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Reviews by MathBrush

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Summer Night City, by ghoti
A challenging Twine game about dystopia and intrigue, October 17, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
I beta tested this game.

Visually, this game is nice and polished, and the text is free from typos and bugs.

You play as a man blinded by the government and sent to work. While at work, you encounter a cast of characters entangled in a web of intrigue, and must make your own decisions and what to investigate and who to help. There are 6 different endings, some of which can happen unexpectedly, which makes this game pretty difficult (especially with no undo feature I saw.)

The first chapter's text is incredibly dense, with a lot of big words and long sentences. Once other characters are thrown into the mix, the pace picks up, and the dialogue especially is fresh and well-written.

I would love to see a dialogue-only game by this author (like the very popular games Birdland and Hana Feels). As for this game, I was interested enough to play to several different endings, and felt satisfaction at reaching a good one.

Frenemies; or, I Won An Andy Phillips Game!, by B F Lindsay

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A loving tribute to/light parody of Andy Phillips in a single room, October 15, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
Andy Phillips is a figure in the IF community known for occasionally releasing massive IF games that generally feature science fiction of some sort, large maps with a few puzzles available at a time, and deadly women.

In this game, you're a super-fan of Andy Phillips who has been locked in by his roommates. You're wearing a jumpsuit from an Andy Phillips game and you have tons of memorabilia around the rooms, all of which is directly based off of the games.

There are a few start puzzles and then one main one, getting out of the room. I found the starter puzzles not too hard, but the main puzzle requires few leaps of intuition. Given the constrained size of the game, however, it's possible to suss out the solution after time, and there is a great help system.

Faerethia, by Peter Eastman
A polished Twine game with music and philosophy, October 9, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
I'm a fan of 'two-world' type games, and this one fits the bill.

This game starts out with you in a sort of Plato's Cave. Soon you find yourself in Faerethia, and then there is a flashback to (Spoiler - click to show)the real world.

While there is an overarching story (one that has been done by several people, even up to Dr. Who and MLP fan fiction), the real thrust of this IFComp entry is its philosophy. It tries to tackle identity and the idea of continuity of self.

Does it work? It might have been hard once to imagine getting any kind of deep discussion out of interactive fiction games, but there's been quite a lot of work in IF that tackles big issues in a professional and educational way (like the excellent game Hana Feels).

Does this game reach that level? I'm not really sure, but it has a lot of polish, and it's not quite so heavy-handed as many other 'deep' games. I felt my playtime was well-spent.

Enceladus, by Robb Sherwin

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A participatory space western comedy, October 8, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
Robb Sherwin is legendary for a certain kind of game, one with many creative NPCs, imaginative and creative language, and blood, sex, and profanity.

I love his style, but frequently it gets too much for me. But Enceladus has the wittiness and imagination without as much of the blood, sex and profanity. This IFComp game is like Respectable Robb Sherwin, as if Sherwin's writing were a teenager seeing a cop drive by, doing their best to walk normal and not look like they're high.

So this is a Robb Sherwin game I can genuinely recommend for most audiences. It's not meant for kids, though (there's some gore and it could get pretty scary for them). This is a great chance for more people to discover Sherwin's clever humor (or stupid humor? or both?).

You play as a character on the HMS Plagoo. A werewolf is loose in space, and you soon crash on the moon Enceladus. You have to defeat your enemies while simultaneously taking care mentally and physically of your friends while they do the same for you.

The game is completely linear; the interactivity is "do the next thing we tell you too". There's a few smatterings of puzzle elements, a little bit less than Photopia, for instance, but more than 0.

This style of interactivity made me feel like I was an actor in a play, giving lines at the appropriate part. And since Sherwin's writing has always reminded me of Shakespeare (focusing on witty turns of phrase and a mixture of lowbrow and highbrow), it works well.

(P.S. It may seem hyperbole to compare anyone to Shakespeare, but I'm not saying that quality of writing is exactly equal. I'm just talking about the sense of humor)

URA Winner!, by Carter Sande
A troll game (?) portrayed as test prep, October 7, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
Carter Sande is just trolling us all at this point, I believe.

Last year, his game Let's Explore Geography! Canadian Commodities Trader Simulation Exercise was a tongue-in-cheek take on edutainment game. He spent a long time in the forums going back and forth on whether his game was actually edutainment or not, and it's still a little hard to tell.

This game has you clicking on a jpg island map to get help in different areas, in addition to taking small mini-tests of three questions at a time.

The tests are a bit hard (and I swear the compound interest one is wrong!). The little story segments between are more story-based and more clearly Interactive Fiction, but they honestly wouldn't be out of place in a real edutainment game.

The only place I found anything odd was (Spoiler - click to show)the very end, where there was no 'end game' link, and I scrolled down and found I 'missed something'. I noticed the replay this time was different, but not significantly so.

I then followed the walkthrough, the game went all (Spoiler - click to show)Zalgo, and the end result convinced me more than ever that Carter is trolling us all. I did reach a final The End after (Spoiler - click to show)destroying the obelisk.

Why 4 stars, not 5? Because, and this is written in my heart:

"Simulated Boredom is Still Boredom"

Otherwise, I had a good time.

Fat Fair, by AKheon

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Great programming, terrible idea, October 7, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
It's a real shame. This game has a sandbox environment, reasonable puzzles with multiple solutions, several endings that require completely different strategies and have distinct results, no bugs or typos that I found. Basically, everything you'd want a comp game to me.

The problem is that it's super offensive. You play a morbidly obese teen that is so fat they can eat anything and smash things with their fists. Your eyes and ears are so full of cholesterol that you have to type 'WUOOO' for echolocation every few turns.

There are other instances of, as the game calls it, 'crass humor and worse'. I didn't like that, not at all.

Remedial Witchcraft, by dgtziea
A pleasant, mid-length witch-based parser game, October 7, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
'Wizard/Witch's Apprentice' games are very common, from old ones like "The Wizard's Apprentice" and "Berrost's Challenge" to more recent ones like "Charming" and "Oppositely Opal" (one of my favorites!).

This game avoids many of the problems of the genre. It restricts its state space nicely both with regards to books (there are only a few, and only a few topics to look up), locations (only about 7), and ingredients (about 4). Most of these witch/wizard games just open up too quickly.

I found the puzzles very satisfying. My most negative experience was right at the beginning with the crystal ball. (Spoiler - click to show)I couldn't reach the ball, but there were length-enhancing things around (like the duster). It was not intuitive to me that you could climb up).

I felt like the ending could have used a bit more build up or that there could be more details here and there. But that's more of a design preference, and not a bug. This is a solid game that will please parser fans.

Bad Water, by Waking Media
A FMV game tribute to an old FMV game, October 6, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
This game is essentially a home-made remake of the obscure old CD game Bad Milk.

In both games, there is no text, only videos or audio. You pass out after consuming something bad and must go through puzzles.

The interactivity baffled me here, with spinning icons and bizarre link options.

I don't decide what's interactive fiction and what's not, and I think this is fine to have in IFComp. But I really don't know how to play and find the whole thing pretty opaque.

Turandot, by Victor Gijsbers

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
An erotic self-aware retelling of Turandot, October 6, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
Reviews serve many purposes. Helping authors feel noticed; providing feedback for future games; monologuing; and helping players decide what to play and not.

In the interest of the latter, this game is overtly sexual in a crass way. I abandoned it once, and only persevered when told that the large middle portion contains very little of that nature.

Aside from that, Gijsbers has used all of his excellent storytelling powers in crafting this game.

It takes Puccini's Turandot, a story that is very problematic in and of itself. I'm in the camp that believes that Puccini had built up something he couldn't finish: there was no reasonable way to finish the story or the music that could mesh well with what went before. There's no realistic resolution whatsoever.

This game takes that on head-first. The player traverses death and destruction in pursuit of the princess, but there's a sort of in-game fourth-wall-breaking (third-wall breaking?) where everyone comments on the ridiculousness of it. It's all just a joke.

But is it? (Spoiler - click to show)The player's obsession is never really explained. And the neat wrapping up of 'none of the people' actually died ignores the friend. The murder of the guard is glossed over. These huge plot holes are explained away by the overall self-critical nature of the game.

I've noticed that every writing community has it's own views on what is 'great'. I made a chart once displaying where each community lies on the scale of 'earnestness' vs and 'originality' vs 'canon' in their judging. Creepypasta and Battle for Wesnoth both have extreme earnestness in their writing, while IFComp tends to value self-awareness. This game is far in the self-awareness area, almost a parody of self-awareness.

The choice structure is essentially all fake choices. There may be some actual state tracked, but I don't think it necessarily improves the game if that's true. For instance, I chose to (Spoiler - click to show)let the crocodile kill me and the game explained it away, again, in a very self-aware manner.

This game achieves everything it set out to do. I would say it was one of my favorites except that the feelings of shame I get reading erotic works doesn't go well with the pure enjoyment I have from text games. I believe it will do very well in the competition, possibly the top three, unless other voters have concerns about the content as well.

All in all, Victor Gijsbers started out as a good author, and its clear he's only improving with time. I can't wait to see what he comes up with next!

Poppet, by Bitter Karella
Zombie dolls, October 5, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
You play as a doll who was once brought to life by a child's magic, but awakes now when the child is long gone.

You explore a dark two-story house filled with death, decay, and dark magic.

I loved the cast of characters, and found many of the puzzles satisfying. I think I had more fun with this game than I did with anything else in the comp so far.

Quest is just not as powerful as Inform or Tads or Dialog, though. Quest's worst feature is synonym handling. Synonyms apparently must be typed in for each verb combination.

For instance, if something is called ADJECTIVE NOUN, then one puzzle might be solvable by typing VERB1 NOUN, but another puzzle might only except VERB2 ADJECTIVE NOUN. And due to Quest's weaker engine, it won't tell you you're close or detect if you've almost typed the right thing.

Bitter Karella usually does much better than other Quest authors in this regard, but some slipped through this time. For instance, (Spoiler - click to show)TAKE CLAWS or GET CLAWS produced no text, incorrect text, or just baffling text at different points in the game.

Overall though, I love this game. Fun!


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