to score. One of its main features is language. It's bilingual, and part of a project that produces multilingual games, which is something I support.

This means that many of its language errors come from incomplete translation, which means I'm more inclined to go easy on them. The most egregious error I saw was an entire passage in Spanish included in the English version (I'm sorry, I don't remember which passage it was!) There are other errors as well.

The system is interesting. Functionally, it's very similar to Ink: text continually scrolls downward, instead of replacing like Twine, and you either click a 'more' button or select from a menu of choices.

However, it's not actually Ink, I think, and seems to be a custom system that needs some work. Ink and Twine have me used to lovely little transitions between text (not slow fade-ins, but quick scrolling animations and so on). This game just adjoins the new text quickly.

Similarly, punctuation (like ---) are used for line breaks instead of nice horizontal lines. These are all things that can be added to over time.

Storywise, there's an interesting plot about abducted Russian scientists and bizarre experiments. But I was so caught up in the new system and multilingual aspect that I didn't have a chance to immerse myself in it as much as I'd like.

Very Vile Fairy File, by Billy Boling

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
An enjoyable rhyming-based game, November 10, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
Andrew Schultz makes games by taking a wordplay idea and finding as many examples of it as possible, then building a game around that list.

Sometimes, it feels a little forced. Some times, it feels great. This is one of those great times, at least for me.

I'm not coming in looking for a cohesive narrative. I'm coming in to have pure puzzling fun that hurts your brain.

I would rank this game up around with Shuffling Around, one of my favorites, but a little below Threediopolis, my absolute favorite.

Whole Souls, by Drumclem
A space horror tale with great elements that don't blend well, November 10, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes
I've played this game 4 or 5 times now, trying to find if I've missed something important (and if I have I'll update this review!)

You are in space, having a family dinner on Halloween through a videocall. You can guide the conversation as your family clashes with each other over things like religion and politics.

Then something happens, and the game takes a more linear turn, then ends.

The twist involves several elements, and I just don't see how they all connect together. I'm a fan of leaving the most frightening parts of horror as mere suggestions, but we have so many things here: (Spoiler - click to show)a time loop, suggestions of being an android, government conspiracy, mind control taken from Bioshock. Each part is great, and the writing is good, but how does it all tie together? The simplest explanation is that (Spoiler - click to show)you are an android and your 'family' has always been fake, and your programming gets reset. But then why change the clocks? Isn't accurate timekeeping important in space? And why have the elaborate video call setup at all?

Mindful, by Ian Michael Waddell

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A short Ectocomp game about a heart warming cooking blog, November 10, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes
This Twine game has an interesting accretive feature: you build a blog post paragraph by paragraph by making different selections (such as for the name, etc.).

It's all fairly mild stuff, but the fact this game has content warnings should let you know it can't last forever.

Presentation is nice and smooth. Good for a quick bite.

Clusterflux, by Marshal Tenner Winter

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
A typical MTW game with cool settings, October 24, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
MTW tends to make games that have similar strengths and similar weaknesses.

-Large casts of interesting characters that talk to you and follow you around
-Big maps and inventories
-Compelling plot points and settings

-Only one path is implemented
-Difficult to predict correct paths
-Typos and bugs

This game is no exception. A mysterious mongoose/cat and a mysterious woman come into your life, and you investigate a weird house with links to the past.

I used the walkthrough because, from experience, it's difficult to play a MTW game without one.

Edit: For some more specific feedback on this game:

(Spoiler - click to show)Consider the following exchange when meeting the first human NPC:
>talk to woman
That's not a verb I recognise.

>ask woman about woman
sleeping young woman doesn't have anything useful to say about that.

This is a game filled with NPCs. It takes only 5 minutes to put in a response to TALK TO WOMAN that suggests using ASK/TELL instead. The capitalization and/or article usage for "sleeping young woman" is harder but is doable.

The default responses for many simple verbs like JUMP, PUSH, and EAT have all been left in.

Error messages make up the bulk of text you see when playing a parser game, and they need a lot of work here.

Hard Puzzle 4: The Ballad of Bob and Cheryl, by Ade McT
The "Hard Puzzle" anti-game aesthetic adapted to IFComp, October 19, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 2-10 hours
The Hard Puzzle games have always been odd-balls. They tend to be extremely fussy sandboxes with mechanics you can use over and over and whose solutions require enormous leaps of intuition, endless experimentation with absolutely everything, or just dumb luck.

This game honors that legacy by having many, many sandbox commands and requiring some outrageous leaps of intuition. I had solved some of the previous Hard Puzzles by decompiling them, and this game has some good-natured nods to people who 'cheat' at games like that.

This differs from the other Hard Puzzles, though, in that it can be solved piece by piece, instead of an all-at-once lightning bolt thought like the former ones.

I won by cheating in three different ways (including (Spoiler - click to show)'decompiling', the intfiction forums, and decompiling).

Winter Break at Hogwarts, by Brian Davies

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
A polished and massive recreation of Hogwarts in Inform., October 18, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 2-10 hours
This game lovingly recreates Hogwarts, with dozens or possibly hundreds of rooms, down to sub-corridors.

In this huge world, everything Hogwarts has in the holidays is implemented: Hagrid's hut, the owlery, Dumbledore's office, all of the classrooms, the dungeon, Filch's office, Hogsmeade, etc.

In this vast and sometimes overwhelming maze (for which lavishly illustrated maps are available), there is a mystery afoot. After a longish introduction where you explore and look for your wand, you discover a missing student and a professor with a cloud over his head.

This works, but its exceptionally long, and this makes the usual adventuring process diluted. The lack of regular gameplay can be ameliorated by the wonder of exploring a Potter world, but this will vary a lot from player to player.

I played for 2 hours and decompiled to read the ending. It seems exciting in parts, but the great spread-out-ness and the difficulty in finding clues made me bounce off emotionally.

ALICE BLUE, by Chris Selmys
Obscurity and fairy tales, October 17, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
This game is obscure in many senses of the word. First, it is very hard to run, intended only to run on a linux system. I was able to play it following helpful instructions at http://intfiction.org/t/reviews-for-beta-tested-games/43016/7.

Second, it's obscure because the writing is deliberately vague. Everything is allusions, none of which (maybe one?) is about Alice in Wonderland. Most of the allusions seem to be to Hansel and Gretel or Cinderella.

Third, the way forward is obscure. It is difficult to discover how movement works, difficult to find out how a room is finished, and difficult to go on to the next room. Some basics of movement: (Spoiler - click to show)Typing EXITS shows you the exits. You can move with N, E, S, and W as abbreviations. I took to the source code first and walkthrough later. The source code encourages you to look at it.

I encountered a bad ending that made me get stuck. It was when I (Spoiler - click to show)became a tree. I beat it by typing, not (Spoiler - click to show)run, which was the highlighted term, but (Spoiler - click to show)running away.

Occasionally I used the source to type the right word to move on if I got completely stuck.

One note: all of the major keywords (that give you special results) are (Spoiler - click to show)HTML color codes.

The fiddliness of interaction put me off a bit, and the game either has a few bugs or only has bugs because I played it on the wrong system. Otherwise I was impressed with the design and descriptiveness and would be interested in playing again.

Skybreak!, by William Dooling

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Vast space game, with resources, combat, and many goals, October 13, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 2-10 hours
I would have been happy to pay for this game. I intend to play through this game many times in the future.

This is a menu-based Adrift game (I strongly recommend downloadable play). Basically, you are in space, and you visit worlds. At each world, you can do exactly one thing before you leave.

However, you may randomly visit the same place again in the future. So if you missed out on something, or started something you couldn't finish, you get another chance.

The game has many stats, almost 20, but it becomes more natural over time. The game is right when it says it's better to have a lot of 1's than a few 3's or 4's.

You can pick abilities, talents (which increase abilities and give you special powers or the ability to unlock a new kind of story), and two backgrounds. The backgrounds drive the game, and decide what your win conditions are. For instance, my character had the goal of collecting 30 stories (from the storyteller background) and also the goal of exploring 10 or so new planets (which is how I won).

For the regular backgrounds, achieving your objective ends the game with no fanfare. There are 3 'special' backgrounds that apparently give a more coherent story (I didn't choose them in my first playthrough, as they seemed more difficult).

Progress is slow in this game, and there is a lot of grinding. Probably half of the links are systems where you can scan with Astronomy or mine with Mining.

But this game uses a lot of the principles that make things like gambling addictive. It has infrequent, random rewards that are pretty awesome, so it kept me chugging through the grind.

Loved it overall, and plan on playing it more. There are a few small bugs (like an option the says "Explore Explore [Planetname]" and a choice I clicked on that didn't have any follow-up text). But these were very slight. Love it!

The Call of the Shaman, by Larry Horsfield
The latest in an epic series of Adrift games. Travel to colonial America., October 13, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
I've seen the Alaric Blackmoon series suggested to me on IFDB for years, but never tried one of the games.

There are six or more in the series, and they involve a valiant warrior in Europe in the times of swords and armor.

In this game, you travel to America to encounter a Native American shaman.

I'd love to talk more about the game, but I encountered a game-destroying bug. A thief comes into town, and you chase him out. When I killed him, he kept appearing anyway, and so I was periodically kicked out of town and could not reach the trading post.

I'd love to update my review if this bug were fixed!

Edit: There is an updated version that fixed that bug, and I had fun exploring the town. I added another star to the review. I got stuck again, because I couldn't find Henrik, but I'll keep trying!

Extreme Omnivore: Text Edition, by Hazel Gold

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A game about exploring your apartment and waiting to eat, October 11, 2019
This game seems like the result of a talented programmer discovering Inform 7 for the first time and exploring what they can make with it. They take their apartment (or just a generic apartment), implement some fun stuff in it, make an NPC, and share it with others.

As a game, it leaves a lot wanting. The text is descriptive, but there are very few hints at what to do next. Because parser games have so many possible actions to type in, it's really important to suggest actions that might work in the text, and implement any verbs or nouns that do appear in the text.

The author has demonstrated her ability to program IF well. I'd love to see another game that incorporates the feedback from this IFComp.

Randomized Escape, by Yvan Uh
A very randomized glulx game that invites you to peak into its code, October 11, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
This game consists of a randomized layout of areas, each containing random pieces of decor, some of which benefits you, and randomized deadly encounters.

As a straight-up game, it has flaws. The text has many grammatical errors, the scenery can become repetitive, and it's hard to know how to strategize.

But an an experiment, I like it. Like many people, I've thought of writing a randomized game, but I've never really gotten around to it. This game shows how it could be done, and I think it would be worthwhile to tinker with the code here. I appreciate the author letting us see the code!

Let's Play: Ancient Greek Punishment: The Text Adventure, by Pippin Barr

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
An amusing short mythology game with a couple of errors, October 11, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes
This is a fun little game. You're dead, and you essentially have the option to pick your own punishment.

It draws heavily on Greek mythology with a little swerve into mathematical history. I laughed. I cried. It was fun.

The implementation could be a bit better. (Spoiler - click to show)X LIST or X CHECKLIST didn't work, but X CLIPBOARD did (which I know was highlighted, but LIST is a reasonable synonym). When I did X NOTE as Tantalus, it said 'Do you mean the nothingred post-it note or the blue post-it note?'. POUR WATER INTO BASIN didn't work as Danaid (although again, it was a different command than the note suggested).

Flygskam Simulator, by Katie Benson
A short slice-of-life travelling from UK to Germany, October 11, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
Katie Benson has a specific style to her games. They are always kind of low-key and chill, focused on a specific aspect of life, with a 'main' path and one or more side paths, and a lot of little exploration choices in the middle for flavor.

I'm always happy to see one, and I find it pleasant. This one isn't quite as developed as her others, but still gives the same enjoyable vibe. 'Flygskam' (or shame of flying) refers to the movement that tries to avoid the use of airplanes to avoid pollution and energy wastage.

This game adds a new feature where at times you restart the whole game. It would have been tedious, but the game is short enough that clicking quickly takes care of it.

Chuk and the Arena, by Agnieszka Trzaska

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A very long epic space Twine game with ingenious puzzles and combat , October 10, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 2-10 hours
This game has some of the most devilish puzzles I've seen in quite some time-and it's in Twine! Twine puzzlers have been getting far better in recent years, and this author has already been one to push the envelope with last year's game Lux.

In this game, you play as an intrepid (but tiny) alien, who must fight against 3 opponents. I thought this would just sort of be a combat game, but very little of the game is actual combat. Almost all of the game is exploring and using inventory objects.

Most of the early puzzles can be solved by changing your color. This strategy is used in man interesting ways throughout the game (although it would have been cool to have a call-back to it at the very end!). Later on, you gather a good deal of inventory items, each of which can be used on any scenery object and on each other, for a quadratic set of possibilities similar to Robin Johnson's games.

This game isn't perfect. I thought the opening was really long and non-interactive, but then once I realized the true scope of the game it made sense. Conversation is just lawn-mowering, which can get tedious. Guessing the exactly correct combination can be hard at times.

But I think this will do very well overall.

The Mysterious Stories of Caroline, by Soham S
A dramatic game about your past and a public trial. Great music, October 10, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
This game attempts to pull off something big: to take an extremely serious topic (pedophilia) and to say something deep about it.

This is hard. People that try to deal with heavy topics often veer into extreme heavyhandedness ("Do you suppress freedom, or give people liberty?") or into almost celebrating the issue at hand (as sometimes happens with self-harm).

This game manages to have strong writing and good pacing. While pedophilia is constantly portrayed as bad (good!) It doesn't make it super clear how we're supposed to feel and act when someone we once knew is accused. The choice here isn't between 'support pedophilia or not', it's between 'seeking punishment vs seeking truth', and 'retreating within oneself vs exposing yourself to harm).

Still, it can get very heavy, but the music is a definite bonus here. There is a credits section, and I tried watching it a few times (it slowly fades in), but I kept missing the music section, so I don't know who did it.

There's a lot of slow text here but it's manageable. Give yourself a good 30-40 minutes to play it, though.

I'm not planning on playing again. The game is good, but it's not enjoyable in the literal sense.

Girth Loinhammer and the Quest for the Unsee Elixir, by Damon L. Wakes

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A highly branching funny Twine game with pencil and paper activity, October 10, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
This game is fantasy game where you, Lord of a torture dungeon that is not serving its original purpose, must go on a quest to unsee terrible things.

There are many branches, and many variables. Instead of the game tracking the variables, you need to write down on a personal Adventure Sheet. It's possible to cheat, but the game does a good job of checking!

This is a funny game. It has some raunchy humor, but more in a 'nudge nudge wink wink' way than anything explicit. I found it enjoyable, if a bit silly and short.

Island in the Storm, by JSMaika
A game showcasing a powerful new IF engine. A magical island, October 9, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
This game showcase a new parser, which usually makes me skeptical.

But I was very impressed with this IntFicPy game.

Pros of the engine: Smoothness! It looked fabulous, typing in and scrolling up and down felt natural and very nice, saving and loading was easy. Different text colors worked well, timers, changing room descriptions, conversation was implemented. Many of the hard problems were dealt with well.

Cons of the engine: Could do with some better synonym handling, and especially pronouns (IT, SHE, HER, etc.) It felt sometimes like it was just reading a part of my command and not all of it.

Game wise, I love the worldbuilding here. Not such a huge fan of timers, but it seems forgiving until the endgame. I did well in the first part and then hit a big bump sending me straight to the walkthrough for the rest of the game (finding money was the bump, I think, and I could have solved that, but then the commands I saw seemed intimidating).

You play as a newcomer to a dangerous magical island where the Storm kills all who dare approach, except for you. You go about the island seeking to repair your boat and discovering a village with a large religion.

A good showcase for the new engine. Online play would be a huge boon, though.

Río Alto: Forgotten Memories, by Ambrosio
A text novel in older Latin America with an interesting graphical interface, October 9, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
I played this game through to a death after about 30 minutes.

You play a man who has recently moved to a small town with wells, town doctors, taverns, etc.

The interface is wild. On the left is an illustrated book, with lines in slow typewriter text appearing as you make choices. You have three categories of 'inventory': thoughts, places, and things. These appear in the lower right.

The upper right contains the contents of your current location.

Actions are done by dragging inventory onto each other.

It's a good mechanic. It's slow, though, as is the typewriter text. And the game is long. And I couldn't find any way to save, and there are insta-deaths.

So I'm going to keep my rating and review as it is and maybe one day revisit this game. A save feature would help a lot!

The Untold Story, by Michael Pavano
A tale of brother's love in a mysterious forest, October 9, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
I rated this game on the following criteria, one star for each:

Descriptiveness: This game is descriptive. You play a man mourning his brothers death. A bizarre occurrence happens, and you must recover your five chess pieces from a forest full of wizards, dwarves, beasts, and magic.

Polish: This game is not polished. Many synonyms are not implemented and the game doesn't recognize reasonable solutions. I even received the extremely rare 'something dramatic has happened' inform library message (not necessarily a bug, but requires a bizarre combination of circumstances).

Emotional impact: The frequent praying was interesting, but praying for points seems kind of hypocritical. The dwarf seemed kind of like a bad caricature of a dumb Scottish person. Big, emotional moments were compressed over too short a time span (a problem I had in my first published game).

Interactivity: So many commands just didn't work. There were multiple devices that 'revealed' things, and it was very frustrating trying to figure out if, when one failed, it was a bug or intentional. I didn't even know I could reenter my cabin until I read a transcript. Very buggy.

Would I play again?: I would not. Parts of this game were charming, but I believe it's too buggy right now.

(Thanks to stian on intfiction for posting a transcript! Extremely helpful!)

Arram's Tomb, by James Beck

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A D&D-esque party plunder a tomb, October 9, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
This game is strongly D&D-inspired (possibly through intermediate inspirations like Diablo or CRPGs).

You're in a party with a mage, a barbarian, a cleric and a thief. You're plundering a tomb, and you have to choose which of three paths to take. Taking them in the right order with the right strategy can grant you success!

The formatting could use work. All the paragraphs run together, and they need more line breaks (I think you can do that in Twine by adding a completely blank line between paragraphs).

The only woman in the party exists only to be an object of affection, which is disappointing.

This game isn't really trying to push any boundaries or grow beyond its sources, but it it has many of the essentials of a good D&D adventure.

Faerethia, by Peter Eastman
A polished Twine game with music and philosophy, October 9, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
I'm a fan of 'two-world' type games, and this one fits the bill.

This game starts out with you in a sort of Plato's Cave. Soon you find yourself in Faerethia, and then there is a flashback to (Spoiler - click to show)the real world.

While there is an overarching story (one that has been done by several people, even up to Dr. Who and MLP fan fiction), the real thrust of this IFComp entry is its philosophy. It tries to tackle identity and the idea of continuity of self.

Does it work? It might have been hard once to imagine getting any kind of deep discussion out of interactive fiction games, but there's been quite a lot of work in IF that tackles big issues in a professional and educational way (like the excellent game Hana Feels).

Does this game reach that level? I'm not really sure, but it has a lot of polish, and it's not quite so heavy-handed as many other 'deep' games. I felt my playtime was well-spent.

A Blue Like No Other, by Dan Cox
Some interesting ideas but not really sure where it's going., October 9, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes
This game has a retro-looking font. A button on the lower right titled 'messages' tells you that it was found on some old floppy disks.

The idea is that you're supposed to be able to click on certain words related to grammar lessons in the text on the lefthand side of the screen. I opened up the game in twinery to verify this, and there is code there for it, but it didn't work for me on Chrome.

Essentially, there are 6 'grammar lessons' but they are just an excuse for the creator of the software (in-game) to publish chunks of her novel.

Overall, it's interesting, but it's short, and it just kind of peters out. The chrome bug made the interactivity and polish just not there for me.

The one thing I did like was the writing in the actual novel. It was descriptive and interesting.

De Novo, by cyb3rmen
A lovely-looking game that falls apart logically, October 9, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
The programmers and artists did a great job on this game. We have a smooth interface with lush, hand-drawn designs.

The story is not really salvageable, though. You play a judge in death-penalty-era England, and you are asked to review death row cases. The following facts are true in this game:
-You can only appeal one case
-The ones you don't appeal are executed
-You have no choice about these rules
-Your wife acts like you are killing people


-The people you free (Spoiler - click to show)are sent back so that all but 1 die.

So much of this doesn't make sense. And the text is very trope-y and short, almost like a distilled ideal version of truth. The entire courtroom transcript is boiled down to two paragraphs, including "The defendant said 'I didn't do it!'".

The tension with your spouse is not reasonable. These people were all going to die. Your job lets you save at most one. If you didn't do your job, they would all die. So you're literally doing the opposite of what she says; you're not killing anyone at all.

I think games focused on political issues can be amazing, but I feel like this one doesn't quite reach the goal its hitting at. Love the interface, though.

Each-uisge, by Jac Colvin

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A Scottish horror story in the days of horse-drawn carts, October 9, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
This game satisfies my criteria for 5 stars:

Polish: This game has been well-tested, includes achievements and stats, has a pleasing choice structure.

Descriptive: The mother, Macleod, the protagonist, and especially the horse were vivid characters.

Interactivity: I felt like I had real choices that could affect the game, and saw the effect of some of those choices.

Emotional impact: I was drawn into the story and could identify with the protagonist.

Would I play again?: I would definitely revisit this. Lovely game.

In this game, you play a young girl who suspects that there is something unusual about her neighbors new horse. She's drawn into a web of tales and choices, and has to decide whether to obey her mother or follow her own mind.

The Sweetest Honey, by Mauro Couto
A Groundhog's day scenario with a troubled man, October 9, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
This game is translated from Spanish, and has some definite language issues.

But the underlying story shines through, and I think it's a fine example of the time loop tale.

Your friend Beto has recently passed away, and you don't feel very good. Nervous and fearful, you are convinced you will die.

The story ends up taking some loops, and doesn't last too long, but I found it to be effective and enjoyed some of the symbolism. It painted a strong picture of the protagonist.

The final link is broken, but it's just supposed to reload the index.html file.

The Island, by Ann Hugo

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A not-quite-there game about a magical girl on an island, October 8, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
This Twine game places you in the position of a young witch-girl that gets marooned on an island with an interesting cast of characters.

The beginning of this young fantasy game is pretty promising, but the conflicts begin and end fairly quickly. I found the ending abrupt. In my playthrough, I (Spoiler - click to show)openly defied a powerful wizard with a tiger pet and just found a boat, and the game was over.

I found a passage that was completely blank ((Spoiler - click to show)offering to let Corbin live with you).

I think all of the issues could be addressed by increasing the game length and a little bit more beta testing.

Enceladus, by Robb Sherwin

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A participatory space western comedy, October 8, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
Robb Sherwin is legendary for a certain kind of game, one with many creative NPCs, imaginative and creative language, and blood, sex, and profanity.

I love his style, but frequently it gets too much for me. But Enceladus has the wittiness and imagination without as much of the blood, sex and profanity. This IFComp game is like Respectable Robb Sherwin, as if Sherwin's writing were a teenager seeing a cop drive by, doing their best to walk normal and not look like they're high.

So this is a Robb Sherwin game I can genuinely recommend for most audiences. It's not meant for kids, though (there's some gore and it could get pretty scary for them). This is a great chance for more people to discover Sherwin's clever humor (or stupid humor? or both?).

You play as a character on the HMS Plagoo. A werewolf is loose in space, and you soon crash on the moon Enceladus. You have to defeat your enemies while simultaneously taking care mentally and physically of your friends while they do the same for you.

The game is completely linear; the interactivity is "do the next thing we tell you too". There's a few smatterings of puzzle elements, a little bit less than Photopia, for instance, but more than 0.

This style of interactivity made me feel like I was an actor in a play, giving lines at the appropriate part. And since Sherwin's writing has always reminded me of Shakespeare (focusing on witty turns of phrase and a mixture of lowbrow and highbrow), it works well.

(P.S. It may seem hyperbole to compare anyone to Shakespeare, but I'm not saying that quality of writing is exactly equal. I'm just talking about the sense of humor)

the secret of vegibal island, by ralf tauscher

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A very long pirate-themed parser game that could use some clean-up, October 8, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 2-10 hours
This game is quite large, definitely longer than 2 hours. I got as far as the first walkthrough went.

This game is confused. The simplest problem is language: the author has asked for help in the description from people willing to work on the English.

But even with perfect English, the plot would be bizarre. You're getting wristbands for doing pirate activities, and one of them involves (Spoiler - click to show)Using a durian fruit to bait a hook to catch a man in a manatee suit made of a giant pile of meat that another man sews for you, and somehow this gives you the 'barbecue' badge.

Conversation was simple due to the nice extensions used, but actions were difficult to guess.

The plot, writing and action issues made me not feel emotionally invested in this game.

Jon Doe – Wildcard Nucleus, by Olaf Nowacki

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A James Bond tribute as a text adventure, October 8, 2019
This game puts you in the role of a secret agent who is similar to James Bond. The player drives a Jaguar, encounters beautiful women, uses spy gadgets, and deals with corrupt individuals.

The implementation and polish isn't all the way there. There are several typos in the game, which becomes sort of a joke when the main character mentions 'incrementing evidence' and an NPC corrects them. It's clear the author has an exact sequence of events they want the player to do, but it's not clear how the player is meant to achieve them without the walkthrough. The walkthrough itself seems confused with directions at times.

There's some female objectification here, including ASCII art of what I think is a nude woman but possibly may be something else. It seemed typical of James Bond films, but those aren't exactly a good role model.

Overall, I think that a game this size probably could have benefited from beta testers with experience with IFComp games. There were some testers though, and it's clear they made the game better (the car and elevator especially work well). I think it just needed more work. Great parser games can take hundreds of hours of time, or use coding tricks to limit players' actions and look like they took hundreds of hours to make.

Planet C, by Mark Carew

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A space colony simulator in Ink, October 8, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
This games is pushing a bit higher than 4 stars, maybe 4.1 or 4.2.

When you put effort into an Ink game, it looks good. This game has nice crisp scrolling and nicely-chosen images from Unsplash. It looks good!

Structure-wise, it seems like it's written by someone with no real IFComp experience, and so it's a sort of new thing not tied down to overused IFComp tropes. This is a good thing; if anything, it reminds me of Ayliff's Seedship game.

You have a growing colony with a lot of stats (resource use, pollution, etc.). The major decision you make is which technologies to import from the earth first. You also have occasional binary decisions to make regarding strategy.

The story is about two people who love each other very much sending letters and images back and forth. There names are of Arab origin and the images seem to be from Africa, so the setting seems to be somewhere in North Africa.

The game has a few problems. I swear I saw a few typos like stray punctuation. The science in the game is grossly oversimplified (a colony of 400 people can create enough incidental pollution to affect the entire planet's climate over a few months) and the 'check stats' link can be overwhelming.

But it was fun, and the story made me think about life. I believe the author achieved the goals he had when making this game.

URA Winner!, by Carter Sande
A troll game (?) portrayed as test prep, October 7, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
Carter Sande is just trolling us all at this point, I believe.

Last year, his game Let's Explore Geography! Canadian Commodities Trader Simulation Exercise was a tongue-in-cheek take on edutainment game. He spent a long time in the forums going back and forth on whether his game was actually edutainment or not, and it's still a little hard to tell.

This game has you clicking on a jpg island map to get help in different areas, in addition to taking small mini-tests of three questions at a time.

The tests are a bit hard (and I swear the compound interest one is wrong!). The little story segments between are more story-based and more clearly Interactive Fiction, but they honestly wouldn't be out of place in a real edutainment game.

The only place I found anything odd was (Spoiler - click to show)the very end, where there was no 'end game' link, and I scrolled down and found I 'missed something'. I noticed the replay this time was different, but not significantly so.

I then followed the walkthrough, the game went all (Spoiler - click to show)Zalgo, and the end result convinced me more than ever that Carter is trolling us all. I did reach a final The End after (Spoiler - click to show)destroying the obelisk.

Why 4 stars, not 5? Because, and this is written in my heart:

"Simulated Boredom is Still Boredom"

Otherwise, I had a good time.

Citizen of Nowhere, by Luke A. Jones

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A cheerful and big game that needs some fixing up, October 7, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
Luke Jones has released many games, and has a definite style. His games are whimsical, kind of roguish (with a foul-mouthed pigeon), sprawling, with a big cast of NPCs.

They are also a bit spare. When he started with Quest games, they were above average for Quest games in terms of implementation. Inform games (which this one is) generally have room for smoother programming, and this game could use a litte bit of polish, both in synonyms and in typos (especially the problems with stray punctuation that inform has).

This is a sequel to The Bony King of Nowhere, featuring the same map, just a few years older. I played with the walkthrough, as some puzzles I had great difficulty in guessing.

My favorite part about the game is the frank and friendly NPCs, like Donella or the Wizard of Ounces (Oz). I also liked the tie-in with other games by this author.

Zozzled, by Steph Cherrywell

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Classic Cherrywell with a strong dose of spirits, October 7, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
This game is the kind of thing Steph Cherrywell is known for: smooth humor, a large, easily navigable map, genre tropes pursued to their logical end, plenty of polish, and vivid characters.

I found this game's puzzles more logical than some other Cherrywell games, though I had trouble with one particular artist. Looking back, I ignored many, many, hints.

You play as a flapper (with all the 20's lingo) whose desperate for a drink. But it's all been soaked up by ghosts, so you have to hunt them down one by one!

I really enjoyed this game, and I think that it has a great chance of wining this year's comp.

Out, by Viktor Sobol

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
A charming little game that takes an idea and runs with out., October 7, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes
This game meets my criteria for five stars:

Polish: I found no bugs, and everything ran smoothly. The game logic was sound.

Descriptiveness: I learned new things. I was intrigued by the game in ways that bled into real life.

Interactivity: This game explores parser space in a way that (Spoiler - click to show)Take, The North-North Passage, and Lime Ergot did. These games take the player-parser interaction and do 'variations on a theme' like composers.

Emotion: I felt a warm glow.

Play again: Sure!

Sobol's been reviewing games for at least 5 years, it's high time he post one of his own. This is a lovely game.

Fat Fair, by AKheon

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Great programming, terrible idea, October 7, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
It's a real shame. This game has a sandbox environment, reasonable puzzles with multiple solutions, several endings that require completely different strategies and have distinct results, no bugs or typos that I found. Basically, everything you'd want a comp game to me.

The problem is that it's super offensive. You play a morbidly obese teen that is so fat they can eat anything and smash things with their fists. Your eyes and ears are so full of cholesterol that you have to type 'WUOOO' for echolocation every few turns.

There are other instances of, as the game calls it, 'crass humor and worse'. I didn't like that, not at all.

Remedial Witchcraft, by dgtziea

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A pleasant, mid-length witch-based parser game, October 7, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
'Wizard/Witch's Apprentice' games are very common, from old ones like "The Wizard's Apprentice" and "Berrost's Challenge" to more recent ones like "Charming" and "Oppositely Opal" (one of my favorites!).

This game avoids many of the problems of the genre. It restricts its state space nicely both with regards to books (there are only a few, and only a few topics to look up), locations (only about 7), and ingredients (about 4). Most of these witch/wizard games just open up too quickly.

I found the puzzles very satisfying. My most negative experience was right at the beginning with the crystal ball. (Spoiler - click to show)I couldn't reach the ball, but there were length-enhancing things around (like the duster). It was not intuitive to me that you could climb up).

I felt like the ending could have used a bit more build up or that there could be more details here and there. But that's more of a design preference, and not a bug. This is a solid game that will please parser fans.

Eldritch Everyday: The Third Eye, by Norbez

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A slightly buggy but compelling Twine game about a surreal horror, October 7, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes
This game is currently broken. I don't think it will always be that way, and I'd be happy to change my review if that changes.

You play as a character who experiences a life-changing event that results in the implantation of an alien presence. You shift back and forth between a real world and an alien, and between linear parts and puzzle parts.

There is some strong language. I'm loving the storyline here and would love to see this fixed.


The author has made several improvements, although it's not perfect. I completed all three chapters this time, and I really felt a connection with the author. The feeling of impending doom that cannot be escape is truly a relatable feeling after I faced a difficult job search this year.

I love dark, psychological/surreal settings, and this story called to me. Some small things still need tweaking, however.

For the Cats, by Lei

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Rescue the cats!, October 6, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes
This polished but small Ink game has you trying to rescue 7 cats from a cruel breeder.

You have three different places you can go to earn 'coals', the currency in the game. Each cat costs 3 coals.

There are many ways to get money, including some dark paths, some scientific. While the game is very short, it has 10 different endings, and is worth replaying a few times.

I may have given an extra star just because I love cats. But what's wrong with that?

Bad Water, by Waking Media
A FMV game tribute to an old FMV game, October 6, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
This game is essentially a home-made remake of the obscure old CD game Bad Milk.

In both games, there is no text, only videos or audio. You pass out after consuming something bad and must go through puzzles.

The interactivity baffled me here, with spinning icons and bizarre link options.

I don't decide what's interactive fiction and what's not, and I think this is fine to have in IFComp. But I really don't know how to play and find the whole thing pretty opaque.

The Legendary Hero Has Failed, by Tom Martin
Majora's Mask fan fiction with timed Twine events and friendship, October 6, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes
This is one of two clear fan-fiction games this comp (the other being one set at Hogwarts).

This game is based on the Zelda game Majora's Mask. You and your buds are NPCs in that game, and since the moon is going to kill everyone, you sit on a hill drinking beer, shouting at the moon and waiting for the world to end.

It has some good animations, and some interesting text effects (such as giving you a five minutes time limit). It has some strong profanity. I found it descriptive and enjoyable.

Lucerne, by Dimitri Kaviani

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A great story with no interactivity and some typos, October 6, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes
This is a mid-length story, kind of between a creepypasta and fable in tone, presented as a completely linear story with a single link on each Twine page.

It has a few typos: wading instead of fading, for instance.

So the interactivity, polish, and replay value are low here.

But I liked the descriptions. Not everyone will like this story, but I have a very specific niche that I like, which is games/stories where you are transported to a dark shadow world and must conquer it with the power of light. (Eidolon, Kingdom Hearts, Zelda: A Link to the Past, Twilight Princess).

This seems like it's drawn from some game design, though. It mentions stuff like 'a ladder 30' above you', 'a 10' monster', 'a 10' globe of light'. The character (in this completely static story) collects globes of light to upgrade their weapon.

So, it's interesting, and weird, but I enjoyed the story.

Break Stuff, by Amy Clare Fontaine

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A powerful game about destruction and catharsis, October 6, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes
There are some things that definitely need trigger warnings, and the warning for this game is self-harm.

(Spoiler - click to show)This game uses bare styling in Twine, but it's text layout, pacing and link structure are very polished. The writing is descriptive, with some profanity appropriate to the situation you're in. I felt strong emotions during this, first feelings that drew me in and helped me identify with the character, and then feelings of horror as I chose the 'bad' choices later involving self-harm. I didn't know it would be that bad, which perhaps is how the protagonist feels.

A powerful game.

Rip Retold, by Hipolito
A sweet little tale re-doing Rip van Winkle, October 6, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes
This game is fairly straightforward design-wise and writing-wise. You are a kid that witnesses a modern-day Rip van Winkle fall asleep.

Instead of focusing on the dramatic event, the game talks about the repercussions over the years, the effect it has on the community.

It's a little too short to become involved with the characters, but I found the whole idea charming and a good reminder of the effects we can have on each other.

The Chieftain, by LeSUTHU

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A tribe simulation game with a recursive nature, October 6, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
One star may seem harsh for a game, but here are my five criteria:

Polish: This game has visible error messages every few screens. This is probably all the same error, but it could have been caught. Links to images are everywhere, but are deleted because of copyright. If the author is reading this, try Pexels! Plenty of free images in their public domain section.

Descriptiveness: Everything in this game is bare-bones, functional writing.

Emotion: I didn't really feel a connection to the chieftain or the tribe

Interactivity: The game is very slow in its accretion of resources, and bugs made my choices not work

Play again: Without more bug testing, I wouldn't play it again.

The Shadow Witch, by Healy

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A cute and wicked RPGmaker game about a bad witch, with multiple endings, October 6, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
Is this Healy's first full-length game? I know Healy best for the many years of starting IFComp prediction threads, so it's fun to see them in action.

This game is in stark contrast to Turandot, the last IFComp game I played. That game was very self-aware, while this game just oozes sincerity. Turandot overturned tropes and cliches, while this game leans on them somewhat.

This game uses RPG maker, so it's very graphic heavy, but that doesn't take away the 'interactive fiction' aspect for me. RPG maker is fairly generic, so the grpahics melt into the background and let the choices and text take front stage.

Basically, you're trying to be bad. So you do bad things. If you get enough bad things, hopefully you can impress your boss. There is one strong profanity in the game (fitting for a bad, bad witch). There are nice little knowledge puzzles.

And there are choices. This game is short (which is the biggest reason for 3 stars out of 5, I don't think it explored its themes enough), but even in that short time, you have true agency. You can have two walkthroughs to two different endings that share almost no text between the two of them and which represent diametrically opposed choices. And that's pretty rare in a text game!

I like this kind of game. Papillon made a game like this decades ago, but it was buggier. If only RPG maker had been there back then! Hopefully, Healy will continue to write. I look forward to more!

Turandot, by Victor Gijsbers

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
An erotic self-aware retelling of Turandot, October 6, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
Reviews serve many purposes. Helping authors feel noticed; providing feedback for future games; monologuing; and helping players decide what to play and not.

In the interest of the latter, this game is overtly sexual in a crass way. I abandoned it once, and only persevered when told that the large middle portion contains very little of that nature.

Aside from that, Gijsbers has used all of his excellent storytelling powers in crafting this game.

It takes Puccini's Turandot, a story that is very problematic in and of itself. I'm in the camp that believes that Puccini had built up something he couldn't finish: there was no reasonable way to finish the story or the music that could mesh well with what went before. There's no realistic resolution whatsoever.

This game takes that on head-first. The player traverses death and destruction in pursuit of the princess, but there's a sort of in-game fourth-wall-breaking (third-wall breaking?) where everyone comments on the ridiculousness of it. It's all just a joke.

But is it? (Spoiler - click to show)The player's obsession is never really explained. And the neat wrapping up of 'none of the people' actually died ignores the friend. The murder of the guard is glossed over. These huge plot holes are explained away by the overall self-critical nature of the game.

I've noticed that every writing community has it's own views on what is 'great'. I made a chart once displaying where each community lies on the scale of 'earnestness' vs and 'originality' vs 'canon' in their judging. Creepypasta and Battle for Wesnoth both have extreme earnestness in their writing, while IFComp tends to value self-awareness. This game is far in the self-awareness area, almost a parody of self-awareness.

The choice structure is essentially all fake choices. There may be some actual state tracked, but I don't think it necessarily improves the game if that's true. For instance, I chose to (Spoiler - click to show)let the crocodile kill me and the game explained it away, again, in a very self-aware manner.

This game achieves everything it set out to do. I would say it was one of my favorites except that the feelings of shame I get reading erotic works doesn't go well with the pure enjoyment I have from text games. I believe it will do very well in the competition, possibly the top three, unless other voters have concerns about the content as well.

All in all, Victor Gijsbers started out as a good author, and its clear he's only improving with time. I can't wait to see what he comes up with next!

robotsexpartymurder, by Hanon Ondricek

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A day-to-day life simulator with a mystery involving 4 sex robots, October 6, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
So, a few things about this game. First, it's by an author whose work I love, Hanon Ondricek. On the author hand, it's an erotic hand. On another other hand, it has a 'tame setting'.

But this is perhaps the least tame 'tame' setting I've seen. The author is just bursting at the chance for you to sample some of his erotic writings.

Case in point: the whole point of the game is to interview four sex robots and ask them a series of 7 questions to help determine the cause of a murder. But the robots get bored, and you have to do other things to get them to respond. Eventually the only options, even in the clean mode, are sexual. The pictures correspond to the hardcore version, no matter what you pick. Your character still has erotic encounters with bots at the factory.

Well, in any case, this sort of thing in a game comes along with a feeling of shame, which is not what I'm looking for in a game.

Okay, that out of the way, this has some interesting things going on with it. Like Howling Dogs, it has a day/night cycle in a grey cube in a futuristic setting. There's really a sandbox feeling, as you can choose to go to work or not, spend money on things you like, configure your room with different virtual reality setting, sleep in the mimddle of the day, etc.

It can all get overwhelming. I reached a first ending on accident, and my next one implied I had missed a huge portion of the game ((Spoiler - click to show)involving accessing robot memory in-game). I'd replay, if not for the issues mentioned above.

The game is very polished. It is descriptive...perhaps too descriptive, lol. It certainly filled me with emotions, not all pleasant. And the interactivity, once I worked it out, was really intriguing. But I don't plan on playing again!

Poppet, by Bitter Karella

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Zombie dolls, October 5, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
You play as a doll who was once brought to life by a child's magic, but awakes now when the child is long gone.

You explore a dark two-story house filled with death, decay, and dark magic.

I loved the cast of characters, and found many of the puzzles satisfying. I think I had more fun with this game than I did with anything else in the comp so far.

Quest is just not as powerful as Inform or Tads or Dialog, though. Quest's worst feature is synonym handling. Synonyms apparently must be typed in for each verb combination.

For instance, if something is called ADJECTIVE NOUN, then one puzzle might be solvable by typing VERB1 NOUN, but another puzzle might only except VERB2 ADJECTIVE NOUN. And due to Quest's weaker engine, it won't tell you you're close or detect if you've almost typed the right thing.

Bitter Karella usually does much better than other Quest authors in this regard, but some slipped through this time. For instance, (Spoiler - click to show)TAKE CLAWS or GET CLAWS produced no text, incorrect text, or just baffling text at different points in the game.

Overall though, I love this game. Fun!

Abandon Them, by Alan Beyersdorf
An illustrated, short game dealing with the moral choices in Hansel and Gretel, October 5, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes
This is an interesting game. It has custom art and animations in the Godot engine. You play as three characters (well, four characters, but two are at the same time) as you go through the story.

It is very short, with just a few screens and one choice per screen.

It's a philosophical game. In the beginning (which I now realize presaged the end), you are asked to abandon the characters as soon as the game is over (hence the name).

I realize now as I write this that (in regards to that ending) (Spoiler - click to show)I was surprised and annoyed that the game just stops in the middle. I wanted to know more. But isn't that the whole point? That I had promised to not care?

So it is clever, but it left me feeling frustrated. Also, I feel like it could do better in its choices; for a few options, none of them were things I'd like to do.

Night Guard / Morning Star, by Astrid Dalmady

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A mother/daughter relationship told through paintings and pain, October 4, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
I'll admit, I'm a big Astrid Dalmady fan. From her earliest games like You Are Standing at a Crossroads, I've found her writing comforting and cathartic.

So this game, I ate it up. It's not big on traditional interactivity. You just explore everything, then move on to the next step (on the surface, at least. In truth, the game tracks state and has many endings, but it doesn't appear like it).

What I like about it is the story. The label I'd like to apply is 'magical realism', although that's a subject I'm not an expert in, so I might be using it wrong. A day to day story with fantastic elements brought in that are treated matter-of-factly, for the most part.

What happens is you are the night guard for your mother's paintings, and (Spoiler - click to show)they begin to come to life. You must gather items for a ritual to summon back a lost painting.

You have options. Some choices cause you pain, and others cause you sadness. There are many endings.

Overall, I found it almost like a cleansing for the mind. The deep discussion of the mother-daughter relationship helped me think about my own relationships, and the ritualistic structure was like a form of meditation.

The Four Eccentrics, by Tim Wolfe and Caleb Wilson as Mild Cat Bean

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A surreal dream game with dream logic, October 4, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
This is a lengthy game that has you surviving a fall in a dream, and wandering around the dream landscape.

I love the whimsical setting here, and its very imaginative, especially the whole cloth situation in the market.

The game uses dream logic, though, and I soon turned to the walkthrough and became baffled by the suggested actions. Errors litter the game as well, such as the game saying you have a smock when you don't get it later.

This is a game that needs more polish. Having experienced beta testers run through it over a few months would have helped a lot.

Meeting Robb Sherwin, by Jizaboz

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A short and earnest real-life tale in parser format, October 4, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
Okay, this game is not a comp-killer. It's short, the puzzles are very easy, the plot is linear.

But it's just brimming with honesty and earnestness. This is a real-life tale of friendship and tribute. The protagonist doesn't sound like me; grabbing a 24% THC stash in Colorado and downing draft beers with buds isn't me. But that's okay; the thing I like about this game is that it's a window into another life, a window into a period of bonding and experience. The author has put his real self on the page (or at least made it look like that!) and it's so rare to find something like that.

And the simple game design makes for less bugs. There are some rough spots, but it wasn't too hard to get out of.

Here's to friendship!

Under the Sea, by Heike Borchers
A mid-length light and carefree parser game under the ocean, October 4, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
This game is pleasant, and has a simple map and friendly, talking animals.

You are exploring an island and its surrounding reef, looking for treasure. Along the way, you solve some riddles and help out some new friends.

It's all very pleasant, and it boasts numerous testers, but I feel like the design has some issues. Some puzzles (like Morse code) work great.

But others have trouble. One that comes to mind is the shovel. When we use it, we're asked where we want to use it. It turns out the answer has the form DIG PREPOSITION NOUN. This is a really big space to get the answer right in. Do you dig NEXT TO THE SEA? IN FRONT OF THE TRUNK? When you open up the parser to three-word puzzles, it makes things more difficult.

This happened later for me with the flat stone. You need to use one thing with another thing to affect a third thing. There are just so many ways of typing it, and I had to turn to the walkthrough.

There were a few other things that were similarly open-ended (like the riddle), and so I kind of bounced off that portion of the game and didn't become invested.

Overall, I found this fun, with wonderful imagery.

Iamb(ici), by Jo Lourdez
Immerse yourself in a world of poetry users, and maybe find a special one, October 4, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes
In this game, you play as a new user on a poetry forum. You select from 3 usernames of varying respectability (and they all get commented on). You can then join 4 or so different chat workshops.

Each one has different characters, all reminding me of real-life forum members: the rude ones, the funny ones, the cute ones.

I got the Kanojo ending, which I enjoyed. The game's not too long, but it's replayable and its length suits its purpose.

I didn't feel strongly emotionally invested, but it's polished, descriptive, has good interactivity and I would (and did) play it more than once.

Jesse Stavro's Doorway, by Marshal Tenner Winter
A time travel game about the grateful dead, October 4, 2019
Jesse Stavros Doorway is a mid length game about a collection of people with the ability to travel through space and time. There is a good chunk of backstory available in-game.

The game is large, with complex implementation, but it needs more beta testing; there are capitalization errors and "printed name" inform issues.

The setting is interesting, with a bunch of hippies time traveling to a grateful dead concert. The writing is descriptive.

I played with a walkthrough, as many actions were hard to come up with on my own.

Slugocalypse, by Charlotte Blatchford

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A funny game about giant slugs that ends too soon for me, October 4, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes
This is a game that I like, but which I feel could have been quite a bit longer.

It's got fun illustrations, an enjoyable premise (giant slugs attack everything), and the beginnings of inventory- and location-based puzzles.

But then it's over so quickly. It's 10,000 words, and you don't see most of those because it branches a lot.

In a way, it's kind of like Dungeon Detective 1 last year. I liked that game, too, but it was also too short, and the author made a bigger sequel (Dungeon Detective 2) this year that was much longer, and I loved it.

If anything, I just want more of this. Would love to play more games by this author.

Roads Not Taken, by Doug Egan

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Graduate school and scouting: a series of memories and choices, October 3, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
Hmmm.... this game hit home in several areas. You play as a young man entering graduate school to satisfy his father's wishes. You reflect on your past life scouting as you deal with the drudgery of graduate school.

It wasn't my parents who pushed me, but I did graduate school and also had been a scout. Both parts rang true: boys discussing the forbidden parts of life in tents on trips, graduate school largely consisting of a series of failures aggregating very slowly into a dissertation.

The problem is, and this comes up in so many games: can a simulation of a boring event be fun? And my answer is no. Sure, Farmville and Universal Paperclips simulated boring things, and yet were popular. But they added a social aspect and/or increasing complexity. Just showing the drudgery of graduate school is accurate, but it's just not fun to me.

In fact, the overall structure of the game is pretty dull. Flashbacks are linear, with scattered 'expand' links that sometimes give extra text in-line and sometimes link to another page.

So why do I give it 4 stars? Well, it was just all so relatable. The prose didn't jump out and bite me, but it wormed its way inside of me. The narrator feels like a real person, even though this is a work of fiction. There's just a kind of raw honesty to it all that appeals to my sense of self and my own history.

Black Sheep, by Nic Barkdull and Matt Borgard

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A cyberpunk mystery about robots, religion and identity, October 3, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
Writing a mystery IF game is hard, but rewarding. The hardest thing to handle is the deductive process: will the PC find clues before solving the case, or can the player can deduce the answer on their own? Does the player need to link clues themselves, or do they automatically process them?

This is a good game, but I'm not quite sure it nails that deductive process. In this Twine game, you play as a young woman in a sci-fi future renting out an old detective's office for the night. Your father has died, your sister is missing, and you have to search for her.

You have numerous locations you can go to. You have an NPC companion who can examine things for you. You have an inventory where any item can be used with any background link, giving quadratic complexity. You also can deduce things with your companion, linking concepts with, again, quadratic complexity. Dying alters the game subtly.

All in all, it makes for a rich game. But the state space is so large that it's difficult to know where to proceed next. Do you need to deduce in the middle of the game? Is dying essential? Do items need to be examined by your companion, used on NPCs, or ignored? I found myself frequently turning to the walkthrough.

Storywise, it uses some classic sci-fi tropes (techno-cult, do robots have feelings, etc.), but it executes it well. I felt comfortable with this game. The author says 'hire me' at the end, and I would feel comfortable hiring them for a writing project.

Dull Grey, by Provodnik Games

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A beautifully illustrated and orchestrated game with only one choice-or is it?, October 3, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
I think I would give this 4.5 stars, but I am rounding up.

Provodnik Games made their debut last year with Railways of Love, a sci-fi game set in a future Russia where you were locked into one path which later opened.

This game is somewhat similar. It is set in the same future (both feature 'spikeheads', robot transmitters). Both games are illustrated, the former in 8-bit pixel art, and this one in gorgeous, smoothly animated black and white art.

The writing is good, with some English hiccups here and there. A son in a lonely outpost needs to enter the real world by choosing a job. There are two job choices, and the choice gets made over and over.

Near the end, you finally break free, but it's tricky to find. The final screen, interestingly enough, shows a breakdown of what final choices people made. Only 15% of people made my choice, which was a partially hidden ending, but apparently there's an even better ending that 1% of people found.

I'm not afraid of choice-deficient games (I loved last year's very linear Polish the Glass), but I feel a bit odd giving this 5 stars when it's more of a computerized book. However, the constrained interactivity does serve a purpose, and reflects the constrained options of the protagonist. On the other hand, this kind of constraint-as-story as been done many times before. On the other hand, just because something isn't new doesn't mean it's bad. So I go back and forth between 4 stars and 5, which is why I've given it a score of 4.5. I'd love to see more from Provodnik!

Truck Quest, by Donald Conrad and Peter M.J. Gross

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Truck-based government, October 3, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
Okay, this is a great game in many ways. Pixel art is on point, characters are compelling, the atmosphere at Dan's shady truck dealership is just perfect, and the storyline comes to a great point.

But I found the day by day gameplay a little less compelling. My choice of which job to pick up didn't seem to matter too much, and neither did my driving strategy. It's possible they mattered, but I didn't see it in in-game, unlike my choice of 'side hustle', which strongly affected the game.

So, I liked it, but found parts a bit tedious. This is a trucking simulator where you make money doing increasingly shady jobs, while individuals begin approaching you for help. Your choices of who to help affect the politics not only locally but eventually globally.

Heretic's Hope, by G. C. Baccaris
A fantasy/horror game with deep worldbuilding and impressive UI, October 3, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
This author has become well known for Twine UI work. with many people interested in learning how to make games look the way, for instance, Devotionalia did.

This game has that same rich UI. Buttons instead of hyperlinks, character portraits, rich backdrops, multiple save files in a button in a collapsible menu.

Story-wise, this is heavy stuff, epic fantasy mixed with horror. You are a lone human burying their mother, living on an island filled with huge, sentient insects. You have been offered a controversial position on the island in the religious hierarchy, and life is complicated.

Most choices are about your attitude and response to others (agreeing, disagreeing, deflecting). Others have agency affecting the story. The real replayability factor is in the characters, not all of which you can talk to in one go through.

It's polished, descriptive, interactive, creepiness-inducing, and I would replay, so I'm giving it 5 stars!

Treasure Hunt in the Amazon, by Kenneth Pedersen and Niels Søndergaard

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A fun little treasure hunt in the Amazon with some parser issues and colonialism, October 2, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
This game is a remake of a 1985 Danish game (which explains the two authors).

The game warns you that it comes with randomization, hunger timers, etc. and has a really clever idea: allowing you to turn all of those off. I tried playing with them on at first, and it was actually fun, since the map wasn't too confusing (especially with the automap. And Adrift online makes playing a lot better!). The music and images worked well with the text.

Some parts of the interactivity just seem too farfetched to guess on your own, though. I knew I needed to (Spoiler - click to show)find the key in the jaguar, and I knew that (Spoiler - click to show)I had to eat in the game, but I never thought the two would be combined to solve a puzzle. And some tools seem like they could have many uses (such as the (Spoiler - click to show)dynamite). But a lot of this stems from older game design where it was expected the player would only have a few games available and play each of them off and on for multiple days or weeks.

More concerning is the inherent colonialism in the game. I ran into this when adapting Sherlock Holmes in to a game; I left in negative references to gypsies, and the feedback I received taught me a lot more about the negative experiences gypsies have had over the years (including in the Holocaust!) This game does something similar, where the natives are portrayed as more or less dumb and associated with alcohol, and there are no moral qualms about entering sacred spaces and stealing artifacts to take back to Europe. This wasn't exactly unusual in 1985 (just look at Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom from the year before!), but sticks out now, to me, especially since I've also adapted older works with colonialist views. I don't really have any advice, these are just my thoughts.

The Surprise, by Candy Meldromon
A micro-game about an important moment in life, October 2, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes
This game reminds me of one I've looked for for years. In 2015, when I started playing IF, I played a parser game where you've just had a fight with your husband, and you eventually find (Spoiler - click to show)a used pregancy test in the trash. It was very short, and it comes to my mind often.

This game is a choice game, but has a similar theme. With only a few links in the game, it manages to be pretty tricky at times to advance the story. The styling has been modified somewhat, most notably by some timed text which is pretty appropriately used here.

It's hard to get emotionally involved in such a small game, though, and there is a tug of war between the puzzly link interaction and the heartfelt story. I feel like the interactivity doesn't pair well with the drama.

In any case, as a person I can identify with this moment and the feelings involved, and it brought back vivid real-life memories. I wish them the best!

Old Jim's Convenience Store, by Anssi Räisänen

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A small nugget of a puzzle game, October 2, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
This author has been writing for almost two decades now. His games are compact, with small settings allowing for experimentation.

This game is no exception. We have a very constrained situation at first, which opens up into a somewhat larger area. We're investigating our uncle's abandoned gas station which we have now inherited.

It took me a while to get the gist of the game. I missed the big twist because I tried (Spoiler - click to show)look under newspapers instead of (Spoiler - click to show)look under cardboard, but a peek at the walkthrough sent me on my way.

The writing is brief, reminiscent of Adventure and other mainframe games. The programming is mostly polished, my favorite feature being that the game remembers your past solutions to transversal puzzles and repeats them for you after you've done it once, like Hadean lands.

There's nothing bad here, I just wish it was more exciting and longer.

The Ouroboros Trap, by Chad Ordway

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A cyclical, surreal twine game with many bad endings and one good, October 2, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
"Stop me if you've heard this one before," the game says. Well, I have heard this one before. The game replies, "Oh, you have heard that one? Well, okay. Well, I guess you'll just have to trust me on this one. After all, what's the worse that could happen?"

Well, the worst that can happen is that I can have a bit of fun doodling around with this cyclical game before finding the 'good ending'.

The game is very aware of its reliance on tropes. The 'you are in a room, escape and weird branchy stuff happen' is an old one, perhaps best expressed in J.J. Guest's enormous, decades-in-the-making Escape From the Crazy Place. This game is much smaller, possibly created in response to a school assignment (a credit thanks a professor).

None of it is bad, but it doesn't push the boundaries at all. All of the links work correctly, but the styling of the text is standard. There is some timed text, done better than most. The branching interactivity works well with the small, cyclical nature.

I'm a fan of soothing, small, cyclical surreal games (like Astrid Dalmady's early work). If you are too, I recommend this.

Pirateship, by Robin Johnson

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A rollicking pirate adventure game in Johnon's signature parser hybrid style, October 2, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
Robin Johnson is one of the best IF authors of the last few years, putting out games like Detectiveland and Zeppelin Adventure. These games, and Pirateship, use a parser-hybrid engine based off of Johnson's Versificator parser (used in games like the Xylophoniad).

This game doesn't reach the heights that Detectiveland did (which had 4 separate cases to work on), but it's a solid entry that will please fans of his previous games, and of puzzles in general.

You play as a pirate on an island that has a surprising number of inhabitants. There is a lot of conversation, and several complex mechanics (including a diving apparatus and a kind of pirate prosthetics lab). I used a walkthrough for a few of the trickier puzzles.

This game is polished, descriptive, has good interactivity, and I would definitely replay. It didn't draw me in emotionally, as I didn't really feel any kind of connection to the NPCs, or find an overarching story like Zeppelin Adventure. But this isn't a game looking to be deep; it's looking to entertain, and its succeeding. I debated on whether to give a 4 or a 5, but the primary purpose of my ratings on IFDB is to indicate the quality of a game compared to all other IF, and so I think a 5 is appropriate here. Compared to Johnson's other games alone, I would give this a 4.

The House on Sycamore Lane, by Paul Michael Winters
A long, ghostly mystery parser game with some cleanup issues, October 2, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
I give stars based on five criteria: being polished, being descriptive, emotional impact, interactivity, and if I would play again.

Polish: This game is severely lacking in this area. There are numerous typos (such as 'wet' for 'west' in one room), synonyms aren't implemented, disambiguation needs work (like trying to look at the books in the library while holding the textbooks).

Descriptiveness: This certainly isn't a lushly described game, but some of the images were vivid, especially the doll room. The author did a great job of ambiance, in my opinion.

Emotional impact: I felt the eeriness of the house a bit, and the sadness of the story, but I think both needed more work.

Interactivity: The differences in functionality between trowel, pliers, and mallet were hard for me to grasp. Alternate solutions often didn't work (for instance, why don't (Spoiler - click to show)the shears work for cutting after you weaken the vines?).

Playing again: This game doesn't draw me back in for replay.

So that's a 2/5. I think that all of my concerns could have been resolved by having several playtesters, including ones experienced in playtesting games. I'd love to see a more polished game by this author, and would volunteer for playtesting it!

Dungeon Detective 2: Devils and Details, by Wonaglot

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Big city mystery with a gnoll detective in a fantasy setting, October 2, 2019
What can I say? I loved Dungeon Detective 1, and this is like the bigger, stronger cousin of that game. It's a clue-gathering mystery, D&D-esque setting, sweet interface, a day-night cycle, clever dialogue. This hits up all of my niche interests in addition to just being a well-polished game.

It's not without its faults. As my gnoll explored the city, making money and investigating, I ran into some hiccups on my end. Money took a bit to figure out. Some leads were difficult to pursue. It was occasionally hard to know what to do. But are these faults, or essential parts of the game experience? I got a satisfactory, though not perfect, ending.

I love it, overall. Because mystery and D&D are niche interest for me, I cannot guarantee others will enjoy it as much as I did.

Saint City Sinners, by dgallagher

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
An amusing over-the-top noir story about solving a mystery, October 2, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
This game emulates the Clickhole type of games, which I haven't played very much, but they are generally very over the top, the kind of writing you'd see in Mad Magazine twenty years ago.

You are a hard-bitten detective trying to solve the mystery of the mayor's death. You have three suspects to investigate to discover the murder.

This game and the clickhole games borrow more from CYOA books than from the overall Twine genre. This means a moderate amount of instant deaths, encouragement to back up an option, and one right path hidden among many others. It's not my favorite organizational style, but at least it does it well.

The writing is funny. It's very wink-wink fourth-wall-breaking stuff, so I found it amusing but difficult to become invested in.

The Milgram Parable, by Peter Eastman

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
An exploration of the Milgram experiments as a Twine game, October 1, 2019
This game has two parts: a simple introduction and more complicated sci-fi portion.

Both parts are related to the infamous Stanley Milgram experiments, where participants were asked to administer what they thought were increasingly strong electrical shocks to strangers.

This game is moralizing strongly, which isn't bad in and of itself. It offers some nuance: what if we misunderstand the situation? What if we don't really have free will?

But it's slight, overall, and not strong enough, in my mind, to bear up the heavy moral implications it communicates. I think this would be more appropriate as a longer story where we could identify more with the characters.

I would definitely play another game by this author!

Eye Contact, by Thomas McMullan
A short conversation augmented by expressive eyes, October 1, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes
The concept of this game is clever. You're having a conversation with a friend, and every emotion of the NPC is expressed by a photo of eyes. It's the same person, same pose, but with anger, happiness, sadness, etc. in the eyes.

It's very effective, kind of how emojis help express emotion in texts.

The one drawback in the interactivity and emotion of it is that it all seems a bit shallow. The story is toothless, a frivolous problem with hints at relationship issues. This same technique with a deeper story (not necessarily longer) would be splendid. As it is, it's presented in a very polished and well-done manner.

Mental Entertainment, by Thomas Hvizdos

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A sci-fi game about VR that guides you in thinking about political issues, October 1, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
This is a conversational game, a difficult genre to do well. I was pleased at how this game handled the difficulties.

The game puts you in the role of a 'dependency evaulator' who must decide if people are unhealthily addicted to VR or not.

Each of the three people you discuss has strong opinions on political issues that are important to us and exacerbated in their future. Climate change, privatization of police and military, and war have made their mark on this world.

You are not required to feel any particular way yourself. If you hear someone go off on an opinion you don't think is justified, you can put their file in the 'bad' bin. The game doesn't judge you. It doesn't comment.

I liked it. Parser needed some touching up, especially dealing with names and their possessives (for instance, "Brian" wouldn't be a synonym of "Brian's file").

Conversation is usually hard because its either too linear or the state space grows too quickly. This game restricts the state space by telling you what to start with and that all new topics will be nouns in previous replies. Wonderful! Similar to Galatea in that respect.

Limerick Heist, by Pace Smith
A clever and witty crime game based entirely on limericks, October 1, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
This game is a crime game where you assemble a team to pull off a heist. Absolutely everything is in limerick form, even the choices, which are all first lines of limericks.

I give stars in 5 criteria: polish, interactivity, emotion, descriptiveness, and if I would play again.

This game is both very polished and very descriptive. The limericks are clever, and the game uses color very effectively.

It's funny, I'll admit, but the sheer number of limericks was wearying by the end. I often feel this way with poetry (I've never finished Paradise Lost), so I didn't feel very emotionally invested.

The interactivity was a sort of gauntlet style where you could lose at any point in the story making the wrong choice. It makes for less writing (which makes sense with so many constraints!), but I wasn't really into the overall structure. There are some paths that do branch and recombine, though.

And overall, I would play again, and I would recommend it to people looking for something quirky.

Ocean Beach, by James Banks

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A thoughtful parser game with timed text and a peaceful, symbolic setting, October 1, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
This game is meant to be contemplated slowly. You wander along a beach, looking at symbolic locations, waiting for the end of day.

The walkthrough is especially entertaining. (It only says (Spoiler - click to show)Don't worry about the puzzles., and I listened). Overall I found it peaceful, if a bit slight.

The timed text, though, was rather aggravating. Other readers may not have the same reaction, but timed text goes against everything I like and find distinctive about parser games, and this game contains sections with timed text that takes over a minute to get out a page's worth of text.

The writing and design is otherwise excellent. The portrayal of a beggar seemed a bit classist at first, but the beggar's home shows that perhaps things are not as they seem at first. A lot to think about here.

Bradford Mansion, by Lenard Gunda

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A parser mystery with satisfying gameplay but some homebrew hiccups, October 1, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
Homebrew parser games are notoriously difficult to get right. Most are frankly bad, with poor parsing and tiny games.

Bradford Mansion is one of the better downloadable, executable homebrew parser games I've seen. Sensible floor layout, puzzles tied by common themes, most puzzles relying on simple verbs.

But the parser isn't completely up to the challenge. There are small inconveniences (like L not being recognized as LOOK), but larger ones as well. A few key puzzles require extremely precise commands, with anything just a tiny bit off being unrecognized. This makes the game extremely difficult to solve without the walkthrough.

It has some tricky combinatorics/code puzzles, which are not completely covered in the walkthrough (being part of a hidden track). A plus for the puzzle fiends out there!

Flight of the Code Monkeys, by Mark C. Marino

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Collaborative coding mixed with computer dystopia, October 1, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
This game is clever. It is a python notebook with code that you can run. You are assigned tasks to do, altering the code and running it.

The code is obfuscated, with a large portion of it hidden in a huge string array. Making the code changes suggested in the text portions reveals 'secrets' in the code. Some secrets are a lot simpler than others.

This game is complex and creative, but I found it a bit confusing near the end. The first 'subversive' instruction was difficult for me to follow (especially 'put it in the parenthesis'. Put what in which parenthesis?)

Overall, I was glad I played and love the innovation happening here.

The good people, by Pseudavid

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
An artistic Twine game with images and mythological-based story, October 1, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
This game grew on me over time.

Like Pseudavid's previous work, this game is a highly-polished Twine game that focuses on time, place, and interpersonal relationships.

In The Good People, you play as a person descended from the inhabitants of an ancient village which was covered by a reservoir, and which has now only recently emerged. The exact setting escapes me; it seems like Native Americans in the Southwest due to the reservoir setting, but could also be Irish perhaps (?) or South American.

You've started a relationship with a travel writer who is of a different race from you, and you feel alienated from your past and your people.

This slice-of-life opening is pretty good but a little too 'high art' for me. It takes a sharp turn in the middle, though, that resonated strongly with me.

Uses unusual text placements, graphic images, occasional slow text and text animations.

Known Unknowns, by Brendan Patrick Hennessy

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
High school ghost investigation with teen romance, September 22, 2019
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.

Brendan’s writing is what I wish I could write like. Characters are so vivid, and the text takes startling turns of phrase that you can’t 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 couldn’t 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 won’t listen to ‘no’ (like Jayden) wander around seems like a reminder of personal nightmares.

But I don’t believe that’s what the author intended. Games are a Rohrschach test that brings out whatever the reader is thinking. I wouldn’t have had such a strong reaction to the game if Brendan hadn’t 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 game’s craft level is very high, and I’ve found myself thinking of it frequently in the last few days as I’ve been working on my own games.

Ombre, by Andrew Plotkin

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Effective in any language. Chilling., August 26, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
This game is the French translation (by Hugo Labrande and Monsieur Bouc) of Shade. I found it very useful to use Emily Short's French IF manual (translated by Eric Forgeot).

The translation is implemented very well, with many synonyms and verbs allowed. Due to my difficulty in completely understanding the French, I appreciated having the to-do list; it made completion much better (I had never used it in English; some of the lines made me chuckle).

A worthwhile play, both for Francophones and for others trying to learn French.

Yellow Dog Running, by Sam Kabo Ashwell

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A terse, symbolic dark Speed IF game, August 25, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes
Sam Ashwell's games always seem to be from a parallel universe where IF developed in wildly different directions. They don't 'fit in' with usual IF tropes.

In this game which quotes (and reminds me of) T.S. Eliot, you are pursuing a wounded troll across a desert while being pursued by Yellow Dog.

The feel is sort of like a mix between Stephen Kings's Dark Tower and mythology. You encounter a series of obstacles, characters you deal with through menus (reminding me of De Baron. This game reminds me of a lot of things!)

Pure symbolic obscurism can be pretentious or effective. But I'm a sucker for it, so it definitely is 'effective' here for me.

Three More Visitors , by Paul Stanley
A speed-IF based on A Christmas Carol, August 25, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
This game takes place ten years after the original Christmas Carol story. Scrooge is very happy now, and things seem to be going well.

But then a wrench is thrown into things, a murder plot is brewing, and you have to speak with the ghosts again.

The game is descriptive for a speed-IF, but it suffers from the usual speed-IF implementation flaws. I liked the story, though it was on rails. A fun little Christmas snack.

The Abbey, by Steve Blanding

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Too many spare moving parts for my like, August 24, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 2-10 hours
This game reminds me of reviews I read for Infocom's Suspended, which suggested that the only people who would play that game were would-be air traffic controllers.

This game has much of the problems of Suspended with few of its benefits. You are in a large monastery (with few items implemented) with many, many monks (each with very little implemented) carrying out independent actions, and you have to solve a murder (which occurs after several days (where time moves constantly and always ends up pulling you to the same room (from whence everyone you might want to talk to leaves immediately after))).

This was modeled on a board game, and I think that it would indeed benefit from the visual aspect a board game would bring. I've tried playing this game on and off for over two years, but can never really get anywhere.

Party Foul, by Brooks Reeves
A difficult 4-room parser game set at a cocktail party, August 23, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
This game took 4th in the Jay is Games Casual Gameplay Competition #7, a competition which produced more good games than just about any other competition I've seen outside of IFComp.

You play as a woman who has been stuck talking to a bore at a cocktail party for two hours. Once he's out of the way, you have an explicit list of 3 things you have to do to escape.

Conversation plays a vital role in this game, making the characters more fun. Puzzle solutions are off the beaten track. Logical in hindsight, but difficult to come up with. It does, however, have an extensive hint system.

Gardening for Beginners, by Juhana Leinonen
A short little 'what could go wrong' game about gardening, August 23, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
This is a speed IF, so it has a lot of rough edges, but the mid-game is pretty fun.

You are a gardener who just can't handle all of the problems going on. You start out with a nice checklist of things to do, but it soon dissolves into chaos.

A lot more synonyms and actions could be implemented. But that sort of thing is exactly what separates Speed-IF from regular IF, isn't it?

Little Falls, by Alessandro Schillaci, Roberto Grassi, Simonato Enrico

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A short drama parser game with sounds and images., August 22, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
This game has good production values. Background colors, images, sounds, real-time text, etc.

It's a drama. You play a police officer involved in a dramatic incident years in the past. Now a disturbed individual is on the loose and you have to stop them.

The story is very drama-heavy, with flashbacks, dread implications, and so forth.

The effort is here, but some of it could have been redirected in other areas. More synonyms, better hinting. And the emotions are kind of hammered in, something I've had trouble with in my own writing.

Victorian Detective, by Peter Carlson
Long choice-based Quest game with a Holmes feel, August 21, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
You are not, in fact, Sherlock Holmes in this game, but you are pretty similar.

In this game, you read several paragraphs of text, then make a deduction based off of it. You have to read carefully, and may require occasional google searches, but most of the choices are deducible through logic. Some, though, just seem like guesswork, which I suppose increases the replay value of the game.

You are investigating the murder of a man after being pulled off of a big bombing investigation.

I played online, and it became slower and slower until it crashed near the end.

Cat Simulator 2016, by helado de brownie
Achieves its aim: to be a small game depicting a cat's life, August 21, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes
This game was one of the author's first games, and it is small and simple.

However, it matches my ratings system well. It achieves emotional impact in that it makes you think of being a cat very well. It puts you in the mindset of the cat and all the actions are things my cat does.

It's polished in its smallness, and the interactivity work well, as it doesn't feel like lawnmowering to play and the links are placed well, better than many longer works.

It's also descriptive, and that's 4 of my 5 stars right there.

Detritus, by Mary Hamilton
A variety of mechanics involving possessions, August 20, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
This game began as an experiment in different Twine mechanics. It is a game in five parts, with backgrounds and sometimes sounds.

Each part deals with your possessions, which are similar through the five parts. The people you play as seem quite different, though, unless your character is interested in both men and women and has numerous relationships, swinging back and forth between pessimism and optimism. It's possible, of course, but unlikely.

I enjoyed the game, but it felt a bit bloodless. All of the characters seemed kind of distant emotionally. But all of the scenarios are ones in which characters themselves are removed emotionally from their immediate surroundings, whether through shock or relief.

Finally, some of the background images made the text hard to read. But there is certainly something appealing about the game.

P. Mason und der Schlitzerhans und die Busenkathi, by Sophie Fruehling
A goofy German game about Perry Mason in a resort, August 20, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
This game is in German, and it's not just regular German, it's very joke-y German with many allusions and in-jokes. My German was not up to the task, and I only completed with google translate and the built-in walkthrough.

Still, I could see how funny this game was. It's presented as a TV show with intermittent ads and other such artifices. You start the game in a hot tub or something and have to find your clothes while investigating a murder at the resort. There are some entertaining characters and a few tricky puzzles. The game isn't quite as big as it seems at first, as many potential areas are closed off.

I enjoyed it, but I often enjoy games not in my native language, as it adds another layer to the gameplay.

First Times, by Hero Robb
A creepy, surreal Quest game with music, August 18, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
This game feels fresh despite being a surreal game with deeper-meaning imagery, an amnesiac protagonist, and a lab/medical setting, all of which are overused tropes.

But this game seems like something new anyway. It uses Quest and only requires the verbs USE, TAKE, LOOK, and directional commands. The parser is extremely fidgety if you try and do anything else. Even if you think you ought to do something else, you should not do something else.

Basically, you are alone in a symbolic hospital with a lot of dolls and blood and spiders, and you try to enter new areas. Near the end, there is an extended sequence of strong profanity. The whole game is pretty gory and/or disturbing.

This is one of those games that breaks all of the rules for 'good games' but gets an effect anyway. Worth trying if you like horror.

A Crimson Spring, by Robb Sherwin

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A gritty and vulgar but descriptive superhero game with battle system , July 30, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
This was Sherwin’s second IFComp game. It toned down the sexuality, but there are still quite a few inventive vulgar descriptions throughout the game.

This is an intense story (using a menu based conversational system) about superheroes in love and revenge. There are quite a few superheroes in this game, including some old familiar ones (an ice-guy) and also some innovative ones.

Outside of the vulgarity, the story is intriguing and even touching.

Irvine Quik & the Search for the Fish of Traglea, by Duncan Bowsman
A fun but buggy space cat sci-fi adventure, July 26, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 2-10 hours
This game is big and complex, with 6 chapters (albeit some very short), real-time sequences, and a special helper robot.

But in all of its complicatedness, the game frequently falls short. Too many interacting states go unchecked. I couldn't progress past the challenge to the champion, and others have reported many other bugs (although several have played to completion).

You are the last human, a mouse-like man named Irvine. You have to help the cat-aliens (who have a system that reminds me of Star Trek), and prove yourself to them.

Choice of Magics, by Kevin Gold

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A divided fantasy world where all magic has a price, July 24, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 2-10 hours
Choice of Magics is a wonderful Choicescript game. I’ve probably played through 3-4 times and intend to play even more.

You live in a world where magic is banned after an ancient war. There are five kinds of magic, but each takes its toll. Glamor can charm people, but it rots your body. Negation blows stuff up, but it creates permanent death clouds.

There is a church you can work with or destroy, a neighboring land to explore or conquer, and many romantic options with customizable levels of content. And there’s a stuffed monkey puppet.

Even though it has more content, I didn’t quite like this as much as Choice of Robots, which had an undefinable quality to it. But that’s like saying a Da Vinci painting isn’t as good as the Mona Lisa. This is a solid game and one of the best of Choice of Games’ offerings.

Anchorhead, by Michael Gentry

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
One of the best text adventures of all time, even better in Steam version., July 6, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 2-10 hours
Review for Steam Edition:

Anchorhead is a masterpiece of interactive fiction. In this well-illustrated Lovecraftian game, you have to piece together the history of your husband's family as you move to a new town with a dark history.

This edition fixes a lot of the worst puzzles from the first edition, especially the very difficult mill section. It adds some new puzzles, too, some of which I found quite difficult (such as the dinghy), and others less so (the new opening sequence).

The illustrations are very well done, and go a long way to making this worth the purchase price. I love this game, and I'm glad to see it in such good form. I also appreciated the change in the orderly's magazine, which made me laugh. Some of the older texts in the game contain echoes of Lovecraft's racism, and they seem to be written new for the game, not old texts quoted, so I thought I'd mention that.

Earlier Review:

Anchorhead can completely draw you into its world. The writing and atmosphere are classic Lovecraftian horror, beginning as merely dismal and developing slowly into madness. Early scenes take on far different meanings on a second playthrough.

That said, this is a very hard game. I'm not sure how anyone could solve the (Spoiler - click to show)telescope lens puzzle on their own.

However, the depth of the game and the quality of the writing is such that it is still enjoyable even if you have to resort to hints from time to time. Many of the best moments are also the easiest puzzles.

Sirens in the Distance, by Astrid Dalmady

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A short mermaid story with layers of duality, July 2, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes
This game only lasts for about 1000 words, so it's a quick read.

It was made for MerMay, so it makes sense it would be about mermaids. But the title has multiple meanings, and the game itself deals with ambiguity and feeling.

This is a slight snack of a game, but it left a good feeling. It reminded me of my time living in Hawaii, in many ways, although I imagine it more as a cold Atlantic ocean than the Pacific.

Chicks Dig Jerks, by Robb Sherwin

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Sherwin's earliest IFComp game. Sordid shallow life simulator, June 30, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
According to my rating system, I'm giving this game 2 stars. Here are my criteria:

-Polish. This game has several holes in implementation, enough to be annoying.

-Descriptive. This is where this game (and all of Sherwin's games) really shines. The game puts as a shallow gravedigger who only thinks about picking up women and digging up graves. You are extremely shallow and the game depicts that well.

-Interactivity. I think the game does well here. I felt like I hide control.

-Emotional impact. I didn't like all of the sex, and it made it harder to enjoy the rest of the game.

-Replay. I don't intend on replaying.

Kicker, by Pippin Barr

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Intentional boredom simulator--football edition, June 26, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
This game shows the life of a football kicker. Which is super boring. You are on the sidelines for about 120 turns, and you are called on to kick a few times. In the mean time, no one wants to talk to you and you can't do much.

It's supposed to be that way, but that doesn't make it any more enjoyable. The game is really well polished, though, which makes sense given its constrained play area.

Heated, by Timothy Peers

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A frustrating game about frustration, June 26, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
I usually take a star off of most annoying games precisely because they are annoying. But this is a game about a man where anything at all can set him off.

The game makes UNDO act differently, and tricks people who thought of other solutions to puzzles. Its puzzle solutions become increasingly unfair, although some of the most unfair ones are optional.

Sort of like 9:05 played straight, you wake up before work, worried about getting their on time, and have to go through your daily tasks before work starts.

I found it more frustrating than enjoyable. But isn't that the point?

Desert Heat, by Papillon
An early CYOA dealing with a medieval Arabic setting and femininity, June 26, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
This game contains erotic themes, but you’re told you can avoid anything explicit. I found that to be true, and played to two pleasing endings without encountering anything shocking.

Papillon was a prolific author around this time, producing several excellent games before moving on to visual novels.

This game involves you, an Arabic noblewoman, experiencing violence and oppression in the city. You are required to enter a brothel in the game (although one early ending doesn’t require this), providing most of the opportunities for erotic choices (which, again, you need to choose).

The main drawback I felt was that the game felt like it could have developed more. It would have done better as a Choice of Games novel, but such tools were limited or unavailable at the turn of the millennium.

Living Will, by Mark Marino
A will that can change in real-time. Short choice game, June 26, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes
This game features an old man who made a fortune in the Congo. It's set in the near-future, with a variety of corporations mentioned.

It is a short game, with the bulk of interactions taking place near the end of the game. Basically, you can pick which character you are, and raid the shares of the others.

It reacts quite pleasingly. But I noticed that the interactivity was fairly opaque, and the story hard to grasp. Marino's later games feature detailed and exciting stories with clear interactivity, which is a development I'm very happy with!

The Myothian Falcon, by Andy Joel

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A detective game with a great story but a few unfortunate bugs, June 26, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
This game was actually pretty good. You are on a different planet, but in a very grungy-noir city. I didn't think of it at the time, but the aliens take the place of non-white races or transgender individuals or any other minority you want to think of.

A murder has occurred, and soon enough the mysterious artifact known as the Myothian Falcon (a direct nod to the Maltese Falcon) shows up missing as well.

Two things make this game problematic: guessing conversation topics (often impossible feeling!) and a few bugs. I asked out an encryptionist on a date, didn't do so hot, was told not to bother again, but when I talked to her, she acted like she was still on the date.

Beating without restarting or using a walkthrough seemed impossible for me, but otherwise this was a great game.

The Bible Retold: The Lost Sheep, by Ben Pennington
A small comedy biblical game about a sheep, June 26, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
In this game, you experience a biblical scenario: one of your sheep has escaped.

The game consists entirely of chasing the sheep, with a couple of puzzles.

The map is small, with 5 or so important rooms and then a sequence of minor rooms. The main puzzle is pretty hard to guess, even if you think of the old-testament related clue.

The Sealed Room, by Robert DeFord
A very small game with extensive conversation, June 26, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
This game has two characters in locked room. You have a few items around and you can talk to them. There is one puzzle, with multiple stages.

It’s not a bad concept. A problem that arises is that the number of topics is large, and they are all dumped on you at the same time (well, most of them are). If it was gated at the beginning more, I’d give this another star.

But the whole game is bloodless. What makes it all tie together? Nothing, as far as I can see.

I believe the author went on to make some other, great games.

Signos, by Mauricio Diaz Garcia a.k.a. "M4u"
A Quest game with graphics and sound about meditation, June 26, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
This game, in Quest, has you navigating a mostly-symmetric area apparently seeking for wisdom.

You have a book depicting the 7 deadly sins, which you can slowly fill out by various actions. In addition, there are many religious figures here, including a monk, a fakir, a buddah, etc.

Each room has an image, and many have sound.

However, the implementation is odd, cumbersome, and often interferes with the player. The pictures vary widely in quality, and the game is frankly frustrating.

I didn't finish it, but I did appreciate the symbolic quest.

Sam and Leo Go To The Bodega, by Richard Goodness
Munchies simulator, June 26, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes
This game portrays two stoners with a friendly relationship grabbing food to eat. There are four aisles in the grocery store, and most of the game involves selecting different foods and seeing what comes out.

It's weird, it's short, but it works. Scattered strong profanity.

The Wizard's Apprentice, by Alex Freeman
One in a long line of Zorkian master-apprentice games, June 26, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
This game is so similar to other games that I kept having deja vu. Games where a master wizard gives you tasks are very old and very common. It reminds me of Berrost's Challenge, Risorgimento Represso, the Erudition Chamber, Junior Arithmancer (althugh the twist makes that one amazing), the Enchanter series, etc.

This game doesn't really bring anything new.

I wouldn't usually give 1 star to this game, however, I found it not very descriptive, with a bit wonky interaction via the puzzles, not emotionally touching, and not a game I'm interested in replaying. These are 4 of the 5 stars in my rating scale.

Building the Right Stuff, by Laura Mitchell
A graphical windows game about exploring space, June 26, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
This is a graphical game where you click on text buttons to control a spaceship. You find planets and see if they support life.

I've rated the game on the following 5 criteria:

-Polish. The game relies heavily on a graphical interface, but I feel that interface could be tuned up, especially with faster transitions and back buttons that only go back one step in a menu.

-Descriptiveness. Most of the descriptions are fairly plain.

-Interactivity. The slowness is frustrating, and the game's overall pace drags out.

-Emotional Impact. The pace lessened any impact I would have felt.

-Would I replay? No.

I'd love to see a new game from this author, though.

The Challenge, by ViRALiTY
A simple CYOA with now-gone graphics, June 26, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes
I played the archive.org version of this game, which now lacks the original graphics, which I understand were simple 3D graphics.

All that's left is the choice structure, which is meager. You are in a 3d area, and you can turn left and right and go up stairs. I played another game recently using Unity that had similar mechanics, but I can't find it now. (Maybe from Introcomp 2019?)

The game ends after a few moves. Pretty disappointing.

Caroline, by Kristian Kronstrand
A dark religious romance game with constrained parser, June 26, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
This game is completely CYOA. However, to make your choice, you must type it in.

This is obnoxious and wasteful. But, on the other hand, it makes choices more meaningful as you must type them out.

I went through 5 chapters, and reached some white text that faded out after a fairly-explicit romantic scene. My game didn't work after that.

I didn't really connect with this game, and the interactivity left something to be desired.

Hill 160, by Mike Gerwat
A game about WWI with complex but flawed mechanics, June 26, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 2-10 hours
Mike Gerwat has made several games, and they all share some features. They tend to be enormous, with instant deaths all over the place and complicated walkthroughs that are often slightly incorrect.

This particular game is set in WWI, in the trenches, with a grim and seemingly accurate portrayal of trench warfare. The game is worth trying out, seeing the horrors of war and the sad extremes that soldiers are pushed to.

Final Exam, by Jack Whitham
A game with complex, hidden depths and impressive programming tricks, June 26, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
The biggest achievement of this game is an impeccable rope. Emily Short once described the challenges of programming rope:

"This is one of those things that has received so much attention that it almost seems pointless to recount the variety of the challenges associated therewith. First of all, a rope has two ends, so you have to remember the state of each (and disambiguate between the player's references to them, of course.) Then there's marking what the rope can be tied to; the possibility of cutting the rope in the middle, making multiple ropes of new lengths; the problem of using the rope as a fuse, of tying it to something in one room and then carrying the other end, of tying the ends together, etc., etc., etc. Ultimately I think the very trickiest part of all this is the disambiguation problem, ie, figuring out exactly what the player means when he says >TIE ROPE TO X (which end? Do we untie something that's already tied, if both ends are in use?) But it's all pretty grotesque, frankly."

All of this is handled in this game except for fire.

Basically, you wake up for an exam in a simulated world, but everything is strange. You have to enter a robot's body and do some odd IP-address voodoo to fix everything.

This involves finding cables, which you can combine or cut, and which trail from room to room.

There is a secret path (kicked off by (Spoiler - click to show)looking at yourself). Fun game!

I just felt a bit of an emotional barrier between me and the game, which makes sense, as you are a robot.

Nowhere Near Single, by kaleidofish
An in-depth look at entertainment life and multiple relationships, June 26, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
I avoided this game for a while because I thought it was just a polyamorous sex simulator. But, trying it, I found that sexuality played a very small role in it, and even less if you chose not to.

Instead, it depicts what life would be like in a polyamorous lesbian relationship. I can honestly say that it made me feel like that kind of relationship would be a ton of work and not worth the intense cross-connections.

Secondly, it was very satisfying dealing with the work-related portion of the game. I spent the first half as a workaholic obsessed with my career, and eventually realized that fame as a singer was crushing my life, so I purposely torpedoed my job to find freedom from the old ball and chain.

Polished overall. A lot of pages in linear order, but mixed in with enough choices that it didn't feel overwhelming. I don't plan on playing again, as I'm satisfied with my choices.

The War of the Willows, by Adam Bredenberg
A poem combined with a combat simulator, June 26, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
This is an odd little game, and the lowest-ranking game of IFComp 2015. In its own sphere, it's great and wonderful, but it's just not what most people are looking for.

What it is is epic, obscure and symbolic poetry about trees planted over ancestor's graves coming to life to take revenge on their descendants for blasphemy. There is an intentional emotional distance between the listener and the author.

The battle system is similarly opaque. You can attack. You can pray. What do these do? Is not knowing an essential part of the experience?

It starts with Choice of Games-style choices establishing stats before diving in.

Interesting game. To get it to run in modern python 3, open all the python files and change raw_input to input.

Yon Astounding Castle! of some sort, by Tiberius Thingamus

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A fun parody of Homestar Runner's parody of IF games, June 26, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 2-10 hours
This game takes Homestar Eunner's 'get ye flask' joke and dials it up to 11. The entire game is in ridiculous fake old-time speak. It would be incredibly annoying, but it provides an amusing secondary game where you mentally translate the phrases you see and realize how stupid those phrases are.

The game is very long. I only played to the halfway point or so, as it didn't seem like there was any overarching storyline. It was amusing to found so many 'ye magic [thing]'. And the series of rooms called the bakery, the cakery, the makery, the snakery, etc. was pretty funny.

One of the best Adrift games I've found.

Search for the Ultimate Weapon, by Sharon Lynn Chu Yew Yee
A fancy windows game about chinese martial arts, June 26, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
This game has an overly-cluttered windows GUI that is very reminiscent of the time period it is from. The top row is cluttered with a row of icons that whose meaning is opaque and whose use is questionable.

The game has side bars, command prediction, and other such features, but they often end up hindering more than anything else. There is a time feature and changing background colors.

The story itself is interesting, but could be better. I think this game is a good example that reinventing the wheel isn't always the best.

A Martian Odyssey, by Horatiu Romosan

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
An adaptation of a famous sci-fi story with a lovely soundtrack, June 26, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
This game is an adaptation of A Martian Odyssey, the short story, and one which I liked quite a bit before starting this game.

This game takes a long time to download (and can't be played online) because it's 50 mb, most of which is a truly lovely space soundtrack. I really liked it, and it's context-sensitive.

The game itself suffers terribly from adaptation-syndrome: content not from the actual story is not as good as the original, and you have to guess the correct action to advance the story.

Magic, by Geoff Fortytwo
A magician vs rabbit game with overly ambitious mechanic, June 26, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
This reminds me of a John Evans game. John Evans used to write games that had these absolutely crazy mechanics, like teleporting anything in the game to you or being able to wish for anything.

This game revolves around the mechanic of comparing, where you find things that are similar and say COMPARE [THING] TO [THING], when the first becomes the second. Or something. Not a single time it appeared in the walkthrough did it make sense to me.

The story is kind of odd, too, a bunch of rabbits on a rampage. But it was overall descriptive and fairly fun.

Dracula's Underground Crypt, by Alex Whitington
A poorly implemented vampire hunt, June 26, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
This game has a vote for it on the 'worst IF ever' poll, but I don't think it's there. It's just problematic. I evaluate games on the following five categories:

Polish: Not here. The game's bugs are numerous.

Descriptiveness: Well, it succeeds pretty well here, to be honest.

Interactivity: Problematic. It's very hard to guess what actions you are supposed to do.

Emotional impact: Dampened by the obnoxious jerk professor and the overly objectified Eva.

Cry Wolf, by Clare Parker
A touching love story and tale about wolves, June 26, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
I played this game last year, maybe two years ago, but couldn't pass the first scene. There are so many finicky steps, and its buggy (6 kinds of pill bottles cause a nightmare).

But, following the walkthrough, you find a touching and compelling story. I quite enjoyed it. Many of the surprises you can guess ahead of time, but there are enough surprises that I'd rather not reveal any of them.

The interactivity is really messed up, and its not super polished, but it's otherwise great.

Gathered In Darkness, by Dr. Froth
An unfinished occult Quest game with some issues, June 26, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
This is a game planned on an epic scale. Only 3 chapters were entered into the competition, and the author clearly promised greatness in those missing six chapters. There was to be an entire other complex (or multiple ones), many rooms, etc.

But even these chapters are unfinished in some ways. Many things are unimplemented. Trying to guess the right verbs can be hard even with the walkthrough.

It's also a bit offputting. Woman are all nude and described like meat. Murder is casual. I'm just not that into it.

Xen: The Hunt, by Ian Shlasko
Cinematic sci-fi game with interaction problems but great story, June 26, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
The Xen games in general are well-described, with extensive backstory and compelling characters.

In this sequel, the powers you discovered in part 1 are out of control, and the police (and others) are hot on your trail.

The game includes chase sequences, extensive conversations, cutscenes, etc.

Unfortunately, the author didn't find a good way for people to discover this stuff on their own. It switches between extreme railroading and extreme lack of guidance. But I enjoyed it.

Ananachronist, by Joseph Strom
A sandbox time travel game that just need a little more love and better hinting, June 26, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
This is another game that would be better off with extensive beta testing.

You have access to three time periods, and items in one period affect items in another, even in reverse form (so changing the future affects the past). There are no NPCs. This general effect can make an incredible game (look at Dual Transform by Plotkin), but this game doesn't help the player narrow down the solution space enough. There are so many actions that could be useful, but only a few are recognized.

Also, the game could be a bit more peppy. Many of the locations are the most generic thing possible in their timeframe.

Vampyre Cross, by Paul Allen Panks
Standard Panks game, got disqualified from IFComp, June 26, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
This game is just a regular Panks game: a village with a central well, with a two-story tavern and a cross-shaped church with altar in a different direction, forest and monsters outside of town.

It's a commodore 64 game, so you'll need an emulator.

This one was disqualified from IFComp due to being released early.

The Lost Dimension, by C. Yong
An older windows game with custom interface and battle system, June 26, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
This game's main features are a fancy window with directional compass, list of actions to take, items, etc.

I found it difficult to run. I got it part way there, but not quite. From the guides, though, it's clear to see that the game mostly revolves around attacking enemies to gain experience with a few puzzles thrown in.

Games like this show the great wisdom in creating virtual machines with backwards compatibility, like Inform or TADS. Inform games have remained playable for decades (except for those using graphics and sound), as have TADS games.

Reconciling Mother, by Plone Glenn
A big mishmash of rooms, time travel, cosmic horror and space, June 26, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 2-10 hours
This game is technically finishable, but I don't have a huge desire to finish the game. It's huge, with rooms that frequently are filled with items of uncertain purpose. There are bookcases that are always closed, and when opened are filled with the author's favorite books which he enthusiastically recommends. SPAG errors are everywhere, especially with quoted text.

It's almost like Harmonic Time Bind Ritual Symphony with worse programming. I quit when I went back in time and couldn't come forward in time.

PTGOOD 8*10^23, by Sartre Malvolio
Short and stupid, both on purpose, June 26, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes
Sometimes I find purposely bad games charming, and others have found this one so in the past, but I think it's just dumb. Especially since you have to open a window in the first room to make a later exit work, for no reason at all!

All you do is explore a lab to find and kill Slan Xorax (an alias for Jonathan Berman). Not much else here.

Wumpus Run, by Elfindor
More fun than I thought it would be, June 26, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes
Wumpus is an old game, and Andrew Plotkin had long since done an amazing remake of it by this point (Hunter, In Darkness). But this Adrift game was surprisingly fun.

You wander through a pretty bad maze (although you can find a nice, hand-drawn map), avoid obstacles, and try to kill the wumpus and escape.

I won on the second try after about fifteen minutes or so.

Simple Adventure, by Paul Allen Panks
A regular old Panks game with the same old stuff in it, June 26, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes
Paul Panks made one pretty cool game, and then made a ton of little games which are all very similar.

When I started this up, I thought, "I wonder if I'll be in a village with a 2-floor tavern and a church." Lo and behold, I started in a two floor tavern next to a church. Is my first enemy a hellhound? Yep. Then I fought a dragon. That was new. But the game was over after that.

Not much here, but at least it all works together as long as you're familiar with Panks' style (GET, not TAKE, and WIELD weapons and WEAR armor).

Requiem, by David Whyld
A harboiled occult detective story with a CYOA/parser hybrid structure, June 26, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
This game is very similar in theme to David Whyld's previous IFComp game, as they both involve a tough guy with a beautiful blonde who conspire against the woman's necromantic former partner.

Again, this game focuses for some time on the male gaze towards the woman, although there is no explicit sex or too much gore. It relies pretty heavily on the 'people can get knocked unconscious frequently without any adverse consequences).

The storyline, that of a detective having a client who comes in requesting an investigation of her own murder, works well. I didn't reach a perfect ending, but the third or fourth ending I got was good enough for me.

It's mostly CYOA with occasional parser-focused segments.

The Initial State, by Matt Barton
A thoroughly depressing grimdark space amnesia homebrew parser game, June 26, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
This homebrew parser game from 2006 works a little better than others. It has easily readable source, which helps, especially when divining what verbs are allowed. It doesn't do disambiguation well, but everything else is passable.

You wake up in a space station with amnesia, discovering logs and evidence of what has come before.

This is a grimdark game, with mentions of topics like (Spoiler - click to show)frequent contemplation of suicide and enforced rape. It's pessimistic and sad.

Ruined Robots, by Nicholas Dudek, Gregory Dudek, and Natasha Dudek
A game that aspires greatly but does not reach its goals. Big mishmash, June 26, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
This is a big game that is (I think) written by a couple of kids and a parent. It's scope far exceeded the team's grasp, and what's left is a bizarre and difficult game that is clearly under-implemented and nonsensical.

Items require non-sequitur interactions, the setting leaps from place to place, and even the format for score increases changes from brackets to asterisks. The walkthrough is filled with moments where the author messed up and tried something else. The only saving grace this game has is the cheerful enthusiasm behind it and the sounds, colors, and images early on.

Magocracy, by Joseph Rheaume
UNDO simulator disguised as a battle against mages, June 26, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
This game is like a mix between Kerkerkruip and Varicella without the balanced mechanics of the first or the interleaving puzzles of the latter. You are in what is essentially a battle royale with several other wizards. You have a spellbook. Killing a wizard gives you access to some of their spells. They also fight each other, so you can just wait around for a while then go loot corpses. There are some puzzles, most of which are fairly complex.

Due to the nature of the randomized combat in this game, and the unbalance of it all, it mostly devolves into an UNDO-fest. The hints even suggest this in certain scenarios. It was, though, shorter and more fun than expected. But the interactivity, polish, and replay value just weren't there for me.

R (Pron: Arrr...), by therealeasterbunny
A somewhat faulty pirate adventure á la Scott Adams, June 26, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
Scott Adams wrote minimalistic games to run on small computers. They’re free, and I recommend playing them. They use two word parsers, scanty descriptions, and so on.

This game is not as good as a Scott Adams game. There are less synonyms, somewhat weird implementation, and an overall sense of frustration I didn’t experience when playing Scott’s own games. One of the most popular of all of Scott’s games was his own Pirate Adventure.

Robin Johnson and Arthur Di’Bianca both have a very successful series of games with a Scott Adams sensibility.

Ariadne in Aeaea, by Victor Ojuel
A short, polished adventure through a segment of Greek mythology, June 23, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
I put off playing this game for a couple of years because I thought it was a sexual game. It mentions a few things here and there, but is quite a bit tamer than I expected, with almost all salacious material at the beginning. If Shakespeare is acceptable, this has about the same level, or Don Quijote.

Anyway, this fun adventure puts you in the role of Ariadne (THE Ariadne from mythology), engaged in a wasteful and promiscuous lifestyle, who receives a wake-up call from her aunt Circe (THE Circe). Most of the game is fairly linear, with TALK TO being the main interaction, but its well-oiled and polished. This is a great little game.

Kurusu City, by Kevin Venzke

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
An immensely cruel but otherwise great game about overthrowing robots, June 22, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 2-10 hours
This is that rare game that is very cruel on the Zarfian scale but otherwise fair. Expect to restart, undo, or restore this game dozens of times. I gave up around 5 or 6 points and after decompiling, but I know at least a few people succeeded.

You play a japanese girl who wants to destroy robots, so you explore a city to undertake various actions (that must be done in a very precise order) to obtain various items, in order to stop the robots.

I'd love to see someone do a full walkthrough of this!

Slouching Towards Bedlam, by Star Foster and Daniel Ravipinto

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A steampunk/horror classic that feels slightly too short, June 22, 2019
Slouching towards Bedlam is one of the most popular IF games of all time. You play in a steampunk world followed by your faithful clockwork cubical robotic assistant to help you analyze various materials and ideas.

You work in an old and decaying asylum, and you are investigating some recent occurrences.

This game is notable for two innovations; one, it plays with If conventions in amazing ways. Two, it does a wonderful job at writing some odd text (such as the robot's output, restricted to an 8x8 grid).

The game has multiple endings, with room for big moral choices (more than one). It's hard to say what's right and what's wrong in the game.

The main thrust of the story turned out to be fun, but was hard for me to grasp at first. Perhaps because of exposure to cheap sci fi, I thought that (Spoiler - click to show)the Logos was a horde of nanobots. This made understanding the game much harder.

The game feels incomplete, like other great games such as Theatre. Some of the later locations seem a bit sparse, as well. It says a lot about the game that the worst I can call it is too short. Great game.

Escape to New York, by Richard Otter

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A theft game set on the Titanic, June 22, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
This game is set on the Titanic, and borrows a small bit from that show. There's no romance, but you play a thieving character who must hide from the law on the ship, including using an axe on metal and having a special painting.

The game is huge, but it comes with a very helpful map.

The main puzzles are fairly well clued, but there are a host of other puzzles. The fussy mechanic of opening and closing the suitcase, as well as the maze-like map, is fairly frustrating, though.

Mortality, by David Whyld

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A long CYOA/parser hybrid about a torrid affair, gritty violence, and mortality, June 22, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
This game definitely is not written for children. From the opening few paragraphs:

"I've slept with high class dames and drug-snorting whores; professional models (even a couple of top shelf centrefolds); nurses and secretaries; yet none of them, even one, came close to Stephanie Gamble in terms of sheer physical beauty."

to the scattering of heavy profanity, this game is adult-oriented, which isn't really my thing.

But the interactivity and story work well. It's about 75% a CYOA game with numbered selections, kind of like Choice of Games, with an emphasis on conversations and making plans. The rest is limited parser, with most actions being movement, looking, or talking.

The story is about a plot you have to off the old, rich husband of your girlfriend.

Vendetta, by James Hall
A sci-fi action story in Adrift with classic Adrift problems, June 22, 2019
This game has you play as an artificial asexual human pursued by a manic dream pixie girl. You fight hand-to-hand, hack computers, and do other James Bond-type stuff.

However, like many Adrift games, this game requires a bizarre sequence of moves (with required commands like "reflect light beam at moon with lid")(not a real command). This is compounded by lengthy cutscenes, leaving the walkthrough with instructions like "Wait (x10)".

Overall, the general story is interesting, but relies heavily on overused tropes. I found it fun to read through with walkthrough though.

PTBAD6.5: The URL That Didn't Work or Have You Seen the Muffin Man? He Is Quite Large, by Jonathan Berman

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Fails at being a horrible game, June 22, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes
In the PTBAD series, which is generally an ill-conceived series of intentionally terrible games, this one manages not to be too terrible. It has generally smoothish implementation, not-too-hard main puzzle, and a poem that has crosses the line from awful to sublime.

Uses Adrift 4.0.

Amissville II, by William A. Tilli

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A slightly better sequel to the broken original game, June 22, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
Santoonie Corp. was an interesting group in the early days of IF, and there are debates about whether the games released under their name are really there's or not. Suffice it to say, the games released under their name are poor quality.

This one is better than the other Amissville's, but still dreadful. There are TADS errors I've never even seen before for trivial actions. There is a fairly expansive map with some interesting scenes, but the scenes are built into the text description, so typing 'look' will repeat large chunks of action.

The story is nonsensical, something about hiding out in the woods and looking for weapons for your friend while being on run from the cops. Half of items are portable, the other half (often identical things to the ones you can carry) are 'too burdensome to carry'.

This is not the worst game I've ever played.

Waldo's Pie, by Michael Arnaud
A fun clown/circus game that suffers from walkthrough-itis, June 22, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
This game from IFComp 2005 was a pleasant surprise. You play as a retired clown trying to find his kids on a circus island.

It's simple and innocent fun, with varied locations and an honestly unique setting. The only other circus game I know well is Ballyhoo, and this is quite different from Ballyhoo.

However, it suffers a bit from 'walkthrough-itis'. It's pretty clear that the author had some awesome actions scenes and clever puzzles in mind, but the game doesn't really clue you into the required actions all that well.

I still enjoyed this game quite a bit.

Sabotage on the Century Cauldron, by Thomas de Graaff
An ambitious space game that needed more love and care, June 21, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
This is a game almost all of whose problems could have been fixed with beta testing. The author did much of the work for a great game, but it's that testing and polishing that makes or breaks games.

This game has mislabeled exits, strange computation problems that make it chug to a snail's speed at times, unimplemented scenery items, guess-the-verb problems, and a 'kill people and impress women' play style that was never my thing. I was frustrated with playing, and one of the last things I saw was 'a cloud of liquid gas'.

But the core of the game is extensive worldbuilding and intricate characters. This could have been a great game. The author of this, 14 years later, could likely produce something truly marvelous. But I don't think this is it.

Cheiron, by Elisabeth Polli and Sarah Clelland
A very precise medical simulator, June 21, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
This game summarizes itself pretty well with this disambiguation text:

"Which do you mean, lymph nodes generally, the inguinal lymph nodes, the supraclavicular lymph nodes or the cervical lymph nodes?"

This is a game written by two medical students for the 2005 IFComp. They wanted to show exactly what it was like being a medical student, and they succeeded (as far as I know!) The game comes with both images and sound.

It's polished and descriptive, but there's no emotion and it's too confusing to be as interactive as I'd like. I played it quite some time ago, but for some reason I never reviewed it.

The Storm, by Stephane F.

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Brief, unusual existential horror, June 20, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes
I played the French version of this game before. I like this game, it calls to my exact sort of tastes in games. But it may not call out to everybody. It's like Cannery Vale, which is one of my top 10 games of all time but which didn't win IFComp, or Creak, Creak, a tiny game by Chandler Groover.

In this game, you wake up in the middle of the night to strange sounds in the garden. You can explore your house, but everything seems off.

Great for fans of existential horror. Very short parser game.

Nord and Bert Couldn't Make Head or Tail of It, by Jeff O'Neill

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
A spotty Infocom game with great highlights, June 16, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 2-10 hours
This is an interesting game. With wordplay games, the question is, how can you make a game about wordplay that lasts long? One answer is to follow Emily Short's example and just put tons of content into a game (Counterfeit Monkey).

This game achieves its length through unfairness. Parts of this game (it's basically several mini-games put together) are wonderful: Buy the Farm was particularly good, as was the Shopping Bizarre. Those two would make a wonderful game pulled out on their own, one relying on American English sayings and the other on homonyms.

Some parts of this game don't make any sense. I didn't understand In a Manor of Speaking (which btw is also the name of a great Hulk Handsome game) at all, and looking it up, I still haven't found a good explanation at all. I believe having the Doldrums was a mistake, because it made you think everything else had a gimmick (like Gary Larson's infamous Cow Tools cartoon).

But if the game wasn't unfair, it wouldn't last very long. The only way I've seen fair wordplay games achieve length is through tons of content, like I said. Andrew Schultz does this with exhaustive code-enhanced wordspace searches. Shuffling Around is a good example of this.

I also like the Act your Part session. It was nonsensical, but I was able to get a lot of points just doing dumb stuff.

I played the version released by Zarf who was re-releasing Jason Scott's releasing of previously unreleased Infocom releases.

A short self-referential narrative describing an anomaly, June 13, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes
This game is short but satisfies all of my requirements for 5 stars:

Polish: This game has a custom format with well-designed buttons and overall CSS and layout.

Descriptiveness: There are several characters who are described in exquisite detail (or not, with good reason), and the location and item descriptions were evocative.

Emotional Impact: I could really identify with the researcher and the anomaly. The final description complemented the main narrative in an excellent way.

Interactivity: This game allows quite a few paths, but is self-deprecative. It says: (Spoiler - click to show)This may be a multiple-choice story, but there's no multiple endings. If you pick the wrong options, the story has to pretty much drag you to me so we can have this little chat. You see, fundamentally, this just isn't a good multiple choice story. That's not what it is. It was never supposed to be that. A good multiple choice story has decisions, it has character development, it's got different pathways to get to different goals and most importantly it's got replayability. There just has to be at least one ending where you die. It's a game, and there's a different way to play every time. This is not a game. These are special containment procedures. And these procedures make a very bad game, but they do a very good job of containing me.

Coincidentally, I disagree with the game's self-identification as a bad game and with its overall design philosophy. The material in the spoiler is only one way of doing things.

Replay: I enjoyed this both times I replayed it.

xkcd: Right Click, by Randall Munroe
A highly polished game hidden in menus with wild branching, June 13, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
This is a clever concept. You right click on a picture, and the menus are huge, with enormous branching.

Some do relatively nothing, or are just dumb jokes taking advantage of the menu structure. Others have functionality: turning off the whole system, or allowing editing.

An interesting feature is a text adventure in the 'games' section with nods to Leather Goddesses of Phobos and to Adventure. It tracks state and allows revisiting locations, but it is easy to lose your spot.

Overall, it's funny as an idea, but too tedious to explore fully, and tedious even in medium exploration.

CRY$TAL WARRIOR KE$HA, by Porpentine
A violent and sexual metaphor-ridden game centered on glam and Kesha, June 13, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes
This is one of Porpentine's games that highlights one fact of her games (especially her early games) more than any other work of hers: intense, destructive femininity. This is explored in other works, especially Cyberqueen and With Those we Love Alive, and, well, all of the other works, but it is the lifeblood of the game.

This game centers on being Kesha, infused with powerful glitter and mascara, driving vehicles named after genitals and destroying hater-men in a techno-cyber-surreal-sephora mashup.

It's more gruesome and sexual than I like, and Porpentine herself seems more toned down now. But the production values are really excellent. Few people, perhaps none, have managed to extract as much presentation value out of Twine's basic features.

The Train, by Obter9
A short twine game about a train, amnesia, and identity, June 13, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes
There is a curious sub-genre in interactive fiction about surreal games on a train. There is something about the train as both metaphor and as a constrained, linear, isolated space that makes it ideal as both a narrative setting and a game setting.

Combined, then, these make for a perfect combination when it comes to interactive fiction.

As a standalone game, this one is short and trope-reliant but well-paced and compelling. You wake up with amnesia, opposite an old woman on a train. The game doesn't last long, but choices you make matter.

An interesting short read on a lunch break.

Almost Goodbye, by Aaron A Reed
Procedural generation, loss, and relationships, June 13, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes
This game would be a 3 star game if not for the highlighting.

Visually, it's presented beautifully, with background images, multiple textured text boxes, and UI options.

Structurally, as a standard choice game, it leaves a lot to be desired. You have a menu of people and a menu of places, and take turns picking one then the other. For each pairing, you have a binary option or two. There is a lot of text per choice.

But with the highlighting on, you can see the trick of this game: some of the game is procedurally generated. Not in the sense that the game uses predetermined text replacement based on your choices, but in the sense that there is some kind of corpus generating new sentences.

Is this useful for the game? It's cool to see your choices produce new things. But a hand-written sentence would likely be just as good or better, which is the perpetual problem of procedural generation.

Still, the highlighting gave me a sense of involvement, and the overall story was dramatic and touching.

Terminator Chaser, by Bruno Dias
A pro-proletariat space story with some puzzles, June 12, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
I played this game a year ago but somehow didn't review it.

This Parser Comp game has two facets: first, it's a space game where you wander an abandoned station. Second, unlike most such games, instead of amnesia you have access to many memories, most about unionized labor.

At the time this game was released, and the first time I played it, many people (including me) thought the puzzles were a bit fussy. But on this second playthrough, I found it pretty enjoyable. It does require a kind of relative positioning command that's not typical in parser games due to its complexity, but this is good for puzzle fiends, space buddies, or those concerned for social welfare and the plight of the masses.

Cup of Frost, Palm of Gold, by Emma Osborne
A polished fantasy/mythology twine game with extreme branching, June 12, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes
I saw this game a few months ago, and I was pretty impressed. It has a beautiful story to tell.

The format is large pages of text with 2 choices at the bottom. The choices split quickly, so you get very little of the game in each playthrough. However, replay is quick and enjoyable. I've seen 3 endings.

The idea is that 4 siblings are chosen every few decades to become demigods corresponding to the seasons. You can choose summer and winter, love or war, peace or sadness.

I do wish their was less extreme branching, with more of the main story in each playthrough, and that it was easier to make decisions based on a strategy, but this is a stylistic choice.

The Mouse Who Woke Up For Christmas, by Luke A. Jones
An expansive and imaginative animal-centered Quest game, June 12, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
This was the only IFComp 2018 game I had never finished. I finally finished it today. There was no walkthrough at the time of the comp, and the one in there now doesn't work for the last area.

But I finished it today, and that last area wasn't too bad!

The reason I had so much trouble is because Quest has synonym trouble, and the author didn't implement very many synonyms. Quest also has context-sensitive commands, which is great except when it makes commands seem wrong when you're just using them out of order. So for instance, "USE MATCH ON LUMP" gives an error unless you've done everything else completely right.

Other issues are unguessable puzzles, leaps of intuition, etc.

But the characters are fun, and it's all very imaginative. I remember Steph Cherrywell made the switch from Quest to Inform and ended up winning IFComp. I think almost all the issues here are with the Quest engine, and that the author has great ideas that may possibly be expressed in a different format.

Diddlebucker!, by J. Michael

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A big puzzlefest about a crazy puzzle race, June 12, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
This game took a lot of work, and will provide great enjoyment for many people.

It's a parser game that is (as far as I can tell) bug-free and has creative puzzles, lasting longer than pretty much all the other parser games in IFComp that aren't buggy.

So why am I only giving it 3 points? The interactivity and polish felt off to me.

The game is fairly generic, especially with the standard responses. X ME, JUMP, SING (even at a concert!), DANCE etc. either give the normal response or aren't implemented at all.

And many interactions seem purposelessly fussy, almost like imitating what they think old games were like. Possessing only one object capable of creating fires, the verb LIGHT asks 'with what'? Saying LIGHT WITH [FIRE THING] doesn't fix it; you need to turn on the fire thing. But TURN ON [FIRE THING] isn't implemented. You need to LIGHT [FIRE THING] then LIGHT [THE THING YOU WANT TO BURN].

Similarly, when there's one puzzle that requires you to listen to a loud ambient thing, just LISTEN isn't good enough, you have to say what to listen to. And so on.

It seems a definite stylistic choice, and one that didn't resonate with me. If you're looking for a bug-free game with a big map, creative puzzles, and extensive gameplay, this is your game.

Haywire, by Peregrine Wade
A great superhero game divided into many small branches, June 9, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes
This game could have been more accessible and/or popular with some design changes. It suffers strongly from “Time Cave” effect. Instead of having an overarching narrative, it’s made of a dozen or more distinct threads with very little in common. It branches wildly.

Each playthrough is, to me, a 3-star game. But the whole story is pretty cool. I discovered stuff on my 4th and 5th playthroughs that changes the whole story (although I am ever an enemy to slow-text in IF games ).

I could see this game having been made slightly more coherent, with some of the best scenes always occurring.

But this could all be down to author’s choice. Did the author want most of the game to be hidden away as a reward for the careful reader? That’s a valid design choice, limiting the number of people who enjoy the game but increasing the joy in those who do. Hanon Ondricek has many games in that style in the past, but he’s now done stuff in many styles.

Anyway, this is a pretty cool superhero story.

Lies & Cigars, by Katherine Morayati

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A complex, innovative multimedia work about NYC mediaites , June 7, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
This hypertext work uses Undum and Raconteur to create a relatively rare system for IF (I can’t really think of any parallels to it). The premise of the game is technology allowing you to interact with memories of the past. (Bizarre corporate emotio-tech is a theme in a few Morayati games, like Laid Off at the Synesthesia Factory and Take). The mechanics of the game are selecting from a frequently-refreshed menu of questions followed by curating everyone’s responses (asking for clarification or rejecting the comment).

These mechanics are opaque, and intentionally so. You are meant to get a feel for the game through experimentation. I’m still not sure quite how it works after several playthroughs, but rejecting everything vs rejecting nothing certainly has an impact. Certain characters take on strong personalities once you begin picking them out.

The story is a sort of decadent ironic self-gazing thing, something you could imagine bored aristocrats writing about their hobbies a few weeks before a brutal revolution toppled them. Wealthy New Yorkers (here meaning ‘people who actually have somewhere to live in NYC due to their job) have a party where they trash a historical(ish?) building, are cruel and vapid to each other, and basically act like upper class jerks.

It gives a glimpse into another world. But I vaguely bounced off the interaction and setting, as I always felt like an outsider. Although that may be the whole point.

Into the Lair, by Kenna
Essentially a twine version of a vampire table top RPG module, June 1, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
This game has all the hallmarks of a D&D or Vampire: the Masquerade boxed adventure. A short backstory about why you’re seeking revenge, a quest giver, a maze-like dungeon, NPCs for battling and talking with, a vampire boss, traps, treasure and magical items.

This isn’t typical of most IFComp games, but it’s what I played around with a lot growing up, so I had a nostalgia factor while playing this.

Going back to the same parts over and over again was a bit frustrating, and it can be difficult to strategize. Death and failure are easy, while success is not.

Overall, I see this as a successful game.

Time Passed, by Davis G. See
A short, intense twine game about a relationship over time, June 1, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes
This game is fairly short, and can be completed in 4-6 clicks. Each page has some ‘asides’ that take you into a few paragraphs from your past, and one ‘real link’ that takes you to the next page. The shortness, combined with the absence of strong choices, are why I’m taking a point off. The styling is spare, but color transitions and positioning of various link types show signs of careful thought and polish.

Otherwise, this is an emotional short story about a school crush and a chance to meet them after many years, one complicated by gender preferences.

It’s hard to go into more detail, because there’s just not that much there.

Bronze, by Emily Short

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A mid-length retelling of Beauty and the Beast with musical magic, May 27, 2019
This mid-length game is a story-focused Zorkian type game, where you explore the Beast's castle, trying to understand his history and take action.

The game features a magical system focused on (Spoiler - click to show)bells. Different bells have different properties, which you must decipher by experimentation and by searching records.

The game is a more cynical version of the fairy tale (or more world-weary).

This game is intended to be accesible to beginners, with a tutorial mode and ways to access hints. I found the game frustrating when I tried to treat it as an open, nonlinear game. When I did what the game told me to do, it was much more enjoyable.

Careless Talk, by Diana Rider
A slight game with a heavy message about discrimination, May 27, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes
This game is short and mostly linear. Many choices that are presented, in fact all, it seems, either don't actually work (your character can't choose them) or has no effect.

Within that short time and constrained play system, though, the author manages to build up an entire world and vividly describe a wide variety of characters. I felt emotionally invested in the game.

I'm not sure that this game would be better serviced by being longer. It has a short tale to tell with a clearly defined narrative arc.

The general idea of this is bigotry, and features a world where magic blends with the era of British sailing ships and naval domination.

I'm taking off two stars, one for interactivity (I feel like the game could have at least remembered a bit of our earlier choices, like the way we handle the bigoted crewman), and one because it has little replay value. It's been over a year since I played, and I remembered the entire game when I just replayed it, finding nothing new. Perhaps this is actually a good thing, a story so vivid it's seared into your brain? But 3 stars is where I'm leaving it for now.

Re: Dragon, by Jack Welch
A self-referential game that is choice-based. Made with Vorple. Urban fantasy., May 27, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
This game is a response to the 2017 game The Dragon Will Tell Your Future Now, a sort of troll game that promised an ending that never came, despite it's clever writing.

This current game, Re: Dragon, an unauthorized sequel, purports to tell the true story behind the earlier game. Like the first game, it dabbles with a blend of modern-day language and esoteric magical and astrological terms.

It is presented in a novel format using Vorple to create a false e-mail inbox. Other games have used other methods to do this, both before and after Re: Dragon (including Alethicorp and Human Errors). This is a particularly complex version, with several inboxes, timed messages, and mutating formats, as well as some pictures and sounds.

Overall, the one area I found a bit lacking in the game was emotional investment. It was presented with such irony, absurdity, and complex language that I felt more like an outside observer than an earnest participant.

En Garde, by Jack Welch

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A funny and drama-filled zombie parser game with innovative mechanics, May 27, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
I beta-tested the French version of this game, and played the English version during IFComp and now.

This is a funny game in a very particular genre: the 'gain powers by eating' genre. Other games in this genre include portions of Spore and the Adrift game Mangiasaur.

Using Vorple, En Garde replaces the parser command line with colored buttons. These buttons are, at first, unlabeled. This represents your mental state. You begin this game as a weak, unintelligent creature, but quickly become more intelligent and powerful, and your options change accordingly.

This game is short and not too complex, puzzle- and story-wise. However, it's value is boosted by its amusing dialog between various species and people., which elevates it from a 4 star game to a 5 star game for me.

Wolfsmoon, by Marco Innocenti

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A graphical horror investigation game, May 22, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
I grade on a 5 point scale: polish, descriptiveness, interactivity, emotional impact, and if I would play it again.

This games passes all 5 points, but it just squeaks by on a few.

Polish: The graphics aid immensely in this area. A few things could be worded more graciously, like changing some more standard responses.

Descriptiveness: This is pretty easy to award. The game is lush in every way.

Interactivity: I struggled with verbs from time to time, and some puzzle solutions were obtuse, but some interactivity was so clever I just had to laugh. (a particular amusing example is (Spoiler - click to show)finding the silver key)

Emotional impact: Some of it was silly, but I felt a definite atmosphere throughout the game, and the villa portion was tense at times.

Play again: I see myself revisiting this in the future.

So that's my 5 star rating for you. It's a fairly simple game in structure, with some tricky puzzles. Best for fans of older style games, especially Scott Adams and Magnetic Scrolls.

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

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
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.

Voyageur, by Bruno Dias
A beautiful commercial game about space exploration, April 20, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
Voyageur is a Unity-based game (I think) with amazing sound and pleasing background visuals.

It's similar to 80 Days in that it's a choice-based travel game revolving around buying items at a low price and selling them at a higher price. This mechanic fuels your ability to dive ever deeper to the center of the universe, meeting different planets that are parts of different factions along the way.

This game makes heavy use of procedural generation, sort of a text version of No Man's Sky.

With both No Man's Sky and Voyageur, I felt that maybe that procedural elements were pushed a bit higher than the scripted parts. Many of the planets eventually began blurring together.

I reached an ending that satisfied me. A mellow game, good to play at leisure.

Ürs, by Christopher Hayes, Daniel Talsky

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A gorgeously illustrated Rabbit game with puzzles, April 20, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
This game is really breaking new ground. Among Twine games, it's remarkable for both using extensive beautiful graphics, animations, etc., but for also being long and puzzle-y.

You play as a rabbit in a warren of other rabbits, but something truly odd is happening. As you explore more, you uncover an entirely new setting.

A few of the puzzles seemed fussy, and I wasn't completely emotionally invested in the story, but this is a Twine game I can strongly recommend to those new to Twine and those experienced in IF.

69105 More Keys, by Andrew Schultz
Complicated puzzle game involving combinatorics, April 20, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
This game is similar to David Welbourn's classic 69105 keys. You search through piles of keys divided by adjectives, trying to find a unique key. It includes some innovations over the previous game, including multiple game modes, a different kind of randomization, and an anti-game for finding the 'worst' key.

There seems to be a bug with the second half of the game that lets you instantly win, but otherwise this is a nice to game that goes from 'banging your head' to 'oh I see'.

The Ballroom, by Liza Daly

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A brief demonstration of an innovative method for changing a story, April 20, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes
Liza Daly has come up with quite a few ways of presenting stories in the past, including complex parser games, the precursor-to-Twine game First Draft of the Revolution (in tandem with Emily Short), and the Windrift engine.

This game builds on that earlier material. It is very short, finishable in 5 minutes (unless I missed something major!).

Basically, there is a sequence of choices in the story, each of which can be revisited at any time. There is a bit of hysteresis, a term Emily Short has used before to describe how doing and undoing choices doesn't just put you back where you started, but has lingering effects.

a short walk in the spring, by Amorphous

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A partially-random walk in the forest, April 20, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes
This was an interesting game. Perhaps the most interesting part was the author's afterword.

The idea is that you set off to several journeys that are procedurally generated. Along the path, you can control how surreal the messages are by staying on the path or wandering away.

Much of the conversations at the end of each journey were repetitive, which the author states is a bug. It gave an interesting effect, though, almost like a dream, a ghost conversation, or a fading memory.

The Missing Ring, by Felicity Drake

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Great twine mystery in an old house, April 19, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
I really enjoyed this game in Introcomp, and the finished version is even better.

This isn't a grandiose or intense game. This game is just like an Agatha Christie story, with great attention to psychology and detail.

It manages to have a lot of material you have to plow through without feeling too much like lawnmowering. The author has a lot of context-sensitive programming with inventory-based puzzles, and that's what gives this game a good 'choice feel', if that's even a phrase.

You are at a hectic Christmas Eve dinner and Grandma's ring turns up stolen. It's your job to track down the culprit before the police have to be called.

Overall, this was my favorite Spring Thing game. Well done.

Porter Cave Adventure, by Cam Miller
A game designed to explore academic writing concepts in game form, April 19, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
This game was designed as part of a class in game history. It's one of the most successful games I've seen done as part of a course, since most such games are very timid in their scope. This one is decently-sized.

The author decided to feature game history and critique heavily. Something happens in the game, and then you get a quote relevant to what you just experienced.

I found that an enjoyable premise. It did suffer from implementation issues, which are the bugbear of parser games in general. For instance, there is a telephone which cannot be referred to at at all.

Overall, it's a valuable addition to the niche of 'games about games'.

Escape!, by Marnix van den Bos

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A pleasing little puzzle game, April 19, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
I helped beta test this game.

This game is pretty simple. It's a series of locations (28, I think), many of which are connecting rooms like hallways. It has one NPC. The rooms are fairly plainly described. The puzzles are contrived a bit.

But it all works. The puzzles are supposed to be contrived; you are literally exploring a 'demo game' within the game that is unfinished, and you must take advantage of errors in the code to win (like IAG Alpha).

The puzzles are fun, including a modular arithmetic/Chinese remainder theorem type puzzle.

This is a game that fills its own niche of small puzzle-fest exactly well.

WE R THE WORLD, by Dan Hoy and Mike Kleine

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A lengthy train-of-thought surrealist exercise, April 18, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
This game is a collection of individual short story/games about musical artists in a cabin recording We Are the World.

The style is surreal and dense, between Finnegan's Wake and The Wasteland. Some are more coherent; Huey Lewis's was essentially a straight story. An example of the surreal language is "People need to stop using reptile as a pejorative. The universe is a spaceship."

On a review for Charlie the Robot, I said: "There should be a name for the genre of 'biting commentary on society that is self-aware and occasionally dips to crudity, with hints of cheerful ideals always tinged by irony, using an overload of text as literary device.' Such games include Spy Intrigue and Dr. Sourpuss Is Not A Choice-Based Game. It seems increasingly common."

It seems like that trend is continuing. This particular game has some of the least overall plot of all this genre I've seen. The different sections have little to differentiate between them, reducing the surreality to an essential sameness.

I could see this really attracting a certain personality type. I do not think this is an objectively bad game. But it didn't suit my personal tastes. A game similar to this but with a bit more interactivity that I could recommend is The Harmonic Time-Bind Ritual Symphony

Bullhockey 2 - The Return of the Leather Whip, by B F Lindsay

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A hard puzzlefest that improves upon its predecessor, April 14, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 2-10 hours
I beta tested this game, but didn't finish it at the time due to personal events.

This game is similar to Bullhockey 1, but it improves on it. Implementation is smoother, inventory is cut down a bit, and atmosphere is distinctly improved.

Playing through the entire game, the highlights to me were an old house containing a series of dramatic historical vignettes and a self-referential finale scene that breaks the fourth wall.

However, this game is opposed to my personal play style. I play light and breezy, skimming text and rushing through. This game is designed for careful and studious play, with dense and obscure puzzles and the need for careful notes .

Overall, each of these games is getting better.

(Note: game contains some mild BDSM imagery)

Writing Program Five, by Dan Cox

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
An intriguing experiment that is at times confusing, April 13, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes
This game is a sort of meta-commentary on writing and the nature of writing, technology, and maybe a bit of Sci-Fi.

It's format is essentially that of a cited and annotated series of paragraphs, each on separate pages. The presentation is slick, handling different browser sizes adeptly.

There is an extra layer to the game allowing you to access a command prompt with a few actions.

This game constantly hints at their being more, but I felt like that promise never materialized. That may be part of the point, but I feel that somehow just a couple of small tweaks here and there could have made everything gel for me.

Dashiell Hamlett: The Blue Dane Meets the Black Bird, by Tony Pisculli

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A deconstruction of Hamlet in Ink, April 13, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes
More than any other piece of Western literature, Hamlet has been mangled up and mashed and transformed, from Hamletmachine to Lion King. But it makes sense, because it's a compelling story.

This version is a mashup between The Maltese Falcon and Hamlet. It borrows heavily from noir tropes, to the point of parody, but it also features heavy elements of surrealism.

This is a short, linear game that maintains an illusion of slightly less linearity.

It's an interesting concept. Some of the surreality was hard to distinguish from bugs at first, and this created a kind of disconnect between me and the interaction.

San Francisco, 2118, by Leah Case

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A complex relationship sci-fi Twine game with heavy themes , April 12, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
I can't tell if this game is genius or just confusing. But I like it.

It's a pretty hefty Twine game at around 30K words, with much of this tied up in different relationship tracks.

You play a worker in a futuristic San Francisco that seems to be on the edge of apocalypse. You've suffered intense losses, including the recent passing of your mother, and most of the game deals with reflection on your relationship with her.

The game has excellent media usage, including a skyscraper that scrolls up and down as the player moves, and heavy usage of a beeping watch alarm.

The writing style makes heavy use of inference and allusion, making for a confusing read. It also employs non-linear narrative, so this is a pretty complex game.

Founder's Mercy, by Thomas Insel

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
A completely smooth but sparse space puzzler, April 11, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
This game is pretty interesting. It reminds me structurally of Infocom's first sci-fi game, Starcross. Both deal with cylindrical space stations with a variety of components and pieces that must be dealt with. Both are highly polished in terms of implementation and bugs.

Those interested in parser games primarily for puzzle-based reasons or for the 'parser feel' will certainly enjoy this game, and I found enjoyment in this area.

Writing-wise, it's very sparse. Every message is custom, but the custom messages are sterile and non-descriptive. This aids in the abandoned space-station feel of the game, but I felt emotionally detached from the game. Starcross had alluring alien ecosystems and evocative descriptions of strange technology. This game doesn't have to be starcross, but I wished for something exciting or unusual in space.

tl;dr Solid small puzzle game with top-tier implementation but standoffish story.

Among the Seasons, by Kieran Green

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A shortish Twine game about a bird's life throughout the season's, April 9, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
This game has an interesting structure: part stat-based, part poetry, and part dynamic fiction.

You play as a bird who has suffered a violent attack, and must make several choices over the next year or so.

The writing is lovely and descriptive of the various seasons.

You make about one choice per season, with one text-entry choice and all others binary. The binary choices have various effects later on.

After your choice, each page is just a sentence or two that you click through to get to the next season. This is the poetic/dynamic part I referred to earlier.

The game was overall enjoyable, but the format just seemed spread thin. Being stat-based but only making 1 or 2 stat choices seemed odd, and more of a 'win by remembering what you did' sort of thing.

I'd like to see more games by this author, and will keep an eye out.

Our Darkest Thoughts, by Jesse Villa
A short Twine game about identity and depression., April 8, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes
This short Spring Thing game is in the genre of text games that take a major issue confronting humanity and explore it through a player's story. In this case, it reflects depression.

You wake up in the dark, forced to rely on sense besides sight to discover more about yourself.

This game is dark, literally and metaphorically. It allows you to do anything you set your mind to.

I felt like the game's mild puzzles contributed to a sense of agency. But somehow I felt an emotional distance from the game, perhaps because of my personal feelings regarding the subject matter.

Darkness, by Jeff Schomay

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A short contemplative metaphor game based on the new Elm Narrative Engine, April 7, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes
This game is designed to showcase the Elm Narrative engine. Although it's not the first game written in the engine, it's the first I've seen.

This engine is based on the Elm programming language. From what I've seen of the engine, it features less emphasis on branching and more on context-sensitive choices (which would be useful for inventories and such).

In-game, the same link can have multiple effects depending on when you click them. Because the links can scroll out of view, there is a handy top bar listing all active links. This gives an experience somewhere between Twine and Robin Johnson's Versificator engine (which the author praises in an early dev blog).

There was one critical issue that cause me trouble. Due to the large font size, I usually had to rely on the bar, and the bar wasn't always there. I had to tap the up arrow to make it appear. This was the case in both Chrome and Firefox. I know this is just an option in the engine, as the other sample games use a constant menu bar.

Everything else about the engine was smooth and enjoyable. I could see this engine gaining wider adoption.

As for the game itself, it is a metaphorical game about the pursuit of light and darkness. It's short, contemplative, and even melodic at times. I had difficulty making an emotional connection, though, which may be related to my interface frustration.

Quiet, by Martyna "Lisza" Wasiluk
A contemplative game about the role of words vs expressions in conversation, April 6, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes
This game joins the growing sub-genre of twine games where you express yourself with emojis (including 10pm, a recent French IFComp game, and parts of Known Unknowns).

The author speaks about being a quiet person and the game forcing you to consider the effects of that. That's an angle I really haven't seen explored before, and it was telling.

I found the game frustrating, because I couldn't guess the effects of my choices. But maybe that's the point? Intentional frustration for the player, depicting the problems quiet people unwittingly cause? If so, it's quite clever.

I Will Be Your Eyes And Hands, by Cam Miller
A short, thoughtful and polished take on dystopia, April 6, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes
This game is a take on dystopia in the well-trodden vein of Kafka and Orwell, but I think it does well, mostly due to pacing and attention to graphical detail.

This game is more of dynamic fiction than puzzle. The interactivity is there to draw your participation in the story, and it does a good job of that.

The Devil and the Mayor, by Jonathan Laury

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A nice mid-sized Twine demon simulator with stat tracking , April 5, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
The author bills this as a 'small' game, but it's pretty hefty (about 20K words). Most of that is in branching paths.

The writing is witty and on-point. You are a demon in hell, and you are given the opportunity to tempt mortals. Each character is painted with distinct personalities and mannerisms, and there are numerous jokes (I enjoyed being paid in 'exposure' at one point).

You have six chances to influence mortals with various conversations. Your conversational choices impact the deals you can make. Each conversation ends in a deal of some time.

Your stated goal is to obtain a ton of power, although there are other paths in the game. This game is pretty tough, but fair. I definitely would like to play again to try out other strategies.

Overall, this is excellent. The interaction was a little bit finicky from time to time, where it seemed like a some lawnmowering was necessary, but I couldn't really tell. Fun game.

Do I Date?, by Aurora Kakizaki

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
An incomplete demo of a dating game related to mental illness, April 5, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
This game is incomplete, which is why I've given it a lower rating for now.

This is a dating simulator visual novel. This is a genre which I'm not very familiar with, but this game seems to follow many of the tropes.

You play an office worker who encounters five women, each with differente mental disorders. You have the choice to date any of them and learn more about them.

Only one of the women is implemented right now, and that one is incomplete.

The writing was fairly descriptive and the women are all very different. I was surprised by the heavy focus on physical appearance (the male gaze, or lesbian gaze, depending on how you think of your main character). The one path we see has the character eager to please us, and us eager to comment on them.

I think this is normal for dating games (as far as I know), so the main content of interest is the mental illness. It's hard to tell how exactly this will be handled in the full game, but so far it seems to be trying to raise awareness of mental illness in healthy ways. As long as it doesn't end up with the character 'curing' one of the women I think it will be okay!

They Will Not Return, by John Ayliff
A Bradbury-esque robot story about independence and free will, March 31, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
This game involves a series of vignettes that can only be completed in one way, followed by a long open sequence of puzzles and choices with consequences.

You play as a robot managing a household for 3 humans. You learn about the humans and the world in general over time.

Nearer the end, you gain the power to significantly affect your world and the world of others.

I feel like the choice structure was a bit weak in this game, with the majority of the game (including a late puzzle sequence) solvable by lawnmowering. I think it could have benefited from more tradeoff-style choices and delayed effects.

However, the lovely worldbuilding and vivid descriptions make this a worthwhile game to play.

Grimnoir, by ProP

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A solid and enjoyable Twine mystery game with a fantasy noir setting, March 13, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
I love this game. I'm a big fan of mystery games in general, but they tend to have a common problem: how do you model the investigative process?

Some games have you collect physical evidence until you have enough to convict (the Infocom mysteries, for instance). Other games represent knowledge as individual clues that can be combined or traded (like some of my games and the excellent Erstwhile). Some games have you just guess who did it after you collect enough information (like Toby's Nose).

This game follows the latter path, and does it well. You're given quite a few cases (this is a big Twine game), and in each one, you read information about a monster causing trouble. You have a big encyclopedia listing different monsters' characteristics. Your job, as the player, is to read the encyclopedia, compare it to the monster's characteristics, and guess which monster it is, as well as its motivations.

This game wouldn't be nearly as good without its slick presentation. Beautiful intro, nice transitions and classy color use.

I beta tested this game, but it got a lot of work done after I did so. Very pleased with the outcome here.

smooch.click, by Devon Guinn
A short game about kissing with great design obscured by the execution, March 12, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes
This is a simple game. It's a random kissing simulator. Input gender, then make some atmospheric real-time twine choices about your feelings, then kiss. Over in 5 minutes.

Reading the documentation and looking at the game structure, though, it's clear there's a bit more here. The game does some state tracking and the best endings are hard to find. Reading the source code, I find the worst endings (found by (Spoiler - click to show)Making choices that increase anxiety) highly amusing.

But finding these endings isn't even possible sometimes due to RNG, and the game doesn't do a stellar job of giving you feedback on your choices.

But perhaps this is an intentional choice? A way to model the inherent uncertainty in romantic relationships?

In any case, this is a fun game to poke around with, especially if you look under the hood. Good styling, too.

Charming, by Kaylah Facey
A sometimes-tedious spell-based parser game with a nice setting, March 12, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
I had an earlier review for this game that I deleted on accident.

Charming uses a spell system similar to the Enchanter series. In the long tradition of spell-based parser games, you must use a series of more and more complicated magical spells and techniques to recover from a series of magical mishaps that occurred before play began.

The one problem I had with this game was its gating of information. After a short but repetitive opening puzzle, you are given 4 books, some with ten or fifteen or more entries. It's absolutely overwhelming.

This could have been overcome by using the system in Curses (where you have books without indices and must look up names which lead to other names) or the even better version found in Zarf's room in Cragne Manor (where there is an index that only lists pages you've already discovered).

If this info dump could be ameliorated, this is actually a lovely game with some intricate puzzles and descriptive writing. Recommended for the patient and thorough.

Dead Man's Fiesta, by Ed Sibley

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A quirky Twine game about self-reflection and death, March 12, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
This is an IFComp game that had some standout moments. Overall, it's a quirky game about death. A car you receive turns out to be haunted, and dealing with the issue requires you to think about your life and the life of the ghosts.

I enjoyed one particular moment of this game a lot, when it discussed how the human fondness for randomness is associated with us trying to prepare for the unfairness and randomness of death.

I had some weird formatting issues both times I played, even with full screen, and the story as a whole was a bit uneven. But for people trying to find quality Twine games I'd give this a go.

+ = x, by Chandler Groover

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
A twisted Texture tale. Short and obscure, a sci fi story, March 12, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes
This was a controversial IFComp game. Chandler Groover, known for writing well-received games with dense, descriptive writing, released a short and cryptic game for IFComp.

After listening to the author talk, and playing it myself, I now think I know what it's all about.

The clear part is that there is a fortune telling machine. People are 'added', which summons them to the machine. There, they are either equalized or multiplied.

After finding the easter egg, I realized on my most recent playthrough:

(Spoiler - click to show)The fortune telling machine is the engine for a spaceship/planet. Each person who is 'multiplied' is erased from existence. The energy from erasing them is used to rewrite the timeline to one where the planet is in another space. Movement by not moving, just changing the timestream.

Figuring this out made me like it more, otherwise I'd give it a 3. Nice presentation and good use of the Texture format.

I still don't know what being Equalized means.

The Temple of Shorgil, by Arthur DiBianca
A beautiful limited parser example of minimalism and abstraction, March 5, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
This is a fairly lengthy game (including bonus material) that uses the limited parser format. The majority of the game involves compass movement and TAKE-ing and PUT-ing.

The overarching theme of the game is that you are in a temple filled with stories, each of the stories relating to a puzzle. The puzzles are all based of a single simple mechanic, probably simpler than anything DiBianca has used before. However, it quickly becomes more complicated.

It's almost like a testament to the power of binary. TAKE/PUT, like 0 and 1, can become anything in combination, including language, numbers, etc.

The only thing keeping it from being a perfect game to me is the way that the game is so divorced from emotional investment. This is a game for philosophical and logical contemplation.

Within a circle of water and sand, by Romain

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A text-heavy gamebook with an innovative polynesian setting, March 5, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
This game has some beautiful styling and good mechanics.

You play as a Polynesian woman on a quest or rite of passage. You meet a strange group of islanders hiding secrets of their own. You have to investigate, with gamebook-style gameplay (finding inventory items, exploring with some time-progress elements).

The biggest obstruction to full enjoyment for me was the huge chunks of text, especially near the beginning. But, if you have time for the reading, and are a fan of gamebooks or Polynesian culture, this is a good read.

Has several well-done illustrations.

Lux, by Agnieszka Trzaska
A long sci-fi Twine game with rich world model and puzzles, March 5, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 2-10 hours
This game is one of the most complex Twine games I've seen.

Rather than focusing on conversation and emotional choices as many Twine games do, this game focuses on inventory management and movement around an extensive map, similar to typical parser gameplay.

This allows for some truly clever puzzles, including a major twist that only occurs in some playthroughs.

Strongly recommended for people looking for old-school puzzles and fans of sci-fi stories about artificial intelligence.

The Forgotten Tavern, by Peter M.J. Gross

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Smash vicious vegetables in a high fantasy setting, February 24, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
This is an interesting game; I had a ton of fun, but felt a bit deflated by my own ending (in hindsight, I should have saved!)

It's a homey game. You are on the run, but taken in by a sweet couple who run a tavern. They have odd chores for you...this game primarily consists of beating animate vegetables to death with a hammer. I found this very satisfying, and it even had an RPG-like element.

I got the ending faster than I thought I would, and I was specifically told I had picked the dullest ending, so I wish I had saved right before that or had an undo button.

Overall, it was an innovative concept and a game I enjoyed playing.

Basilica de Sangre, by Bitter Karella

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A Quest comedy about possessing nuns to rescue your mother, February 19, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
This is a fairly hefty Quest game in Bitter Karella's characteristic style: goofy characters, classic TAKE/DROP/LOOK gameplay, vivid settings.

You play as a "level 2 succubus" from the pits of tartarus, trying to find your mother who has been kidnapped by nuns.

The twist to this game is that you can possess all of the characters, each granting you different abilities and sometimes even changing the appearance of the game itself.

Quest always has some problems that make it not quite as responsive as inform, but Bitter Karella handles it well. I strongly recommend downloading for offline play, as the servers can get tied up.

Junior Arithmancer, by Mike Spivey

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
An enjoyable math-based pattern game with academic humor, February 19, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
This game is essentially unique among interactive fiction. In a Zork-like setting, you are a math wizard (or arithmancer) taking an exam.

Your job is to use spells to create sequences of decimals coming from famous mathematical constants. The further you can get in any one sequence, the more spells you get.

You begin with basics like addition or subtraction, but soon you gain spells that modify other spells and it all becomes complex and tangled up.

In the midst of this mathematical quest, the committee viewing you gossips about academic drama, discussing department conflicts and upcoming changes. As an academic myself, it is spot on.

I work with the author and beta-tested this game, but I wouldn't feel bad giving it a lower score if it deserved one. This is a fun game, and I recommend it.

Bogeyman, by Elizabeth Smyth

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A gut-wrenching horror game with flawless execution, February 18, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
It's rare when an IF game is presented exactly right, every portion designed perfectly well to give a uniform presentation. Liza Daly's Harmonia is sort of the standard for this type of presentation.

I think Bogeyman has achieved that level of quality. The layout, fonts, sound, and color scheme give gravitas and a haunting sense of dread to the story.

And the storyline fits the presentation, with interactions that lead you to believe that you can identify with your character, followed up with choices that pit your beliefs against themselves.

An effect, but disturbing, game. One of my go-to games when introducing IF to people.

LET'S ROB A BANK, by Bethany Nolan
A minimal heist game in Twine with strong characterization, February 17, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes
This is a shortish replayable twine game where you assemble a team for a heist. You choose people for different roles, such as getaway driver, then see what happens.

It seems like a very branchy game, but a big chunk of branches are eliminated early on by one choice, making it smaller than it seems. The styling is non-existent, using the standard Twine design and formatting.

The characters are memorable, though. It's pretty intense for a humor game, and I played it several times.

Alias 'The Magpie', by J. J. Guest

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A hilarious comedy game with plenty of puzzles and a British setting, February 17, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
This is a great comedy based on misunderstandings and physical humor.

You are a thief, sent to steal a priceless object from a British manor. But to do so, you must assum a variety of costumes and identities.

Along the way, you discover the secrets of the household and the neighborhood, including lies, deceit, regret, and gorillas.

There were a few sticky points in puzzles that were fussier than they needed to be, but otherwise this is a prime example of what a polished parser puzzler can look like. One of the best games of the 2010’s.

Pegasus, by Michael Kielstra

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A short and emotional tale about partners in a futuristic organization, February 13, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes
This is a fairly stripped-down parser game, mostly involving linear conversations and simple tasks where you follow orders. The emotions are on-the-nose, and the descriptions are small.

But I liked the game. For my personal, somewhat cheesy style, this game was a great fit. I've played it a couple of times, and I enjoy the relationship it develops.

Dungeon Detective, by Wonaglot, Caitlin Mulvihill

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A fun high fantasy mystery romp, February 12, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
This game has a lot going for it. Fun images, a strong character voice, and nice, descriptive writing.

The setting is similar to D&D, with gnolls and dragons. The main character gnoll has caveman-like speech despite his intense intelligence, kind of like the narrator in Lost Pig and exactly opposite of the birds in Birdland.

It's a mystery game, and relies on the 'notice clues then pick the correct answer at then end' method of mystery writing. This isn't my favorite method, but the game's writing suits this style really well, as the clues are all based on worldbuilding.

The greatest flaw for me was how short it is. I wish that this game had been significantly longer.

A Woman's Choice, by Katie Benson
A shortish, well-polished series of vignettes related to women's choices, February 3, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
I found this game touching. A short game (5 chapters or so, each with 5-10 choices), it moves you through different phases of life and talks about women's reproductive choices, the expectations of society, and the consequences of these actions.

The styling is well-done and understated, a good backdrop to the ongoing storyline. As a man, it gave me a lot to think about.

I.A.G. Alpha, by Serhii Mozhaiskyi

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A brilliant choice game with a meta narrative and text input, February 3, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
This is a well-done IFComp 2018 game.

It runs in ITCH and is primarily choice-based. The conceit is that the author wanted to develop a big, fun sci-fi fi puzzle game, but didn't succeed.

Instead, he leaves the frame of his unfinished game alone, and adds author commentary. As the game progresses, the protagonist has more and more power to affect the game itself.

The styling is excellent, with several beautiful images and switches between different interfaces. The music is lovely and appropriate.

This is a game made with love, and it shows.

Tower, by Ryan Tan
A meditative twine game with some puzzles, February 3, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
I beta tested this game.

This is a visually well-polished Twine game, with images, colors, and fonts used to enhance the presentation.

The game itself consists in a vertical tower. The player spends some time in each of the rooms, which are described in rich prose. Some rooms have puzzles, others are more poetic.

There is also an overall puzzle that ties everything together.

Let's Explore Geography! Canadian Commodities Trader Simulation Exercise, by Carter Sande
A parody of educational/trucking sim games set in Canada, February 3, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
This game uses the Desmos online educational software to make a game about leaving your humdrum job to take on a trucking gig in Canada. Each city has things you can buy and things you can sell.

There are several endings you can reach, including giving up and one really interesting one that takes you all over, which I never quite completed. A guide is included on the IFDB page.

I say it's a parody because the author called it that, but the parody element isn't too strong. It mostly seems like a serviceable trucking game.

Dynamite Powers vs. the Ray of Night!, by Mike Carletta

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A difficult and polished short superhero game, February 3, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
I beta tested this game. In this game, you play as a superhero who has been captured, and must escape to stop the evil villain from shooting a giant ray at Earth.

The game is arranged linearly, with 4 big set-piece puzzles. Each puzzle requires multiple steps to complete, and can be quite complicated.

I found the game very polished, although occasionally harsh (requiring death to learn what to do, for instance). Highly recommended for people into difficult puzzles in parser games.

Stone of Wisdom, by Kenneth Pedersen

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
An old-school (in a good way) compact ADRIFT game, February 1, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
I beta-tested this game. This is the best ADRIFT game I've seen in a while. It feels like a nice little slice taken from a Zork-like universe, with lamps and stone dungeons and a troll and little people and so on. There's conversation, treasure, and a satisfying map.

A lot of time Adrift games seem to be trying to get you to do something specific but won't let you actually do it without struggling for the right command. Thankfully, that didn't happen here!

It's like a nice-sized slice of old-fashioned game, not too hard, not too easy. Worth downloading ADRIFT for.

Instruction Set, by Jared Jackson
An innovative game using the Scratch programming language and classic puzzles, February 1, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
Unfortunately, this game seems to no longer work in the current version of Scratch.

Scratch is a programming language originally designed to help children make simple games. Jared Jackson and his daughter used (or abused) the system to make a parser game with animations and puzzles.

This game is based off of conceptual, educational-style puzzles: manipulating amounts of water, moving around mazes, etc.

The overall storyline is brief but illustrated. It has a different feel than almost all other IF games out there, and I hope that one day it can be recreated in Scratch 3 or a stable language.

Dilemma, by Leonora
A few dozen trolley dilemmas all put together, February 1, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
This game is a custom web parser built from UnityGl. It seems to work based on searching for one or more keywords in your text, ignoring extra words.

It's built around the trolley dilemma, which is an ethics puzzle: if you know someone is about to die (due to, say, a trolley crash) and you could stop it by having other people die, what would you do?

In this game, your choice on one trolley puzzle may lead to another and another and another. You have 51 possible outcomes to search for.

It was interesting, but hard to interact with.

A Final Grind, by nrsm_ha
A combat RPG investigating a mine with math-based mechanics, February 1, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
This is a twine RPG with an interesting mechanic: you can either do randomized attacks against a single opponent at once, with them randomly attacking back, or you can consistently do 10 damage to all enemies and block their attacks by answering math questions. Questions are hand-written, not randomized, so you can see the same ones over and over, reflecting your increasing skill. They range from "2+2=?" to "what is the first derivative of xcos(x)", so if you enjoy being quizzed on arithmetic, algebra, and calculus, this is the game for you (I enjoy that, so I liked it).

I did get stuck on level 2, after finding the altar and decoding the writings. I did skip some material on level 1, so maybe I missed a ladder? In any case, this seems like a fun RPG, though I wonder if there is a 'story behind the story', because leveling up never increases strength, it only increases exhaustion and self-loathing.

(I wrote this review during the comp. After, I investigated more of the code and found the endings, and I do believe this RPG has an overall theme related to resignation and/or stoicism, but I don't want to spoil it).

Flowers of Mysteria, by David Sweeney

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A homebrew small fantasy parser game, February 1, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
This game is a homebrew parser game. It seems expansive at first, intimidatingly so, but it soon settles down to a fairly small, nice-sized map.

Unfortunately, the possibility space of commands is fairly high. In most modern parser games, Inform or TADS take care of common synonyms (LOOK AT vs. X vs. EXAMINE, TAKE vs. GET, etc.), and new verbs are generally hinted at in the text or provided by using items where only one word works (a shovel leads to DIG, for instance), and extensive beta-testing finds all synonyms a general player might use. This fails at times, frequently even, but it is a standard that is widespread among Inform/TADS authors.

Games written in other engines tend not to have this flexibility (with Robin Johnson's Versificator parser games being a notable exception). The standard synonyms in Inform and TADS are the results of hundreds of hours of work and playtesting, and even well-established rival engines like Quest and Adrift fail to come close to their standards. And personally written parsers tend to have even more trouble.

This is a long-winded way of saying that there are a lot of commands I wouldn't have guessed on my own without the walkthrough. Besides that, I adored this game. Crossing the chasm reminded me of The Neverending Story for some reason, finding the island reminded me of the first Zelda game. A fun slice of enjoyment.

Tohu wa Bohu, by alex wesley moore
An extensive free-form poem in Texture with styling and graphics, February 1, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
Tohu wa Bohu is intentionally poetic, utilizing allegorical language, stream-of-consciousness, and unusual punctuation and capitalization.

It's developed in texture, with a short, skippable intro followed by a 19-part quiz, with each quiz question actually a link to another poem segment, some with images or other enhancements.

I found it well-done and beautiful. The reason for my low score is my scale. I found it:

-polished, and

but somehow I felt an emotional distance that kept me from fully enjoying the piece. And, occasionally, the sheer length of the piece made the dragging and dropping tedious, leading me to be unlikely to play again.

If you're interested in poetic IF, I'd check this out.

Panoptique, by Hugo Labrande, Nighten Dushi
An illustrated parser game with multiple independent tracks, February 1, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes
This French IFComp game was written using Vorple, allowing it to have a dozen illustrations.

In stark contrast to the freedom of parser or the generally linear Twine games, this game has twelve different screens you can pay attention to, each of which has its own timeline. This makes it more like Varicella or Master of the Land, which implement similar parallel timelines.

However, just as with those games, I found it difficult to make and carry out plans.

I believe there may have been an error in the scoring. Despite receiving positive feedback on many of my police reports, and playing through a half-dozen times, my score only went down from 100 out of 1000, sometimes even becoming negative. My final scores were 100, -50, 80, and so on. I checked the walkthrough after and it seemed to say I was doing a good job, so I don't know.