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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Sea of Graves, by House Miroe

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A work-in-progress horror romance Twine game about a supernatural agency, July 11, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game is part of the list of great twine/ink games on itch that I found here.

This game has a setup that is partly a personality test and partly an intro to a supernatural-themed version of the SCP foundation (complete with the motto 'Observe, Learn, Protect'). You are handled a big sheaf of background world-building and given a test to see 'what kind of agent are you?'

Then there is a narrative section about you returning to your hometown, which the player quickly realizes is very anomalous.

The game cuts out quickly after that. Everything up to this point is great; the trouble is that the 'core gameplay' hasn't really been shown yet, which means that we haven't really seen how romance, combat, or investigation will work. In my experience, this makes such games more difficult to complete, so I wish the author all the best. Either way, I'd definitely play more games by this author.

The Big Fall, by Daniel River

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A promising detective game that doesn't completely deliver, July 7, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours

I'm a big fan of the detective genre, and it's always nice to see a long-form game come out.

This is a big game, spread over a dozen or so locations and three days. It's ambitious, with many scripted events, NPCs, and action scenes.

These kinds of things are hard to pull off. The game handles pretty well during the first day, and I spent a long time with this game up on my desktop trying to work through without hints. As time progressed and I went through the days, there were more and more holes in the system until I ended up relying entirely on the hints, although those had a gap ((Spoiler - click to show)escaping the rope).

The game has a lot of good parts, and credits several testers. The kind of problems that are left seem like ones that are typical for this type of story: one where the author seems to know exactly how each scene should play out and what the player's logic is. The problem is that 'the player will get it wrong', like Stephen Granade once wrote. It's very difficult to guess what people will try unless you have many many testers or constrain the player somehow (by reducing the number of items or by using a choice-based system, or by giving leading hints that increase the more you do the wrong thing).

My overall rating:
-Polish: There are several remaining bugs.
+Descriptiveness: For me, I enjoyed the writing and setting generally.
+Interactivity: The bugs or missing hints threw me off, but I liked the conversation and map movement. Some parts didn't work for me, but overall it was good.
-Emotional impact: Great at first, but kind of petered out at the end. I can't explain why.
+Would I play it again? If it was updated, I probably would!

The Alchemist, by Dariel Ivalyen

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A long fantasy Twine game with two romance options and high fantasy, June 22, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours

I saw this game on a list of 'Best Twine/Ink games on' I've been working through:

This one felt like a good fantasy visual novel without the visuals. It's a longer game with a bunch of mini-quests inside one big quest, a mini-game involving making a potion, and two young and attractively-described characters (one male, one female) who are both interested in you. There's a lot of world-building: you are an alchemist in a fantasy city with a complex hierarchy of Gods and an entire world history.

It's not perfect; the interaction was too often 'click to see what happens next' or 'click to do the clear right thing or not' for my taste, but it should feel right at home for most fans of visual novels. Also, so much gets unused, including most spells and recipes and most of the money system. I enjoyed it overall, though, and the romantic options were fun.

Hibernated 1 (Director's Cut), by Stefan Vogt

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
An extended sci-fi space puzzler on many platforms, June 21, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 2-10 hours

In this game, you play as someone awoken from cryosleep near the end of a long journey when your spaceship encounters an alien vessel. You'll have to explore the vessel with your helpful artificial intelligence unit Io, discovering its origin and purpose and encountering some bizarre alien technology on the way.

I'm not sure where to rate this, so I'll use my 5 point scale:

+Polish: I've read reviews of the earlier versions, and it seems like the Inform version dealt with most of the issues. I definitely would consider this more polished and bug-free than most games I play. Most standard responses have been replaced, most error messages are helpful, and command suggestions are frequently handed out. The game includes complicated containers, text typing into various interfaces, talkative NPCs, etc.
+Descriptiveness: A lot of the text is vivid. The author is clearly enthusiastic about space and I think it pays off. I was able to get a clear visual idea of each room.
+Interactivity: I admit I liked the puzzles. Many recent old-school games I've tried haven't appealed to me, but this is more of a light Infocom style than the more difficult British games. There's a bit more hand holding than Infocom but I appreciate that as someone who prefers lighter puzzles. I did get stuck a couple of times and had to request help.
+Emotional impact: The storyline itself didn't grab me but my natural curiosity and interest in the setting and exploration was satisfied. I felt like there was always something to work on and overall found it similar to a crossword puzzle in satisfaction.
?Would I play it again? I'm torn. On the one hand, I don't think this will become a long-term favorite. On the other hand, it has a pleasant compactness and unity that I could see myself coming back to in the future, especially if there were a sequel (which the name suggests). So I'll award a point here.

To me this game compares most directly with Hugo Labrande's Tristam Island and Marco Innocenti's Andromeda games. They all have a fairly similar style of 'retro aesthetic with modern affordances', a playtime of several hours, and availability on multiple platforms.

I think this game succeeds in its apparent goal, which is to create a product that people who played adventure games in the 80's will recognize and enjoy. The availability on multiple retro platforms definitely helps with that feel. (I'm making guesses here since I didn't play IF until 2010).

There are two types of authors when it comes to feedback: growth-minded authors and marketing authors. Growth-minded authors are looking for ways to improve and eager to find flaws in their products, while marketing authors are hoping to make more sales/move more product and don't want anything negative.

Competition authors are usually growth-minded, but since this is a commercial game I don't know which type this author is, so I'll put the 'growth' comments in spoilers which can be ignored if not desired:
(Spoiler - click to show)Jon Ingold, a two-time XYZZY winning author and head of the Inkle company said recently that the PC should never take action that isn't somehow the direct result of a player's choice, and I think that's true. Too often our character here does something without input, like the data hub; we're told 'it's not powered on, so you decide not to put anything on it'. It just feels weird. I can think of more examples if you like.
(Spoiler - click to show)Also, IO provides very useful information but talking again just says you can't think of anything to talk about. Again it's
kind of making the decision for you, but more importantly it's hard to get the information again. It'd be nice if IO would summarize for you or if there was another way to repeat that information.

Stay?, by E. Jade Lomax

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Fantastic time loop fantasy dating sim in Ink, June 15, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours

I generally enjoyed the first time I played through this game. It seemed like a twine game with a visual novel-type structure, with a few major choices (mostly what to study and who to romance), a lot of time skipping, and, for some reason, a lot of 'keep doing this or stop now' options. I thought it was okay.

But then it looped for the first time, and I was hooked. This is a game about living many, many lives. The author has a great trick for nudging the player forward while making them think it was their cleverness that got them that far all along.

I played through 7 or more times until I got an ending I really liked, but there's a lot more out there to discover. This is a game offering what feels like real agency (even if a lot of it is smoke and mirrors, where the game puts you into the 'best' options after time) and memorable characters.

I saw this game on several 'best of' lists, both on here and on, and it definitely lives up to it.

willow blossoms, by Meg Sharp

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A detailed Twine game capturing an exact scene in High School, June 13, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

One of the biggest reasons I enjoy amateur fiction online is that when someone writes it's like they share a piece of their soul with you, the reader, and I definitely felt that in this game.

In 5 chapters of varying lengths, you play a young woman who is texting her friends near the end of senior year, arranging an event.

The game makes copious use of styling and external links, most of which are to different songs. I actually like a lot of them; like the main character, I am into cringy melodramatic teen pop songs and movie/musical music (as a kid, I loved Total Eclipse of the Heart and Don't Cry for Me Argentina). Some I might listen to again.

The game has a definite sense of place, person and presence. It treats a heavy topic, so definitely check the warnings if you think there could be problems. Overall it was a sweet experience that resonated with my inner teen, led me to some enjoyable music and impressed me with its visual appeal.

For a Dream of Innocence, by Nigel Evans, Failbetter Games

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A darker story about Rubbery Men and an experiment gone wrong., May 19, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours

This is an Exceptional Story for Fallen London. In this exceptional story, you are drawn into the story of a scientist experimenting with the rubbery form. This draws unwanted attention for them, and you have to track them down.

There's plenty of new background material for rubbery men here. Rubbery men in general have always served as a sort of allegory for different types of discrimination, although they are also used just as an example of 'cool weird being'. This story stands in stark contrast to their more recent 'advances' in Fallen London society, where a rubbery man ran for mayor, several have nice stalls at the bone market, and options to be violent towards rubbery men have been reduced, all seemingly stepping away from the 'rubbery men represent oppressed minorities'.

This story emphasizes the 'otherness' of rubbery men. They stink, they gurgle horribly, you feel uneasy around them. It felt weird to me, to be honest.

The main story has some surprises I won't go into, but much of your time is spent in a kind of homeless rubbery camp under a railway bridge. The mechanics here are unusual but work once you experiment for a while with passing time. You learn more about the rubberies and their ancient ancestry, and have a difficult choice to make at the end.

Overall, the writing and mechanics here are interesting, but a few things took me out of the story, such as the more grim depiction of rubbery men.

Djinn on the Rocks, by Joshua Wilson

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A small game with clever mechanics: swap any similar objects, May 17, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game is complex and rich for a small game written for a jam. You are a djinn and have the power to APPRAISE objects to see what they're made of, then to SWAP similar objects.

John Evans used to write games with similar powers a couple decades ago, and those games didn't have many restrictions on what you could swap or summon or create, so it often ended up buggy and a mess.

This game gets around that problem by putting very tight restrictions on what you can and can't swap. In fact, there was only a single pair of objects I found in the entire game that I could swap, although I'm sure there are more out there. Overall, I found the game well-implemented and fun.

Death Number Four, by Dave Footitt

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A small, underimplemented puzzle game with some intriguing backstory, May 17, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game takes the basic premise of the PunyInform jam (starting in a pub with a knife through a note in the wall) and take it in some fun directions. I enjoyed seeing the author's backstory developed for the main character.

The puzzles generally aren't too hard once you know what you need to do, although, like most of the games in the jam, it would benefit the most from more beta testing.

The main idea of this game is that you are a sort of revenant or mummy that can be resurrected over and over by use of a mystic knife. You have to speak with an inspector to help solve crimes. It's mostly a prologue of a longer story idea.

Arthur's Day Out, by Jason Oakley

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A sprawling and bare game made in puny inform exploring an abandoned city, May 17, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game has you exploring an abandoned town after exiting the broom closet of a pub.

Most locations are described in little detail. Puzzles are fairly dependent on searching, but past that the puzzles involve some tricky wordplay/intelligence test-style thinking.

The game has some good moments but overall felt a bit frustrating. It was not polished, but was fairly descriptive. The interactivity didn't work well for me, and I don't intend on playing it again. However, some parts were satisfying to figure out/complete.

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