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Reviews by MathBrush

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Eunice, by Gita Ryaboy

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Psychology in a metaphorical parser game, December 18, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
This parser game has an intriguing concept: provide psychological therapy while playing a game.

You play in a metaphorical and dreamlike world, with trolls in houses and random cookware scattered everywhere.

The therapy occurs in the gameplay: you are told relaxation techniques and other tips, asked to exercise them in-game, and generally work on laughter, dance, happiness and fixing things.

This game has a lot of implementation trouble, both with guess-the-verb and unclear instructions. This gets in the way of the relaxation experience, and makes me less likely to play again in the future.

Escape from Dinosaur Island, by Richard Pettigrew

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A homebrew web parser game with minimalistic old-school dino style!, December 18, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
This game was entered in IFComp 2018.

Escape from Dinosaur Island is a homebrew parser game that features nice coloring and styling.

The parser has most of the weaknesses of homebrew parsers in general, mostly a lack of synonyms or responses for things like 'get up' or 'push basket'. However, this is alleviated by generous in-game hinting of the correct verbs.

The plot and gameplay are Scott-Adams-esque: each room has an item or two, the plot is mostly scenery for the fun setting and puzzles, and most of the gameplay is bringing the right item to the right place.

If you like that style of gameplay (like I do), then this will be a fun little nugget of gameplay.

The Master of the Land, by Pseudavid

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A masterful fantasy game with a unique interaction style, December 12, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
Twine games often fall into two traps: branching too much (so that playthroughs are short and miss almost all content) or branching too little (so that players feel frustrated, as if their choices don't matter). Games with strong writing can make up for this (like Myriad or Polish the Glass), but it's definitely a big problem for this system.

Pseudavid sidesteps this problem neatly by using a unique form of interaction. The player is put into a physical space and allowed to navigate while multiple storylines unfold simultaneously.

The game, then, becomes about being in the right place at the right time. It gives you a real sense of a bigger world, of life and vitality.

I suggest playing this game multiple times to see the different storylines.

The one thing that I had trouble with was, even when I knew exactly what I wanted to do and had some ideas about how to do it, I had trouble carrying it out.

(Note: I helped beta test this game.)

Erstwhile, by Maddie Fialla, Marijke Perry

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A smooth Twine murder mystery with complex puzzles, November 30, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
This was one of of my favorite games of the competition. Itís a smooth Twine game that plays well both on desktop and mobile.

You play as a ghost who died, or was murdered, during Thanksgiving. You have to simultaneously learn (as a player) about the neighborhood while gathering (as a ghost) mental clues to find out what happened.

The game is divided into two chunks: exploration and linking. Exploration has you looking through the thoughts of others to gain clues, and linking has you pick two related clues to produce a new one in a complex multi-layered system. Iíve seen mysteries use this technique (and written one), but this is the best implementation of the idea Iíve seen so far, and very satisfying. I got stuck near the end, but I feel like a puzzle game is perfect difficulty if I do well until the end and need a hint then.

Great for mystery fans, and fun for everyone.

Animalia, by Ian Michael Waddell

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A richly responsive game about animals occupying a human body, November 19, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
This was one of the best and most-talked-about games form IFComp 2018.

I played through this one once during the comp and about 6 or 7 times afterwards.

This game has some of the greatest responsivity I've ever seen in a choice game. You make a choice between several different characters to inhabit 4 regions of a robot-child's body. Each area of the body has 3 choices.

Throughout the game, the character inside a given area will talk, and there are 3 variants every time this happens. In addition, there is a point where any two characters can talk to each other, which gives (I believe) around 90 combinations, some of which are merged but still very impressive. There are multiple pathways through everything.

Basically, this is a combinatorial explosion game, which are usually very short because it's impossible to make them long. This is a long game, though, so that means the author worked incredibly hard.

It also made me laugh a lot at different points, literally laughing out loud (for instance when (Spoiler - click to show)Charlie the robot is standing in the toilet flushing his feet over and over until mom comes in).

I'm giving it 4 stars just because I felt that, although my choices mattered a lot, it was hard for me to make and execute plans. I tried so many times just to get to Martin's house, even with the author's help, and I wish I could have known better how to do that. But this is an incredible achievement of a game.

The Addicott Manor, by Intudia
A classic CYOA-style online game book about a haunted mansion, November 15, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
This IFComp 2018 game features a professional thief protagonist who is exploring an old, haunted mansion with the intent of finding treasure.

The style is unique to the company, Intudia, with numerical choices listed in the text and buttons with numbers on them lined up below.

The game itself has an intricate backstory, with the mansion having many levels and many ghosts and villains.

There are numerous problems, however. The text is overly long at times, with scattered grammatical errors (like 'to' instead of 'too). The numbers on the bottom are often in a strange pattern with one number far to the side of the others. Instead of tracking state, it seems as if the game relies on you to remember what actions you took in the past.

Still, the story is compelling, and a fun read for fans of horror.

Border Reivers, by Vivienne Dunstan

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A murder mystery set in Old Scotland, November 15, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
I helped to beta test this game.

This is a fairly big conversational game set in medieval Scotland. The player must converse with over a dozen characters to figure out who is planning a murder.

The ambitious game design makes this feel epic, and it's exciting to get tangled up in the web of deceit. However, the large number of characters and the many topics makes for a combinatorial explosion, and it becomes easy to get lost in a forest of information.

The author has an Introcomp game that is also set in medieval times that is worth checking out.

Santa Carcossa Nights, by Bitter karella
A big, fairly serious horror game by bitterkarella, November 8, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
bitterkarella is known for making horror-themed games in Quest, both serious and humorous.

This game has more styling than most, with hand-chosen fonts and neon colors.

The storyline seems well thought-out, and the setting is evocative. It all feels like an intense and overwhelming dream, the kind you wake from gasping for air. It starts out light-hearted but gets more intense.

This game has the usual problems Quest does, which I think are inevitable given the platform. Of all bitterkarella's games, this is the one I'd most like to see polished up in Inform or TADS 3.

Pumpkin Night, by Eleanor Hingley
A novella-length game about a crew of teenagers and a haunted town, November 5, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
This game combines dating game-type choices with complex static storytelling to form a rich interactive game.

You go to a Halloween party, and a lot of people are there. A supernatural event puts the whole town in danger, and you have a group of 8 people you can interact with, including multiple romantic partners.

Most of the choices relate to how you treat people. It doesn't track perfectly, though...I picked constantly to have favorable interactions with one character (Zachary) and twice with another (Ione) and received romantic possibilities only with Ione.

Very impressive. The title and cover art led me to believe it would be a short and under-implemented parser game. Instead, it was a rich and polished novella.

The font was a light grey that was a bit difficult to read, as a warning to the visually impaired.

Fhtagn! - Tales of the Creeping Madness, by Design Imps

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
An entertaining fusion of Lovecraftian horror with the roaring twenties, July 18, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
I received a review copy of this game, and played through a couple of games.

This is a single- or multi-player board game that goes through 6 rounds. In each of the six rounds, you are trying to increase your 7 stats. These stats allow you to pass challenges. In the end, you see if your stats will qualify you for a 'role', determining if you win or not. The roles have 2 hidden stat requirements which you must guess from their descriptions.

I've played many commercial IF games in the last couple of years, and I would put this one in the top tier in terms of polish. The music, graphics, animations, and overall presentation are professional and engaging.

Writing-wise, I was strongly reminded of Fallen London in its more humorous sidequests. You are playing as a cultist each time. A good amount of text was repeated on two playthroughs, more repetition than is typical for a pure text game, but less repetition than I'm used to in a board game. It allows for mods (several of which are already developed), which increases the replay value.

The game was charming and funny. I found myself excited by the game map with its bouncy art of classic locations like an old town hall, an asylum, a speakeasy, etc.

The interaction was a little fiddly. It took me two playthroughs and two readings of the tutorial to fully understand what was going on, and I'm not really convinced of the 'elder sign' mechanic. The game doesn't tell you how to pass certain tests, including the test to see if you win, but you can spend elder signs to see what tests include. Replay also helps you know what tests require.

However, I enjoyed both of my playthroughs. Because I hadn't paid for the game, I considered what price I'd pay for the game. I thought, "Is this $20 range like Sunless Skies? Because that would be pretty steep." When I saw it was $4.99, I thought, "That's more than fair for the price you're paying."

So if you're a fan of Lovecraftian references, gothic humor, Ruby Gloom-style art, or complex board games like Arkham Asylum, this is a good game for you.


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