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Reviews by MathBrush

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View this member's reviews by tag: 15-30 minutes 2-10 hours about 1 hour about 2 hours IF Comp 2015 Infocom less than 15 minutes more than 10 hours Spring Thing 2016
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Diabolical, by Nick Aires

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Play the villain (or, supervillain) with lots of laughs, September 23, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
This game came out in 2015, after landmark games like Slammed!, Choice of Robots, Hollywood Visionary, and Creatures Such as We. But it definitely feels like a game somewhere in the transition point from early Choicescript (which was a lot more trope-focused and experimental, with either few stats or tons) and later Choicescript (where games tended to have unique focuses and more standardized gameplay and stat amounts).

You play as a supervillain focusing on one of three main stats: ingenuity, combat, and terror. I played as straight terror, and pretty much every challenge let me just pick a terror option when it wasn't testing one of my personality traits/relationship. I think this game definitely falls into the 'three stat trap' they've mentioned when training newer authors, where you can just pick one thing and stick with it forever.

I'm planning on writing more about this once my odyssey through Choice of Games's catalog finished, but I think the greatest use of stats in Choicescript games is not in providing puzzles or testing you but in showing the game remembers your previous actions. I think the more compelling way of providing 'challenge' and replay value is in setting up strongly motivated courses of action that directly compete with each other, forcing you to choose one at the cost of the others. This game has some of each style.

This game is definitely comedy-focused, and allows you to have a complete disregard for human life if you choose (I did a 'no kill' run). A lot of the humor is sort of mean-spirited, including a recurring news segment (that does a good job of showing the consequences of your choices) where a divorced/divorcing couple repeatedly insults each other. I didn't really like that kind of humor at first, but there were some genuinely funny segments, especially near the end.

The overall plotline and mystery reveals were pretty satisfying. I had a romance I liked. Two things that didn't work as well for me were a pretty abrupt ending (about four paragraphs were all there were after killing the main boss) and a few times where it did that 'Haha just kidding of course you aren't going to do that action you just picked' thing.

Overall, I'd feel comfortable recommending this game to people who like 'funny' villains or antiheroes more than heroes. This wasn't in my top ten, but I'll definitely replay at some point to see some of the other paths.

I received a review copy of this game.

The Cryptkeepers of Hallowford, by Paul Wang

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A single dungeon adventure with many paths, September 21, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
The Hero of Kendrickstone was a game that I enjoyed purely for the TTRPG module feel. This game absolutely has that same vibe, kind of like the Eye of the Beholder games.

In particular, this game (longer than the first one and IMO more polished) is a classic dungeon raid. You are a PC in a party and have to deal with the threat of the undead under a town while negotiating between various parties aboveground. There is a money economy, magic weapons, etc.

Some people have called it short on Steam. I've come to realize as I play these games that 'feeling short' often has less to do with word count (though it plays an important role!) and more to do with the narrative arc and setting expectations. It's unusual to have a game this size focus on a single event, and so people expect more, whereas a game set over one year (like Creme de la Creme or Metahuman, Inc.) provides well-known markers like holidays and season changes so players have an idea of how they are in the story and when the end is coming.

Again, like the last game, this is meat-and-potatoes Western RPG style gameplay, so if you love that sort of thing its great, but otherwise you may find it uninspiring. I'm in the first camp, and would definitely play another game in this series.

I received a review copy of this game.

The Hero of Kendrickstone, by Paul Wang

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Like playing through a Western RPG module, September 20, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
I was interested in Dungeons and Dragons at a young age, and I remember reading the first AD&D Player's Handbook with a flashlight when I was in grade school. So any game that manages to recreate the feel is a good one for me.

This game reminds me quite a bit of the parser game Heroes, one of my early favorites from when I started playing IF. In both games, you choose a class (both have a magic class, thief class, charmer class, and a physically powerful class), and then experience the same set of events but through a different viewpoint.

In this case, it's a fairly standard series of Western RPG tropes. I played through as a wizard, and died in my final confrontation. I plan on replaying to see more.

I received a review copy of this game.

You start out getting a specific reason that you are called on a quest. You journey to a great city, having an encounter with thieves along the way. In the city, you choose a patron (with a patron for each main class). Eventually, an evil wizard begins attacking, and you have to choose between 4 quests (again, tailored for the individual classes) to defeat the wizard.

It is possible to fail and die, and there are definitely 'wrong choices', with no save system. There is also a very important money system in this game, with successful quests netting you more money and a variety of things to spend it on.

The RPG-style gameplay is really the whole content here. If you're into that kind of game (such as Sorcery!, Choice of the Dragon, Heroes,etc.) then this may be a favorite of yours. If you're not into that, you'll be disappointed. The reviews on Steam are split, and I think that's the reason why.

I look forward to the sequel, and to replaying (with a different class this time) to see if I can finally defeat the wizard!

Exile of the Gods, by Jonathan Valuckas

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Continue your God-fueled conquest across the great seas, September 18, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
If the first game in this series (Champion of the Gods) had Odyssey-themed elements, this one had ones reminding me of Greek philosophy--if Greek philosophy included brutal rampages across the countryside!

I have to admit, this series is one of the few Choicescript games where I love to play as a bloodthirsty, wild warrior who swears allegiance to the Gods at all costs. If I have any regrets from this playthrough, it's that I started out being humble and stuck with it. I plan on replaying as a completely arrogant jerk instead. In any case, I proved to be a loyal disciple of the Goddess of War.

I finished this game with my jaw open, scoffing, partly because I enjoyed twist and partly because it ends on a major cliffhanger. I felt like the main threads of the game itself were completely resolved; in my playthrough, the main antagonists were defeated and all big mysteries cleared up. But the action definitely sets you up for another surprise.

This game has you voyage away from your homeland. I ended the first game not destroying destiny and serving the Gods. In this game, though, you must travel beyond both the reach of your Gods and destiny. You go across the sea to two contrasting cities, and much of the game consists of investigating the two cities, their customs and Gods.

There is romance in this game, although I chose to stay faithful to the romance from my first game, my wife and queen. We had several romantic opportunities. I believe this game is so large because there are so many paths from the first game.

Overall, this game seemed more contemplative than the first. You are met with several who question your choices. I had a son who followed my footsteps but questioned, and both my mentor from the first game and my companion later on frequently disagreed with me. I felt like the game also made vague references to Plato's teaching, like the Parable of the Cave and the concept of ideal forms. For one like me, driven by the bloodlust of the first game, I was surprised, but I think it helped me as I had to double down on my beliefs and goals.

There is a war training section in the last chapters that is its own little minigame. You have to choose different training styles for both your troops and your ships and use them effectively in battle.

Overall, I found the narrative arc less compelling than the first game but the richness of the choices/branching and the ethical quandaries more exciting.

I've also come to realize that I enjoy series of Choicescript games much more than stand-alones. They allow for so much more depth and so many options.

I received a review copy of this (very large) game.

Unto Dust, by James Chew, Failbetter Games

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Side-choosing and hijinks with the almost-dead., September 17, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
This was an interesting Exceptional Story for Fallen London, apparently expanding on a throwaway line in another part of the game (I think the conflict card between Tomb Colonists and others).

This game has a boisterous Tomb Colonist (kind of a living mummy, a creature preserved from death but full of wounds or rot that require bandages to hold them together and keep them presentable) who is trying (sort of?) to be decreed officially dead while leaving his estate to his nephew.

I may be mixing it up a bit with the perhaps more memorable Dilletante's Debut by Hannah Powell-Smith, which similarly featured a tug-of-war involving an estate and family.

And I suppose that's the problem. I don't have any negative memories about this story, but I don't have very memories of it in general besides wandering around the Grand Sanatorium fighting spiders. I do have much stronger memories of earlier stories from this year, such as the memorable Paisley, the very cute Go Tell The King of Cats (by the same author as this story!), and even Shades of Yesterday about a variety of pens.

So I'm giving this game stars for interactivity, polish, and descriptiveness, but not for emotional impact or replayability.

Homecoming, by Mary Goodden, Failbetter Games

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Orange tanner and an underground resort, September 16, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
This Exceptional Story takes us to a restorative hotel in the Neath where the clientele tend to up with a deep orange tan (sometimes with burning cracks in it!)

I wasn't as impressed with this one as I have been with others. For me, the best parts were the connections with Sunless Seas (which involved hauling around a great deal of (Spoiler - click to show)sphinxstone), and the 'stinger' at the end of the story.

Here's my score:
+Polish: Smooth as always for Failbetter.
+Descriptiveness: I can still vividly picture the glow and the water.
-Interactivity: The main gameplay has a sort of fruitless cycle where you repeat the same things over and over. It made sense in-story but I found it frustrating.
+Emotional impact: Actually, yeah, some of the characters were pretty interesting and I've thought of a certain dreamlike nighttime scene on occasion.
-Would I play again? I don't think I would. But I would read other things by this author! This seemed more like an experiment in form that didn't resonate with me specifically rather than a failure on the author's part.

The Ballad of Johnny Croak, by Harry Tuffs, Failbetter Games

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Frogs and killers, September 16, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
Fallen London is all about the impermanence of death in the Neath (the enormous cavern below the earth where cities get sucked into when they 'fall').

But this story follows a strange assassin who uses frogs and somehow manages to permanently get rid of people.

It ends up being quite charming. Here's my score:

+Polish: It worked smoothly and seemed well-thought out. Pretty much all Fallen London content is polished.
+Descriptiveness: I played it months ago, but I still remember the frogs and the (Spoiler - click to show)factory that threatens their wetlands
+Emotional impact: As I said it above, it's charming. Johnny Croak is a sweety.
+Interactivity: I definitely felt like I could make real choices.
-Would I play again? You can pay to replay (or play for the first time if you missed it) Fallen London's exceptional stories. This one was fun, but I wouldn't go out of my way to play it again, especially with some other very good stories out there.

Psy High 2: High Summer, by Rebecca Slitt

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A fitting sequel for Psy High. Change time at a summer camp, September 16, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
I have a fondness for summer camp settings. Birdland is a game I really enjoy and recommend a lot of people, and it's set in a summer camp. Several tv movies and shows from my childhood and my son's are set in summer camps.

Also, Psy High is high on my list of best Choicescript games.

So I enjoyed this game. It's more serious in some ways than the first game.

You play as a camp counselor, and you make a big discovery about the camp. You have the opportunity to radically change your life and the life of others.

More than any other Choicescript game I've played, I experienced a lot of temptation here. I usually pick a role early and play along, and this time I played the 'help everyone as much as possible." But the game sets up competing goals really well, and by the end I had ended up acting very selfishly and killing several people.

I like how the game has truly meaningful choices interspersed with reflective choices; for instance, you can pick your relationship with your parents, which makes you feel powerful in and of yourself.

I saw someone complain on Steam that the game had a high school setting, so keep in mind that this is absolutely a high school game. I loved this game, and intend to play it again in the future, maybe try and change some of the darker choices I made.

I received a review copy of this game.

The Last Monster Master, by Ben Serviss

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A long monster training simulation with some unusual design choices, September 11, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
The Last Monster Master is a game very different from most Choicescript games in some respects.

First of all, the bulk of the game is a simulation like Metahuman Inc, another unusal CoG game. About 60% of the game consists of taking 4 monsters with different personalities and strengths, training them and getting various amounts of money for it, spending the money on improved training facilities, and seeing how they respond to different scenarios.

The main stats are discipline/compassion, nerve and respect, but there are also two 'power' stats: telepathy and body language. I focused entirely on body language. These two abilities aren't used to do things directly. Instead, in many options in the game, you can either guess what to do from 3 normal options or use telepathy/body language to get a hint.

The weird thing is that the hint is often not apparently useful, and the game frequently has you try everything from a list, exhausting all your options, with the last option frequently being something out of character. So I'm not sure how useful getting the body language hints actually was.

The beginning is a bit slow, and the end a bit abrupt. The characterization of you, your helper, and your monsters can shift quickly.

But the premise is fantastic, and it allows enough flexibility to make the game overall enjoyable. I guess it's kind of like a Choicescript version of Pokemon, but you can talk to your monsters about their feelings and what it's like living in human society. You get to visit them after they graduate and see how they turned out.

Be warned that the game changes the goalposts on you frequently.

Definitely recommended for fans of simulators, not so much for others.

I received a review copy of this game.

Champion of the Gods, by Jonathan Valuckas

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A Greek mythology-inspired game that grapples with destiny, September 8, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
Pros: It was much easier for me to choose the stats I wanted to have than other games, and to get them high. I chose to be like Heracles, and was a completely brutal and narcissistic champion of the Gods. The game absolutely let me take this path, and justified it in-game as being a champion of the goddess of war.

I enjoyed the writing quite a bit. The characters were on par with other good Choicescript games, but the overall plot and themes are what resonated with me.

There are several romance choices. At least two are thrust upon you in terms of their attraction to you, but you have a lot of agency over what you'll do.

This game is inspired by Greek mythology, but has its own pantheons and cities. I suggest that you try the opening before buying to get a feel for it. I'm excited to try its sequel, which is substantially larger.

As a final note, this game does something I've never seen in a Choicescript game before: (Spoiler - click to show)it has you switch to another character briefly mid-game, with a different stat set you can adjust to.

Cons: The game has a fairly linear main story (though I've only played once, many choices seemed to converge, and other reviews confirm it). Until the end, that is. However, in a game centered around destiny, that's not so odd a thing. But I bring it up because some have questioned its replay value. It felt quite long to me, though, and it had enough choice in characterization that I feel who I was as a character could be completely different from playthrough to playthrough.

I received a review copy of this game.

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