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Reviews by MathBrush

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Choice of Zombies, by Heather Albano and Richard Jackson

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Short, branching zombie survival game with lots of replayability, January 15, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
This is another game from near the very beginning of Choice of Games, and I think this one works well.

It's different from more 'modern' games in that each playthrough is short and there are a lot of ways to mess up or die early. So if you screw up everything your game can be significantly less than an hour, with a 'successful' game being a lot longer.

But the shortness of the dead-ends go well together, since it encourages replay and (more importantly) this game has a lot of different paths to success. You can meet completely different characters in different playthroughs. I'd say about 30% of my two playthroughs was repeated material.

I enjoyed how the stats were clearly differentiated from each other. Although, the game kept relationship stats hidden. There doesn't seem to be any romance in this game (though sex is mentioned). Each stat gets used in a variety of ways.

The characters all have different interactions with each other, some of them detesting each other.

All in all, it was short and fun.

To the City of the Clouds, by Catherine Bailey

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
An early choicescript game with a dissolute archaeologist MC, January 14, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
Well, if you enjoy games where you can play as a hard-drinking, cheating professor, stealing artifacts, snorting lines of coke and hitting on students, this is definitely the game for you.

That's not really my style. This is an early choicescript game. In the beginning, they had 3-4 pretty great games in a row, but they didn't really know what worked, and that resulted in a string of very short games with weak use of stats, unfulfilling scenes and hit-or-miss humor that was often miss. After that, they hit their stride with some games that are still awesome to this day (Slammed! and Choice of Kung Fu, for instance).

That said, this game is still well-polished, with few, if any errors, and the interactivity generally worked for me. I had to sweat over a few choices, and they had actual consequences.

At 68,000 words, this game is a tenth of their most recent game (Luminous Underground) and a little less than half of the average game.

The story is about you, an archaeologist, hearing rumors of an ancient Incan city, the 'City Lost in the Clouds'. You have to dodge Columbian militia and ancient spirits to explore the city, and then safely make it back.

This game was recently in the 'Most underrated Choicescript games' poll, and was second to last (before Treasure Seekers of Lady Luck, which I actually like). If you play even 1 or 2 choices of the demo, you'll instantly know if you like it or not.

Spy Mission, by Ogre

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
A spy game with many different branches, endings and items, January 12, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
This chooseyourstory game has a setup that's a lot more complex than most. You have an inventory, stats you can train, etc.

You are an ordinary man in an ordinary job when a mysterious package changes your life. You're taken to a spy agency and given a dangerous mission.

The opening segments have an inventory with clickable links, but later on that seemed to disappear in favor of choice-based inventory (like when choosing what to take out of your trunk).

The pacing is good, with a strong overall narrative arc. Some of the endings happen a lot sooner than others (I think there are at least a couple dozen endings), so it can be worth backing out and trying again, even if you get a good ending on the first try.

Here's my five-point scale:

+Polish: This is a pretty complex game and I didn't run into any bugs/spelling errors.

+Interactivity: I really felt like I could dig in and strategize and try different things. Even with unlimited undo's, you can get so far into some branches that it's hard to cheat the system, which is nice.

+Descriptiveness: Most of the characters are just spy stereotypes, but the level of action was good.

+Emotional impact: I felt interested in the game and enjoyed seeing what came next.

-Would I play again? On the one hand, the game has a lot of endings and different replayable parts. On the other hand, I feel like the whole thing could use just a little bit more 'something' to be completely compelling, like a really cool opponent or a love interest (or someone who's both!). I know that's not very specific, and maybe that already exists in one of the other branches, so this is totally subjective.

Imagination, by Endmaster

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Like a classic CYOA book. Get sucked into a fantasy world, January 2, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
This game probably recreates my childhood experiences of reading CYOA books more than any other.

The chooseyourstory format is adapted more to CYOA books. Most Twine and Choicescript games have shorter text and more frequent choices that frequently meet back up later because it allows you to reuse a lot of text and code. Making a game where every branch goes somewhere different is usually too tedious to code, although some people have done it (like the game Animalia or Porpentine's Myriad).

But a lot of chooseyourstory games seem to get over the problem of needing to write a lot of text by just writing a lot of text, ending up with games with hundreds of thousands of words.

This game is meant for kids, I'd say between 10 and 13 or 14. You are sucked into a fantasy world where you meet strange wizards and adventurers.

There are few choices in this game but a ton of text in each one, and each choice branches a lot. Some are dead ends, but the engine lets you go back and retrace your steps quickly, which the game seems to encourage. This makes the small number of choices make sense, since each replay goes quickly, like paging through an old CYOA book.

I enjoyed it overall, and it gave me some ideas for my own writing.

Santa's Trainee Elf, by Garry Francis

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A fun and tricky puzzlefest in Santa's workshop, December 27, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
This is an Adventuron Christmas game that is quite large. You have to find out what 9 kids want for Christmas and make their toys after finding all the ingredients necessary. There is a large system of free shops and recipes for toys.

There are many locations and as of this writing all but one of them has art.

The puzzles range from fairly easy to the very obscure. The hardest puzzles were those involving guessing-the-verb or lack of in-game responses to incorrect actions.

This is large and complicated and I enjoyed it overall.

Deck the Halls, Gieves, by VerdantTome

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
A verbose Adventuron game about Wodehousian antics, December 26, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
This Adventuron game has more words than any other I've seen. It's firmly in the Wodehousian vein, with a butler named Gieves and hijinks caused by upper-class British misunderstandings.

It was quite clever and parts of it were very funny (including the ending). It suffered from a certain problem that many humorous games have, which is that the author clearly had some very funny solutions in mind, but that requires several leaps of intuition that aren't always fair.

Overall, though, this is a hefty game with good writing and clever puzzles. I think this would have done fairly well in IFComp, placing in the top half.

Northpole, by John Blythe

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A complex Adventuron puzzle in Northpole, December 26, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
This is perhaps the most complex Adventuron game I've seen.

You play as a falsely-accused elf who has to find 7 missing presents. There are two main areas (an outside one and an inside one) as well as an endgame area. There are numerous NPCs, as well.

This game has its own share of Sierra-type-logic (such as there being 4 different sharp-bladed instruments, each of which can only be used on one thing) and adventuron implementation issues (the biggest being error messages not disambiguating between default statements for correct commands on non-interesting present items and correct commands with non-present items).

Fortunately, there are helpful hints in every room. Even with that, though, I had to comb through the itch pages (I found three different ones: the regular page, the submission page, and some comments in the community page for the jam) to finish off the game. Art's very good, and fortunately no puzzles require the art, for people who are visually impaired.

Save Bigfoot's Christmas!, by Quizlock

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Clever puzzle concepts with plenty of implementation issues, December 25, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
This Adventuron game has you using a teleporter to access three different areas with interlocking puzzles.

The story idea is clever: Bigfoot has been implicated in 3 different acts of mischief and is on the naughty list. He asks you to clear his name.

In a world of perfect implementation, this would be a fairly fun puzzle game. It relies on some visual puzzles included in the graphics.

Unfortunately, there are numerous errors. Adventuron doesn't let you know if an object is undescribed or you typed it wrong, so that caused a few issues with things like a vital but undescribed rock show ad. The main verbs necessary for solving two key puzzles are implemented weird (for one, (Spoiler - click to show)PUT something INTO something doesn't work but INSERT something INTO something does, and for the other (Spoiler - click to show)you have to UNSCREW something instead of TURNing or RATCHETing when you have a ratchet).

A few other things added up to make it a frustrating experience. If the game were polished a bit more, it would be more enjoyable. Still, it had many charming moments.

The Wayward Story, by Ralfe Rich (as Cristmo Ibarra)

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A fractured tale in the style of Photopia, December 1, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
This game seems strongly influenced by Adam Cadre's work, specifically Photopia (for its fragmented story, multiple viewpoints and use of color) and Narcolepsy (which is specifically referenced in the text)..

This game switches back and forth between multiple points of view, including real-life people and fantasy stories. The game is themed around three lights: red, green and yellow.

It uses fancy techniques such as color and even upside down text.

Unlike Photopia, the overall story didn't congeal for me. I see themes; for instance, (Spoiler - click to show)all of the three 'colored' passages involve an option to help yourself or to help someone else and die right before you achieve your major goals.

Similarly, I couldn't really see the connections between the real-life stories. (Spoiler - click to show)While writing this, I realize that Diane went from scared kid helped by Ben to teenager missing Ben to woman on a train getting a call from (or calling?) Ben. But how are George and co. connected?

There are some typos (like a double period somewhere, and some missing letters in the upside down text. If I play through again I'll record it!) More importantly, on my first playthrough, I was (Spoiler - click to show)selfish in yellow and green scenarios and kind in red, and that led to the game crashing (Spoiler - click to show)immediately after getting my POV after the white door where Diane is in the train. The game just stopped and ended with 'press any key to close the interpreter'. I then replayed trying to be as nice as possible, and got an ending.

So, for me, this is technically and narratively impressive, but the storyline remained inscrutable to me.

This game contains segments with frequent strong profanity.

-Polish: Several bugs, including game-ending bug
+Descriptiveness: The fantasy sub stories were especially vivid
+Emotional impact: Again, the fantasy segments carry this for me, especially yellow and green.
-Interactivity: The conversation system required both typing a topic number and retyping TALK TO instead of letting you continue in menu format. This and a few other such things were frustrating.
+Would I play again? Yes, especially if it gets a post-comp release.

The Curse of the Scarab, by Nils Fagerburg

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A surprisingly rich and complex but difficult optimization games, November 7, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
I beta tested this game briefly.

I usually think of Ectocomp games as being quick and simple, but the Grand Guignol games have been pretty intense the last few years.

This game has several innovative/amazing features:
1. It's in a custom parser that's brand new but so good that it felt like Dialog or Inform for me
2. It has excellent javascript integration with smooth scrolling image sidebars
3. It has an optimization puzzle that requires in-depth strategy and a lot of spatial thinking.

So it's pretty cool. You're breaking into a tomb (like Infidel) and need to grab a scarab amulet as well as as much treasure as you can carry (which is rough, given you can only carry 4 things at a time in your hands).

The puzzles are harder than most optimization games I've seen. Just getting a successful ending at all will likely take several tries. There's enough complexity here that I probably saw <1/2 of the game when I beta tested it and still there are things I don't understand (like the purpose of the (Spoiler - click to show)map and cursed disk).

The only drawback I found is, like the other optimization games, the puzzle itself detracted somewhat from the emotional impact of the story, as the story is mostly a frame for the puzzles and is repeated over and over each time. Otherwise, for fans of optimised treasure runs, this is a great game.


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