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Reviews by MathBrush

15-30 minutes

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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'.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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