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Reviews by MathBrush

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4x4 Galaxy, by Agnieszka Trzaska

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A lengthy procedurally generated space exploration game on a grid, April 8, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
This game is one of the most interesting of Spring Thing. You have to explore a 4x4 grid of planets, with 4 'safe' planets in the middle, 8 dangerous planets on the edges, and 4 really dangerous planets in the corners (at least, that's how I interpreted it).

The writing is grounded in the pulp sci fi of decades ago, and has a lot of tropes from an older time, like 'impressing the natives' and taking treasures from their holy sites back to your society's museums.

The gameplay has a good rhythm of exploring, buying and selling, kind of reminiscent of Fallen London.

I really enjoyed this at first, but on each of my playthroughs, I hit a kind of wall at the end where I knew exactly what I needed to do but the resources seemed like a lot to acquire. There are some shortcuts (like special ores giving tons of crystals), but I felt each time like the interesting content ran out before the final quest did.

However, that might be due to my timeline in playing every game. Perhaps if I took it at a more leisurely pace it wouldn't be a big drawback, and I don't know if the author should change it.

Hawk the Hunter, by Jonathan B. Himes
An expansive but unintuitive tribute to Hawk the Slayer, April 6, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
This is a big Quest game entered into the 2020 Spring Thing.

It's clear that a lot of love and hard work has gone into this game, and it is very detailed and at times evocative.

However, adapting other works, especially static stories like film or books, is tricky. It can, as in this case, end up with huge worlds and confusing maps, tons of NPCs each with small parts, etc. This, plus the randomized combat, gives a feeling of an old western false-front store, designed to look big but needing a lot of work in the background.

A walkthrough would improve this immensely. On the plus side, it made me want to watch the original film, which I think is one of the author's goals.

Sam Fortune - Private Investigator, by Steve Blanding

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A solid noir story marred by 'guess-what-the-author-is-thinking' situations, February 10, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
This game is long, well-written in the noir style (where men drink hard liquor and every woman is beautiful.

It's framed as a radio play, and has two acts. You end up doing daring things, with cat-and-mouse chases, throwing punches, etc.

Unfortunately, many of these things are under-clued or involve non-intuitive actions. This makes a walkthrough almost required to play through the game.

The Fog Knows Your Name, by Clio Yun-su Davis

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A relationship-focused horror game about the fog haunting a small town, January 16, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
I purchased this game because it seemed interesting. I'm a sucker for good horror stories.

The concept is that the dense fog in your town is rumored to kill those who have wronged others and not confessed. After an argument with a former friend, he dies, and you are the last person to see him alive.

The game is split between two main modes of interaction: deciding which of your many (well-written) friends you'll spend most time with, and deciding whether to believe in the fog monster or be a skeptic and deal with the real-life problems in the town.

I struggled with the first chapter or two, as it was more relationship-focused and I'm more into fantasy and sci-fi aspects of games. But then it picked up steam, and I ended up enjoying both facets of the game, and had a satisfying (though 'losing') ending.

Gone Out For Gruyere, by B F Lindsay

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A 'cheesy', compact puzzler, November 19, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
I beta tested this game.

In this game, you are bullied by cheese. In a bizarre twist, you find yourself in a sort of pocket-dimension blocked by an enormous, rude wheel of Gruyere cheese.

There are eight corridors leading from the cheese, each heading to a different area containing useful items.

Some of the puzzles can be pretty tricky in this game, and some of the concepts can be very difficult to puzzle out (like what exactly is the nature of the (Spoiler - click to show)'hole' you find). But it's compact nature means that there are only so many things you can try before finding the solution. I found this game to be pretty amusing!

Pas De Deux, by Linus Åkesson

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A daring experiment and a taxing challenge, November 19, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
I beta-tested this game.

Åkesson is one of the most successful creators of new parser languages in the last few years. His new A-machine and Dialog language have proven to be powerful and smooth, and its default messages are, perhaps, more appropriate than Inform's default messages.

This game is a great departure from usual parser fare, and a bold choice for IFComp. You are a conductor, and you must follow a real-life score (from the Nutcracker Suite) and cue everyone at the right time. The real score is contained in the game, as well.

This is like no other game I've seen before, and playing it is extremely taxing. I felt like I was burning calories as I played this game. Even slight errors can cause havoc in the orchestra. And if you play perfectly, a problem arises that is outside the scope of the score, providing a 'lousy last point' puzzle.

Is this well-done? Yes. Is it innovative? Definitely. Is it a great display of the Dialog language's capabilities? Absolutely. But is it fun? For me, playing felt frustrating, but winning was truly enjoyable. So if you're going to play it, try to schedule time to finish it!

For the Moon Never Beams, by J. Michael

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A compact teen horror game with difficult puzzles , November 19, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
I beta-tested this game.

This game is is a horror story that effectively borrows elements of both games and pop-culture from the 80s. This is a monster-focused horror game set with two kids driving the boy's car to prom, with the date wearing the boy's ring. It brings to mind the music video for Thriller or parts of Back to the Future.

Gameplay-wise, this has elements from older games as well. There are numerous timers on the game (including one that killed me off at 70 points as I was playing the competition version), a maze, and a complex machinery.

I like this game, both as a tester and as a player. It can get frustrating at times, though. I recommend playing past the first scene and seeing if you like the overall feel of the game or not.

Very Vile Fairy File, by Billy Boling

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
An enjoyable rhyming-based game, November 10, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
Andrew Schultz makes games by taking a wordplay idea and finding as many examples of it as possible, then building a game around that list.

Sometimes, it feels a little forced. Some times, it feels great. This is one of those great times, at least for me.

I'm not coming in looking for a cohesive narrative. I'm coming in to have pure puzzling fun that hurts your brain.

I would rank this game up around with Shuffling Around, one of my favorites, but a little below Threediopolis, my absolute favorite.

Clusterflux, by Marshal Tenner Winter

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
A typical MTW game with cool settings, October 24, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
MTW tends to make games that have similar strengths and similar weaknesses.

Pros:
-Large casts of interesting characters that talk to you and follow you around
-Big maps and inventories
-Compelling plot points and settings

Cons:
-Only one path is implemented
-Difficult to predict correct paths
-Typos and bugs

This game is no exception. A mysterious mongoose/cat and a mysterious woman come into your life, and you investigate a weird house with links to the past.

I used the walkthrough because, from experience, it's difficult to play a MTW game without one.

Edit: For some more specific feedback on this game:

(Spoiler - click to show)Consider the following exchange when meeting the first human NPC:
>talk to woman
That's not a verb I recognise.

>ask woman about woman
sleeping young woman doesn't have anything useful to say about that.

This is a game filled with NPCs. It takes only 5 minutes to put in a response to TALK TO WOMAN that suggests using ASK/TELL instead. The capitalization and/or article usage for "sleeping young woman" is harder but is doable.

The default responses for many simple verbs like JUMP, PUSH, and EAT have all been left in.

Error messages make up the bulk of text you see when playing a parser game, and they need a lot of work here.


ALICE BLUE, by Chris Selmys
Obscurity and fairy tales, October 17, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
This game is obscure in many senses of the word. First, it is very hard to run, intended only to run on a linux system. I was able to play it following helpful instructions at http://intfiction.org/t/reviews-for-beta-tested-games/43016/7.

Second, it's obscure because the writing is deliberately vague. Everything is allusions, none of which (maybe one?) is about Alice in Wonderland. Most of the allusions seem to be to Hansel and Gretel or Cinderella.

Third, the way forward is obscure. It is difficult to discover how movement works, difficult to find out how a room is finished, and difficult to go on to the next room. Some basics of movement: (Spoiler - click to show)Typing EXITS shows you the exits. You can move with N, E, S, and W as abbreviations. I took to the source code first and walkthrough later. The source code encourages you to look at it.

I encountered a bad ending that made me get stuck. It was when I (Spoiler - click to show)became a tree. I beat it by typing, not (Spoiler - click to show)run, which was the highlighted term, but (Spoiler - click to show)running away.

Occasionally I used the source to type the right word to move on if I got completely stuck.

One note: all of the major keywords (that give you special results) are (Spoiler - click to show)HTML color codes.

The fiddliness of interaction put me off a bit, and the game either has a few bugs or only has bugs because I played it on the wrong system. Otherwise I was impressed with the design and descriptiveness and would be interested in playing again.


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