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Reviews by MathBrush

15-30 minutes

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Intelmission, by Martyna "Lisza" Wasiluk
A complex conversational game about spies and relationships , November 30, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
Intelmission is primarily a long conversation, with an introductory segment.

You and another spy are captured together and have to talk. The game features many many topics, and makes you aware at the end of how many you explored. You can choose what to discuss, or allow the game to choose for you after a certain time.

In a way, this game reminded me of Mirror and Queen. Both are conversational games with a ton of work behind-scenes to provide many topics and allow for user flexibility. But in both games, that flexibility gets communicated to the user more as mirroring what you choose rather than gaining new information. There were few surprises, narrative twists and turns.

I did enjoy this one though, and Mirror and Queen.

Shackles of Control, by Sly Merc
A riff on the Stanley Parable, set in a school, November 24, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
This game is based off of the Stanley Parable, which I've never played. This version is set in a school.

It's short, and deals with ideas of autonomy, player/author relationship, and meta narratives. I don't know if the enjoyment is higher or lower for those not familiar with the Stanley Parable.

It seems, though, like someone thought, "I like this popular game, so I'm going to adjust it to my circumstances and make a Twine version of it." The writing and structure of this game make me think that if the author tried a new game after this based on their own ideas, that it would be pretty great. I hope you write again!

H.M.S. Spaceman, by Nat Quayle Nelson, Diane Cai
A racy space comedy, November 24, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
This reminds me in an odd way of a more optimistic and gender-swapped version of In The Friend Zone from a few comps back. In that game, you explored a world that was a giant woman.

In this, you are aboard a giant male-shaped spaceship. It is a riff on Star Trek and general science fiction tropes. In style, it reminds me of 80's college humor movie.

The level of explicitness is similar to Leather Goddesses of Phobos on Safe Mode.

It's polished, descriptive, and amusing, although I didn't personally care for the subject matter.

The Broken Bottle, by The Affinity Forge team, Josh Irvin
An illustrated book-like game set in a fantasy circus, November 21, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
This game is by (I think) a commercial team that had a different approach to IF than most of the authors in the competition.

This game is lavishly decorated as a book, with occasional beautiful illustrations.

You play as a wolf who is friends with a young child.

It has essentially one choice per 'chapter', with the later chapters having the strongest effects. This is in contrast to most twine-style games, which encourage frequent irrelevant choices or gradual choices. This game's style is exactly what I would expect Netflix's choose your own adventure shows to be like: long segments punctuated with individual, large-effect choices.

Railways of Love, by Provodnik Games

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A complex many-variable bilingual game about love, November 17, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
This game was featured in IFComp 2018. It has a beautiful custom interface featuring pixel-art animations, and includes sound.

Basically, love goes wrong on a train. The sequence of events just interrupts everything.

But, you have a chance to go back and change that sequence!

This is a wonderful premise. By going back and changing the order of things, you can unlock 7 preliminary endings and then a final ending.

However, I found the choices opaque. Instead of being able to strategize, it came down to more or less random guessing. There are some hints in the text (changing options, for one thing), but even with the walkthrough, I never reached the final ending on my own. I saw what it said, though, and I thought it was beautiful.

Because I struggled with the interactivity, I didn't receive the full emotional impact of the game. Other than that, I enjoyed it.

Edit: With help from the forums, I finished this, and I loved the ending.

Where I got stuck was (Spoiler - click to show)Forgetting to confess for the 'love' ending.

Polish the Glass , by Keltie Wright
Dynamic fiction about the perils of obsession and family secrets, November 17, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
This was an IFComp game that I liked quite a bit more than, it seems, many of the other IFComp reviewers did.

This is almost purely dynamic fiction, a style of interactive fiction where you mostly read a linear narrative, with different special effects adding to the atmosphere and some scattered choices. "My Father's Long Long Legs" is a classic example of the genre.

This story is about a woman whose mother tended a bar and was obsessed with 'polishing the glass'. It's a story about growing up in a broken household, coming to grips with our parents' problems, and the spiral of obsession and addiction.

There's probably a metaphor here, but it's abstract enough not to be clear on what the metaphor is, which makes this game much more effective for me.

Abbess Otilia's Life and Death, by Arno von Borries (as A.B.)
A gorgeously illustrated medieval-looking cybertext game about an abbess, November 15, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
This game is lavish, with a medieval-looking font and scattered illustrations and capitals.

Presented like a book, interactivity is done by either turning the page or by selecting between binary choices.

There are quite a few paths in this game that you can take, and I found it overall impressive. My 3 stars is because I didn't feel an emotional involvement in the game, being put more at a distance by the elaborate presentation. I also didn't feel an inclination to play again, due to the energy required in poring through the text.

my own paper walls, by fia glas
A horror game set in an abandoned school, November 6, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
I was impressed and a bit frustrated by this game.

The bad: the text is a bit hard to read. I had to bulk up the page size a bunch before being able to see the fancy-font white on black text. Also, possibly due to the font, I felt weirdly discombobulated while playing and had trouble focusing.

The good: this is a genuinely engaging tale about a girl and her friend meeting up with three guys to explore a haunted school. The true horror is in the relationships here; I had several honestly surprising and unsettling experiences with people in the game that wasn't based on supernatural horror at all.

I actually feel like I love this game, but I wish it were easier to read and didn't have that sort of vague procedurally generated feel (it's not actually procedurally generated, but it has multiple paths, so some of the text is vague to suit several scenarios). I want to play this again.

Wretch!, by Josh Labelle
A long exploratory Twine game about a Frankenstein scenario, November 4, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
In this game, you play a patched-up person made up of different people's parts.

It comes in three acts, two of which are exploratory, and the third of which is mostly a coda.

In the first act, you explore the house of yourself and your master, spending several days or weeks in-game exploring, thinking, learning, and solving some puzzles.

In the second act, you have the chance to interact more with the real world.

The styling was nice here, with Harmonia-like spacing and margins. Options are greyed out to indicate places you should explore more.

This really worked well on a lot of levels. I found the exploration tedious at times, but I don't think that there's an easy fix, and the game is good as-is. My ending was touching.

Death By Powerpoint, by Jack Welch

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Frankly amazing story about trying to give a powerpoint presentation, November 4, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
Sometimes Twine games just click for me, and sometimes they don't.

Two ways they can fail is to either encourage/require you to just click everything, or to have trivial choices that clearly don't effect the story.

This gave really gave me the feeling of strategy. Even if it was an illusion, I felt like I could play a specific kind of character and have it matter.

The game contains some highly unusual events, part of which gets explained near the end of the game. I don't think everyone will love this game, but I know many others who also like it. For me, this is the kind of Twine writing that very few people get right: Hennessay, Dalmady, Corfman, Lutz and Porpentine, a few others. Welch can write with the best!

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