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 Secret of Nara, by Ralfe Rich

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A short branching twine game about an animal in the forest, April 14, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes

This nice-looking Twine game is by Ralfe Rich, an author I've seen a few games by in recent years.

It's a peaceful tale where you play a kind of wild creature (I imagined a moose or deer) wandering about, choosing whether to be solitary or part of a group, etc.

The branching structure has some early endings and some later endings, allows for some customization of personality but little strategy, as endings generally come as a surprise.

The writing is pretty but vague, so vague that it loses some of its charm. I think it could have been grounded more somehow, with more specificity or data from the senses. For instance:

"You are not sure what to make of such things. You have been fixed in what you know and believe for so long. Such thoughts dance in your mind as you question if your being is taking on a metamorphosis. Changing what you value, what you hold dear.
"

I think this is poetic, but these words could apply to almost every character in every story in every genre. I could use a little more about this story, now. There's some of that later on.


Baggage, by Katherine Farmar

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A brief metaphorical Inform game, April 13, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This short game has you on a narrow roadway with obstacles on either side, and you have to find a way to get free.

You are carrying several metaphorical objects (a hope, a fear, etc.). There is a single NPC to talk to, and two (that I found) possible endings.

I like the idea of this game, but I didn't feel satisfied with specific elements of the implementation and the writing.

Implementation wise, it seems it just needs a little more polish, like the formatting of the ending text or the whitespace at the end of some of the paragraphs.

Writing-wise, for me personally it was a little too abstract. I have the same feeling with many games, including some of Andrew Schultz's work, which deals with similar concepts of overcoming personal challenges and regrets. For me, it's easier to grab onto more specific examples and wording than to universally applicable truths.

-Polish: The game could use a bit more polish.
-Descriptiveness: I felt that the game could use more specificity.
+Interactivity: I liked the gameplay.
-Emotional impact: For some reason, the situations in the game didn't resonate with me.
+Would I play again? I played through twice just to see a different ending.


Cycles (Excerpt), by Mike Marttila

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
The opening chapter of a family-and-memory ink game, April 13, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes

The Back Garden of Spring Thing this year strongly resembles Introcomp. Many of these games are just excerpts or intros into longer games.

Sam Kabo Ashwell has done a lot of introcomp reviews in the past, and one thing he mentions a lot (though I can't find a direct link) is how intros are most interesting when they depict what the main gameplay will be like. In my experience, too, it's good to have the first chapter of your game set the expectation for what the main game will be like.


In this game, though, I get the impression that the rest of the game will be nothing like the intro at all, neither in setting, nor tone, nor mechanics. So it's very hard to get an idea if the finished game will be enjoyable or not.

As for the game itself, you play as a woman invited to a family reunion with people she hasn't seen in 12 years (as well as others she has, like her father). The game lets you choose what kind of attitude to have towards your family as the main interaction. Then there is a twist.

The overall writing was descriptive and had a distinct voice. I often felt like my choices didn't make too much of a difference or allow me to characterize myself consistently, and I would have liked that.


Budacanta, by Alianora La Canta

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
An intro to an autism travel game/visual novel, April 13, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

I've had a lot of friends and students with autism, and they're all different, so it's nice to see a well-described point of view from a new author.

In this visual novel, you play as a sort of guiding friend/telepathic connection to a young adult with autism who is travelling alone to a concert in Hungary.

Interestingly, the visuals respond to the PC's feelings, turning more colorful if you navigate situations well.

There are some good explanations of Spoon Theory and features a lot of things that I've seen in other literature by and about autistic people (like using sensory inputs such as music or textured objects for soothing).

Storywise, I felt like I had some action, the varying amounts of detail in the pictures was fun. This game is incomplete, but I'd like to see it finished.


[PYG]MALION*, by C.J.

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A murder mystery in a fantasy dimension, April 12, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game seems to have been completed as part of a university program, possibly at University of Central Florida. The game list mentors but not beta testers, which would make sense.

If this game was made for a university program, it would probably be at the senior project or thesis/part-of-thesis level. It is a large game, with custom art and a UI designed from the ground up.

There is a lengthy, mostly-linear opening sequence that allows you to customize yourself. This part is an interesting story about how you, a deceased god, have been temporarily reanimated as a statue (a nod to Galatea, which is referenced in both the credits and in the name of the game itself). You go to a house occupied by the president of the 4th dimension in order to investigate your murder.

There is then a much longer segment where you can explore several different locations, some of which have worldbuilding and some have suspects. Some state is tracked in interesting ways.

The game ends with an accusation. You can accuse anyone; the game calls these 'fake endings' but doesn't list any 'true' ending. That, with some other comments in code, leads me to believe that this game doesn't have the full scope the author intended, and it may possibly be expanded in the future.

Overall, I had a very positive experiment. There were only a few flies in the ointment. Perhaps the most obtrusive one was the the '>' symbol used as a 'next' prompt. While keyboard presses can be used to move the game forward, you can also click that symbol, which is pretty small and hard to hit. Then, when you have choices, that symbol appears in front of each choice, but it is no longer clickable; instead, you must click the choice next to it. This led to me 'misclicking' a lot, and could probably be solved by just adding the word 'next' after the clickable '>' symbols and then making that the thing you click instead of the '>'.

The other issues were a missing image (studying the portraits led to a missing link) and maybe some scattered typos (I had the impression, but would have to go back again to check). I think this is a good game, the author seems talented, and whatever program is assisting the production of games like these seems to be doing great.


An Amical Bet, by Eve Cabanié

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A short uncompiled Quest file about stealing stuff, April 12, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes

This is a short Quest game about theft in a very unpolished state.

The game is a raw quest file. There are a few objects scattered around a big map, with descriptions, and some are take-able and some are not. There is a single condition you have to meet to win.

Your character is a woman who has frequently lusty reactions to things around her.

I think I saw this was a school project. As a school project, I think it's great; I've taught game design courses before and having something like this that is both winnable and has things mostly described is actually pretty great.

But under my usual rating system, I would consider this unpolished, with uninspiring interactivity, little emotional impact and not one I plan on revisiting.


A Blank Page, by Edu Sánchez

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A short game about getting the courage to begin writing, April 11, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

I found this game somewhat stressful, as it reminds me of writing my big novel.

In this Twine game, you sit down and have to focus and begin typing your grand novel, kind of like Violet, where you have to sit down and type out 1000 words of your dissertation. Also like Violet, the main goal is to overcome your distractions.

The similarities end there. This game is fairly short, and the main gameplay doesn't have the puzzle (although the hints in the download show (Spoiler - click to show)how to solve a hidden puzzle to get a true ending).

The struggle of writing is real, and a lot of this game is relatable. Although it focuses on how hard it is to get started, for me, it was hard every day to pick up where I had left off.

While I found the game well-done, with a nice opening animation, there were some things that could be improved. Some paragraphs were spaced apart, while some were not, for instance. And, overall, it felt like it needed just a little more 'something', a 'je ne sais quoi'; I know that's vague, but that's the only way I can put it in words.


Heroes!, by Bellamy Briks

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A purely branching Quest choice game with fun art, April 11, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game has some great art, and played smoothly in the downloaded version.

This is a pure time cave, i.e. a game where every choice gives a different branch and none of them ever converge.

In fact, the first choice between 3 characters gives entirely different games with seemingly no connection to each other (I got 1 ending for the first 2 and 4 for the last one, and didn't see any connection).

They're mostly about heartfelt and kind coming-of-age stories in a fantasy world with a lot of fantasy races and animals.

+Polish: The game was polished. Occasionally the text would glitch then fix itself, but I think that was just a loading thing.
+Descriptiveness: The story, setting, and characters were distinct and vivid.
+Emotional impact: I thought the game was cute.
-Interactivity: The branching structure gets exhausting after a while, because more and more time is spent re-reading the same text.
-Would I play again? I didn't finish getting all the endings and don't feel like I need to.


Journey to Ultimate Fightdown!, by Havilah "mwahahavilah" McGinnis

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A graphical game packed with tons of endings, April 11, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game is an unusual format for IF, so it makes sense it was put in Spring Thing, a competition known for its interesting experiments.

In this game you control a 2d sprite walking around a game that has been unexpectedly paused right before the big fight. You can talk to people, asking them about each other, and swap items with them.

Then, you can unpause the game through various means (the easiest being (Spoiler - click to show)giving the Crown of Agency to someone). This gives you a 'what happened to everyone'? ending.

Overall, I found the game charming and some of the interactions pretty funny.

Where I had a bit of trouble is the 'flatness' of the game. Essentially every important choice is available all at once right from the beginning, so if you want to see everything, you have to click through 8 or so people to ask each of the 8 about themselves and each other. If you just want to focus on the other mechanic (swapping things), every swap is available from the beginning, and only 1 or 2 swaps are important in the game itself (not counting the ending).

So for me, there was a very, very long period of just trying everything and not getting any plot advancement or mechanical changes. It was almost like browsing a 'behind the scenes' book for an MMORPG.

There are an enormous number of endings. I found 5 or 6, then got help to find a couple more, but the state space is so big that I felt too exhausted to find every ending. I did enjoy the ones I found, though.

I guess one thing is that, even though all the characters have very different backgrounds and personalities to me, all the text started to kind of run together eventually. I think that's because, like I mentioned earlier, everything's open at once so there's not really a narrative arc to the overall game (except for the one thread involving (Spoiler - click to show)Jimmy). That's okay and it seems intentional, but I was less engaged than I otherwise would have been.

I'm glad this game exists and think this kind of experimentation and fun is great.


Hand of God, by Dana Freitas

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A branching Twine game about a robot apocalypse, April 10, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game is written in Twine, and features you, a programmer, working on a secret government project when things go wrong.

It uses colored text for emphasis. The structure for much of the game is a small section where you pick 3 options in any order, then moving on, sometimes with a branch when moving on. The branches are big, with no coming back together in the end (essentially a 'time cave').

The overall storyline isn't bad, involving a kind of robot apocalypse.

There are several errors. One of the largest is that in the Twine code, many of the sections check the 'history:' feature of twine to see if you've visited a passage, but types the names of the passages wrong, so you never get to proceed unless you load it into twinery and proceed by yourself.

This, connected with the semi-frequent typos, leads me to believe that the other never played through the finished game or had testers try it. Having someone play through your game from end to finish really helps when submitting to a competition!

I agree with the other reviewer that this game's protagonist has problematic views. They're part of an overall bigger issue, which is that he is more or less a jerk. I've noticed when looking at choice-based games that while many people like being a 'bad guy', very few people like being a jerk.

-Polish: The game has gamebreaking bugs.
-Descriptiveness: The game's text was most interesting when describing the robots, but was otherwise fairly vague.
-Interactivity: The bugs threw a wrench in things.
-Emotional impact: I felt disconnected from the protagonist.
-Would I play again? Not until it's polished a bit.

I would definitel bump up the rating if the major bugs were resolved!



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