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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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The Mouse Who Woke Up For Christmas, by Luke A. Jones
An expansive and imaginative animal-centered Quest game, June 12, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
This was the only IFComp 2018 game I had never finished. I finally finished it today. There was no walkthrough at the time of the comp, and the one in there now doesn't work for the last area.

But I finished it today, and that last area wasn't too bad!

The reason I had so much trouble is because Quest has synonym trouble, and the author didn't implement very many synonyms. Quest also has context-sensitive commands, which is great except when it makes commands seem wrong when you're just using them out of order. So for instance, "USE MATCH ON LUMP" gives an error unless you've done everything else completely right.

Other issues are unguessable puzzles, leaps of intuition, etc.

But the characters are fun, and it's all very imaginative. I remember Steph Cherrywell made the switch from Quest to Inform and ended up winning IFComp. I think almost all the issues here are with the Quest engine, and that the author has great ideas that may possibly be expressed in a different format.

Diddlebucker!, by J. Michael

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A big puzzlefest about a crazy puzzle race, June 12, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
This game took a lot of work, and will provide great enjoyment for many people.

It's a parser game that is (as far as I can tell) bug-free and has creative puzzles, lasting longer than pretty much all the other parser games in IFComp that aren't buggy.

So why am I only giving it 3 points? The interactivity and polish felt off to me.

The game is fairly generic, especially with the standard responses. X ME, JUMP, SING (even at a concert!), DANCE etc. either give the normal response or aren't implemented at all.

And many interactions seem purposelessly fussy, almost like imitating what they think old games were like. Possessing only one object capable of creating fires, the verb LIGHT asks 'with what'? Saying LIGHT WITH [FIRE THING] doesn't fix it; you need to turn on the fire thing. But TURN ON [FIRE THING] isn't implemented. You need to LIGHT [FIRE THING] then LIGHT [THE THING YOU WANT TO BURN].

Similarly, when there's one puzzle that requires you to listen to a loud ambient thing, just LISTEN isn't good enough, you have to say what to listen to. And so on.

It seems a definite stylistic choice, and one that didn't resonate with me. If you're looking for a bug-free game with a big map, creative puzzles, and extensive gameplay, this is your game.

Wolfsmoon, by Marco Innocenti

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A graphical horror investigation game, May 22, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
I grade on a 5 point scale: polish, descriptiveness, interactivity, emotional impact, and if I would play it again.

This games passes all 5 points, but it just squeaks by on a few.

Polish: The graphics aid immensely in this area. A few things could be worded more graciously, like changing some more standard responses.

Descriptiveness: This is pretty easy to award. The game is lush in every way.

Interactivity: I struggled with verbs from time to time, and some puzzle solutions were obtuse, but some interactivity was so clever I just had to laugh. (a particular amusing example is (Spoiler - click to show)finding the silver key)

Emotional impact: Some of it was silly, but I felt a definite atmosphere throughout the game, and the villa portion was tense at times.

Play again: I see myself revisiting this in the future.

So that's my 5 star rating for you. It's a fairly simple game in structure, with some tricky puzzles. Best for fans of older style games, especially Scott Adams and Magnetic Scrolls.

The Bones of London, by Gavin Inglis, Failbetter Games
An exceptional story that digs into London's past, April 20, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
This Fallen London exceptional story was well-put together but didn't appeal to me as much as the others.

In this story, you explore the names of the London streets. If you've played Fallen London, you'll know that the names are all different from real London, with jokes and allusions taking place of the actual names.

This story has you become a surveyor and a recruit of a group trying to discover the 'bones of London', the true names and map. And that's pretty much it.

For fans of London itself, map enthusiasts, and Fallen London fanatics, I recommend this game.

I highly recommend Gavin Inglis's other material, and his writing in this game. It was just the concept that didn't appeal as much to me.

HOJOTOHO!, by Cash DeCuir, Failbetter Games
One of the best exceptional stories. A band of youths in Fallen London., April 20, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
Several others had recommended this exceptional story to me. And I found it really was as good as they say.

In this game, you encounter a band of children, just as much heroes as your character is, except in their own sphere.

You take part in their adventures, seeing Fallen London through a child's eyes, and encounter a bittersweet story of growth and loss.

Highly recommended.

Voyageur, by Bruno Dias
A beautiful commercial game about space exploration, April 20, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
Voyageur is a Unity-based game (I think) with amazing sound and pleasing background visuals.

It's similar to 80 Days in that it's a choice-based travel game revolving around buying items at a low price and selling them at a higher price. This mechanic fuels your ability to dive ever deeper to the center of the universe, meeting different planets that are parts of different factions along the way.

This game makes heavy use of procedural generation, sort of a text version of No Man's Sky.

With both No Man's Sky and Voyageur, I felt that maybe that procedural elements were pushed a bit higher than the scripted parts. Many of the planets eventually began blurring together.

I reached an ending that satisfied me. A mellow game, good to play at leisure.

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.


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