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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 1 hours about 2 hours IF Comp 2015 Infocom less than 15 minutes more than 10 hours Spring Thing 2016
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Cragne Manor, by Ryan Veeder, Jenni Polodna, Adam Whybray, Adri, Andrew Plotkin, Andy Holloway, Austin Auclair, Baldur Brückner, Ben Collins-Sussman, Bill Maya, Brian Rushton, Buster Hudson, Caleb Wilson, Carl Muckenhoupt, Chandler Groover, Chris Jones, Christopher Conley, Damon L. Wakes, Daniel Ravipinto, Daniel Stelzer, David Jose, David Petrocco, David Sturgis, Drew Mochak, Edward B, Emily Short, Erica Newman, Feneric, Finn Rosenløv, Gary Butterfield, Gavin Inglis, Greg Frost, Hanon Ondricek, Harkness Munt, Harrison Gerard, Ian Holmes, Ivan Roth, Jack Welch, Jacqueline Ashwell, James Eagle, Jason Dyer, Jason Lautzenheiser, Jason Love, Jeremy Freese, Joey Jones, Joshua Porch, Justin de Vesine, Justin Melvin, Katherine Morayati, Kenneth Pedersen, Lane Puetz, Llew Mason, Lucian Smith, Marco Innocenti, Marius Müller, Mark Britton, Mark Sample, Marshal Tenner Winter, Matt Schneider, Matt Weiner, Matthew Korson, Michael Fessler, Michael Gentry, Michael Hilborn, Michael Lin, Mike Spivey, Molly Ying, Monique Padelis, Naomi Hinchen, Nate Edwards, Petter Sjölund, Q Pheevr, Rachel Spitler, Reed Lockwood, Reina Adair, Riff Conner, Roberto Colnaghi, Rowan Lipkovits, Sam Kabo Ashwell, Scott Hammack, Sean M. Shore, Wade Clarke, Zach Hodgens, Zack Johnson

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful:
An enormous collaboration horror game, December 8, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: more than 10 hours
I've played and reviewed over 1500 interactive fiction games, and there has never been anything like Cragne Manor.

This game was written by 84 authors. Some authors (including me) wrote small rooms with one minor puzzle, or, occasionally, only one.

Others wrote rooms that themselves could be entered into IFComp and do well, including complicated conversational games, (Spoiler - click to show)a miniature version of Hadean Lands, a monster breeding game, and story-focused cutscenes.

The game is a mishmash of different styles and levels of implementation. One room might be the most elaborate and smooth game you've ever seen, with varied tenses, custom parser responses, and complex state tracking; while another room might be basically a pile of dirt with nothing implemented. Puzzles range from super easy to very unfair.

For fans of big puzzle games, people who wish that longer games would be released, Infocom fans, fans of any of the people in the author list, conversational games, or IF in general, this game will provide hours of enjoyment.

As a warning, this game is overwhelming. It has 500K+ words, which is huge for parser games. As a comparison, Blue Lacuna had less than 400K, and much of that was devoted to verbose text descriptions. This game is just pure content. This game is longer than Curses!, Mulldoon Legacy, Worlds Apart, and roughly the same size as Finding Martin.

Prepare for the sinking in your stomach you will experience as you open a door to find another 6 or 7 rooms, each with their own fully-fleshed out puzzles. Prepare to keep notes for information you find in the game, tracking the many keys and doors.

The content warnings for the game are accurate. Every author has their own style, so some rooms have more of profanity or explicit content than others. I would say that maybe one or two rooms has anything sexual, and about a dozen rooms have violence or gore running from silly to horrifying.

As of writing this, there is no walkthrough, although that will likely be remedied soon. With the help of many of the authors, as I tested this game, I still took well over ten hours to beat this. Expect a long, long, long play time.

Perhaps the last thing I'd like to say about Cragne Manor is that this is almost like a little IFComp of its own. The number of games in the two is similar and the quality of the entries is similar, except that even the weakest rooms in this game have been tested and worked on as a group, and all the rooms in this game support each other, instead of fighting against each other.

Please enjoy this wonderful game.

SPIRITWRAK, by D. S. Yu

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A sort of unofficial sequel to Spellbreaker. Big, puzzly, and difficult, September 25, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: more than 10 hours
This game is the result of an immense amount of work, and was, for a few years, frequently recommended on rec.games.int-fiction.

I'm giving it such a low score due to my rubric. The overall game design is mixed, with the most time spent in the least interesting areas, extreme amounts of waiting being required, and so on. The game feels fairly unpolished, and could have used more tester feedback. It's the kind of game that could use a group of people working together over time, sharing hints on the forums, more than one person solving it, which is probably why it was once so popular, especially since it was released before 1998 and the explosion in high-quality story-focused games with original storylines.

This game copies the format of Spellbreaker, with spells that you gnusto into a spellbook and cast, and which frequently fail. You spend a lot of the game wandering around a monastery, as well as investigating other parts of the Great Underground Empire.

If there is someone who is a fan of Infocom games, feels like current games are too easy, and loves picking over a difficult game during a period of weeks or months, keeping careful notes and a map, then this would be a 5 star game for them.

For everyone else, I wouldn't recommend this game in general.

Project Hyrax: Beyond Time , by MidnightOwl Studios

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A real-time messaging game with an involved story and some rough patches, September 7, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: more than 10 hours
I purchased Project Hyrax a month or two ago.

The design and formatting are well done. It's a text-based game where you receive messages from a time traveller.

The writing seems like it is not from a native speaker, with numerous typos and grammatical errors. Also, many of the choices are clearly irrelevant to what happens after, adding nothing to the gameplay, and only two choices are available at a time.

However, the timed messages and the length of the game drew it out to over a month as I tried to finish it to write a review. It eventually grew on me, and I found myself having a good time.

I would have given it 4 stars for that reason, but it froze on me after many, many choices, and I couldn't get it unfrozen.

A Bunch of Keys, by Mike Gerwat
A massive game of intense difficulty, April 11, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: more than 10 hours
This game is the third by Mike Gerwat, after Hill 160 and Escape from Terra.

This is in the top tier of long parser games if played without a walkthrough. You play a version of the author, a former piano tuner who was born blind and is now deaf and tuned pianos for famous bands. You now go back through time to college and other places.

The gameplay length is increased by the difficulty. Some important room descriptions are only printed once. If you didn't see it the first time, you'll never see it again. Seemingly minor actions lead to game over's hundreds of moves later. Searching the code, there are 542 instances of the phrase "GAME OVER!", ranging from leaving the taps on when exiting the shower to using shoddy condoms.

The walkthrough is not completely accurate, either, leading to more random deaths. Random deaths cannot be undone, meaning that you must save constantly.

The game is split into four sections, the first and last of which have alternate paths. I was unable to complete the first section with either path, but I read through much of the game in the decompiled text strings.

I'm giving it three stars because it is descriptive, it is reasonably polished, and it seems to communicate the emotional feeling that the author was going for when adding in all of the pitfalls.

Westfront PC: The Trials of Guilder, by Paul Allen Panks
A sprawling RPG with color use, September 14, 2017
by MathBrush
Related reviews: more than 10 hours
This game is so different from Panks's other games. Panks's IFComp games were short and trivial, or mocking.

This game is really, really big, and reasonably well polished.

You can play a lot of mini games, visit tons of locations, order NPCs, etc.

The problem is that it was developed for a long time by one person with only a little input from others, meaning that several of the mechanics are just spotty.

Adventure, by William Crowther and Donald Woods

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
The original, and one of the best depending on your likes, September 4, 2017
by MathBrush
Related reviews: more than 10 hours
Adventure was the very first text adventure of all time. It inspired the genre and its name.

The point of the game is to gather a variety of treasures and bring them back to a small building. The game is pretty accurately based on the Mammoth Caves, which explains the mazes and the fact that exits and entrances sometimes don't match up exactly (i.e. going west and then east may not leave you where you started).

For me, the most enjoyable way to play this game was to keep it at a slow pace, going back to it time and again while playing other games. I kept a numbered list of every room with all of its exits to other rooms. This made the game much easier. After several weeks, I got to a point where I couldn't get any further for several days. I finally looked up a walkthrough for the last three or four puzzles.

Once you get all the treasures, there is an endgame that is surprisingly good; it seems more like a modern deconstruction of the game than the very first game of all.

I played the 350 point version, and I found the game incredibly enjoyable. I admit that I used the wicker cage bug (as mentioned in another review), where you can carry everything in the wicker cage. To get full points, you must remove the items from the cage outside of the building before placing them in there.

Every Interactive Fiction player should play this game because so many other games reference it heavily.

The Hobbit, by Philip Mitchell and Veronika Megler

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A classic game with some difficulty due to randomization, August 15, 2017
by MathBrush
Related reviews: more than 10 hours
This is one of the best selling IF games ever. It has graphics and runs on Spectrum emulators (like Fuse).

It has graphics, and is intended to cover the same material as the book The Hobbit. It does so with a great deal of NPC independence, which ends up (to me) being somewhat frustrating. Back in the early days of text adventures, many of the companies (especially outside of Infocom) hadn't really thought about player guidance, and so games devolved into 'guess the verb' on every occasion.

Still, this game has a good deal of charm, and I've had fun exploring it.

SNOSAE, by R. Dale McDaniel

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
An insanely hard puzzle game that is huge, July 16, 2017
by MathBrush
Related reviews: more than 10 hours
This MSDOS game, which I played in DOSBOX, is a collection of extraordinarily hard puzzles. You enter an intersection of hallways, with each direction in the hallway having a door with a puzzle. Past those puzzles are harder puzzles. Past those puzzles are...way too many puzzles.

This is one of the very largest adventure games, and even the easiest puzzles are way too hard for most people. If you are an adventure puzzle fanatic, you can try this game. Expect many, many, many random deaths. I'm giving it 3 stars for being polished, descriptive, and good at instilling an emotion: annoyance.

Inside Woman, by Andy Phillips

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Andy Phillip's best game; a massive city spy thriller, July 1, 2017
by MathBrush
Related reviews: more than 10 hours
This game took me about 2500 moves to complete this game using the hints; this is an extremely long game, among the very longest I have ever played.

You are in a 40-story city, with about 20 of the stories implemented. Each story that's implemented has 3-4 puzzles.

The game is a spy thriller, with you as the spy. As usual for Andy Phillips games, there is a lot of action, a lot of 'guess what he's thinking', and some male gaze, although it is toned down from his other games.

This is an epic, sprawling game; I have no idea how this fit in the z-machine. It also has a very well executed plot twist that was almost as good as Spider and Web's.

This game took me about a month of playing 30-60 minutes a day. I could have played 20 IFComp games in the time it took me to beat this.

Colossal Adventure, by Pete Austin, Mike Austin, Nick Austin, James Horsler
A Level 9 reworking of Adventure with an expanded endgame, July 1, 2017
by MathBrush
Related reviews: more than 10 hours
This game is a reworking of Adventure, and was released commercially by Level 9.

It's generally similar to Adventure, with the dragon puzzle made easier, but it has a much bigger endgame where you have to save hundreds of elves (but your actions save about a hundred at a time).

It has graphics that add a lot to the game, even though they are nowhere near as good as Magnetic Scrolls.

Gargoyle plays level 9 games, so if you want to try this out, it may be a fun way to play the original Adventure game.


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