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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Locked Door IV: Safety In Numbers, by Cody Gaisser

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A compact but tricky multi-stage puzzle to open a door, January 24, 2022
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes

This series of games starts with a simple puzzle in the first entry (just a locked door) but adds puzzles every time.

This entry is quite complex compared to earlier entries, with a broad map, numerous tools and items, an NPC, easter eggs, etc.

However, some bugs and typos have crept in, like 'bathroom' being lower case and some synonyms not being set (like for the (Spoiler - click to show)safe, where 'set' and 'turn' don't work but 'turn' does).

So the game isn't polished, but it is more descriptive and compelling than the others.

Locked Door III: Crate Expectations, by Cody Gaisser

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
The third iteration of a minimalist game, with a real puzzle, January 24, 2022
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes

This version of the Locked Door series (which adds more and more puzzles to the original) introduces the first real puzzle, although its fairly simple.

Rather than the original two rooms, there are now 5, with one room included in another.

There was a bug in this one, where trying to (Spoiler - click to show)open the crate without (Spoiler - click to show)the crowbar will (Spoiler - click to show)increase the score and partially act like you have the crowbar but not open. Given the smallness of the game, I think it could have been error-free.

Locked Door II: Fair Trade, by Cody Gaisser

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Slightly more complex than the first game, January 24, 2022
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes

This game is part of an iterative series, where every new episode builds on the last.

This one adds an NPC and requires a single somewhat complex interaction, as well as making the final room one step longer. It's reasonably well polished, and I was amused/intrigued by the iterative concept, making it more emotionally impactful than the first.

Locked Door, by Cody Gaisser

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Almost the smallest game possible with a locked door, January 24, 2022
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes

This game is essentially one of the coding examples from the Inform manual. It consists of two rooms, one with a locked door and a key. There are no real surprises; decompiling shows no hidden content.

The game is polished, but is not descriptive, has little interactivity, low emotional impact, and I wouldn't really play again. According to my rating system, it's 1 star.

Smart Theory, by AKheon

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A criticism of fast-and-easy sloganistic political theories, January 22, 2022
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This is a fairly abstract Ink game (and one that I helped beta test).

In it, you play as a college student roped into a demonstration about Smart Theory. The speaker goes off for quite a while about smart theory, and you can choose between making snarky comments, playing along or being passive.

The Smart Theory is a parody of political theories. As presented, it could apply to both American political parties. Some digs seem aimed at one specific side (for instance, the huckster is selling a book called Dumb Fragility, which from the in-game explanation seems like a riff on liberals talking about white fragility), but it could apply to just about any political theory.

Overall, it has several humorous moments and works smoothly. However, I thought the random nonsense words didnt' work as well (like Bathcunk) and would have preferred more chances to act.

chiaroscuro, by Kim Berkley

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
An artist seeks for balance between light and dark, January 22, 2022
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This is an ink game in six chapters, each around 4 or 5 choices long. Each choice gives a page full of material.

You are an artist filled with self-doubt. You won a competition, earning you prize money and using that to get to Rome, but once there you have no inspiration for your painting.

Every where you go, two creatures follow you: one light, one dark. You have to choose who to feed.

There are 5 endings. One ending is the 'true path', containing almost 50% more material than the others; one is the worst path, containing much less content than any other. I reached all endings except for 'balanced'.

I enjoyed the vivid descriptions of art in Rome, and looked up a bunch of them (I especially enjoyed the garden of monsters). The self-doubt in a creative artist was familiar to me as a writer.

At times I found the long pages and rich text a bit wearying, so I took a couple of weeks to play the game, doing a couple of screens at a time. Once I played through once, though, playing again only took 30 minutes or so.

Lovely musings on art. For anyone seeking the 'best' ending, what worked for me was (Spoiler - click to show)feeding the dark creature on odd chapters and light creature on even chapters

Witchcraft U, by Jei D. Marcade

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
A promising but ultimately flawed high school magic/mafia game, January 22, 2022
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours

This is a recent game from Choice of Games set at a magical university. You are an adopted scion of a powerful mafia figure, and you have been sent to a college that offers majors in both mundane and magical areas. You are encouraged to join a group of 3 magical fraternities while you go to class, meet friends and work at a magical coffee shop.

There's a lot going on here. The writing itself flows well, with some standout characters and intricate worldbuilding.

One steam review mentioned like it felt like too many storylines were going on at once, and I agree with that. While the college, fraternity, and coffee storylines meshed well, the mafia felt more or less tacked-on. It provided some useful worldbuilding backstory, but it gave the effect of the author mashing two games into one, at least to me.

The game had compelling goals that I wanted to achieve, but I found making my way there muddy. I was frequently told I did bad at things but still managed to get in the frat and get a 4.0 my first semester. I was told I bombed every final next semester but still got a 3.0.

I focused on 2 skills exclusively (with a 73 in spirit stuff and 53 in thaumaturgy), but failed every test involving thaumaturgy. My game ended completely abruptly at the end where I had a single choice with no buildup and clicked what I thought was a spirit option but was apparently the wrong thing, instantly negating every success I had more before by just killing me with a 1 page epilogue that didn't wrap up anything.

Part of the difficulty was overlapping stats; I could never distinguish between Spontaneity and Adaptability, or between Honesty, Determination and Principled. I never even noticed the 'skills' section (communications, creativity, insight, and scholarship), and am not sure how those could be adjusted or checked.

Overall, though, the worldbuilding and writing quality pulled this one through for me. But I kept putting it down when frustrated and took a couple of weeks to play.

Recommended only for fans of magical academia and mob stories.

Face Your Fears, by Shawn Sijnstra

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A collection of fear-inducing areas which could use some polish, December 15, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game has you try to encounter 13 different phobias as you explore a small area with some woods and a bar.

The range of possible phobias is pretty big and I learned some new ones (like halophobia and ailuriphobia).

This game is written with PunyInform, a version of Inform shrunk down so that compiled files can run on smaller/retro devices.

However, it doesn't take full advantage of the platform, and is weak in many areas. For instance, there are shelves that have several items on them, as seen from decompiling the code. However, X SHELVES, SEARCH SHELVES, and LOOK ON SHELVES all show them as empty. As another example, the barman tells you to 'try buying <a certain item in the game>'. But BUY <the item> doesn't work. There were many such frustrations with the code. There is one person listed in credits who might have been a tester, but this could have used more testing.

-Polish: There is some rough implementation and some bugs.
+Descriptiveness: The setting is mundane, but the phobias were interesting.
-Interactivity: I felt frustrated by the responsiveness.
-Emotional impact: The storyline and fears didn't really draw me in.
+Would I play again? It's an interesting concept, and I never found 4 of the fears.

The Crocodile Who Would Be King, by Chandler Groover and Failbetter Games

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Find a crocodile under the sewers and perform an amazing magic trick., December 11, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours

It's nice to see Chandler Groover experimenting with the Fallen London format. He is known for his Exceptional Stories, and has a very loyal fan base on the Discord, with people saying things like this:

"I'd go as far as to say that groover is the only writer who consistently captures the mystery and beauty of the setting"

"Iím trying to find what Iím thinking of, but my suggestion is really based on the quality of grooverí s writing and also the focus on the everyday person that reveals some deeper truth about the universe"

"Chandler Groover, author of several fan favourite Exceptional Stories, typically agreed to Never Miss"

With that kind of praise, there's a lot of pressure, and it would be easy to fall into repetitive patterns. But I found this story to be pretty different than his others, so much so that I had no idea it was him until the end.

In this story, a magician's assistant is missing, a crocodile is loose in the sewers of London and you must stop it! This includes a sizable segment that is a complex maze, something I never thought I'd see in any Groover story ever, and especially not in Fallen London, a text-based narrative that tends to gloss over movement. This story also has puzzles involving large machines with moving parts.

During your journey, your goals shift, and you end up acquiring a large amount of materials (through the sewers) for a big project. This was a fun excursion, because it lets you see many of the more mundane or boring parts of Fallen London (like the shops in the Bazaar tab) through a fresh perspective as you tunnel into them from below, often finding bizarre leftovers from previous times or hidden-away secrets. The scenes in Mahogany Hall were really effective for me.

The story gets even more strange in the end, becoming almost mythological and filled with guts and animals. It all feels large and epic, but I didn't quite grasp it all. I think that's good, though; I wouldn't want to grasp all of it.

To be honest, the maze didn't really work for me completely, but I enjoy the innovation and would rather see further experimentation like this than a retread of old things. Definitely a memorable story.

As a side note, parts of this gave me flashbacks to All Dogs Go to Heaven, where the sewer crocodile horrified me as a child.

Damp Martyrs, by Gavin Inglis and Failbetter Games

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Fistfights and martyrdom on the high seas, December 11, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This story, an Exceptional story for Fallen London (a bonus chunk of content for paid suscribers), takes place on the Zee, and in part feels like an exploration of that part of the game's content (which was recently expanded).

You are in search of the heir of a rich family. She was last seen with the Circumcelion Brotherhood, a group of brawling monks who hope to get murdered and have after-death experiences before being brought back by Fallen London's general resurrection mechanics.

The main character in this has a lot of personality, and is the main attraction of this story, but otherwise there's not a lot here to distinguish it from other tales of the Zee. If you're interested in brawling monks and tough women then it's worth checking out.

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