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Reviews by MathBrush

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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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Sugarlawn, by Mike Spivey
An excellent optimization-based treasure hunt with good humor, October 17, 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.

Skies Above, by Arthur DiBianca
If you want to fly higher you gotta train harder!, October 16, 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!

Language Arts, by Jared Jackson
Pure puzzle with a moving interface. Programming local movement, October 15, 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.

Winter Break at Hogwarts, by Brian Davies

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
A polished and massive recreation of Hogwarts in Inform., October 14, 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 of emotionally.

Skybreak!, by William Dooling

2 of 2 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!

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 secret of vegibal island, by ralf tauscher

1 of 1 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.

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.

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
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. Iíve 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 thereís a stuffed monkey puppet.

Even though it has more content, I didnít quite like this as much as Choice of Robots, which had an undefinable quality to it. But thatís like saying a Da Vinci painting isnít as good as the Mona Lisa. This is a solid game and one of the best of Choice of Gamesí offerings.


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