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Reviews by MathBrush

15-30 minutes

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View this member's reviews by tag: 15-30 minutes 2-10 hours about 1 hour about 2 hours IF Comp 2015 Infocom less than 15 minutes more than 10 hours Spring Thing 2016
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Speed Demons, by Pleroma

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A short and poignant game about breaking the speed of light, September 18, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
This game was nominated for the XYZZY awards, and was one of 2 commercial games I hadn't heard of.

This game is based off of the lyrics to the song "Pushing the Speed of Light", which I looked up after playing. I think they add to the gameplay.

This game branches into 3 paths and each of those paths has a success and two failures, I believe (one for too slow, one for too fast). The three paths you choose between give you different backstories and goals.

I thought the writing was well-done, and my opinion of it improved as I replayed. I especially like the 'singing' path. It reminds me of a lot of the sci-fi in the 60's to 70's. It's not necessarily poetical or lyrical all of the time, but it places humans in a situation impossible in our present reality and uses that to give insights into our nature.

Here's my score:
-Polish. The game uses the standard Twine styling, and paragraphs have no line between them, making reading a little bit hard for me.
+Descriptiveness. This is one of the highlights of the game, the detailed descriptions of the technology and its effects, as well as your feelings and the crew's.
+Interactivity. Wildly branching games like this only work well if it's short, and this one is. Does what it's supposed to.
+Emotional impact. Hmm, it's kind of back and forth for me. I liked it but didn't really identify with any of the characters, and I feel like identifying is important for this piece. I'd give this 1/2 a star for emotional impact, but I round up.
+Would I play again? I've already replayed it several times.

Attack of the Yeti Robot Zombies, by Řyvind Thorsby

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Treat this game as it is: an experiment in removing the save/restore safety net., August 19, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
This game treats a really important aspect of interactive fiction: the save feature. Most games, despite any sense of urgency they may try to instill, become slow, measured-out puzzle games with the heavy use of save and restore.

It is almost impossible to overcome the habit of save and restore, probably because most games intend the reader to use it.

This game was designed as a full-throttle, jump-out-of-the-airplane experience. You should absolutely not undo, save or restore this game; in the Club Floyd transcript, one of the users hit undo out of habit, when it seemed that all was lost; but they then undid the undo, and promised to finish the game together, and it was worth it.

This is a short game, and a fun game. I would give it 5 stars in its genre, but 3 stars as a generic interactive fiction game. As it is, I'm leaving it with 4 stars.

Drosophilia, by Gordon Calleja
Game centered on a short loop, with use of video and sound, August 1, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
This game has you working in a call center with 99 calls to finish. There are only a few options, including going to a cafeteria or looking out the window, before you go back to the main loop.

It uses video a lot; it seems to be autoplaying youtube videos that are so enlarged the youtube gui is off the screen (only autoplaying after you click a link, since Chrome disabled regular video autoplay, I think).

It's very abstract, and the game slowly changes. I played before looking at other reviews, but later sought ought more in case I was missing something big. I thought this game reminded me of Degeneracy (a parser implementation of the same concept), and I saw that Emily Short said the same thing years ago.

I rate games on a five point scale.

+Polish: A lot of effort went into this, and it was smooth.
+Descriptiveness: The sounds, videos, and text made the message clear.
-Interactivity: I was left wondering if I was missing something, and so it didn't work well for me.
-Emotional impact: I bounced off the high level of abstraction.
+Would I play again? I might; it was interesting, and I would try different paths.

You are Standing at a Crossroads, by Astrid Dalmady

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Memorable creepy Twine game with great use of repetition, July 18, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
At the time I first played it, this was the only Twine game I'd played through multiple times. It takes less than 20 minutes to play, with some very mild puzzles. The genre is creepy horror (as opposed to grossout or Lovecraftian).

The writing is well done. Of the four main areas, I felt one was weaker than the others, but on the second playthrough, I found it even creepier than the others.

The reason I enjoy this game is something others may not care about. I enjoy it because it almost feels ritualistic, like a Greek mystery play about life. The format, the pacing, the repetition, is very successful, in a way different than Porpentine's use of the same elements. I see myself revisiting this game every now and then for the fun of it. Others may have different responses.

Molly and the Butter Thieves, by Alice Grove (as Cosmic Hamster)

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Wonderful short fantasy game with compelling writing and interesting format, July 18, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
This was one of most vivid games I have played. The story reminded me of some of my favorite books I read as a teenager. I'd rather not spoil any of it here, though.

The implementation was very interesting, using a combination of standard inform commands and keywords for conversation.

The puzzles were simple, and written in such a way that you always knew what you should be trying to do, even if you hadn't figured out how to do it yet. The game seemed thoroughly tested, with multiple endings.

I'm giving the game 4 stars instead of 5 purely because of length. As a shufflecomp game, it is among the very best I have seen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Monk by the Sea, by Elizabeth Decoste

3 of 3 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.


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