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Reviews by MathBrush

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WE R THE WORLD, by Dan Hoy and Mike Kleine

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A lengthy train-of-thought surrealist exercise, April 18, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
This game is a collection of individual short story/games about musical artists in a cabin recording We Are the World.

The style is surreal and dense, between Finnegan's Wake and The Wasteland. Some are more coherent; Huey Lewis's was essentially a straight story. An example of the surreal language is "People need to stop using reptile as a pejorative. The universe is a spaceship."

On a review for Charlie the Robot, I said: "There should be a name for the genre of 'biting commentary on society that is self-aware and occasionally dips to crudity, with hints of cheerful ideals always tinged by irony, using an overload of text as literary device.' Such games include Spy Intrigue and Dr. Sourpuss Is Not A Choice-Based Game. It seems increasingly common."

It seems like that trend is continuing. This particular game has some of the least overall plot of all this genre I've seen. The different sections have little to differentiate between them, reducing the surreality to an essential sameness.

I could see this really attracting a certain personality type. I do not think this is an objectively bad game. But it didn't suit my personal tastes. A game similar to this but with a bit more interactivity that I could recommend is The Harmonic Time-Bind Ritual Symphony

Charming, by Kaylah Facey
A sometimes-tedious spell-based parser game with a nice setting, March 12, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
I had an earlier review for this game that I deleted on accident.

Charming uses a spell system similar to the Enchanter series. In the long tradition of spell-based parser games, you must use a series of more and more complicated magical spells and techniques to recover from a series of magical mishaps that occurred before play began.

The one problem I had with this game was its gating of information. After a short but repetitive opening puzzle, you are given 4 books, some with ten or fifteen or more entries. It's absolutely overwhelming.

This could have been overcome by using the system in Curses (where you have books without indices and must look up names which lead to other names) or the even better version found in Zarf's room in Cragne Manor (where there is an index that only lists pages you've already discovered).

If this info dump could be ameliorated, this is actually a lovely game with some intricate puzzles and descriptive writing. Recommended for the patient and thorough.

The Temple of Shorgil, by Arthur DiBianca
A beautiful limited parser example of minimalism and abstraction, March 5, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
This is a fairly lengthy game (including bonus material) that uses the limited parser format. The majority of the game involves compass movement and TAKE-ing and PUT-ing.

The overarching theme of the game is that you are in a temple filled with stories, each of the stories relating to a puzzle. The puzzles are all based of a single simple mechanic, probably simpler than anything DiBianca has used before. However, it quickly becomes more complicated.

It's almost like a testament to the power of binary. TAKE/PUT, like 0 and 1, can become anything in combination, including language, numbers, etc.

The only thing keeping it from being a perfect game to me is the way that the game is so divorced from emotional investment. This is a game for philosophical and logical contemplation.

Basilica de Sangre, by Bitter Karella

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A Quest comedy about possessing nuns to rescue your mother, February 19, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
This is a fairly hefty Quest game in Bitter Karella's characteristic style: goofy characters, classic TAKE/DROP/LOOK gameplay, vivid settings.

You play as a "level 2 succubus" from the pits of tartarus, trying to find your mother who has been kidnapped by nuns.

The twist to this game is that you can possess all of the characters, each granting you different abilities and sometimes even changing the appearance of the game itself.

Quest always has some problems that make it not quite as responsive as inform, but Bitter Karella handles it well. I strongly recommend downloading for offline play, as the servers can get tied up.

Junior Arithmancer, by Mike Spivey

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
An enjoyable math-based pattern game with academic humor, February 19, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
This game is essentially unique among interactive fiction. In a Zork-like setting, you are a math wizard (or arithmancer) taking an exam.

Your job is to use spells to create sequences of decimals coming from famous mathematical constants. The further you can get in any one sequence, the more spells you get.

You begin with basics like addition or subtraction, but soon you gain spells that modify other spells and it all becomes complex and tangled up.

In the midst of this mathematical quest, the committee viewing you gossips about academic drama, discussing department conflicts and upcoming changes. As an academic myself, it is spot on.

I work with the author and beta-tested this game, but I wouldn't feel bad giving it a lower score if it deserved one. This is a fun game, and I recommend it.

Alias 'The Magpie', by J. J. Guest

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A hilarious comedy game with plenty of puzzles and a British setting, February 17, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
This is a great comedy based on misunderstandings and physical humor.

You are a thief, sent to steal a priceless object from a British manor. But to do so, you must assum a variety of costumes and identities.

Along the way, you discover the secrets of the household and the neighborhood, including lies, deceit, regret, and gorillas.

There were a few sticky points in puzzles that were fussier than they needed to be, but otherwise this is a prime example of what a polished parser puzzler can look like. One of the best games of the 2010ís.

Dynamite Powers vs. the Ray of Night!, by Mike Carletta

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A difficult and polished short superhero game, February 3, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
I beta tested this game. In this game, you play as a superhero who has been captured, and must escape to stop the evil villain from shooting a giant ray at Earth.

The game is arranged linearly, with 4 big set-piece puzzles. Each puzzle requires multiple steps to complete, and can be quite complicated.

I found the game very polished, although occasionally harsh (requiring death to learn what to do, for instance). Highly recommended for people into difficult puzzles in parser games.

A Final Grind, by nrsm_ha
A combat RPG investigating a mine with math-based mechanics, February 1, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
This is a twine RPG with an interesting mechanic: you can either do randomized attacks against a single opponent at once, with them randomly attacking back, or you can consistently do 10 damage to all enemies and block their attacks by answering math questions. Questions are hand-written, not randomized, so you can see the same ones over and over, reflecting your increasing skill. They range from "2+2=?" to "what is the first derivative of xcos(x)", so if you enjoy being quizzed on arithmetic, algebra, and calculus, this is the game for you (I enjoy that, so I liked it).

I did get stuck on level 2, after finding the altar and decoding the writings. I did skip some material on level 1, so maybe I missed a ladder? In any case, this seems like a fun RPG, though I wonder if there is a 'story behind the story', because leveling up never increases strength, it only increases exhaustion and self-loathing.

(I wrote this review during the comp. After, I investigated more of the code and found the endings, and I do believe this RPG has an overall theme related to resignation and/or stoicism, but I don't want to spoil it).

Night City 2020, by Hoper
A faithful French Twine translation of a Cyberpunk roleplaying game, January 31, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
This game is an odd one out in the French IF Comp. It seems to be a direct adaptation of a pre-existing Cyberpunk gamebook.

Because of this, the content size is enormous, with pages often having numerous paragraphs or in-depth conversations, with a minimal number of choices, each retaining their 'turn to page 182' text from the gamebook. The author made the choice of deleting choices which ask if you have a certain item that you don't, resulting in lots of text and few choices.

This made a stark contrast with the other Twine games, which feature more choice and less text. Both are good, but the text seemed also to have been written by a professional author, and just copied and pasted by Hoper (the pseudonym this was entered under). For some reason, I found that less appealing than 'fresh' IF. I can read a standard professional book author any day, but earnest amateur IF writing is harder to come by, and, in my personal opinion, more valuable.

Overall, I may have just been overwhelmed as a non-native speaker. I enjoyed it, but the first two pages had more text than the entirety of some of the other games in this comp, making it difficult for me as a non-native to read without getting fatigued.

Space Punk Moon Tour, by J_J

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A big, illustrated, intricate, futuristic Quest game with implementation issues, January 10, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
This game is cool. Itís illustrated and animated. Itís big. It has some real time events, great worldbuilding, and rich settings.

Unfortunately, it suffers in implementation. There are huge numbers of implemented items. Actions can be difficult to guess. I constantly found myself struggling against the parser and the system, not understanding what was wrong.

I recommend checking out the first few scenes to get a feel for this interesting game.


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