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Reviews by MathBrush

15-30 minutes

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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.

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 canít 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 everyoneís 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. Iím 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 Ďpeople 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 youíre seeking revenge, a quest giver, a maze-like dungeon, NPCs for battling and talking with, a vampire boss, traps, treasure and magical items.

This isnít typical of most IFComp games, but itís 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.

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.

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.

Ostrich, by Jonathan Laury

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Contains some strong profanity in some paths.

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'.

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'.

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