Reviews by MathBrush

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Entre lineas de fuego, by paravariar

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A bizarre adventuron tale of a soldier's desperate passion for...letters, November 26, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This is an Adventuron game in Spanish, made for Ectocomp.

It has 4 chapters, each detailing part of the story of Sidodorf, a soldier in a war that no longer cares about living as much as writing one final amazing letter. This leads him to desperate and bizarre acts.

The adventuron programming works well here, especially since the error messages give good hints on what to do next. My frequent problem with different dialects of Spanish struck again; I always thought TAKE would be TOMAR, but in this game one must use COGER, which is a strong vulgarity in the Spanish I learned. C'est la vie.

This game was really a very interesting character study, and I think its protagonist may be worth nominating for a Best PC xyzzy award next year. Unfortunately for me and other would-be translators, you can't highlight text to paste in google translate. However, it was overall pretty clear.


Por las calles de Madrid, by Clara Cordero

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Take a virtual tour of gruesome Madrid history, November 26, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This is, as far as I can tell, the only entry in the Petite Mort division of the Spanish-language Ectocomp, all others being in the Grand Guignol division.

This is also the most educational game of the competition. It's essentially a guided tour of gruesome Madrid history, from torture devices to famous murders.

I learned a lot. The main interactivity is choosing which area to explore next. There is custom styling which was slightly hard to read (for best practices it's easier to read white text on dark grey than on black backgrounds) but had interesting images and even an embedded google maps link.

Overall, fun to learn from.


Historias de la familia Ferrosa, by Cobra626

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Four tales of a family curse, November 24, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This is a Spanish Twine game that is an anthology of 4 stories of a cursed family. It's contained in a framing story where you're in an abandoned house and teenagers are trying to creep you out.

The stories are all different, explaining how a member of the Ferrosa family was cursed.

Each one is fairly well written, but the interactivity is fairly negligible. There are some noticeable typos, and the story just kind of stops at the end. Each of the stories themselves left me wanting a bit more; the only one that felt really complete was the love story with fire. The others felt like a lot of build up with not as much resolution as I would have wanted.

Still, the writing is descriptive and the game is visually interesting.


Visita de AŮo Nuevo con jizo, by Mariela 'Scullywen' and Ruber Eaglenest

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A beautiful story set in Japan inspired by a vintage photo, November 24, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

There is a photo called New Year's Visit with Jizo, Niigata Prefecture by the photographer Hiroshi Hamaya, that shows three young children trudging through the snow, the first one carrying a Jizo, a type of Buddha statue with connections to travellers.

This is a medium-length Spanish Ink story inspired by that photo. Its choice structure is fairly simple, mostly linear, occasionally some choices that are more complex.

The writing is very sweet and contemplative. You are the eldest of the three children, and you have to take care of your two younger siblings as you travel to a distant location. Along the way, you must take care of each other and guard the objects you've been entrusted with. You must also deal with your complex feelings about your late father.

The language of the game is simple and meaningful, and I found it emotionally touching. I also ended up looking up a lot of the Japanese words in the game; they're described well in-game, but I found it useful to find out more about them online.


TrŠnsito, by n-n

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A short parser game with a brutal story about airport survival, November 24, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This is a Spanish parser game entered in Ectocomp 2021.

In it, you start as a passenger in a bathroom with a dead body on the floor and a fire extinguisher that you used to kill them nearby. The game then slowly reveals the backstory, along with an urgent condition that you need to fix immediately.

The story takes several dark turns, making this possibly the most brutal
fictional airport experience I've seen. And it was pretty fun!

Playing parser games in another language is always difficult, but I appreciated the list of verbs in AYUDA (although there were some verbs I had to look up: (spoilers for several puzzles) (Spoiler - click to show)cerrar, encender, quemar, and I thought I could use acostarme but it was tumbar. The parser was generaly good, but occasionally there were problems with plurals (I attempted to solve the first puzzle with (Spoiler - click to show)PONER CUERPO EN CUBICULO, which gave an unhelpful error message, but finally solved it with (Spoiler - click to show)PONER CUERPO EN CUBICULOS, and similarly X PUERTA in the final area doesn't work while X PUERTAS does).

I enjoyed the atmosphere and experienced a strong emotional reaction to the game. Puzzles were logical and mostly exploration based, although this game is Cruel on the Zarfian scale (available here). In fact, it has a scenario almost identical to the description of Cruel on the scale. I used a decompiler to help me figure out the verbs and actions for several of the puzzles, but the final real puzzle can't be solved through decompiling so I had to figure it out alone.

Overall, I found it fun.


Museo de curiosidades, by Clara Cordero

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A heartfelt story of a woman's life told through Twine and Texture, November 24, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game is really creative. Similar to the latest Castle Balderstone game, it uses Twine to create a 'hub' that you can play other, embedded games from.

In this case, there is a large page where a woman is remembering many things. Each thing you click on leads to an embedded Texture page that you can play through, employing your imagination. For instance, you can be a shadow trying to grow to scare some kids, or an apprentice witch, etc.

The game's ending has an overall positive and bittersweet message. The stories are cute, with animals and a lot of herbs and plants.

Having every option available at once was a little overwhelming, and the texture pages loaded up a bit awkwardly (after one click they looked good). The embedded gifs were a nice touch.


Intruso, by forta

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A parser-like choice game about exploring a strange family's house, November 23, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This Spanish Ectocomp game uses the Kunludi engine, which (at least in this game) means there are in-game links as well as a menu of options on the bottom, some of which have other options. There are rooms and an inventory as well.

In this game, you are exploring an Addams-family-like mansion on a dare from some friends. You have to find something shocking to show them.

The game is pretty linear; if you explore everything you will eventually progress. It's fairly quirky, like Addam's family, and has some pretty mild sexual content and gore.

Overall, the writing was pretty good, but the interactivity could have been more complex.


The River of Blood, by Dee Cooke

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Explore a constantly-flowing river of blood in adventuron, November 14, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This adventuron game, written in < 4 hours, has a couple of nice pixel art images thrown in, which I suspect was hard to do in the time frame.

It also has a neat mechanic. You are in a river of blood, and objects float by, headed downstream. You have to chase them to check them out. Meanwhile, death, or Charon, or a similar figure is hunting you down.

It was tricky sometimes to deal with the moving objects (and I think (Spoiler - click to show)the dinghy will float away even if (Spoiler - click to show)you are in it, causing some weird disambiguation issues). Overall, a fun little treat, with what must be the most blood of any game in the competition.


The Lookout, by Paul Michael Winters

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Story-driven horror tale over several days at a forest lookout, November 14, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This is a complex story written in Inform. You play as a man who recently experienced a haunting tragedy. Driven to solitude, you take work at a national park working in a lookout.

But things aren't okay out here. Something strange is happening to animals and hikers, and there's little you can do to stop it.

The game is story-driven; puzzles are minimal, and the borders of your little world are enforced strictly, while the game takes most actions for you. I felt like pacing was slightly off, where a little more guidance in some parts and a little less in others could have worked better, but it's hard to put my finger on anything.

I think the story mixed together the threads of isolation, terror, and loss pretty well, and I found to be one of the better short games I've played this year.


The Fishing Cat, by MoyTW

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Amateur witch hunters make a tough decision (in Choicescript form), November 13, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game is set in 1500's France. You are a student, with a group of other students, and there are rumours of a witch in the city.

This is a short game made for a speed competition in Choicescript. Despite that, it manages to build up some fun tension in a short time. The main objects of interest are interacting with your fellow witch hunters and trying to decide whether you are really doing what's right or not.

As a caution, this game contains (moderate spoilers) (Spoiler - click to show)extreme violence to animals.

I found the ending a bit abrupt, but overall I liked the tension in the game. This was one of the more enjoyable Ectocomp 2021 games for me!


A Ghost Story, by Nils Fagerburg

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A short game with slowly increasing capability in a spooky atmosphere, November 12, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This is a Petite Morte Ectocomp 2021 game, written in 4 hours or less and featuring the custom parser system used in the author's game The Libonotus Cup.

Visually, the game looks good in terms of font and color.

The story and gameplay are that you are going to the bathroom when suddenly you appear as a ghost in front of a tower. There are 8 locations around the tower, arranged in a circle. Unfortunately, you don't have hands that can pick up anything.

So you have to visit different locations and gain different powers. One location had a riddle which was based on a pun, which could be hard for non-native English speakers.

The setting is interesting, and the descriptions are well-developed for a 4-hour game, but the whole thing is somewhat disjointed and nonsensical. It's just a fun, short puzzly game, and there's nothing wrong with that.


Weary Eerie Way, by Andrew Schultz

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A surreal world with pig latin sprinkled throughout, November 11, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game is an overflow for ideas that didn't fit into the author's previous Pig Latin-themed game, Under They Thunder.

Like the majority of Andrew Schultz games, this is a world with names based on some linguistic trick (here, Pig Latin) that is surreal and focuses a lot on overcoming bullies using self-confidence.

It's a speed-IF with a small map, and due to the constraints almost all objects are undescribd.

The main gameplay element is that you walk around, but the map is blocked, but occasionally you get an item when you're walking that helps you pass them.

There's a little more to it than that, but I confess that I couldn't grasp the main puzzle at the end without glancing at the walkthrough.


Psyops, Yo, by Andrew Schultz

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A brief game with a symmetric premise, November 11, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This is a wordplay game centered around the idea of repeated sequences of letters (like how the title, 'psyops, yo' consists of 'psyo' repeated twice).

This is smaller than most Andrew Schultz games, which makes sense for an ectocomp entry. It has 4 puzzles you need to solve.

I found two of them with a little thinking and felt good about it. The other two stumped me; I used an online word solver to figure it out, and both surprised me as I felt they could be hinted a little more.

Overall, a fun concept.


The Deer Trail, by Dark Forest Media

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A long Quest horror game with good story but rough edges, November 9, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game is fabulous plot-wise: you encounter a mysterious deer beast in the forest and track it back to a farm. There you discover a strange series of events in the past through the use of journal entries.

Getting that story, though, can be a real pain. Many commands go unrecognized. Here is an example from early on in the game:

(Spoiler - click to show)> x door
A solid front door made of heavy wood. The green paint has all but peeled away. You see a tarnished door knocker in the shape of a Fleur de Lis.

> knock
I don't understand your command.

> knock door
I better use the knocker to do that.

> knock knocker
You can't knock it.

> x knocker
A tarnished door knocker in the shape of a Fleur de Lis.

> use knocker
You use the door knocker and knock loudly... Nothing happens. Looks like no one is home.
(You unlocked an Achievement.)


A lot of the wording is confusing or misspelled (like 'Knock arrow' instead of 'nock arrow'). Overall, the game could've used less time in making its huge map and more time in polishing a smaller segment of the gameplay.

I really like the story, though, which is why I'm giving it a rating of 3 (for descriptiveness, emotional impact and the fact that I'd play again).


Jack, by Arlan Wetherminster

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A horror/action parser game spread out over many locations, November 8, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This is an entry in Ectocomp 2021, in the Grand Guignol section.

You play as a young person who is able to see ghosts, or at least a specific ghost named Jack. Jack urges you to solve his murder and stop another which is about to occur.

The map is pretty large, extending over three different main locations, each with 8-20 rooms.

Interaction consists of classic parser gameplay (one puzzle (Spoiler - click to show)is familiar for fans of older games, although with an unusual twist) as well as topic based conversation.

The game has an interesting premise and excels most at setting and scenery.

The implementation could be more thorough. Many synonyms are not implemented (for instance, in the final scene, (Spoiler - click to show)the service box only works if you UNLOCK BOX WITH KEY, and not if you TURN ON BOX, RAISE LIFT, go UP, etc.) Many key items are not implemented, and some verbs that are directly suggested in the text do not work. An important PC's name isn't capitalized in responses.

I think this game could benefit from being ported to Adventuron. Adding some nice pixel art would improve the overall appeal, and the (large) Adventuron audience is generally less concerned about small details of implementation and appreciates the classic gameplay and interesting maps of games like this.


Three Rogues Fight Death, by Solvig Choi

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A gauntlet-style retelling of a Chaucer story, November 7, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game, entered in Ectocomp 2021, is a brief Twine game in which you recreate the Chaucer story The Pardoner's Tale as one of the main characters.

For most of the game you have two choices: follow the story, or go off the rails. Going off the rails generally results in your death. There is no undo, so you'll have to replay, which can be mildly slow due to some timed text but not too bad.

There are three main endings: death, the traditional Chaucer ending, and, the game insinuates, a victorious ending, which I eventually found.

I think the Chaucer original is neat. The gauntlet story structure here was a bit rough, since you saw the same text over and over again and the extra deaths didn't really add much value. It was essentially a 'do you want to continue the story or start over from the beginning?' button.

The layout was a bit hard to read, with some paragraphs being centered and the lower paragraphs being left-justified. Also, the author used a serifed font on a pure-black background, both of which made it harder to read.

There were many stats displayed but they were a bit confusing. At one point I think I had -3 money.

Overall, the strongest points here are the interesting story and the characters.


Skillick's Bride, by Rachel Helps

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
A horror game inspired by experiences in Utah culture, November 7, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

I was interested to see a game described as 'Mormon horror' on the IFDB feed. As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, it's rare to see interactive fiction that's connected to my church.

This game is a take on Bluebeard, a topic I enjoy (one of my favorite opera's is Duke Bluebeard's Castle, which has a lot in common with this game).

However, it differs from traditional Bluebeard narratives by putting a religious spin on things. The religion in this game isn't the same as my church; instead, it's an amalgamation of the culture in Utah, especially Provo, some esoteric doctrinal references, and some new innovations I've never really seen before.

The Utah culture shows up in things like 'dirty coke' (which is soda with mix-ins like coconut or flavored syrups) and 'Sunstone' (the name of a magazine that does academic/critical studies of the religion), or people using 'Brigham Young was my ancestor'. The main NPC is an area authority, which I think is an in-joke as they are in real life distant, benign administrators that are rarely seen (most real-life church figures that people take issue with are local like bishops or global like apostles). The new innovations are things like having an estate with a chapel on it (?) that is also an official temple for marriage purposes (?) or talking about early settlers being called skillet-lickers.

The main horror components are centered around common concerns that women (especially in Utah) experience in marriage: feeling pressured into early pregnancy, feeling socially inadequate due to infertility, feeling a loss of ownership over the body, and feeling pressured and grossed out due to a new husbands request for (metaphorical) frequent sexual relations, or being worried that you'll be forced into a polygamous marriage in heaven against your will. These are things I saw a lot in my town growing up and which I've seen almost not at all in every other state I've lived in. Utah can be pretty weird some times.

You have a health meter which results in your death when depleted, as well as faithfulness (which (Spoiler - click to show)takes you to a depressing heaven) and unfaithfulness (which (Spoiler - click to show)gets you kicked out but safe).

The game was polished in general, with custom styling but a couple of issues with paragraph breaks. I found the writing to be evocative. The various stats made for good interactivity in a fairly brief game. And the horror was true to real emotions and experiences I've seen before (in particular, part of it reminded me of a (Spoiler - click to show)traumatic miscarriage my former spouse had which I helped/supported during).

I felt like the game had very little to do with the Church of Jesus Christ itself; the vast majority of messaging in the actual church is 'God loves you' and 'if you've messed up Christ will help you if you let him'. But I do think it represents the experience of many women, especially in BYU/Provo/Utah, and that many people could see themselves in this game.


The Daughter, by GioBorrows

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
An incomplete futuristic investigation game, October 24, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

One trend in IFComp is that an unfinished game will place near the bottom of the comp, regardless of any other positive features it might have. There are some exceptions, but they are rare.

This game cuts off right after a big investigation. The idea is that humanity has moved on from reproduction, and everyone is now immortal, there are dozens of different pronoun options (the most meaningful choices in the game are centered around terms of address and pronouns), and everyone is smart and cool. The first biologically born person in millenia has been found murdered.

There are multiple typos (although literally as I was playing the game for 20 minutes near midnight on a Saturday, the author updated the game, which was a fun coincidence), such as 'TALKED WITH' instead of 'TALK WITH'. I also found the jumping between perspectives a little confusing as well.

Due to the confusing language and the errors and the unfinished aspect, I didn't find the game polished, descriptive, emotionally engaging, or something I'd like to revisit for now.

I do think the general idea is a good one. A game like this would probably do better in Introcomp, which was definitely underpopulated this year.


After-Words, by fireisnormal

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
A minimalist map exploration and fetch quest game, October 24, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game is a six-by-six grid of locations, each described in two words or less. Each location has something that needs resolving: a missing item, or a problem in a different square. You are the resolver, who will resolve the problems (including the word limit).

It's choice-based, but with mild quadratic complexity. You can choose between LOOKing and INTERACTing with each object in a room, and you gather an inventory of items.

I loved this game, with the only drawback for me being the 'lawnmowering' that felt natural for the mid-game, trying out different items in different rooms. This problem is both alleviated and exacerbated by the helpful text which tells you if you're in the right room. It makes lawnmowering both faster (less painful) but also more appealing.

Overall, I find this a very successful puzzle piece. It reminds me of Weird City Interloper, a bit.

I can also highly recommend Domestic Elementalism, another game by this author from the 2017 IFComp.


The Dead Account, by Naomi Norbez

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A well-put-together brief story about grief and accounts, October 24, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game is one of two entered by Bez in this competition, the other being 'Weird Grief', and the two tie into each other.

In this one, presented in customized Twine, you are a moderator for an online community, and have been asked to begin closing accounts of dead customers.

Gameplay is divided into two components: reading through old messages, and entering a group chat with everyone involved.

The game has illustrated avatars for each important character, as well as a few other pieces of art.

The second section of the game is all on a timer. It's not too long, but I tend to multitask while playing IF (the format lends itself well to pick-up-and-put-down play), and I tabbed away to work on other things while waiting for the text to complete, only to come back and see it had wiped the screen and started new messages. I also had to leave in the middle of some text to use the restroom, and missed a couple of other parts because of that. So for future players, I'd recommend dedicating a set amount of time to read through the second portion.

The text includes frequent strong and mild profanities and depicts traumatizing events as well as reference to sexual activities.

Overall, I found the game polished and descriptive, with an emotional impact. The nonlinear interactivity in the first half worked for me, but the second half was a little rougher, so I'd give this a 3.5, which I'll round up to a 4 for IFDB.


Cyborg Arena, by John Ayliff

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A brief fighting sim and relationship manager, October 24, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This is a small but polished game, one that feels like an intentionally compact micro-game. The system would be appropriate for a longer game, but there's not much room to fit more in the game besides having multiple matches.

You are a cyborg gladiator in a political climate that seems to be modeled on current transgender discourse. You get to choose how you treat your fellow cyborgs, and you also choose your body type and weapon.

Combat has a kind of paper-rock-scissors format, with unusual combinations pleasing the crowd.

The game uses strong profanity every few screens and has elaborate violence and (spoilers for certain paths) (Spoiler - click to show)some vaguely described sexual scenes.

I don't feel like the game lasted long enough for me to get a good grip on it emotionally, but it's polished and descriptive, and the interactivity was interesting and responsive.


The Last Doctor, by Quirky Bones

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A short game about doctors and ethics in a future scenario, October 24, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This is a short Ink game. You are a doctor in a clinic that is almost empty. You have encounters with people and have to decide whether to spend your supplies on them.

The game is pretty short, almost like a demo for a larger game. Each major choice is an ethical one, and at the end the game thanks you for taking an examination (and starts with a similar comment), so I think it's intended for you to reflect on your morals.

Overall, it's a solid idea, but wasn't long enough to draw me in emotionally or to invite replay.


Closure, by Sarah Willson

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Parser game via text-message: explore an ex's dorm, October 23, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This is a great game concept that's well-executed. It's an Inform parser game with custom CSS to look like text messages. I've been interested in this concept for a while and had even made a draft once of the necessary JS/CSS, but my version looked bad and was buggy and deleted it. So seeing someone who achieved a complete and great-looking version of that concept is very nice!

You play as a random person who is getting texts from a friend. Your friend has broken into their ex's dorm room in an effort to get back a photo and to experience closure.

Technically, the game is very impressive. Besides the nice appearance, it also does some fun text stuff (like (Spoiler - click to show)drawing out the last letter of the name you inputted(Spoiler - click to show)).

Puzzle-wise, it's fairly light, focused on exploration without requiring you to use a ton of logic or calculation. I had to use one hint, as I had thought I investigated everything but missed a subobject I had seen early on.

Story-wise, I could identify with the themes of loss, snoopiness, and the realization that you didn't really know the other person.

The one caveat I had about the CSS/JS is that I sometimes had hiccups where I expected the texts to be done and started typing, not realizing there were more. There is a visual indicator (the flashing line), but it might have been nice to either add another indicator that more was coming (perhaps replacing the standard 'more' with '...') or just printing all texts at once, especially when using 'LOOK', which is the only place I had trouble.

Overall, I found the game was polished, descriptive, had interesting interactivity, was emotional resonant, and I might play it again.


Brave Bear, by John Evans

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A short and simple parser game about a child's toy, October 23, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This is a brief parser game where you play as a child's teddy bear who can walk around. Your goal is to defeat fears and gather friends.

The map is a bit complex in layout but small. Each friend requires a different method to find. A couple of the puzzles I found pretty clever; others were easy, and others I had to resort to a walkthrough for.

The implementation is a bit spotty; characters respond but they don't always make sense, and sometimes you might now the right action you need to do but not how to type it so the game understands it.

Overall, I think this was solid idea that needed more testing and polish. I didn't see any testers credited, which I think would have helped.


How the monsters appeared in the Wasteland, by V Dobranov

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
A post-apocalyptic road chase in Twine, October 9, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This is a pretty fancy-looking Twine game with options for play in Russian or English.

It features custom CSS styling with changing background colors and a cool mechanic where you can click on an item and then on any earlier highlighted link to use the item there, giving it more robust puzzles.

You play as one of two people in a vehicle speeding down a highway carrying precious cargo. It has kind of a Star Wars feel but on land instead of space. Some people start chasing you and you have to take control of the guns.

This is a fast-paced game and I felt nervous for my character a lot, thinking I'd mess up, but I got through okay. The storytelling and writing is good, and I enjoyed it.

+Polish: Very good looking game
+Descriptiveness: Vivid world building
+Interactivity: I liked the two-layer puzzles and the good hints the game gives you
+Emotional impact: I felt nervous for my characters
-Would I play again? This is a very good game, but it's a bit overwhelming at time, because there are just so many options.


Funicular Simulator 2021, by Mary Goodden and Tom Leather

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Meet 4 characters on a supernatural mountain, October 8, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This is a game about riding a Funicular (basically a tram that is rope-powered instead of track-powered) up a mountain that has several special properties. It has unusual crystals all over, it emits strange radiation, and every 20 years it puts off a beautiful aurora.

On the funicular with you are 4 strangers. Each has their own joys and desires and secrets, and most of them (maybe all??) are romantic options.

The game isn't too long, but it has a major twist and then another twist in the ending.

The game explores some serious issues (drug use, infidelity, pseudo-science) and offers a lot of romance for its size.

Here's my breakdown:
+Polish: The game felt very smooth
+Descriptiveness: Getting 4 perspectives was nice
+Interactivity: I felt like I could make real choices in my conversations.
Emotional impact: It was good but I wasn't really drawn into the characters. Each contact felt a bit rushed; a 2-minute romance doesn't feel as real as a longer exposure would have.
+Would I play again? Yeah, it was interesting.


Enveloping Darkness, by John Muhlhauser, Helen Pluta, and Othniel Aryee

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
A somewhat linear fantasy story about helping your family, October 7, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This is a Squiffy game in a generic fantasy setting. Your town is raided by orcs that are mind controlled by white worms, and your brother and father are taken.

The rest of the story is mostly a bunch of standard fantasy sequences glued together and hurried over. For instance, you can go request aid from a king, visit an enemy city, make friends with a half-orc.

You generally have two choices at a time, sometimes more, but the branches converge again quickly. Sometimes the author forgot important information in one branch (like not telling you a beggar is following you).

There are major plot holes near the end. Overall, this story seems like if a very talented teenager spent a few weeks making a game in Squiffy, or someone older getting into writing IF for the first time. Either way, getting more practice will help and I expect future games would be significant improvements.

For now, though, my rating is:
-Polish
+Descriptiveness
-Interactivity
-Emotional impact
-Would I play again?


Fourbyfourian Quarryin', by Andrew Schultz

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
More chess puzzles with more complexity, October 6, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

Andrew Schultz recently release Fivebyfiveia Delenda Est, a fun small game with chess puzzles that was one of his higher-rated games.

This is a larger game with chess puzzles that have a bit more complexity. There are a bunch of mini-kingdoms to invade and each has two 'tiers' to conquer. The game itself has 2 difficulty settings. I beat it on the first, and started the second, only to realize that it was very similar.

The puzzles involve setting up 2-3 pieces on the chessboard to trap the enemy king. Interestingly, sometimes you have to set up enemy pieces as well.

The storyline is fairly thin but understandable. The game sometimes holds your hand a bit more than I would have wanted. Specifically, beating one area sometimes automatically beats neighboring areas, even before you know what they do. If I had more idea before I left what each area was like, or was given the option to grey out such areas, I'd prefer that.


Walking Into It, by Andrew Schultz

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A wholesome game about tic-tac-toe with kids, October 4, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

I was playing through all the IFComp games that are in inaccessible formats, and I thought I got them all. But then I saw this game and was surprised. This is a raw python file, and games like that almost never get reviews in the comps and tend to place lower down. As one of IFComp's most successful long term participants, Schultz would know it, which was my surprise.

But it's not always about crushing the competition, which is exactly the point of this game. You play as an adult who sees a kid playing tic tac toe. As a kid, you always had a 'draw' with other kids, and if they let you win, you got mad. But once, you won a game because the other player missed something, and you want to recreate that experience for the child.

I'll admit, I was mystified at first, and just played regular old tic tac toe games. It reminded me of Infinite Adventure in this comp, just repeating the same old interactions over and over (in this case, endless games of tic-tac-toe). But then I finally got it, and the game became a lot of fun. I first solved it the easiest way, and then I solved it the hardest way. I wasn't sure I had gotten everything, so I checked the walkthrough and saw I had done what was intended. I didn't go through and do all the other variations, because I felt satisfied.

This is a pretty small game, but:
+Polish: It was very polished
-Descriptive: There's some meaningful text trappings, but it's mostly a puzzle with some bare-bones story
+Interactivity: The puzzle was intriguing and thoughtful
+Emotional impact: I loved the motivation for the puzzle and enjoyed putting myself in the protagonist's shoes
+Would I play again? This was a very smooth experience.


The Last Night of Alexisgrad, by Milo van Mesdag

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Play-by-mail co-op twine game with the death of the revolution, October 3, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This is a 2-player Twine game. Every time you make a decision, you are given a code, and asked for the code of your partner. This means you could play side by side or (as I did) messaging back and forth with people. I played once as each faction and am playing again with another person.

I never play IF with others, except at the Seattle IF Meetup, but I was able to find some great people on intfiction to message back and forth. It took a while to nail down transmitting codes but then proceeded pretty well. There are only about 10 or so choices so the game is pretty fast, although there is a lot of text per each early choice.

Story wise, it reminded me of the faux-historical games from Choice of Games (like The Eagle's Heir). You play either as the first (and last) newly-made dictator of an idealistic socialist republic or as the king's general who is coming to crush the rebellious city.

Choices definitely matter here, with different branches by one character giving different branches for another. They tend to share many features in common (so it's not a Time Cave wildly branching structure) but it includes different locations, choices for death and violence or peace, etc.

I found it fun and effective, and I didn't expect that to happen. There was one or two typos, but overall it's fairly polished.

I rate games on the following scale, which can give a high score even to relatively short games like this one:
+Polish
+Descriptiveness
+Interactivity
+Emotional Impact (I didn't get completely drawn in, but I did roleplay as my character and was able to be drawn into how they would react)
+Would I play again? I already have several times


What remains of me, by Jovial Ron

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A retro-parser-aesthetic choice-based game about helping others, October 3, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game defied many of the categories I tried to put it in. It looked like a parser game, Adventuron specifically, but appears to be custom written.

You walk around with on-screen arrow keys and a menu of verbs you can apply to your inventory or things around you, kind of like old Lucasarts games.

There are a variety of items, and a variety of people you can help.

On one hand, the programming is very impressive and the game looks well-done. On the other hand, it often contradicts itself. It will say 'there is a flier here you can take' but if you click TAKE nothing happens. It will say 'the frog leaves' but then the frog is still there. I was able to complete the game, and found it humorous, but I think that this could have received even more testing. For me, I like to spend 50% or more of my development time for parser games in testing alone, and for choice maybe 10-20% at least.

This game had heart to me, and it was polished and I might play again, so I'm giving it 3 stars. If the bugs were fixed I'd make it 4.


Kidney Kwest, by Eric Zinda, and Luka Marceta

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Assemble a Halloween costume while learning about phosphate binders, October 2, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game is an educational game about kidneys made for kids using a custom engine that reads full sentences.

The game itself has multiple endings; I finished after only examining 3 rooms out of 5 in the main hub.

A magical fairy is helping you get a Halloween costume by transforming whatever you pick up into costume parts. Meanwhile, you get hungry, and eating requires you to take phosphate binders due to your kidney problems. This opens up a minigame where you have to hunt for phosphate crystals.

Throughout IF history there have been at least two different threads: one using text to provide a realistic simulation of the world (including Emily Short and her physics games), and those pushing for abstraction and ease of use (including Ryan Veeder who provides a lot of subtle affordances to make gameplay smoother). Most people authors use a mix of the two.

Abstraction and ease pushed to its extreme leads to dynamic fiction, where there are few choices besides 'next page'. And realistic simulation pushed too far leads to hunger timers, inventory limits, and an insistence on proper grammar, all of which this game has. It's a stylistic choice that some are fond of, but I don't really enjoy my character getting more and more hungry as I go back and forth between rooms because my character can only hold two objects. The engine is also slow between responses, so it can be a bit frustrating.

I found the educational part fascinating and didn't know the kidneys had anything to do with phosphate. Also, this game is specifically designed for kids unfamiliar with IF tropes, so I'm specifically not the target audience. And a lot of the things I found off putting could be fun for kids; discovering the game character actually responds like a real person with needs and limited capacity is something fun about text adventures when you're new (at least it was for me).

Overall:
+Polish: It worked smoothly.
-Descriptiveness: The game felt kind of bare at times.
-Interactivity: The game felt a bit too fiddly for me at time.
+Emotional impact: I love the idea of making a game for kids and the phosphate thing was cool.
+Would I play again? I don't really feel like it, but I only found one costume and there were many rooms I missed, and I'd like to support this idea of making games for health purpose (kind of like Gavin Inglis's game about self-abuse).


BOAT PROM, by Brendan Patrick Hennessy

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A story-focused multi-scene LGBTQ romance/disaster on a boat, September 13, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

The author of this game has made several other very successful twine games, including Birdland and its related works and Known Unknowns. Many of them are smooth and enjoyable LGBTQ YA stories and this is in a similar category.

You play as a young woman whos prom date gets publicly ruined as embarrassingly as possible. Unfortunately, this prom is also on a boat.

There are many characters, and all choices are dialogue options. This author tends to have a ton of little options hidden in the code, but each path you can take in this game feels like the 'intended' one.

There's nothing to see here in the way of puzzles or major decisions; the real draw is the witty dialogue, teen-relatable situations and, for those interested, LGBTQ representation.

For me, what it keeps it from being 5 stars is its lack of the extraordinary. I enjoy this author's games the best when they become bizarre and absurd, like weird dream birds or raccoons speaking in emoji. For me, this was like very good cake without frosting: delicious, but leaving you wishing it had that extra ingredient.


The Time Machine, by Bill Maya

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A short adaptation of H. G. Wells Time Machine, September 2, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

I beta tested this game.

This game is an adaptation of a static fiction story. This is something very hard to do well in a parser game; I've tried it myself and more or less failed, and so have many others. This game runs into a lot of the same problems: a faithful adaptation assumes a linear plot, while a parser game is centered around freedom of expression.

This game implements a house with many mentioned details but few which are usable. There are bugs, such as when one attempts to break a window (not needed in the game).

Plot wise, it doesn't follow the book directly, but instead starts after the action of the first one, allowing you to prove to the world that the time machine is real. The whole setup makes it seem like it will be very complex, but in reality there are only 2-3 puzzles and the whole game can be completed in very few steps.


Limen, by Elizabeth DeCoste

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A quick tour of liminal spaces that is itself somewhat a liminal space, August 31, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

Liminal spaces are popular right now; my young son enjoys playing liminal spaces games on Roblox and I've seen bots about them on twitter.

Whatever the original definition of liminal spaces was, they are now dominated by endlessly repetitive/abandoned/mass-produced areas. The Backrooms is a classic example (an endless system of hallways with boring carpeting and yellow walls). Another common kind of liminal space is something designed for entertainment but which is now empty, or uncanny valley areas.

This game involves you travelling between several such regions. Interestingly, just like liminal spaces in popular culture are often worn down, this game is underimplemented, missing several exit lists and lacking custom responses for many things.

Here's my rating:
-Polish: The game is missing exit listings and just feels kind of undercooked.
-Descriptiveness: The areas that are described are evocative, but some are given just a single line that is rather unclear.
-Interactivity: I had to decompile to finish it.
+Emotional impact: It has the kind of liminal feeling that I assume it was designed to create.
+Would I play again?: Sure, why not. It's short and good at creating the feeling of low-key chills.


Snowhaven, by Tristin Grizel Dean

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A cozy (or sad) wilderness parser game with graphics and sound, August 2, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This was a truly pleasant game to play. The art was very lovely, reminding me of a more advanced version of the art in Laura Knauth's Winter Wonderland.

This is written in Adventuron, and has a few 'modes', including a cozy one and a sad one. I played both of those.

The game has its own internal logic that doesn't correspond 100% to standard interactive fiction tropes. For instance, a few puzzles require that you type the desired result without detailing the physical actions that prompt that result (an example, not in the game, would be like saying 'go golfing' instead of 'hit ball').

Because of that, I got stuck a bit, but I noticed that the many other people who played seemed to get by without asking for hints online, so I persevered. Overall, I enjoyed the atmosphere of this game the most out of this comp, and think this is an outstanding use of Adventuron.


Waiting for the Day Train, by Dee Cooke

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A pleasant game about reaching a train. Has two perspectives, August 2, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game opens with a spooky pixel art world and story, then transitions to a generally pleasant, somewhat magical real life world with photographs.

It has 3-5 puzzles. All are simple, and most are well-clued. One involving a fish felt a little arbitrary to me, but overall it was nice.

The game felt smooth and polished. The writing gives hints of interesting worldbuilding. Overall, like others have noted, the game feels a bit disconnected between its two sides, but both sides are individually well put-together.


Fivebyfivia Delenda Est, by Andrew Schultz

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
A bite-sized chess puzzle, August 2, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

I generally enjoy games by Andrew Schultz, and this was no exception.

It's a small game on a 5x5 chess square with a few short chess puzzles. Using knight moves, you must move around the board to achieve your goals.

+Polish: The game was very smooth. I kept trying to type SUMMON instead of CALL but that's entirely on me.
+Descriptive: I actually like the writing in this more than almost all other Schultz games. It goes in a different direction and I like it.
+Interactivity: The puzzles appealed to me.
+Emotional impact: Genuine enjoyment counts as an emotion, right?
+Would I play it again? Yes, I found it satisfying.

I don't everyone would like this all the time, but I think some people would like this some of the time. If you'd like a brief logic-based brainteaser that wraps itself up nicely, try it out.


Loud House 'game on', by Caleb Wilson

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A Nickolodeon-based game made by a kid, August 1, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This is an unpolished but complex and amusing parser game made by a kid.

It's strongly based on different Nickolodeon series, starting with the Loud House.

Here's my rating:

-Polish: For a kid making a parser game, it's great. Otherwise, it has numerous problems, most of which could be solved by time and practice.
-Descriptiveness: Most of the details are left out, relying on your knowledge of the shows or of classic tropes to fill in the details.
+Emotional impact: I thought it was fun and funny, especially the slime's riddle solutions
+Interactivity: It was straightforward but manage to cook up a lot of surprises. Some bugs but intfiction hints helped me out.
+Would I play again? With my kid, yeah


Grandpa's Ranch, by Kenneth Pedersen

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A charming short treasure hunt on a grandfather's farm, August 1, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game is, I believe, a late entry to the recent parser competition that was for 2-word introductory games for kids. It's a simple Adrift game that is generally very polished, with a tutorial available, music, a few pictures, and some text effects.

Here's my rating:
+Polished: The game is very smooth and well-done.
+Descriptive: The game is sparse and, as part of the competition, can only put a couple of lines in each description, but the author manages to make each room interesting and to serve many purposes. It could have been easy to throw in a bunch of empty rooms to fill up space, but every is nice and compact.
+Interactivity: The puzzles were generally fair and interesting. I set the game down for about an hour in the middle, and forgot an important clue and had to look at the pdf, but if I hadn't wandered off I would have remembered.
-Emotional impact: While the game is generally charming, it never garnered a strong emotional response from me.
+Would I play again? Maybe I'd show it to my son.


Danny Dipstick, by Garry Francis

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Pick-up artist training simulator as a small parser game , August 1, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

Danny Dipstick is a compact, polished puzzle game where you play as an uncharismatic man who is desperate to get a girl's phone number.

This game is based off on an older game by a different author. Much of my reaction to this game is based on my feelings about this variant of date culture in general, and may not reflect the author's own attitudes.

In my opinion, the central tenets of this game (that being able to easily persuade women to date you is desirable, that the barriers between you and 'random woman you just met' are all superficial things like appearance that can be easily corrected, etc.) do not hold up. In the past, almost all people met their partners through mutual friends, and now according to modern research the internet is even more common. For me, Danny's story didn't seem authentic and didn't resonate with me.

Like someone else mentioned, the depiction of the store clerk seemed inauthentic as well. He's described as scrawny, undernourished, with an almost unintelligible accent. According to statistics, the median Indian household is much wealthier than the median white household, and English is a first language for many in India. This corresponds with my own experience; in Texas, where I live, a huge chunk of my everyday coworkers and friends are Indian, and almost half of my wealthy tutoring clients are Indian. I'm sure scrawny, undernourished, unintelligible Indian people exist, but they're certainly outliers.

Mechanically, I was really pleased with the compact puzzles and their unity of purpose. The puzzles were simple but it contributed to the overall feel of the game.


Foreign Soil, by Olaf Nowacki

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
A space colonization parser game with a fun opening sequence, August 1, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

I remembered this game when I played it during the competition, but I couldn't remember where. Was I a beta tester? No, I wasn't in the credits.

Then I remembered that this was entered into Introcomp! The author has certainly improved the game since then. Back then, it only had the opening and then an empty crater.

This game has you play as a colonist arriving on a planet. The opening sequence is pretty brilliant, similar to the Ian Finley game Gris et Jaune. Unfortunately for both games, they get a little buggy later.

This game has few big bugs in it, like if you type REMOVE [something] it gives an error message with a space missing.

The game is ambitious, though; even though it's not super long, it has changing time, major modifications to locations, an autonomous NPC, and a (Spoiler - click to show)change in perspective.

If the bugs were fixed, I would give this game a 4 or 5, and I think the author didn't something great and should continue coding.


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.


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.


Pub Hubbub, by Christopher Drum

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A shortish pub adventure with one brilliant puzzle, May 17, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

Having now played several punyinform games in a row, I now realize that many design features I thought were poor choices are actually 'baked in' to punyinform: specifically no UNDO and pedantic phrasing for disambiguation.

It also seems that most games in this PunyInform jam were written by newish players who aren't part of a culture of intense beta testing or familiarity with recent parser games.

So that puts a lot of things in perspective. Given this background, this game isn't that bad. I had to look at the itch page for some hints on how to proceed from time to time, but besides that it's fairly straightforward. You have a few chores to complete before your boss arrives, and much of the difficulty is figuring out the right commands to fulfill the actions required.

The one thing that elevated this game for me was an excellent puzzle involving cigarettes. I've never seen a puzzle quite like this and I think I might nominate it for an award next year, if I remember.


Pub Adventure!, by Robin & Tom Edwards

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A short and simple adventure assembling a cocktail, May 17, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This PunyInform game was made by a parent-child team, and it's pretty complex for a game made that way, but not as complex as most finished games made for competitions are.

Your pub has been cursed by a ghost until you make a drink for them. Each component of the drink is found by solving a different puzzle.

The number one thing the game could use is more feedback from testers, who could have caught things like undescribed objects, exits not listed in the room description, variations for trying to figure out what to do with the shaker, etc.


Buccaneer's Cache, by Wilfried Elmenreich

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A short and fairly buggy geocache hunt, May 17, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

I tend to be very positive in reviewing but almost every interaction I had with this game was troubling.

Leaving the first room puts you immediately in a losing position, where you have to answer a question or die. I only figured out what to do by googling, hoping that it was an obscure reference, and I found out that it was (I read the books years ago and loved them, but I didn't form a strong memory of this particular creature).

After the first room, most reasonable directional commands don't work, requiring the use of 'ENTER ---' instead. An object that is essential to the game is undescribed and can't be interacted with most verbs (that describes several objects). The main way of gaining points is a verb that is nowhere indicated in the game. And the final puzzle of ending the game requires an exact, non-idiomatic three-word phrase ((Spoiler - click to show)BOARD SHIP REALLY).

Fortunately for the author, all of this is avoidable in the future by having more testers. If this had been tested by a few people who could give good feedback, it would be just fine, and so it casts no aspersions on the author's skill.

Edit: Also, UNDO is disabled, despite having insta-deaths without warning.


Barry Basic and the Quick Escape, by Dee Cooke

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A compact game with reasonable puzzles and interesting characters, May 4, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game pulls off a difficult feat: there are 3 characters you can play as and you can swap between them at will. That's fairly difficult to pull off, but the game does well.

Puzzles are reasonable, as intended for a 'tutorial'-type game. The story is kind of random, but the characters are well-defined, have distinct personalities and see and interact with the world in different ways.

Your friend ends up locked in a strange compound after a tour and needs help escaping. You have to go and save him!

Overall, I didn't feel a real emotional investment in this game, but it was pleasant, one of the smoothest to play out of this game jam.


The Blue Lettuce, by Caleb Wilson

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Cute inform/vorple kids game about eating magical plants, May 3, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

I beta tested this game.

In this vorple/inform game with illustrations of plants, you play as a young creature eager to eat every magical plant you can get your hands on.

As per the text adventure literacy jam rules, you are expected to only use 2-word inputs and have simple language.

Caleb is a great author, and this game shares features with his earlier work, Starry Seeksorrow. It is intended for kids, but I enjoyed the puzzles, and I especially appreciated that solving them all is not necessary for winning. When I beta tested, I missed a couple the first time around.

Somewhere between the time I tested and the time it got put up on itch, the vorple framework seemed to get weird (maybe from itch interactions?), so that each image only shows up halfway until more text appears underneath it (such as when hitting enter).

It's a simple game, but I'm giving it a 5 as I found it polished, descriptive, enjoyed the interactivity, felt an enjoyable emotional impact, and would play again (and did play again!)


Sentient Beings, by Tristin Grizel Dean

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A very solid graphical treasure hunt game that requires careful attention, May 1, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

I found this at first to be one of the best games in the Text Adventure Literacy Jam, and one of the better games released this year, but I got a bit worn out by the end.

The game handles the narrator/pc split of parser games well by having you, the player, command a robot. The robot goes around measuring scientific things like light levels and oxygen percentages, and collecting specimens which are hid all over.

The graphics are great, the puzzles are interesting, I really like this game. But I got a bit overwhelmed. There are so many different specimens to find, I got kind of worn out by the end. Perhaps if I had approached this over a longer period of time and played with another, it would have been perfect.


Please do not the cat, by bubez

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Creative, short adventuron game about dealing with an unexpected cat, April 30, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game has a cute theme: you wake up with a strange cat on your chest and must deal with it.

The name of the game changes: it starts with 'don't wake the cat' and goes on to other names, each hinting at the required action.

There aren't pictures, but I found the puzzles fun, as I had to think outside of the box a few times. Unfortunately, there were a few times I knew the solution but didn't know how to word it (especially with the front door). Overall, love the idea but could use a few tweaks here and there. If you like cute pet games, though, definitely check it out.


Sandcastle Master, by EldritchRenaissanceCake

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A fun bite-sized exploration game with graphics and sound, April 30, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

Someone's been talking on the IF forums recently about games that don't have involved puzzles or deep narratives, and I think this is a good example of how to make a successful game without worrying too much about these things.

This is a small adventuron game with a compact, 3x3 map. There is pleasant music, pixel art with lots of abstract triangular textures, reactive NPCs, a variety in types of interaction, and some fun responses to player actions.

It's a simple game, designed for the text adventure literacy project, and I think it's done really way. I don't think it has much in the way of replay value, but other than that it is a rewarding and fun short game.


The Rotten Wooden Room, by Cat Galaxy Studio

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A collection of random genres and puzzles with some fun parts, April 30, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This was part of the Text Adventure Literacy Jam. It starts off in a creepy, horror-type room, then moves into more fantasy or abstraction.

Each room has generally forgiving puzzles, and overall I generally enjoyed the atmosphere. However, there was no real connection between anything, and there were a few odd bugs (for instance, a door in one room affected passage between two other rooms in what seems like a buggy way).

I don't think a game has to have a coherent narrative to be fun, and a game doesn't have to have clever puzzles to be fun, but I feel like this game could use something more than it has now before it is entirely enjoyable.


Adventures Extraordinaire, by ElefantinoDesign

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A detective game that could use some more bug fixes, April 28, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This is a game for the text adventure literacy project. It has some nice art and is written in adventuron.

I struggled a lot with this one. To begin with, LOOK doesn't work, but only LOOK AROUND does. Since LOOK usually works with adventuron, I can only assume the author intentionally disabled it.

There is a strict inventory limit of four items, although almost all items in the game are pretty small.

Many commands that should work are not recognized. The game has a helpful tutorial mode, but many of its suggestions do not work. There is a walkthrough provided on the game page, but much of the walkthrough is incorrect.

At one point, following the walkthrough, I forgot something, so I tried to get back to the office, but locked myself out of victory with all items inside the castle. I was frustrated, but replayed to the end.

There is a second day available, but the first story was complete, and as the second day has less bugfixes, I'd rather not play it until it's more tuned-up.

The game does, though, have some fun art.


Reflections, by Tristin Grizel Dean

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Find 5 reflections in a cozy puzzle game, April 28, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game is part of the Text Adventure Literacy Jam.

You are tasked with finding 5 reflections of yourself. There is a helpful tutorial that's optional.

There are about 10 locations, and the game has some graphics that add quite a bit to the charm of the game, and to its utility, with the map.

The puzzles are fairly simple but hard enough to be rewarding.

I had a few hiccups here and there. The game wouldn't recognize commands like X RED, only X RED CRYSTAL. Overall, I found the game charming and with a few fun surprises.


The Manor on top of the Hill, by Kalyen

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
A straightforward mysterious mansion game, April 26, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This Adventuron game was designed for the Text Adventure Literacy Project, and it seems designed to be safe and simple. Only two-word commands are used.

It has a fairly large map with around 20 locations (?) and a few puzzles, including a combination safe, keys, and examining puzzles. The idea is that you are exploring an old mansion and discovering its secrets.

There aren't a lot of surprises here, except perhaps the ending. There is a light puzzle that was kind of interesting, though.


Project ArcmŲr, by Donald Conrad and Peter M.J. Gross

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Sci-fi exploration with a map, April 22, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

I beta tested this game.

This is a Twine game with great multimedia. You are exploring a derelict space craft under the auspices of an evil capitalist organization. Something is following you.

There is a map on the lefthand side, different uses of text coloring and some impressive animated pixel art.

Gameplay consists of moving around the map, picking up items (you can hold one at a time except for a few special items) and learning more about the spaceship.


I find the writing funny and the art well-done. The map and the sense of movement makes this at times a fairly difficult puzzle game.

One thing I could have wished was for more items with easily apparent uses. Other than that, this is a fun, funny, replayable game.


Picton Murder Whodunnit, by Sia See

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Nice engine, fairly straightforward murder mystery, April 17, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game is written using the Strand Games engine, a nice and smooth interface that was developed to 'restore' the Magnetic Scrolls games from a few decades ago.

I like the way it looks and moves, it feels very smooth. The voice acting option (I think it was different text-to-speech readers, at least for some of them?) are a nice change of pace after how hard it is to get sound working in Inform.

The game itself isn't quite as alluring. It's a collection of fairly tropey characters in a fairly tropey setting (a major, a dilettante child, a butler, etc. in a manor). And the puzzle seems to consist in just asking who was where and figuring out which one person was lying.


Take the Dog Out, by ell

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A quick 2-room parser game about walking the dog, April 17, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

In this game, you have to get your dog to go outside and take a walk, solving a few puzzles on the way.

It's an inform game, and I believe it's the first one by this author. There are a lot of things here that are common to first games: a detailed depiction of mundane tasks in a familiar setting (here, an apartment/house), some white space errors, puzzles that are interesting but perhaps underimplemented.

I feel like the author's writing voice has a lot of personality, and I bet that the feedback from this game will help the next game be even better. Right now, though, there's just not much there.


Those Days, by George Larkwright

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A tale of two lives in 6 acts of Twine, April 15, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game seemed at first like many, many other Twine games I've played where someone reflects on their childhood and a person they had a major crush on, only to revisit their feelings as an adult.

But this game turns out to be different in several good ways. First, it's nice visually, with well-thought-out font use, colors and spacing. the writing is descriptive and interesting, with few typos. And the choice structure is actually meaningful, the game putting real stakes on its choices and remembering them (although I encountered a bug where (Spoiler - click to show)I decided not to cut the bike tires but Luke remembered me as doing so). And the relationship with your friend is kept completely real and easy to visualize while also being ambiguous and interesting.

If I had any complaint it's that I thought it ended in act 4 and then had 2 acts after. I think having either a progress bar or other indicator of time passage, or having more of an emotional rise, climax, and denouement might make that easier.

This game has timed text, which usually is a major problem in games, but this game's text was pretty much exactly in sync with my reading, so it didn't bother me.


Sovereign Citizens, by Laura Paul and Max Woodring

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Purely exploration. A twine game about an abandoned home, April 14, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game takes on a social problem: America has millions of empty homes but the homeless aren't allowed to live in them.

In this game, you play a homeless couple who breaks into an ultra-mansion. There are tons of rooms, and you can explore them for a long time.

Almost all interactions are choosing which room to see next. There are some fun self-referential moments (like finding a CYOA book and talking about how much you disliked them when younger), but the vast bulk of the game is marveling at the excess and poor taste of the rich owners.

It's hard to sympathize with the PC as they seem more motivated by envy than by higher ideals.

There were a few minor typos here and there (I think there was a stray 'a', like the phrase 'the a'). Overall, though, the writing was vivid. While this game seems to be a complete idea, I wouldn't mind spending more time with these characters in this world.


Baggage, by Katherine Farmar

2 of 2 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.


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.


A Blank Page, by Edu SŠnchez

3 of 3 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.


Hand of God, by Dana Freitas

4 of 4 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!


Fish & Dagger, by grave snail games

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A multimedia wonderland of a game. Spy thriller, 4th wall breaking, April 10, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game has truly great multimedia. I had some troubles with it (mentioned later), but I've never seen a Twine game at this level when it comes to video usage.

This spy game has constantly changing background animations that preserve a high degree of readability. There's a great score, and the videos/animations are just so crisp and readable.

The puzzles are honestly very clever, but again a technical mishap got me.

These were the things that I had trouble with:
-When I first opened the game, I had no sound.
-I restarted the game, but that popped up several javascript/Twine errors
-Then I restarted again, and the audio worked, but then....
-The AR thing seems to require a very specific set of technology that I could only solve with weird finagling. I had to (description of partial solution of this puzzle) (Spoiler - click to show)scan a QR code, so, since I was playing on the computer, I used my phone. But that took me to a twine game with a constantly moving link to click. That just straight-up doesn't work in Twine on mobile safari. So I copied the url into my email and sent it to my computer. Once you solve that Twine, you get sent to an AR. But the AR requires motion tracking, so I again had to email the url to myself so my phone could do the AR. This could all be solved by removing the text movement portion of the twine minigame you get sent to when you scan the QR code and replacing it with a different cool thing.

The storyline broke the 4th wall a lot but was honestly genuinely funny. There are some great lines here, and the audiovisuals and writing put together are very impressive. The tech troubles I had are the only thing keeping me from 5 stars.

Features strong profanity, some gruesome violence.


Theatre of Spud, by D E Haynes

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
An incomplete Python game set in a theatre, April 9, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

I rarely review a game without playing it to completion. To explain my omission in this case, I'd like to describe my play experience.

This was the second python game I played in this competition, so I had a better idea of how to get it running than I did on that one.

There are two ways to compile it: command prompt or web version.

I first tried command prompt and found it very slow, so then I tried the web version.

The web version has a several seconds pause between each line of text. This is somewhat frustrating, but not too bad. But the web version also blanks the screen frequently, and on a timer, so important text gets overriden by incidental 'flavor' text, making the text sometimes too slow and sometimes too fast.

The slow text, while a drawback, would have been manageable if not for the fact that:
-the same text pause happens when you make an error
-the game doesn't recognize most standard parser commands

For instance, you can't LOOK AT, W means WAIT instead of WEST and N means NEXT instead of NORTH. TALK TO is also not recognized. There is a HELP command, which lists helpful things to do, but in the web version sometimes typing HELP just gave me the environmental text, and HINT never worked.

So, much of my gameplay consisted of trying commands, getting errors, trying other commands, getting errors, all at a fairly slow pace.

The main game concept seems like it could work, but I can't proceed right now.


Lady Thalia and the Seraskier Sapphires, by E. Joyce and N. Cormier

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
A heist game in 3 acts with puzzles and conversational mechanics, April 9, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game does a lot of good things, and really drew me in.

You play as a nouveau-riche socialite who is also a catburglar/art thief.

Gameplay revolves around two mechanics: conversation and puzzles.

The conversation consists of choosing one of three attitudes: Friendly, Direct, and Leading On (?) (I can't quite remember what they stood for). Most conversations last 2-4 choices and you have to use the feedback you get from the NPC to determine if you are making the right choices or not, so there is some allowance for mistakes.

The puzzles consist of both strategizing (often the choice is between being fast and risky or quiet and slow) and text-entry. I liked the last puzzle quite a bit.

I found the Gwen character a little annoying, but enjoyed the MC a lot. If you're a fan of Alias the Magpie, I think you'll enjoy this too.

Note: The many save files available were great. I decided not to try and get a perfect game, but I did use one save once to recall what someone had said many turns earlier.


Copper Canyon, by Tony Pisculli

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
An Ink game about saving a mining town after an earthquake, April 9, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This is a Spring Thing game written in Ink. In it, you play a young man in a mining town where a disaster has struck. There are several chapters, each of which has 3-4 binary choices to choose from, with several paragraphs of text per choice.

I'm going to rank this on my five-point scale:

+Polish: I could have sworn I saw some typos but not sure. Game looks nice, generally polished.
+Descriptiveness: I quite liked the descriptiveness in this game, the characters were interesting and the mine scenes were excellent.
-Interactivity: This is a hard one. It's better than many games I've seen, but in general it's very hard to figure out what kind of effect different choices might have. It branches wildly, but seems generally forgiving. In a perfect world, I would have hoped for choices that have some kind of pattern, so I could make a plan, but unexpected surprises, so I'd have to adjust that plan.
+Emotional impact: I really got into my character and my feelings for the town.
-Would I play again: Even though it branches a lot, I didn't feel a strong desire to replay. Glad I played once, though.


Eyewear Cleaner 2077: Demo, by Naomi Norbez

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
An unfinished demo for a long twine game set in world of Cyberpunk 2077, April 8, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

Like many of the Back Garden Spring Thing games, this is a demo for a much longer game in the future.

As in Bez's other games, the writing here is well-done, and the characters are well-defined with distinct personalities (for me, at least). The audiovisuals were excellent, although I didn't see any easy way to mute the music (for, for instance, taking a phone call while playing).

The idea is that you work at a store in the background of Cyberpunk 2077 (a game I have never played, so I may be missing some nuance here). You have a boss that literally monitors your thoughts and docks your pay when you step out of line.

I feel like the game suffers in how its message translates into interaction. The game has a good message which is completely reasonable (the use of surveillance tools by employers and other features of a police state are bad). But sometimes it feels like the game looks like it offers a choice but not really; your character is asked about your feelings but you are also told your feelings. I feel like it might be better to have one or the other: have no choices about how you feel but a lot about your actions (the way Howling Dogs or their angelical understanding does), or allow choices about how you feel and let the player stick with it, even if the consequences are dreadful (like Lore Distance Relationship). As one older author wrote, you can't act unless you're enticed by two contrasting things, the sweet and the bitter.


Space Diner, by Marta and Alexej

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A python-based diner game, April 7, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

I don't think I would have played this game if I hadn't been committed to reviewing all the Spring Thing games. Downloading Python 3 was tedious and frustrating, having to type exact commands was rough, and restaurant sim's not my favorite genre.

Still, I was engaged by this game and played through till the end. You run a diner on the moon (or Mars, although I didn't try that diner), ordering food, finding what customers want, making recipes, serving it up, then taking care of the diner or hanging out with a friend.

I enjoyed the little narrative snippets when hanging out with my friend the good Doctor. She gave me lots of cool trinkets and talked about space.

Auto-complete was a lifesaver, although I have to ask, why go to the trouble of using autocomplete but then have so many customers whose names start with O? It'd be way better to have every customer name have a distinct letter, or at least spread them out roughly uniformly (unless, by a cosmic joke, they were uniform and I just got 'O' tourists over and over again).

This game was okay, but I felt like I was fighting the system all the way. The question is, what's next? If the authors were trying to learn python better or demonstrate their use of python, then that's great, this is a cool program. If their goal is to create awesome IF, I would ditch python and go with a specialized language like Twine or Ink.


So I Was Short Of Cash And Took On A Quest, by Anssi Ršisšnen

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A short spy game with fun puzzles but a bit undercooked, April 6, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game describes itself well on the Spring Thing page, where it says:

"Iíve entered it in the Back Garden section because it is
not very large, it has had insufficient testing and consequently has some rough spots. It should anyway be playable through and hopefully provides some enjoyment along the way. A walkthrough is available in a separate file. Have fun!"

I found the puzzles pleasant and the overall atmosphere light and breezy, but there were several typos or bugs.

Overall, you're trying out for a spy type job and have to infiltrate a house. Puzzles are presented one at a time, generally, with each solved puzzle giving a clue to the next one.

The hints could definitely have used some fine-tuning, but the author seems well aware of that. I had fun, but could have had more.


Manikin Demo, by Rose Behar

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
An incomplete murder mystery texting game, April 5, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

While this game is unfinished, I found it a pleasant surprise. In format it reminds me of Lifeline, a once-popular game where you were texting with an astronaut and guiding them around a planet.

In this game, you have a nosy mother who is very interested in the death by fire of her neighbor. You give her advice as she learns more about the death and investigates.

I found the characters well-depicted and funny. The writing needs polishing, but it might be fine as-is since it represents the way the characters talk in real life.

The text timing and animation could use a little tweaking. Something about it seems a little off, making it hard to read.

Overall, I'm looking forward to the finished version! If possible, I'd love the final version to have controls for text speed, audio, and saving.


Blue November, by Lawrence Furnival

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
An unfinished game about competing hackers, April 5, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This seems like it will one day be a complex game about 4 different games competing in a simulated hacking competition.

For now, though, it is incomplete; all paths I checked stop when dice are rolled for the first time. There are sentences missing, fragments of code, and notes like 'TODO: add GRU and NK later'. The text that is available has typos.

What is available looks to be interesting and deals with a subject I'd love to learn more about: American election security and vulnerabilities that other countries can exploit.

The game is descriptive, but its incomplete state meant that, for me, it was limited in its interactivity, emotional enjoyment and polish, and I wouldn't play it again at this time.

If it were complete and polished, I would certainly give it a 4 or 5.


Ned Nelson Really Needs a Job, by Eric Crepeau

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A game that wants you to hate someone really bad, April 4, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

I am so, so glad I played this game, but not for the reasons the author intended (unless it's a cool reverse pscyhology thing, then it turned out perfect).

I've played some games before about topics that were good and I agree with (like caring about trans people or not being racist) but which seemed like they forced on an opinion on you or hard rigid black-and-white morality. I thought those techniques weren't effective, but I felt bad writing a criticism since I agreed with the game's principles.

This game is about something where absolutely everyone on earth can agree it is good (the game is about opposing (Spoiler - click to show)kicking puppies). But it is railroaded so hard it sucked out all the fun for me. It showed me that no matter how good the cause a game promotes, forcing the player to adopt renders it meaningless.

The game sets you up to hate your boss as much as physically possible, and it just assumes your intent at every step. It's like the game thinks it knows exactly how you would feel, like that one coworker (thankfully I don't have one at my current job) that's always try to schmooze you and assume he knows you.

I didn't have fun, which I think is essentially the game's point. The game was shooting for an emotional impact of being annoying, and it worked perfectly, I am now annoyed. It was very descriptive. But the interactivity didn't work for me, and I don't think I'll play again. It was very polished. So, according to my rating system, I'm giving 3 stars, but I genuinely disliked playing this.


Mean Mother Trucker, by Bitter Karella

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
The epitome of truck stops, April 3, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

I am still a fairly prudish person, and happy with that choice, but growing up I rarely left the house and just read books most of the time, and went to school and church. I had some vices and saw friends and family doing extreme things, but it all felt distant.

So for me, when I stopped at a truck stop across the Wyoming border on a trip for the first time, it seemed like a frightening place filled with evil and temptations. Pornography magazines, tons of kinds of alcohol, t-shirts with wild slogans or charts comparing breast sizes, everyone smoking or buying chewing tobacco, tough-looking truckers. It blew my mind.

This game brings back a lot of those memories. You're a truck driver (who, as you discover, has recently [early spoiler about character] (Spoiler - click to show)undergone some major changes regarding gender), and you're about to drive over Devil's Taint, one of the most dangerous roads out there (which also reminds me of driving to and from Utah). You have to get help from biker gangs, a 'lot lizard', a smoky waitress, and more to fulfill your dreams and get ready to brave the mountain range.

The author used to write in Quest but has switched over to Inform, and I definitely prefer it. There were a few errors here and there (mostly in trivial things), but it was generally pretty smooth.

I still haven't recovered from my childhood shock, and, frankly, fear of the scary mountain truck stop. But this was a medium-ish, fairly entertaining piece of entertainment.


Misty Hills, by Giuliano Roverato Martins Pereira

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
A musing, contemplative game waiting for a tram, April 3, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This Twine game is about chilling waiting for a tram. There are several things to explore in a world that's kind of a mild fantasy/tech blend, like FF7 or Zork.

There are a few minigames and things to explore, like gambling or buying equipment. There's a lot of fun unexpected consequences.

Overall, I enjoyed the idea. The game could use some more polish, maybe throwing it through Grammarly could help get rid of some typos.

The game doesn't really have anything tying it all together, which I think I would have appreciated. But it is a good game for meditating and feeling peaceful.

I played through twice.


Perihelion, by Tim White

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
A short scientific fiction puzzle game in Twine, April 2, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This is a charming little game, partly poetic and partly puzzle.

You are an alien on your home planet and a creature has crash landed. There are 4-5 different locations you can go, each of which allows you to sleep and look around.

Time passes, and it's important to the game. Some events only occur on certain days. There is a nice graphical change when this happens.

The puzzle involves doing the right thing at the right place, and requires a fair amount of travel.

Unfortunately, this game makes the crucial mistake of combining slow text with gameplay requiring repetition. This means that if you need to check a location really quick, you have to wait several seconds to travel there, several seconds to click on a link, and several seconds to click back. If I were the author, I'd update the game to remove the pauses, as I've never seen a review praise slow text in games and many against.

But as it is, this was fun. The puzzle is simple but satisfying, and I enjoyed the ending.


Sky Pirates of Actorius, by Kyle Marquis

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A miniature, procedural pirate infiltration game, March 25, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This is the only game out of Choice of Games 123 existing titles I've played that I'm giving 3 stars to. Most titles are the result of years of work and careful oversight by a large crew of editors, copyeditors, testers, etc. that result in a game that is at minimum polished, replayable, descriptive, and having some kind of emotional impact or good interactivity, which are the criteria I judge games by.

This game is the smallest game made since Choice of the Dragon, is experimental, and is buggy. The size is due to it being one of the free (with ads) mini-size games available to anyone playing on the omnibus apps. Unlike the other mini games (Zip! Speedster and HMS Foraker), this one seems like it was written to be me small, with a new kind of gameplay not seen before in Choice of Games.

As an experiment, I'm not sure the game works. It has some randomization (so, for instance, going to the stats screen and back can change what day you're on). Each day is a journal entry, presenting a choice with yes/no options. These are either 'what faction do you favor' out of 3 possible factions, or 'do you try this beneficial thing that checks which of your stats are good' or a combination of the two. In this way, it kind of reminds me of Amazing Quest, a controversial tiny game entered in the 2020 IFComp.

If any of the three factions hates you, you die. The game is supposed to let you restart that day, but a game-breaking bug instead sends you back to the beginning of the game, leaving some of your stats intact which causes a couple more errors.

The randomization and binary choices make the game pretty difficult, with the bug rendering the game permanently in 'hard mode'. I did get to an ending.

I enjoyed the character Lookout and the two different machine animals I had on different runs (a copper snake and silver wolf). I love all the rest of Marquis's games, so I enjoyed getting more lore here about Empyrean, and the captain's mysterious locked room reminded me of Bluebeard, one of my favorite characters (I've sometimes considered Duke Bluebeard's Castle my favorite opera).

So, while this has many redeeming features, I can't give this 4 stars due to the fairly severe, easily reproducible bugs and with my dissatisfaction with the interactivity. But I think Marquis can handle it, as he's an amazing writer with some of the best games out there (like the Vampire Masquerade game).

I'm also looking forward to his next Pon Para game!


What Girls Do In The Dark, by olivebranche

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A gory horror/demon parser puzzle game with illustrations, March 1, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This Adventuron game combines high-quality art with fairly interesting puzzles to make an entertaining game. It's about 30 minutes long (for me) and features a lot of location art and a pretty big map.

It's not huge, and I generally knew what I needed to do. I felt like several times the implementation got in the way; this isn't too unusual with Adventuron games, not because it can't be programmed in, but because many Adventuron authors emulate an era where 'smoothness' wasn't as valued. (although looking at the author's itch page, they mentioned not being able to do more than VERB NOUN, which explains why a lot of my attempts like USE NOUN ON NOUN or VERB ADJECTIVE NOUN didn't work).

The game is definitely a gore fest, mostly through text (the images, even when gory, tend not to depict the bodies themselves). Lots of dead and mangled corpses are described.

You are late to a birthday party and discover a demonic ritual gone wrong. There are multiple endings.

Overall, here is my rating:

+Descriptiveness: The writing is vivid and clear. The cleverness is a good part of the game.
-Polish: see next
-Interactivity: There were some rough edges with interactivity, knowing what I had to do but not getting it able to work which was a bit frustrating.
+Emotional impact: Definitely creepy
+Would I play again? Yeah, this was a great Adventuron game.


Station spatiale S16 - Prologue, by Samuel Verschelde (Stormi)

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A mid-length french inform game about an abandoned space station, February 22, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This french game is written in Inform and reminds me a bit of Starcross, as you spend the first part in a spacecraft while approaching a cylindrical space station.

The game alternates between linear, exposition-based segments where people tell you things and unusually difficult or illogical puzzles, where being illogical is the point.

The game seemed well-implemented, and the writing was interesting. The author went to a lot of trouble to implement a ton of different responses.

I guess if I could change anything, it would be that the conversation near the end was no conversation at all, just hearing one side of everything. I wonder if some kind of menu system might be good here, since it would fit with the theme of that section. Anyway, I'd be interested in seeing the finished game.

I used the walkthrough the entire time, as there were a lot of words I didn't know!


PoussiŤre d'Asphalte, by Tristan

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A bizarre and poetic french choice game about an old robot, February 22, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

In this French comp game, you are a robot that wakes up to be greeted by a cute little helper-AI that has a little emoji face.

In this Moiki game (a relatively new and complex engine for choice games), you have to explore everything around you to see if you can be repaired and fixed, as you are close to dying.

Everything you see, though, is rendered in poetic language, as someone has hacked you. A supermarket becomes a body, where you explore the heart, the colon, etc. and a repair shop has become a church.

I probably missed a lot of figurative language due to not being a native speaker, but the concept and execution worked really well. It can be gross at times, but is more often funny or charming. Great game.


DerniŤres heures avant liquidation, by Fabrice G.

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A French gangster sim, February 21, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game is a money-based procedurally generated French twine game.

You take the role of a leader in the mafia who is in debt. You go on missions (each giving a certain payout, lasting a certain amount of time, and having a certain downtime, while requiring a certain number of gangsters), get money, and either die after 24 hours (which usually happens), or, if you made enough, win. Your debt and your savings persist from round to round.

It's a pretty short loop, and you'll see the same text a lot. There is some variety, and things change as the game goes along, but I think the main story just wasn't very compelling for me.

It was polished, though, and had a distinctive 'voice'. I spent a while looking at the code after, and it seems very complex.


Sur le temps - Capitaine, by Bstrct

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A twine game about a sailing ship with some looping, February 6, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This entry in the 2021 French Comp is a Twine game where you are in a kind of random loop for most of the game.

So you sail, then you can check your inventory or scrub the deck, then you sail, and you can get drunk or raise the sails, etc.

After a very long time (seeing every scrap of text 4-5 times), a big event with another boat happens, which can have several endings.

The randomness looks complex and the concept is interesting, but in execution I felt it was too tedious. I would have reduced the main loop to half its size or less so the action could happen earlier.


The Covid Assignment, by Northwind

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
An educational CYS game about covid with math tests, January 23, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game from the CYS website is a difficult, branching game about Coronavirus. I found it surprisingly informative and I learned some things I didn't know before.

You play as a professor recruited by the government in the early months of Covid to help them understand the spread of the disease and to make recommendations about it. If you do well, you have the chance of moving up and influencing public policy.

Part of 'doing well' includes doing well on difficult math questions about things like exponential growth and infection transmission.

This kind of math test hasn't always done well in IF before, with games like #vanlife and A Final Grind inserting frustrating calculations in the middle of otherwise normal stories. But in this game, the choices are fair, and undo is available at any time. It uses math to teach instead of punish.

That being said, it's pretty hard, and the questions involve policy as well. In my best run, when I thought I was very successful, I only ended up with 14/50 points!

+Polish: The game is generally well-polished.
+Interactivity: I'm not usually interested in 'only one right path' games, but it's fair and gives you a chance to try again.
-Emotional impact: The topic and mechanical approach left me feeling distant from the story, making the whole thing a thought exercise (though a welcome on).
+Descriptiveness: Especially good at putting difficult concepts into understandable language. I swear a lot of people should try playing this to understand coronavirus better.
-Would I play again? It was interesting, but it more made me interested in looking up what it said to understand it better rather than replaying.


Kerguelen 1991, by Narkhos

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A mid-length French Ink game with art and animated logic mini-game, January 20, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This is a game in the french comp which is very technically proficient and uses figurative and descriptive language (which left me running to Google Translate more often than not).

You are a bestselling author who ends up on an island looking for inspiration for his next book. You have a phone with little minigames on it that remind me of Lolo on the SNES (mostly involving pushing sliding blocks around).

The island is fairly small, and soon bizarre plot twists happen.

I believe there is some branching in this game. In my branch, I found a minigame where you use a radio to solve a maze and another minigame where you visually push blocks around (like the cellphone puzzle) to open a door, but Jack Welch said he found a Towers of Hanoi minigame, which I did not encounter.

Overall, the story was interesting and it was complex, but I'm not sure how well the disparate elements tied together. Overall, though, it was polished, descriptive, compelling, and had good interactivity.


A Christmas Quest, by Richard Pettigrew

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A complicated present fetch quest in Adventuron, December 26, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This is the last 2020 Adventuron Christmas Jam game I played, and it was pretty good.

There is a large map and several independent puzzles to solve, as well as many red herrings that add to the interactivity instead of taking away.

You are an elf who has to find a present Santa lost before catching up to all the other elves on vacation.

Everything was competently coded. I had a little trouble occasionally guessing verbs but not a great deal. The art and writing are good, but I feel like everything was 'good' but could go even further somehow to be 'great', like it's missing some final ingredient. But I'm impressed over all!


Day of the Sleigh, by Dee Cooke

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Compact christmas puzzler with hidden achievments, December 26, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This is a smaller game with about 4 rooms but a lot of tiny puzzles.

The girl you're baby sitting has gone missing and you have to find her. On the way, you find that Christmas needs your help! But just for a second.

The puzzles are fairly small and mostly well-clued. The game makes it clear that searching things in various ways is the path to success.

The achievements are perhaps the best feature, basically puzzles that would otherwise be unfair are not part of the main story, instead giving you achievements to reward your curiosity.


Feathery Christmas, by OK Feather

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A medium-length humorous Adventuron game about pigeons, December 26, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This is an Adventuron Christmas game where the Reindeer are knocked out by your 'special potions' that Santa keeps in barrels. You have to recruit someone else to help!

The art is superb here, adding a lot to the game. The puzzles are a mixed bag, including a logic puzzle and a visually-based minigame where you have to guide pigeons across windy terrain.

Overall, I found the writing to be funny. The whole thing felt a little light, which makes sense since I suppose additional time went into crafting visuals. But it's worth a fun and silly 30 minutes, and I didn't run into any implementation issues.


Jimmy's Christmas Foul, by Kieron Scott

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A minimal parser game with graphics about trapping Santa, December 26, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

In this brief Adventuron game, you have to set a trap for Santa to make him give you a present.

In writing, graphics, and gameplay, this resembled nothing more to me than a single puzzle (or maybe two) in a Scott Adams game. Everything is stripped down bare, and you have to get things exactly right for the game to recognize your answers.

It works overall as a puzzle, but here is my score:

-Polish: Everything is bare-bones.
-Descriptiveness: Same, the writing is minimalist and mostly just lists of present objects.
-Interactivity: I found the main puzzle frustrating, not in figuring out what to do, but in figuring out how to communicate it to the parser.
+Emotional impact: Despite the above, I found it fun to solve.
+Would I play again? It's brief enough that it could be fun to check out next year.


Present Quest, by Errol Elumir

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A charming parser game with detailed graphics and constrained gameplay, December 26, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This is a great game. I went back and forth on a 4 or 5, but there are so many great little details that I'll definitely go with the higher score.

This is an adventuron game with a detailed life sim. You have to keep up your hunger, happiness and energy bars. In addition, you have to solve little puzzles that your wife (or partner?) Pel sets for you.

There are numerous illustrations, especially for the puzzles. The writing is solid.

The story isn't completely original (what is?) but is executed well. The life-sim is a bit easier than it could be but fits narratively. The puzzles are all in constrained environments and occur one at a time, but require ingenuity and creative thinking.

Definitely worth trying out. It does require the graphics as an essential component of the puzzles, though, making it difficult for visually impaired players.


SANTAPUNK 2076, by Gymcrash

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
An espionage Adventuron game with multiple graded endings, December 26, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This is an interesting setup for a game.

It's an adventuron game with pixelart illustrations of a dystopian future (presumably referencing Cyberpunk 2077, which I haven't played). You are a futuristic version of an elf in a timeline where Santa has sold out and delivers anything to anyone, no matter what side of the law they're on.

There are one or two puzzles at a time, and it requires careful exploration, but the limited verb set means that you should be able to figure out what you need to do, even if you have to think a bit to solve it.

The main puzzles involve codes you have to solve, which I found enjoyable.

I received a B ending, with a few ideas of what I might need to do next. It was fun, but I don't feel compelled to try again.


The Solstice Sovereigns of the North, by Natrium729

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A solstice-themed Christmas adventuron puzzler with code, December 25, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This is another entry in the Adventuron game jam.

It features some nice pixel art of a small village near a lake. You receive a dream message from a mysterious figure requesting your help.

It's a small game, with six or so locations and about a puzzle per location. The highlight for me was a cryptogram puzzle using symbols that you had partial information on, making it different than the regular cryptogram puzzle.

I felt like a few of the puzzle solutions were somewhat unfair, especially finding the book in the library, which dampened my enthusiasm a bit. But it was a fun short play overall.


Twelve Days, One Night, by B.J. Best

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A cute Adventuron game about preparing the 12 days of Christmas for your love, December 25, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game was entered in the Adventuron Christmas game jam.

One of Adventuron's weaknesses is its parser, which, while strong, hasn't caught up to Inform, Dialog and TADS. This game neatly sidesteps that by making it a limited parser game, with the only commands being TAKE, DROP, EXAMINE, and LOOK.

There are only three rooms: a 'hub' room with a Christmas tree, a storage room containing almost all the gifts (including lords and ladies anxiously waiting around), and a kitchen with materials.

The entirety of the interactivity is picking up one item and dropping it in the right spot, hoping it interacts right. Technically, you could just take everything and dump it together (and I admit I took that course occasionally), but it's too tedious to do that without trying to analyze that ahead of time, especially since you have a carrying limit of 3 items (one of the few games where I think that limit enhances gameplay).

The rainbow colors and sound cues were nice.

+Polish: The game is polished;
+Descriptiveness: The descriptions of the gifts is fairly amusing
+Interactivity: This particular setup worked for me
+Emotional impact: It was heart-warming
-Would I play again? It was fun, but was a bit too long for the main gimmick for me.


The Long Nap, by Paul Michael Winters

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Short and clever escape game, November 16, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

I think it would be fair to describe this as an escape room game. You wake up in the dark and have to navigate from their until you exit the room.

This is exactly the kind of game that works well with La Petite Mort (the four hour competition): has a concept that wouldn't work as well in a longer game, has a constrained setting to allow for more detail.

I didn't encounter any implementation problems at all, which is pretty impressive. Definitely had a fun time with this little puzzler.


A Pilgrim, by Caleb Wilson (as Abandoned Pools)

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A short surreal game about a pilgrim stopping at a shrine, November 13, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This is a short game written in 4 hours in which you stumble upon a shrine on a journey.

It reminded me or Caleb's Cannonfire Concerto, which is perhaps the Choicescript game that personally affected me the most. The surreal atmosphere (which is similar to his earlier games released this year) is splendid.

-Polish. As is expected for a 4-hour game, there is a lot that is not implemented or otherwise confusing with the parser.
+Descriptiveness: A lovely and vivid world, if dark.
+Interactivity: The puzzles felt directly connected to the narrative and lent it more emotional impact.
+Emotional impact: The twig-pilgrim was my favorite part.
+Would I play again? Yes, I like this game.


Toadstools, by Bitter Karella

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A game heavy on worldbuilding with a sense of decay and wonder, November 11, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game reminded me of Princess Mononoke crossed with Hybras from Sunless Skies.

You are essentially a gig worker trespassing in a national park to scavenge various psychotropic mushrooms which have properties far beyond the ones we have in real life. Normal mushrooms give you 1 cent a cap (fairly consistent with real gig jobs like Amazon Turk), while the King's Breakfast could pay off your rent.

It seems that worldbuilding by far is the biggest part of gameplay. More than half of my play time was spent reading the guide book, and it could have served just as well in static form, but it made finding mushrooms later on more fun.

It's weird to say, but I think that later gameplay reminded me of nothing more than the original Zork. I remember playing Zork as a kid and finding some weird stuff and thinking "I have no idea how this all connects", and getting the idea that there was way more out there. I later went and looked at the code of this game and found that there was way more out there, but the effect still persisted.

I don't know if that particular combination of deep lore dive + unpredictable trip in the woods worked for me interaction-wise, but I appreciated the polish, descriptivenes, emotional impact and replayability of the game.


Ritus Sacri, by quackoquack

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Translate Latin on a spooky evening, November 10, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This is a charming short parser game in which you read a text in Latin in your room at night, translating each line as you go (provided with a dictionary and grammar that you can LOOK UP things in). You must frequently match adjectives with nouns that share their declension, so for language fans this is heaven.

The atmosphere in the game was quite nice as well.

+Polish: This kind of thing is pretty tricky to program; I'm impressed!
+Descriptiveness: The Latin itself provides most of the flavor
+Interactivity: As a language fan, it's great.
-Emotional impact: It was fun, but I didn't get creeped out as much as I might have.
+Would I play again? I think I definitely will come back to this at some point for fun.


Better than Alone, by willitchio

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A meaningful story about lockdowns and aging, November 9, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

Like Will Not Let Me Go, this story is a well-written long Twine game about the effects of old age and Alzheimer's/dementia on an elderly man and those around him.

It plays out over ten days and ten nights. You struggle as a young at-home attendant for an elderly man named Carl who wavers between lucidity and violent forgetfulness.

At night, you have 4 tasks, the same every night. On the fast version, you do these once, but miss out on some important plot points. On the slow version, you do them 10 times every night, but they're tricky and shift around in very plot-relevant ways.

The 10-times version is hard but rewarding the first night. By the third night, though, I misclicked five times in a row (which restarts the night) and had to stop. It's hard because the image pushes all the text below the screen, so I had to scroll down for each image on a trackpad laptop.

The images are gorgeous and really contribute to the game. I wonder if, for the nights at least, it could have helped to put the image to one side and the text to another.

In any case, the story was meaningful to me, especially talking about divorce and changing relationships with one's spouse. I loved it, and appreciate the author writing it.


Social Lycanthropy Disorder, by E. Joyce

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A well-designed, timed Twine game about social anxiety and more, November 9, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game in the Grand Guignol part of Ectocomp 2020 was pleasant to play and looked good. It's written in Twine (I assume), but it's been heavily styled with colors and background graphics.

The design is tight and there are real choices with long-lasting effects. You have a specific deadline and a lot of options.

In this game, you're a werewolf that is at a college-type party trying to fit in, have fun and leave before you transform in an hour and a half.

The lycanthropy can easily be read as anxiety (especially given the name of the piece), and I've had the feeling many times of being at a party and trying to stay just long enough to feel comfortable leaving.

The one thing that keeps this from being amazing for me is the signalling of choices. My favorite choice-based games allow either deep characterization of the protagonist or strategizing, and it was hard for me to do either one here. I feel like having more hints about the possible effects of choices could fix that, but it may just be a personal design choice and not something that needs to be 'fixed'. I had fun either way, and played through three or four times.


La noche en la ciudad, by Juan Antonio Paz Salgado

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A speed game about contemplating your sins, November 4, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This was an odd game for me. It's very possible that it being in Spanish affected my interpretation of it, because I found it difficult to read due its large number of obscure words (you're essentially a grisly warrior fighting heretics in a fantasy world).

This is a short parser game, probably a speed-IF. You're in a room with a few clothes and some empty containers, and...that's it. There's a door, but it's locked. If you look close enough, you find that key. But the door has no keyhole! But again, that's all there is, right?

I looked at the source (very happy the author provided it!) and it seems that progression through the game involves doing specific actions several times, including (Spoiler - click to show)dropping the key and some actions that I've never really done in an IF (like (Spoiler - click to show)peeing in a jar).

So for me, I liked the descriptiveness and it felt spooky, but the interactivity and polish felt lacking. If this was a speed-IF or first game, it's actually pretty good! But it doesn't measure up to longer parser games.


Big Trouble in Little Dino Park, by Seth Paxton, Rachel Aubertin

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A medium-length Ink game escaping from a Dino Park, October 19, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This is a medium-length Ink game where everything breaks loose at a dinosaur park.

I saw this game with one of the authors guiding us through it at the Seattle IF Meetup. I appreciate the witty humor and the world model that lets you travel around.

I think there are a few things that need to be ironed out. There are instant deaths without undo, but it does have save points to help you restart. A bit more troubling is that there is often not any indication of what path is most likely to lead to success. This was typical of CYOA books, but those books allowed instant undo and instant traversal to any page at any time. Iíve often thought that successful Ďpuzzlyí IF is based around making the player feel smart, so giving them hints to pick up on is really helpful.

The other thing that I think could be improved is the story pacing. I think the big moment in the middle needed a bit more buildup. Itís possible that there were more clues hidden in some of the options, but as Emily Short has recommended in the past, if youíre writing a branching game make sure that itís impossible for the player to miss your story. If a beat is essential to understanding whatís going on, make sure that story beat is hit in every playthrough.

Otherwise, I found this game fun. I couldnít get to an ending (in the Frogger version, the best I got was rescuing a guy out of water before dying, and in the lab, I got in a weird repeated cycle where I kept getting Ďsneakí and Ďdistractí and one other option, and I couldnít figure it out). Glad to see Ink being used!

-Polish: There were a few typos (like helicoptor) and the laboratory ending with the dinos seemed off somehow.
+Descriptiveness: The writing is full of interesting descriptions of things.
+Interactivity: Even though I was frustrated, I felt like I had real options near the end.
-Emotional impact: I felt like there needed to be one or two additional scenes for buildup before dramatic sections (that set up the feeling or more tension)
+Would I play again? I'd like to find a successful ending.


Electric word, "life", by Lance Nathan

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A very well-written story about Halloween and college life, October 19, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game reminds me a little bit of the IF game Eurydice in tone and opening setup.

This is a longish Twine game that is almost entirely choiceless. It consists of several pages, each long, containing a detailed story, with some click-replace links and a few 'asides' (where you read them and come back). An early segment allows some options in the order you explore three scenes. It's styled with orange-on-black text, and is set at a 1999 Halloween party.

The structure of the game means that this game depends entirely on the quality of its story, and I think it excels there. There's real tension, especially if you read the content warnings ahead of time. There are surprises throughout, and I think overall this is some of the best writing of the comp. In a way, that made some of the links a little more frustrating; I didn't want to miss any of the good writing, so I just clicked on everything in order, going back and forth on the asides. I wonder if I 'notation' system like Harmonia's would have worked better.

If the author reads this, I loved the story. Very meaningful!
+Polish: I didn't see any errors.
+Descriptiveness: Great writing.
-Interactivity: I was a little frustrated by it.
+Emotional impact: I teared up a bit after.
-Would I play again? I liked it, but I think it will stick well enough from 1 playthrough.


Quintessence, by Andrea M. Pawley

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A short branching Twine game about a universe and a cat, October 18, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This is a cute game, and I had fun with it.

Youíre a subatomic particle in a universe thatís constantly getting destroyed and recreated by a great cosmic cat.

The structure is basically the Time Cave type, where branches can take you down divergent paths. There are 5 permanent endings and many restart endings. Itís short enough that replay is easy.

The graphics for this game are bright and bold. Your cursor can turn into different animals. Your background can get filled with different pictures of the universe.

Worth playing since, if nothing else, its fun-to-length ratio is so high.
+Polish: The game is very polished. Graphics are a nice addition, although they can be 'busy'.
+Descriptiveness: The universe has a lot of detail and variety.
+Interactivity: The short length makes playing through a couple of times worthwhile.
+Emotional impact: It felt charming.
-Would I play again? I think that a few times through was enough. I'm not completely interested in seeing all endings.
+Descriptiveness:


How The Elephant's Child Who Walked By Himself Got His Wings, by Peter Eastman

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A collection of short tales in the style of Rudyard Kipling, October 18, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This is a series of short stories inspired by/based around Rudyard Kiplingís Just So stories. Each story is told over a small number of pages, and there is one or two choices per story. These choices lead to massive changes between replays, to the point where itís basically a choice between two separate stories.

The writing is good, similar to the original. The poetry was amusingly intentionally bad.

I appreciate the thought that went into its game, especially its sly twist near the end. I wasnít really a fan of Kiplingís Just So stories before playing this game, and I think that influenced me not really getting a big emotional impact from this. But this game shows the author knows how to plan, write and program an interesting Twine game.

+Polish: The game is immaculately polished.
+Descriptiveness: The writing has a distinctive voice.
+Interactivity: Having the choices make an impact was nice.
-Emotional impact: The game was interesting, but I wasn't invested in the characters.
-Would I play again? I think once was enough. It'll stick in my brain though.


Stoned Ape Hypothesis, by James Heaton

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A leveling-up game about evolution, mushrooms and minigames, October 17, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

So Iíll just say that this is a great Ďfirst attempt at an IF storyí, as the author put it. Iíve developed theories over the years on what parser games do well during the comp, and theyíve worked pretty good, but recently Iíve been coming up with theories on what makes choice-based games successful. One of the biggest things, in my theory, is allowing a great deal of freedom, either freedom of characterization of the PC or freedom of movement, as well as allowing the player to come up with and execute plans. Having a rhythm or pattern to the game can help too, where similar events repeat with a buildup to something big (like the days in Birdland or the memory episodes in Will Not Let Me GO).

This game has a lot of that freedom and it has that rhythm. You are a cave man, basically an ape, naked in the forest. Thereís a small Īshaped map that you explore over the course of the game, gathering brown mushrooms. Each time you find one, you Ďlevel upí, which increases the verbosity of descriptions, the kind of tasks you can complete, and the mini-puzzles (of which there are three) that you can access.

The mini puzzles are well-done, and Mancala looks fun to play in real-life.

Iím pretty skeptical of the hypothesis of the game (sounds like Lamarckian evolution) but this game is definitely presented as fun and not as an evolutionary biology text.

The two things that hold it back from greatness, in my opinion, are the relatively small scope (although a shorter game is nice during such a big comp!) and the fact that you can only work on one task at a time, lowering the difficulty and making it feel railroaded. But outside of that, I think this is a very strong first game and would love to see more from this author.

+Polish: Mancala and tick tack toe were really cool.
+Descriptiveness: The several layers of intelligence in the writing works great.
+Interactivity: The gated structure doesn't work for me, but the games and combat work well for me.
-Emotional impact: I don't know why, but although I enjoyed the game, it didn't impact me on an emotional level. Not sure what the reason was.
+Would I play again? Yes, I think I would, taking notes.


Deus Ex Ceviche, by Tom Lento, Chandler Groover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A game about fishy religious computers, October 17, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

In Contrast to much of Chandler Grooverís earlier work, this game is written in unity, with Tom Lento providing art and programming.

As someone whoís been working on a Chandler Groover-themed amusement park parser game for years, my initial thought was ĎWhere do I fit this in?í (maybe the food truck?)

Beyond that, though, this game definitely fits into the pattern for Grooverís recent IFComp entries, which tend to be much more experimental and less formulaic.

In this case, we have a complicated UI system that involves dragging and dropping tiles while a Clippy-like goldfish provides helpful tips in the corner. Doing so unlocks additional tiles with additional features, which raise and lower stats by various amounts, with the goal of reaching an arbitrary number for three of those stats.

Having played through most of the comp by now, my mind brought up umprompted comparisons to other games. The drag and drop visual system reminded me of Saint Simonís Saw and its unity card system, also involving dragging rectangles into rectangles. The complex mechanics and arbitrary number goals reminded me favorably of Ascension of Limbs. The fishy religion reminded me of Call of Innsmouth. And the overall elaborate strategy guide and overly helpful fish reminded me of the controversy surrounding Amazing Quest.

So maybe this game lies at the core of the whole comp in a weird sense that oddly ties in with the gameís own themes. The main idea here is some kind of bio-mechanical-theological construct that is malfunctioning and emitting brine, and which you must patch up through various rituals which have an unintended transformative gestalt effect (just throwing random words together here and hoping they mean something).

Is it a good game? Is this complex combination of art, interactivity, words and design actually fun?

Well, it really annoys me how the top 2 boxes are almost the same color, and that on the little save disks the colors are switched. I finally realized that I could hover something over the middle box and if it looked Ďtransparentí due to the colors matching then it matched. Iím not sure the little diskís middle color was the exact same shade as the big stackís top color or not.

I donít know, you can throw together all sorts of things and little UI decisions can matter more than all your careful preparation. But after I got over that hump, and once I realized that brining could be good, I enjoyed the game and actually quite enjoyed the ending. I was assigned a specific ending style (dominant), but since thereís no guide to endings and Iím not sure how I could play differently (except maybe brining myself to death or completing the rituals in a different order?) I think Iíll leave it right now. This isnít my favorite Chandler Groover game if, for nothing else, the fact that I admire quick text games that can be resized in any window and allow blindingly-fast play (some of my reasons for preferring parser and non-timed Twine games), and this game doesnít have those things. I donít view moving from text to unity as a positive progression for my own personal interests, but I can 100% say that this is the best use of Unity Iíve seen for telling a narrative.

+Polish: Eminently polished
+Descriptiveness: Many, varied and unusual micro-stories
+Interactivity: By the end I liked it
-Emotional impact: Not really; the game structure and UI mechanizes the gameplay and alienates the player from the story, I believe intentionally.
+Would I play again? Not till I'm done with the other games, but I want to see if there are more endings.


Desolation, by Earth Traveler

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A mid-length linear horror game with references to other games, October 12, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This is a parser game with several grand ideas but rusty implementation in creating them.

Itís a sequel to Two-Braids Girl, a game I had never tried before today but decided to check out. That game was a creepypasta game similar to No End House or The Holders series, but with poor grammar.

This game is a direct sequel to that by another author. It starts right where the last one ends off, then moves through, as others have said, a Shade homage, then wraps things up with a simple puzzle in the end.

Thereís nothing wrong with a Shade homage. When I wrote my game Color the Truth, my original idea was to have 4 mini games during the police investigation with each mini-game borrowing from a famous IF game, and one of those mini-games was going to be a Shade homage.

But I took it out because I eventually came up with my own ideas after testing and playing.

And thatís what this game needs; testing and replaying. There are a lot of things to criticize, like linearity, but the truth is that random sequences of events in a linear fashion with only a thin plot to connect them can still do well as long as its really tested. Sorry for talking about my own games a lot, but thatís what I did with Swigian. It placed 22nd, but it was just a random string of linear events held together by one idea.

I think that this game could do at least that well if only it were tested. Tested early, tested often. The best way to test a parser game is to have someone try it and every time the game says Ďyou canít do thatí, go back and make it so you can do that. And get rid of bugs. It takes a long time, but itís worth it.

-Polish: Lots of bugs.
+Descriptiveness: This is probably its best trait.
-Interactivity: I struggled a lot, had to use other people's transcripts
-Emotional impact: Too distracted by the other issues.
-Would I play again? Not right now.


Phantom, by Peter Eastman

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A multimedia retelling/spin on the Phantom of the Opera, October 10, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game gave me all sorts of different reactions.

First of all, it has nice visuals and sounds chosen from a variety of operas and symphonies.

The text is slow during musical portions, but the game overall is relatively short.

This game is a retelling of the Phantom of the Opera, where you can customize it in 6 different ways depending on the time period and the way you perceive the story of the Phantom.

However, on replay, choosing entirely different options, I found myself with almost the exact same story. I checked the code of the game, and all the stats affect at most one or two paragraphs each.

The writing is interesting and makes for a good retelling, with narrative twists. I felt that the characterization of Christine as seductress was surprising to me and didn't really gel with my version of the character, and then later events further differed, but I suppose that's the variety in retelling a story.

So I honestly don't know. This is in no way what I would consider a bad game, but it has a lot of unusual choices that I need to sit and unpack for a while.

+Polish: Everything worked well from the get-go.
+Descriptiveness: The characters and locations were vivid to me.
+Interactivity: Despite the small effects of choices, I felt like it was interactive, especially the first time.
+Emotional impact: I'm a Phantom of the Opera fan, so it was fun to play it in Twine form.
+Would I play it again? I don't plan on revisiting this.


#VanLife, by Victoria

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A difficult energy management simulator, October 9, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

I think this game is too hard.

It's a combination energy management simulator and basic electrical engineering quiz game.

You are a young single adult who is living in a solar-powered van trying to make a living. Earning a living and being happy require electricity, but use too much and you die.

I started this game on the easiest mode possible. Each day I made choices to get money or be happy as it required. When you use electricity, the game quizzes you on how much electricity it will use through simple voltage/power/wattage/etc. calculations.

I'm a math teacher, but always struggled with engineering, and I didn't find the calculations part enjoyable or edifying. I think in the long run you're supposed to get good at estimating, so I guess if I stuck further? But after a few days, I didn't estimate right and died from too much electrical use.

The game suggested restarting and paying more attention to my panels. "My panels?" I thought, not knowing what it meant. I looked all over and couldn't find them.

Then today I tried again, and noticed a small arrow on the left-hand side that opened up to an enormous amount of choices, incredibly specific ones, which detail every single part of the solar panel system.

I was overwhelmed. I just decided to buy the most expensive of everything. Confident, I started the game. On my first choice, with 100% battery and fully upgraded system, I decided to use my laptop for 8 hours.

I died on the first choice, and I gave up.

The graphics are cool, the interactivity is cool, the platform is interesting. But this is too hard for me.

+Polish: This game is very polished.
+Descriptiveness: The game is fairly bare in its descriptions, except for the electrical components: that is incredibly detailed.
-Interactivity: I found this game too challenging for me to handle.
-Emotional impact: This game didn't compel me emotionally.
-Would I play again? I'm too afraid to.


A Calling of Dogs, by Arabella Collins

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Murder/kidnapping Ink game with some rough edges, October 8, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This was an Ink game, longer for me than suggested (listed as 15 minutes, I took around 30 to get through), but I think the greater length worked for it.

In this game, you play a woman kidnapped and thrown in a cage by a cruel, murderous man. Gameplay is linear at parts but others felt like it could make a major difference; I'd have to replay to find out.

The game is somewhat visceral. Its content warnings are completely appropriate: " Gore, sexual harassment, physical assault, graphic violence, blood" (not that sexual assault itself isn't in there). It also contains frequent strong profanity.

It lacks polish in parts. There are frequent spelling/grammar errors, mostly capitalization. I thought it might just be an author technique, but a typo in the final line of the game (for my playthrough) made me think that perhaps the game wasn't completely checked for bugs ahead of time.

The action sequences of this game were intense and descriptive and the main NPC has a well-thought out personality and set of actions.

-Polish: Some typos and grammatical errors.
+Descriptiveness: It was easy to picture what was going on.
+Emotional impact: I definitely felt more on edge.
+Interactivity: It worked pretty for me. Options were logical and I could strategize, whether it affected the game or not.
-Would I play again? I think once was enough.


Elsegar I: Arrival, by Silas Bryson

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A simple broad fantasy game with maze, October 8, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game reminds me a lot of the games the teenagers made in my interactive fiction summer camps.

Itís got a broad, wide open map with generally one item of interest in each room or less. The puzzles are simple and represent broad tropes: find a key, talk to an NPC, kill a monster, buy an item. There are direct references to both Animal Crossing and Minecraft. The writing is spare and simple.

There are several typos in the game (like ĎMine if Ií instead of ĎMind if Ií); in the future, you can type CTRL+G in the Inform IDE to do spellcheck (although some always slips through!)

Implementation is spare as well. I see that the author posted their draft of the game on the forums in May, and got some responses, but I think that the game could definitely use some more thorough beta testing (although that effort definitely did happen).

Honestly? This is simple and clean. The maze wasnít my favorite (it looks like it was created by drawing a 9 by 9 grid and connecting rooms with a big squiggly path, and has no special features to distinguish it from other mazes). But Iíd much rather play a simple game where everything works than a game full of complex systems that fail miserably. This game, though, could do a lot more to distinguish itself.

-Polish: The game had several typos.
-Descriptiveness: The writing was bare and relied on tropes for your imagination rather than its own ideas.
+Interactivity: The maze wasn't the worst thing ever and I like playing through clean simple games.
+Emotional impact: The game was fairly flat, but at least I had some fun.
-Would I play again? I think I've seen enough.


You Will Thank Me as Fast as You Thank a Werewolf, by B.J. Best

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Procedurally generated prose created by the author's own works, October 7, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

**You Will Thank Me as Fast as You Thank a Werewolf by BJ Best**

I beta tested this game.

In regards to the scenery and trimmings of this game, it's polished and nice-looking in the Chapbook format or lookalike (I remember I asked about the format while testing but can't find my correspondence anywhere). It has good music and flows naturally.

Writing-wise, this is GPT-2 (a procedural generation/ai tool). I usually really dislike GTP-2 because it just regurgitates whatever's put into it. Most popular uses of GPT-2 involves scraping other people's content without attribution and then spitting it out, with most of the 'best results' being word-for-word copies of the original input.

But in this case, the person using GPT-2 is the person who made the original content, so that makes it more interesting. I guess, then, that this is like a procedurally generated mirror. It lets the author see themself, and it lets us see that vicariously.

There are fun parts in the writing (the line 'You count the days until Christmas. I count the days when we didnít know each otherís last names.' reminds me of Arcade Fire lyrics). Overall, it's an interesting experiment, and reveals a lot about the author.

+Polish: The game is smooth.
-Descriptiveness: It's made of interesting chunks, but they don't flow together in larger picture.
+Interactivity: It gives the sense of interaction, a weird sense of pseudo-agency. The footnotes help.
+Emotional impact: For me it was curiosity about the author themself.
-Would I play again? No, one run through seems enough for me.


"Adventures in the Tomb of Ilfane" by Willershin Rill, by Richard Goodness writing as The Water Supply writing as Willershin Rill

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
An Indiana-Jones style game with complex puzzles and a secret, October 6, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

In Adventures in the Tomb of the Ilfane you play as an adventurer who is running from Nazi scientist Doktor Chirlu while you break into the tomb of Ilfane, ancient Autarch of the Teresten people. You have access to a beautiful mural of Teresten history, a Dais that represents the planets, and a sarcophagus covered in strange runes.

Below is a spoiler that may help those who didn't see the blurbs and cover art in IFComp 2020:

(Spoiler - click to show)Check out
"Incident! Aliens on the Teresten!" by Tarquin Segundo and
"Terror in the Immortal's Atelier" by Gevelle Formicore
and return here if you get stuck after that.


Below is more spoilers for people who've seen the first spoiler.

(Spoiler - click to show)I'm clumping these three games together because they have remarkably similar presentations. The titles all use quotations, their cover art has similar themes, and they all contain the phrase:

"Remember, no knot unties itself. You may need to seek aid from an unusual place."

in their blurb, in addition to using the same names for different characters in their blurb.

In case it's not clear, these games are part of a set, and in particular, they are all parts of the same game.

I've seen some people speculate about this on the forums. This is strongly reminiscent of the Hat Puzzle (see the second-to-last section of https://intfiction.org/t/what-makes-a-best-puzzle/46852).

The large amounts of worldbuilding and lore in each game can be overwhelming. It's descriptive and interesting, but I wonder if we could have gotten by with more names like 'the Knot' and less like 'Willershin Rill', not because they're bad but because it can be difficult to parser, especially since the first game contains several many-page books.

Fortunately, the author(s) foresaw that and put anything that you need to know in flashing lights with the words 'you need to know this' and puts them in an ordered list.

As you can guess from the similarities, the games are all the same game. Once you know that, the puzzles become easy: search everything you can for a password. Find out which game it belongs to and input it there, getting the next password. The final puzzle has the credits.

Overall, I'm pleased with these. I definitely think this works better than the infamous Hat puzzle which was not discovered without hints. The styling (especially on the runes and star chart) is nice while I usually despise slow text, it went quickly and much of it is skippable on replay.


+Polish: This game is definitely polished in appearance and effects.
-Descriptivenes: The proper names were a lot to deal with, and I couldn't picture things vividly.
+Interactivity: Great puzzles. Love it. Maybe XYZZY Individual Puzzle nom?
+Emotional impact: I felt excitement upon solving the tomb and the fade-to-white almost gave me chills.
+Would I play again? I'll check it out again in the future.


"Incident! Aliens on the Teresten!" by Tarquin Segundo, by Richard Goodness writing as The Water Supply writing as Tarquin Segundo

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A science fiction game with complex passwords and some surprises, October 6, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

In Incident! Aliens on the Teresten! you play as a member of the starship Teresten which was attacked by an evil horde called the Ilfane after your scientist Chirlu experimented on The Knot. You have a computer that can unlock the knot if you can chart a correct course on a grid, as well as a dictionary for alien runes and a beautiful planetary logo to look at on the wall.

Below is a spoiler that may help those who didn't see the blurbs and cover art in IFComp 2020:

(Spoiler - click to show)Check out
"Adventures in the Tomb of Ilfane" by Willershin Rill
"Terror in the Immortal's Atelier" by Gevelle Formicore
and see my review of 'Adventures' for more detail.


+Polish: This game is definitely polished in appearance and effects.
-Descriptivenes: The proper names were a lot to deal with, and I couldn't picture things vividly.
+Interactivity: Great puzzles. Love it. Maybe XYZZY Individual Puzzle nom?
+Emotional impact: I felt excitement upon solving the star chart and the fade-to-white almost gave me chills.
+Would I play again? I'll check it out again in the future.


"Terror in the Immortal's Atelier" by Gevelle Formicore, by Richard Goodness writing as The Water Supply writing as Gevelle Formicore

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A fantasy game with complex passwords and some surprises, October 6, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

Terror in the Immortal's Atelier has you fleeing an evil sorceror named Chirlu, Autarch of Telestren, who has stolen the Knot and placed it in the container called the Ilfane, which you have to open. You have 4 books telling you about magical creatures, and a huge table full of reagents you can mix and match in any order.

Below is a spoiler that may help those who didn't see the blurbs and cover art in IFComp 2020:

(Spoiler - click to show)Check out
"Adventures in the Tomb of Ilfane" by Willershin Rill
"Incident! Aliens on the Teresten!" by Tarquin Segundo and
and see my review for Adventures for more detail.


+Polish: This game is definitely polished in appearance and effects.
-Descriptivenes: The proper names were a lot to deal with, and I couldn't picture things vividly.
+Interactivity: Great puzzles. Love it. Maybe XYZZY Individual Puzzle nom?
+Emotional impact: The evil version of 'The Giving Tree' was honestly pretty great.
+Would I play again? I'll check it out again in the future.


The Copyright of Silence, by Ola Hansson

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A short, replayable board game-like Twine about insulting John Cage, October 6, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

So this game is something pretty rare for IFComp. It's laid out like a board game, with four different rooms and three independent characters who move around.

Discovering what this game was and what it's rules are was a great difficulty in and of itself. When the game begins, the only options you have are to wander around and insult John Cage. The only things you can do in other rooms is to turn the stove off or on or take a watch (which puts a timer up on the screen).

John Cage starts walking around, and sometimes you can ask him about events that happened. I learned that he got a message from a lawyer, and that was about it.

After dying, I read that I could get hints by clicking a book in the bookcase. But I didn't see any bookcase!

I finally turned to the hints, and discovered that the game requires very precise sequences of events and conversation to unlock more things. Many of those things involve a large group of identical objects, and you have to pick the right one, but the info on which one to pick is randomly given in different playthroughs and most playthroughs won't give you that knowledge.

The writing is sparse and terse, suiting the board game setup. The main goal of the game is antagonizing John Cage, which isn't motivated. Before IFComp, I was playing through all the Choice of Games published titles, and I noticed that games where you could be evil were popular, but only if motivated. Being a jerk without motivation is something very few people find appealing in a game.

This is heavily-modified Twine, and the visual presentation is the best part of the game in my opinion.

+Polish: The game is very polished visually.
-Descriptiveness: This game is terse and sparse.
-Interactivity: I had great difficulty in discovering how to engage with this game.
+Emotional impact: I felt annoyance during the game, but a lot of it was intentional by the author, so it succeeded in its goal!
-Would I play it again? I peeked at the possible endings, and I'm not sure I'd like to keep playing.


BYOD, by n-n

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A small one-room game centered around a cool tech interface, October 5, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

I tested this game. When I tested it, it didnít have its flashy index page, which I thought was pretty cool, especially the worldbuilding elements and the cool animation. I had trouble at first though because I thought it was text-entry and not links.

The game itself is small and simple, a one-room game. The main feature here is that you have an app on your cell-phone that lets you connect to items by their ID and manipulate them through reading and writing. There are multiple endings, one normal and one which lets you be a hero.

There are a few niceties missing here and there (youíre told that everyone is working, looking at their screens, but canít X SCREEN) but given that I was a tester I canít really complain, can I?

If you like this game, you should try Michael Robertsí immense game Return to Ditch Day which includes a lot of testing ports and running cable to access devices. Other games for gadget/tech people/fans of oldschool interfaces include Roverís Day Out and Final Exam.

+Polish. The cool file system makes up for the implementation.
-Descriptiveness. The game is pretty sparsely written, and most objects described are generic.
+Interactivity. Great system!
+Emotional impact. Mostly wonder for the phone access.
-Would I play again? Doesn't have a ton of replay value, but that's okay.


Chorus, by Skarn

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A shortish game big on worldbuilding and branching, October 4, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

I remember playing a game by Skarn a few years ago about an alien in t.he future, and so I was definitely interested in seeing what this one was about.

Mechanically, this game is very impressive. You're part of an underpaid, understaffed community group who needs to take care of three magical problems: decaying magical protections, dangerous magical books, and finding herbs for werewolf potions.

You have 9 characters that you can split up for these different tasks, with diverse options like Cheshire Cats, golems, centaurs, etc. One person is pre-assigned to each task, and then you choose the other 2. Each task then lets you pick who does what, each with their respective text.

This is a combinatorial explosion like Animalia, although shorter in each runthrough. The fact that the author was able to code in so many special combinations (and even ones that interact with each other!) is absolutely amazing.

I don't know if the tone of the writing matched the game, though. The tone is crisp and businesslike, told at a distance, while the content it is describing is wondrous and magical and deals with people's inner thoughts and feelings and interpersonal relationships. But I doubt that will be a universal reaction.

I'd definitely be interested in playing through this one again to see everything! The cast of characters and the worldbuilding is excellent.

+Polish: Pretty smooth.
-Descriptiveness: The game is quite descriptive, but as I said above I felt a mismatch between tone and content.
+Interactivity: I was impressed by the many options.
-Emotional impact: I felt a distance from this game, emotionally
+Would I play again? Definitely. Got to see all the cool options!


Speed Demons, by Pleroma

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A short and poignant game about breaking the speed of light, September 18, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game was nominated for the XYZZY awards, and was one of 2 commercial games I hadn't heard of.

This game is based off of the lyrics to the song "Pushing the Speed of Light", which I looked up after playing. I think they add to the gameplay.

This game branches into 3 paths and each of those paths has a success and two failures, I believe (one for too slow, one for too fast). The three paths you choose between give you different backstories and goals.

I thought the writing was well-done, and my opinion of it improved as I replayed. I especially like the 'singing' path. It reminds me of a lot of the sci-fi in the 60's to 70's. It's not necessarily poetical or lyrical all of the time, but it places humans in a situation impossible in our present reality and uses that to give insights into our nature.

Here's my score:
-Polish. The game uses the standard Twine styling, and paragraphs have no line between them, making reading a little bit hard for me.
+Descriptiveness. This is one of the highlights of the game, the detailed descriptions of the technology and its effects, as well as your feelings and the crew's.
+Interactivity. Wildly branching games like this only work well if it's short, and this one is. Does what it's supposed to.
+Emotional impact. Hmm, it's kind of back and forth for me. I liked it but didn't really identify with any of the characters, and I feel like identifying is important for this piece. I'd give this 1/2 a star for emotional impact, but I round up.
+Would I play again? I've already replayed it several times.


Attack of the Yeti Robot Zombies, by ōyvind Thorsby

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Treat this game as it is: an experiment in removing the save/restore safety net., August 19, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game treats a really important aspect of interactive fiction: the save feature. Most games, despite any sense of urgency they may try to instill, become slow, measured-out puzzle games with the heavy use of save and restore.

It is almost impossible to overcome the habit of save and restore, probably because most games intend the reader to use it.

This game was designed as a full-throttle, jump-out-of-the-airplane experience. You should absolutely not undo, save or restore this game; in the Club Floyd transcript, one of the users hit undo out of habit, when it seemed that all was lost; but they then undid the undo, and promised to finish the game together, and it was worth it.

This is a short game, and a fun game. I would give it 5 stars in its genre, but 3 stars as a generic interactive fiction game. As it is, I'm leaving it with 4 stars.


Drosophilia, by Gordon Calleja

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Game centered on a short loop, with use of video and sound, August 1, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game has you working in a call center with 99 calls to finish. There are only a few options, including going to a cafeteria or looking out the window, before you go back to the main loop.

It uses video a lot; it seems to be autoplaying youtube videos that are so enlarged the youtube gui is off the screen (only autoplaying after you click a link, since Chrome disabled regular video autoplay, I think).

It's very abstract, and the game slowly changes. I played before looking at other reviews, but later sought ought more in case I was missing something big. I thought this game reminded me of Degeneracy (a parser implementation of the same concept), and I saw that Emily Short said the same thing years ago.

I rate games on a five point scale.

+Polish: A lot of effort went into this, and it was smooth.
+Descriptiveness: The sounds, videos, and text made the message clear.
-Interactivity: I was left wondering if I was missing something, and so it didn't work well for me.
-Emotional impact: I bounced off the high level of abstraction.
+Would I play again? I might; it was interesting, and I would try different paths.


You are Standing at a Crossroads, by Astrid Dalmady

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Memorable creepy Twine game with great use of repetition, July 19, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

At the time I first played it, this was the only Twine game I'd played through multiple times. It takes less than 20 minutes to play, with some very mild puzzles. The genre is creepy horror (as opposed to grossout or Lovecraftian).

The writing is well done. Of the four main areas, I felt one was weaker than the others, but on the second playthrough, I found it even creepier than the others.

The reason I enjoy this game is something others may not care about. I enjoy it because it almost feels ritualistic, like a Greek mystery play about life. The format, the pacing, the repetition, is very successful, in a way different than Porpentine's use of the same elements. I see myself revisiting this game every now and then for the fun of it. Others may have different responses.


Molly and the Butter Thieves, by Alice Grove (as Cosmic Hamster)

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Wonderful short fantasy game with compelling writing and interesting format, July 19, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This was one of most vivid games I have played. The story reminded me of some of my favorite books I read as a teenager. I'd rather not spoil any of it here, though.

The implementation was very interesting, using a combination of standard inform commands and keywords for conversation.

The puzzles were simple, and written in such a way that you always knew what you should be trying to do, even if you hadn't figured out how to do it yet. The game seemed thoroughly tested, with multiple endings.

I'm giving the game 4 stars instead of 5 purely because of length. As a shufflecomp game, it is among the very best I have seen.


The Dilettante's Debut, by Hannah Powell-Smith, Failbetter Games

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A well-written society story with horror roots, June 16, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

Exceptional Stories are odd games. They are framed within the larger Fallen London game, which takes months and/or years, yet they themselves can often be completed in an hour or two. They have a really, really big wordcount though compared to what it feels like, especially since they often branch significantly.

This one was good. There is a struggling family trying to re-enter society. You can support them or their snooty cousins. All along, though, the butler has his own plans.

I'm not opposed to society machinations, but they're not my favorite. I like Jane Austen but prefer the Brontes. This game has horror depths that I like, but the particular genre didn't grab me as much as it could. Hannah Powell-Smith's excellent writing skills makes it worth playing, though.


Tribute: Return to the City of Secrets, by Kenneth Pedersen

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
A heartfelt tribute to an Emily Short game, May 25, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

Emily Short's game City of Secrets is a relatively-hidden gem. Started as a commercial project for a band, it's a sprawling city-based game that has much of the liveliness and intrigue of her later Counterfeit Monkey.

This game takes that same layout and room descriptions, but includes an 'Easter Egg Hunt' where you have to find 10 gems (and 1 super gem I didn't find) scattered throughout the layout of the game.

It does what it set out to well: encourage people to see and appreciate Short's setting and descriptions.

I had some difficulty guessing words (I'm used to Inform's synonyms like SEARCH being the same as LOOK IN), but the game had several hint systems, which was very useful.


Don't Push The Mailbox 2 And Aisle, by Ralfe Rich

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A short one-move tribute game with some entertaining responses, May 15, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game was entered in the Emily Short Anniversary Contest.

It's a sequel of sorts to Pick Up the Phone Booth and Die, Aisle, and Pick up the Phone Booth and Aisle.

Like those games, this game is centered on having silly or weird responses to individual actions you can choose. These games usually require a ton of different actions to see all of the content, but this game isn't quite as expansive as the others. There are a few references to Emily Short and the contest.


Monk by the Sea, by Elizabeth Decoste

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
A great first parser game that needs a lot more polish to be a finished work, April 16, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This is an introspective parser game set in the world of the paintings of Caspar David Friedrich, one of my favorite artists. It revolves around exploration and small, one-item puzzles in the classic Zorklike mode.

I've seen many first parser games (including my own, a game I never released), and they are almost uniformly buggy and unfinishable.

This game has surprisingly few, if any bugs, which is a welcome surprise. However, it is lacking a lot of polish. I had to decompile the game to find the ending. Some suggestions for the next game:

1. Having one or more beta testers can alleviate almost all problems, if you implement their feedback. Intfiction.org is a good place to find some.
2. Room exits should be listed in every room unless finding the exit is a (hinted) puzzle, like a maze.
3. It's good to have either everything have a description or nothing to have a description. It takes a long time to describe everything, but it's often worth it.
4. Some puzzles may need cluing (like the magpie puzzle). Having a beta tester or two can help here.
5. Having instant deaths and disabling UNDO is a pretty frustrating combo. There's been a lot of debate over the years on whether disabling UNDO is worth it, but it's worth knowing that some interpreters have built-in UNDO that works even if you try to disable it, so some players will always have UNDO.

Overall, I think the author is capable of creating truly great parser games given enough tester support. I'd love to see more!


So Are the Days, by Dawn Sueoka

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A clever and complicated collection of poems in interactive form, April 14, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This twine fiction has 4 poems presented in different ways.

One offers choices that don't seem to change the story, instead indicating how you personally feel about your choices.

Another uses some kind of randomization to present a series of tiny vignettes with random names. You can move backwards and forwards in time during the vignettes.

The third uses a grid of text, and you can reveal more or less of the grid.

The fourth is my favorite, with a physical space you can move through and some interaction.

The writing has evocative moments, but the choices of interactivity distance me from the text more than drawing me in. I felt more alienated than invested.

This reminds me of a lot of early works by people who are now well-known/professional IF authors, so I'd love to see where this author goes next.


Braincase, by Dan Lance

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
An in-depth and fancy-looking cyberpunk crime game, April 7, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

There are two cyberpunk mystery games in this Spring Thing, and there were at least three last year in IFComp. It's a good genre; Delusions did it back in the 90s, and there have been some other good games in this field.

This game is definitely creative and unique, though. It features some really nice retro-looking UI and some flashing graphics.

The story is about investigating the memories of a deceased individual who had a bionic bow implant on their arm. You're working for the police department.

It focuses on the experience of surveillance and on the way that humanity can be degraded by a police state.

I didn't find deep emotional fulfillment in it, but it gave me a lot to think about.


Quest for the Homeland, by Nikita Veselov

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
An Ink game about managing a group of 100 people, April 7, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game is written in Ink, always a smooth-looking choice for an engine. The styling is good.

Some of the language could admittedly be more polished. The author admits that English is not their first language, and it shows.

The interactivity is fairly satisfying but not all the way there for me. The same actions might save you or not in different playthroughs. Is it random or stat-tracking? It's hard to say.

Overall, it's interesting.


Khellsphree, by Ralfe Rich

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A young orphan gets tangled up in a fairytale amid a difficult life, April 6, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This is a long Twine game entered into Spring Thing. It has a long storyline about a boy who's orphaned and ends up taking care of a younger child while older friends take care of him. He gets involved in a fairy story in a way. The game has long linear stretches with some 'dynamic text choices' and a few binary choices that do seem to affect the storyline.

I grade on a 5 star scale:

-Polish: This game is not polished. There are many typos and other grammatical errors, due most likely to the author being a non-native speaker.

-Descriptiveness: This game is very descriptive, with characters having distinct personalities and voices.

-Emotional impact: I got into the story, so I'm giving a star here as well.

-Interactivity: It was hard to know how much I affected the game, but I affected it somewhat and didn't feel locked out.

-Would I play again? Probably not.

So I would give this 2.5, rounded up to 3.


Shades of Yesterday, by Gavin Inglis, Failbetter Games

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A slightly confusing Exceptional Story about the colors of the neath, April 5, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

I found this exceptional story rather confusing. It seems to mostly relate around an elaborate pen show. You begin to discover that the seller is using the colors of the neathbow, a set of colors used throughout the game and featured prominently in Sunless Seas. Colors like Irrigo, which brings forgetfulness, or Violant, which fixes things in memory.

There is a love story and a confrontation, but this story never really gelled in my mind. It was my first exceptional story in years, so perhaps I had just forgotten how to read them, but it's hard to say. The rewards were good, though.


Go Tell the King of Cats, by James Chew, Failbetter Games

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A cute exceptional story about a cat reviewing a life ill-lived, April 5, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

I recently started up my Exceptional Friendship at Fallen London again, and this is the second story I played.

You discover a cat that wants a new start on life, but to do so, you must provide character statements from their old friends. The cat wasn't that great of a person before, so the statements are fairly offensive, and you have to decide whether to share what you learn with the cat or not.

Overall, this was charming for an exceptional story, with some good lore here on Parabola and the King of Cats.


JELLY, by Tom Lento, Chandler Groover

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Food-based horror, love and rituals and an ASCII map, April 4, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This is a twine-based game with an ASCII map where you leave little footprints as you travel across the map.

This is food-based horror, a theme that occurs fairly regularly in Groover's repertoire. But it's a bit different this time. This time, you are food: you're jelly, and you're crossing the landscape, trying to get ready for a picnic, and trying to understand what was lost.

It's a live-die-repeat game, where you have limited turns to accomplish your goal. Surprisingly, your actions before death linger, letting you make lasting changes to the landscape.

It's gross, with flayings, immolations, and a lot of devouring, but it's definitely not the grossest Groover game you've ever played.

The final puzzle was beyond me (I didn't realize a certain ordering was different than I thought), but the copious hints smoothed that over.

Weird, and fun.


The Land of Breakfast and Lunch, by Daniel Talsky

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A first parser game with a surreal world and vivid imagery, April 3, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game is made by 1/2 of the team that made the excellent rabbit-based game ‹rs a couple of years ago. It's a first try at making a parser game.

Programming-wise, it has a lot of things covered: edible food, rideable vehicles, conversation, active animals, devices, untouchable objects and other things difficult to program.

I was looking for more cohesiveness in the story or setting, though. I felt like the individual elements were interesting, but as a whole it didn't gel together. Its sparse, linear, fantasy setting reminded me of the Bony King of Nowhere, but it didn't have the common thematic elements that tied that game together.

There is one puzzle in the game which I only discovered by decompiling the source code. The author mentioned how no beta testers discovered it, but that the solution should have made sense.

This is an interesting point. The puzzle involves selecting one object out of many and using it in a location far from where it was found with little indication of any connection.

I've found that 'good puzzles' typically come from either:
-learning a complicated system with learning tasks followed by complex tasks
-setting up expectations and then subverting them, or
-providing a set of rules that players can strategize with.

The author framed this as a kind of learning exercise, and has shown great skill in programming. I believe that with practice, they could create truly great parser games, and look forward to any games they create in the future.


A Murder In Engrams, by Noah Lemelson

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A good first-effort murder cyberpunk murder mystery in Twine, April 3, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

I love a good mystery in Interactive Fiction, and I was excited to see how this one would play out.

There a lot of ways to do mystery in IF: have the mystery play out linearly or as a results of puzzles (so the gameplay doesn't involve the actual mystery); hunting for specific clues; and actual deductions by either the player or the character.

All versions can be made into very engaging games. This game does pretty well, but it didn't quite reach the level of pure satisfaction.

This game, according to the author, is "a small project I made to learn Twine and experiment with Interactive Fiction in general", and it's much better made than many other first efforts.

Story-wise, it's a cyberpunk mystery where you have to search people's memories (or engrams) on the 'net. Gameplay-wise, you're hunting for a motive, means, and murderer.


The Hive Abroad, by Laura Michet

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A well-written sci-fi tale about belonging with non-linear narrative, March 22, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

When I was a kid, my dad had tons of sci-fi books from the 50s and 60s, and my grandmother had huge boxes of Star Trek books. I read Asimov and Clarke and all the others.

This story reminds me of a lot of sci-fi from that era: humans and aliens trying to understand each other. I guess that's always been a huge genre, even now with shows like Steven Universe exploring the same thing.

In this story, you play a human in a future version of the universe where aliens have established diplomatic relations with earth. You have tried to renounce your identity and become an alien, and humans are in an uproar over it.

The story is presented non-linearly, with custom-made graphics to take you from section to section. Generally, you can choose to see another cutscene before or after the one you're in. However, going forward and then back doesn't bring you back to where you were; it seems like you always see new material.

I enjoyed the story, and found it polished, descriptive, and emotionally satisfying, but I don't feel an urge to play again. I'm satisfied with the story I found.


La Malťdiction dont vous Ítes le hťros, by Nighten

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
By repetition, gain the power to change the story, March 12, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

In this French IFComp game, you see (in a linear hyperlink format) a teenage couple who are checking out the moon with a telescope.

After one playthrough, you earn 10 points that can be used to go back and change the story at 4 critical points, for a total of 16 possible endings.

The writing is well-done, but as another reviewer noted, it is repetitive, especially since you only get 10 pts per playthrough and any choice you make spends that 10 pts. You'd basically have to play the game 4 times with no choices in order to play the ending that uses all 4 point spending opportunities.


Sťtanta - Au Cúur Du Labyrinthe, by Luigi June

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
An intriguing take on Celtic mythology (in French), March 6, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

I love the story of Cuchulainn. I remember learning about it in college, how he can get enraged and have his feet turn backwards and his face puff up with only one eyeball and all sorts of weird things. Then he appeared in FF12, which was cool.

This is a game about Cuchulainn, and it's also a game that largely consists of an unfair labyrinth. Basically, you can go left/right, etc. and it doesn't give you any hints about what's coming up. I would take off a star for that, but Cuchulainn adds it back, so there you are.

I only played to one ending, because it's in fairly complicated French (harder for me to understand than the other French games in this comp). I might try it again though. Interesting game, and I think it's in Ink (plays like it, at least).


Une affaire rondement menťe, by Dunin

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A truly clever concept with some rocky implementation, March 3, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This murder mystery is fairly compact and has some intriguing characters. It also has extra-fancy design. It's written in Ink, and works by clicking text (with links not receiving any special formatting).

It has lovely images of the murder suspects, whom you can learn about one at a time. You play a police commissioner (I think?) attending the 'big reveal' of a professional detective.

Slow-text didn't really work for me (and I never really like to see it), although it contributes in a minor way to the overall puzzle. I was also confused by the fact that sometimes the same action would result in me being called an 'imbecile' while at later times in the same playthrough it would work. After seeing the solution, I think I get it, but I'm not sure that was a good design decision.

Overall, the French IFComp continues to lead the IF world in technical innovation. I'm excited to see what comes out next year.


Karma Manager, by Jťrťmie Pardou

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A game about getting points in the cycle of Karma, February 6, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

I like the idea of this French IFComp game. You have different stats, and you are constantly reborn, changing your stats. You try to gain Karma during each lifetime, eventually ending the cycle.

I found it a bit opaque (although it was not my native tongue!) Each binary choice would affect your stats, and sometimes you'd have big non-interactive sections affected by those stats, some of which would give you karma.

It was pleasant, and I enjoyed the writing, but I didn't feel like I could strategize despite the UI heavily suggesting strategizing.


Hťmťra, by Narkhos

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A short French potion-making game, February 1, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

The theme of this year's French IFComp is cycle and/or revolution.

In this short Ink game, you are in a looping timeline where someone knocks on your door, demanding a potion.

You have a grimoire with two potion recipes in it, alluding in a riddle-like way to different herbs. You have to select the right herbs like a combination lock.

Not being my native language, some of the clues were difficult. Also, one very particular path in the opening sequence gives you, in a non-intuitive way, an extra helpful book.

So it was fun and looks nice, but was a bit frustrating.


Dungeons & Deadlines, by Miles Matrix

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Daily grind as an RPG-can you survive 62 days? I couldn't, January 29, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game is kind of a blend between micro-text RPGs (like the Twinyjam game 'RPG-ish') and Fallen London (except instead of random cards you get fixed cards with random-ish effects).

It has some actually pretty good 8-bit music and a custom display. You are trying to survive 62 days, keeping your esteem, family, health, and stress at healthy levels.

I liked the conceit, but 62 days is really long. I died around round 39, and had seen a lot of repeated text. Maybe that's the point? Maybe you're meant to die?

I had two different encounters with sexual content, roughly as explicit as a PG-13 comedy in the US.

Edit: The game has been updated, including trimming the timeframe down substantially. Check it out!


Virgin Space, by Billy Y. FernŠndez

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A media-rich space exploration game, January 14, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

I really enjoyed the presentation of this game. It has background music, and an animated star background.

It has a different emphasis then most space sci-fi, almost like a space retelling of some fairy tale. The worldbuilding is good, with weird creatures. The writing was evocative and clear, although there were a few tonal decisions that I think might have come from the translation. I got stuck on the main puzzle for longer than I had thought I would, but I finished the game in about 15 or 20 minutes.

There's an itch version and an e-reader version, which is nice for people looking for more interactivity on the Kindle.


Be There!, by William Dooling

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A SpeedIF ADRIFT game made in 4 hours. Make your meeting, or explore a city, November 26, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game has a lot of good writing and layout, but it suffers from the 4 hour time limit. Very few actions are implemented, even ones close to correct. ADRIFT is especially poor at using responses to incorrect commands to guide the player toward correct commands, and this is no exception. Even consulting those who've won, I haven't been able to complete it, only getting to the (Spoiler - click to show)Runic Doorway in the icy plains while holding the book and wearing the costume. Then I'm stuck.

I enjoyed the writing, but much of the game is difficult to discover. Well-done for a speed-IF, though.


Quite Queer Night Near, by Andrew Schultz

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Schultz's second rhyming pair game, this time with a spooky theme, November 26, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

Like Very Vile Fairy File, this is a game about rhyming pairs, where you must type in the correct rhyming pair to progress forward.

Like the main game, I found this one enjoyable. The map is short, with 5 or 6 rooms. Some of the rhyming pairs were hard to guess, but unlike the main game, the constrained atmosphere kept guessing from getting tedious.

The Halloween theme was also appropriate, and I feel like the rhymes all made sense.

The use of the word 'queer' in the title would seem to indicate some kind of connection with queer sexuality, but seems to be used in its older sense here of 'unusual'.


A Journey to Omega Station, by DWaM

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Haunting sci-fi horror involving plunging into a new world, November 24, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

There's a specific kind of story I really enjoy, where people travel to an alternate, darker version of our reality. Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, the Dragonlance Test of the Twins, the IF game My Evil Twin, Stranger Things, etc.

In this well-developed Twine game (which has nice styling and graphics), you play as a Diver who enters various breaks in reality, trying to reach a specific location that will allow you to rescue a real-life runaway.

It's not too long, about 15-30 minutes. Most of the choices seem flavor-based, which was just fine with me.


Day of the Dead--One Soul's All Souls Procession, by Shadowdrake27

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A branching short story about returning on the Day of the Dead, November 20, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This ChooseYourStory game is short but offers real consequences to actions. You play as a recently dead teen who comes back on the Day of the Dead and discovers the truth about their death.

There are 7 endings advertised, of which I found 2. I would consider both of my endings failures, but they were interesting failures.

The writing seems a little off here and there but it's descriptive enough to make up for it. Overall, I found it to be a compelling tale.


Pumpkin Pie for your soul, by Nils Fagerburg

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A difficult pie cooking game with a gorgeous aesthetic, November 20, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

Visually, this game is a treat. It does for a parser game what has been increasingly common for high-end Twine games over the last few years: custom fonts, background images, special styling (here marginal notes). I love it, and, having tried for a long time to style my Quixe games, I know how hard it can be.

Gameplay-wise, this is polished for an Ectocomp game. You have a ghost that randomly curses things, and a big recipe sheet that tells you how to cook things.

I didn't do too hot, getting 42 on my first attempt and then (undoing for more chances but messing up) getting a 0.


Untitled Nopperabou Game, by Stewart C Baker

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A clever ghost game with good Twine programming, November 20, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This is the kind of thing I really like to see in Ectocomp: an experiment that stretches the boundaries of IF in interesting ways.

In this game, you play a Japanese ghost who frightens people by removing its face. There is an expansive map with different locations to visit and numerous NPCs.

What is clever here (and which I like) is that you have a to-do list you can visit at any time that tells you what your next steps are (without telling you how to accomplish them) and gives hints of what else lies in the game (with obfuscated 'Bonus' achievements).

It also includes a text-entry puzzle, which seems to be case-dependent (since an answer I tried with lowercase turned out to be the right answer when written in uppercase). The game does provide progressive hints, though.

I think the concepts in this game are interesting and worth trying out in a larger Twine game.


Once upon a winter night, the ragman came singing under your window, by Expio

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
A very descriptive speed-IF game with a timer and pretty gross ending, November 19, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

My reaction to this game was "Wow!" followed by frustrated noises followed by "Ewwww".

This is a speed-IF, so programming and grammar bugs are here, but I was so impressed with the vivid writing and setting as the game began. A mysterious ragman comes into your house and gives you 5 heartbeats (or game moves) to give him what he wants.

But it doesn't tell you what he wants. I spent a long time guessing many different things, and I was frustrated.

The solution was, frankly, gross. Not that I think (Spoiler - click to show)breastfeeding is gross, but the fact that (Spoiler - click to show)the monster would desire it. It's written fairly similar to rape, in the sense that a man is demanding use of a woman's organs.


Witch Beyond the Woods, by Bitter Karella

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A unique way of telling a horror story, November 14, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

I think this story (and the generally similar piece The Curious Incident at Blackrock Township) shows Bitter Karella's range. Most Karella games are light-hearted dark humor Quest games with characters that are exaggerated, sometimes even caricatures.

This Twine game goes to the opposite end: it uses stately language, academic and poetic, and is built around mimesis. The game is framed as a translation of a German poem, with academic footnotes attached. (Spoiler - click to show)I was unable to find any of the references in real life (i.e. outside of the game). But it was so convincing that I felt I had to find something on some of them. The 'translated folk poetry' bit was really convincing, too. Overall, it gave me a better idea of Karella's range.

The academic process of hunting through footnotes is close to lawnmowering, but I found that it really helped the main idea of the game ((Spoiler - click to show)presenting the narrative as real).

As for the content of the poem itself, I found it really well-done. It reminded me of Gawain and the Green Knight or Der Freischutz.


When He Died, by O Bluefoot

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A Halloween first game based on a song. , November 13, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This parser game is surprisingly well-done for an author's first game. It's basically an implementation of a world based on the song "When He Died" by Neil Cicierega. You are a forensic photographer, and the gameplay is actually very similar to Hanon Ondricek's underrated game Transparent, where you take photos of supernatural events in a mansion.

Here is my ratings scale, one star per category:

Polish: This is the star I'm not giving. There are some issues, like repeating the description of the staircase in the first room, and it could overall use some more beta testing to find synonyms and things to implement. Overall, though, the implementation of a camera is impressive, and the game handles several complex commands and interactions in a smooth manner.

Descriptiveness: This is lovely. Many of the good ideas are taken directly from the song, but I've learned from experience that turning good material into a good game is not trivial. Nice background for the PC.

Interactivity: I turned to the hints once, but otherwise I was pleased with my agency in this game and felt like my actions mattered.

Emotional Impact: Again, the best parts come from the song, but they hit home for me. Had a lot of fun here.

Would I play again?: I'd be interested in revisiting this in the future.

If this is the author's first game, I can only imagine what a longer, heavily-beta tested IFComp game might be like. Very good!


Randomized Escape, by Yvan Uh

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A very randomized glulx game that invites you to peak into its code, October 11, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game consists of a randomized layout of areas, each containing random pieces of decor, some of which benefits you, and randomized deadly encounters.

As a straight-up game, it has flaws. The text has many grammatical errors, the scenery can become repetitive, and it's hard to know how to strategize.

But an an experiment, I like it. Like many people, I've thought of writing a randomized game, but I've never really gotten around to it. This game shows how it could be done, and I think it would be worthwhile to tinker with the code here. I appreciate the author letting us see the code!


Flygskam Simulator, by Katie Benson

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A short slice-of-life travelling from UK to Germany, October 11, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

Katie Benson has a specific style to her games. They are always kind of low-key and chill, focused on a specific aspect of life, with a 'main' path and one or more side paths, and a lot of little exploration choices in the middle for flavor.

I'm always happy to see one, and I find it pleasant. This one isn't quite as developed as her others, but still gives the same enjoyable vibe. 'Flygskam' (or shame of flying) refers to the movement that tries to avoid the use of airplanes to avoid pollution and energy wastage.

This game adds a new feature where at times you restart the whole game. It would have been tedious, but the game is short enough that clicking quickly takes care of it.


The Mysterious Stories of Caroline, by Soham S

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A dramatic game about your past and a public trial. Great music, October 11, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game attempts to pull off something big: to take an extremely serious topic (pedophilia) and to say something deep about it.

This is hard. People that try to deal with heavy topics often veer into extreme heavyhandedness ("Do you suppress freedom, or give people liberty?") or into almost celebrating the issue at hand (as sometimes happens with self-harm).

This game manages to have strong writing and good pacing. While pedophilia is constantly portrayed as bad (good!) It doesn't make it super clear how we're supposed to feel and act when someone we once knew is accused. The choice here isn't between 'support pedophilia or not', it's between 'seeking punishment vs seeking truth', and 'retreating within oneself vs exposing yourself to harm).

Still, it can get very heavy, but the music is a definite bonus here. There is a credits section, and I tried watching it a few times (it slowly fades in), but I kept missing the music section, so I don't know who did it.

There's a lot of slow text here but it's manageable. Give yourself a good 30-40 minutes to play it, though.

I'm not planning on playing again. The game is good, but it's not enjoyable in the literal sense.


Girth Loinhammer and the Quest for the Unsee Elixir, by Damon L. Wakes

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A highly branching funny Twine game with pencil and paper activity, October 10, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game is fantasy game where you, Lord of a torture dungeon that is not serving its original purpose, must go on a quest to unsee terrible things.

There are many branches, and many variables. Instead of the game tracking the variables, you need to write down on a personal Adventure Sheet. It's possible to cheat, but the game does a good job of checking!

This is a funny game. It has some raunchy humor, but more in a 'nudge nudge wink wink' way than anything explicit. I found it enjoyable, if a bit silly and short.


Arram's Tomb, by James Beck

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A D&D-esque party plunder a tomb, October 9, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game is strongly D&D-inspired (possibly through intermediate inspirations like Diablo or CRPGs).

You're in a party with a mage, a barbarian, a cleric and a thief. You're plundering a tomb, and you have to choose which of three paths to take. Taking them in the right order with the right strategy can grant you success!

The formatting could use work. All the paragraphs run together, and they need more line breaks (I think you can do that in Twine by adding a completely blank line between paragraphs).

The only woman in the party exists only to be an object of affection, which is disappointing.

This game isn't really trying to push any boundaries or grow beyond its sources, but it it has many of the essentials of a good D&D adventure.


De Novo, by cyb3rmen

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A lovely-looking game that falls apart logically, October 9, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

The programmers and artists did a great job on this game. We have a smooth interface with lush, hand-drawn designs.

The story is not really salvageable, though. You play a judge in death-penalty-era England, and you are asked to review death row cases. The following facts are true in this game:
-You can only appeal one case
-The ones you don't appeal are executed
-You have no choice about these rules
-Your wife acts like you are killing people

and...

-The people you free (Spoiler - click to show)are sent back so that all but 1 die.

So much of this doesn't make sense. And the text is very trope-y and short, almost like a distilled ideal version of truth. The entire courtroom transcript is boiled down to two paragraphs, including "The defendant said 'I didn't do it!'".

The tension with your spouse is not reasonable. These people were all going to die. Your job lets you save at most one. If you didn't do your job, they would all die. So you're literally doing the opposite of what she says; you're not killing anyone at all.

I think games focused on political issues can be amazing, but I feel like this one doesn't quite reach the goal its hitting at. Love the interface, though.


Each-uisge, by Jac Colvin

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A Scottish horror story in the days of horse-drawn carts, October 9, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game satisfies my criteria for 5 stars:

Polish: This game has been well-tested, includes achievements and stats, has a pleasing choice structure.

Descriptive: The mother, Macleod, the protagonist, and especially the horse were vivid characters.

Interactivity: I felt like I had real choices that could affect the game, and saw the effect of some of those choices.

Emotional impact: I was drawn into the story and could identify with the protagonist.

Would I play again?: I would definitely revisit this. Lovely game.

In this game, you play a young girl who suspects that there is something unusual about her neighbors new horse. She's drawn into a web of tales and choices, and has to decide whether to obey her mother or follow her own mind.


The Sweetest Honey, by Mauro Couto

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A Groundhog's day scenario with a troubled man, October 9, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game is translated from Spanish, and has some definite language issues.

But the underlying story shines through, and I think it's a fine example of the time loop tale.

Your friend Beto has recently passed away, and you don't feel very good. Nervous and fearful, you are convinced you will die.

The story ends up taking some loops, and doesn't last too long, but I found it to be effective and enjoyed some of the symbolism. It painted a strong picture of the protagonist.

The final link is broken, but it's just supposed to reload the index.html file.


The Island, by Ann Hugo

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A not-quite-there game about a magical girl on an island, October 9, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This Twine game places you in the position of a young witch-girl that gets marooned on an island with an interesting cast of characters.

The beginning of this young fantasy game is pretty promising, but the conflicts begin and end fairly quickly. I found the ending abrupt. In my playthrough, I (Spoiler - click to show)openly defied a powerful wizard with a tiger pet and just found a boat, and the game was over.

I found a passage that was completely blank ((Spoiler - click to show)offering to let Corbin live with you).

I think all of the issues could be addressed by increasing the game length and a little bit more beta testing.


Planet C, by Mark Carew

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A space colony simulator in Ink, October 8, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This games is pushing a bit higher than 4 stars, maybe 4.1 or 4.2.

When you put effort into an Ink game, it looks good. This game has nice crisp scrolling and nicely-chosen images from Unsplash. It looks good!

Structure-wise, it seems like it's written by someone with no real IFComp experience, and so it's a sort of new thing not tied down to overused IFComp tropes. This is a good thing; if anything, it reminds me of Ayliff's Seedship game.

You have a growing colony with a lot of stats (resource use, pollution, etc.). The major decision you make is which technologies to import from the earth first. You also have occasional binary decisions to make regarding strategy.

The story is about two people who love each other very much sending letters and images back and forth. There names are of Arab origin and the images seem to be from Africa, so the setting seems to be somewhere in North Africa.

The game has a few problems. I swear I saw a few typos like stray punctuation. The science in the game is grossly oversimplified (a colony of 400 people can create enough incidental pollution to affect the entire planet's climate over a few months) and the 'check stats' link can be overwhelming.

But it was fun, and the story made me think about life. I believe the author achieved the goals he had when making this game.


The Chieftain, by LeSUTHU

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A tribe simulation game with a recursive nature, October 7, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

One star may seem harsh for a game, but here are my five criteria:

Polish: This game has visible error messages every few screens. This is probably all the same error, but it could have been caught. Links to images are everywhere, but are deleted because of copyright. If the author is reading this, try Pexels! Plenty of free images in their public domain section.

Descriptiveness: Everything in this game is bare-bones, functional writing.

Emotion: I didn't really feel a connection to the chieftain or the tribe

Interactivity: The game is very slow in its accretion of resources, and bugs made my choices not work

Play again: Without more bug testing, I wouldn't play it again.


The Shadow Witch, by Healy

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A cute and wicked RPGmaker game about a bad witch, with multiple endings, October 7, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

Is this Healy's first full-length game? I know Healy best for the many years of starting IFComp prediction threads, so it's fun to see them in action.

This game is in stark contrast to Turandot, the last IFComp game I played. That game was very self-aware, while this game just oozes sincerity. Turandot overturned tropes and cliches, while this game leans on them somewhat.

This game uses RPG maker, so it's very graphic heavy, but that doesn't take away the 'interactive fiction' aspect for me. RPG maker is fairly generic, so the grpahics melt into the background and let the choices and text take front stage.

Basically, you're trying to be bad. So you do bad things. If you get enough bad things, hopefully you can impress your boss. There is one strong profanity in the game (fitting for a bad, bad witch). There are nice little knowledge puzzles.

And there are choices. This game is short (which is the biggest reason for 3 stars out of 5, I don't think it explored its themes enough), but even in that short time, you have true agency. You can have two walkthroughs to two different endings that share almost no text between the two of them and which represent diametrically opposed choices. And that's pretty rare in a text game!

I like this kind of game. Papillon made a game like this decades ago, but it was buggier. If only RPG maker had been there back then! Hopefully, Healy will continue to write. I look forward to more!


Night Guard / Morning Star, by Astrid Dalmady

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A mother/daughter relationship told through paintings and pain, October 4, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

I'll admit, I'm a big Astrid Dalmady fan. From her earliest games like You Are Standing at a Crossroads, I've found her writing comforting and cathartic.

So this game, I ate it up. It's not big on traditional interactivity. You just explore everything, then move on to the next step (on the surface, at least. In truth, the game tracks state and has many endings, but it doesn't appear like it).

What I like about it is the story. The label I'd like to apply is 'magical realism', although that's a subject I'm not an expert in, so I might be using it wrong. A day to day story with fantastic elements brought in that are treated matter-of-factly, for the most part.

What happens is you are the night guard for your mother's paintings, and (Spoiler - click to show)they begin to come to life. You must gather items for a ritual to summon back a lost painting.

You have options. Some choices cause you pain, and others cause you sadness. There are many endings.

Overall, I found it almost like a cleansing for the mind. The deep discussion of the mother-daughter relationship helped me think about my own relationships, and the ritualistic structure was like a form of meditation.


Meeting Robb Sherwin, by Jizaboz

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A short and earnest real-life tale in parser format, October 4, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

Okay, this game is not a comp-killer. It's short, the puzzles are very easy, the plot is linear.

But it's just brimming with honesty and earnestness. This is a real-life tale of friendship and tribute. The protagonist doesn't sound like me; grabbing a 24% THC stash in Colorado and downing draft beers with buds isn't me. But that's okay; the thing I like about this game is that it's a window into another life, a window into a period of bonding and experience. The author has put his real self on the page (or at least made it look like that!) and it's so rare to find something like that.

And the simple game design makes for less bugs. There are some rough spots, but it wasn't too hard to get out of.

Here's to friendship!


Under the Sea, by Heike Borchers

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A mid-length light and carefree parser game under the ocean, October 4, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game is pleasant, and has a simple map and friendly, talking animals.

You are exploring an island and its surrounding reef, looking for treasure. Along the way, you solve some riddles and help out some new friends.

It's all very pleasant, and it boasts numerous testers, but I feel like the design has some issues. Some puzzles (like Morse code) work great.

But others have trouble. One that comes to mind is the shovel. When we use it, we're asked where we want to use it. It turns out the answer has the form DIG PREPOSITION NOUN. This is a really big space to get the answer right in. Do you dig NEXT TO THE SEA? IN FRONT OF THE TRUNK? When you open up the parser to three-word puzzles, it makes things more difficult.

This happened later for me with the flat stone. You need to use one thing with another thing to affect a third thing. There are just so many ways of typing it, and I had to turn to the walkthrough.

There were a few other things that were similarly open-ended (like the riddle), and so I kind of bounced off that portion of the game and didn't become invested.

Overall, I found this fun, with wonderful imagery.


Dull Grey, by Provodnik Games

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A beautifully illustrated and orchestrated game with only one choice-or is it?, October 3, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

I think I would give this 4.5 stars, but I am rounding up.

Provodnik Games made their debut last year with Railways of Love, a sci-fi game set in a future Russia where you were locked into one path which later opened.

This game is somewhat similar. It is set in the same future (both feature 'spikeheads', robot transmitters). Both games are illustrated, the former in 8-bit pixel art, and this one in gorgeous, smoothly animated black and white art.

The writing is good, with some English hiccups here and there. A son in a lonely outpost needs to enter the real world by choosing a job. There are two job choices, and the choice gets made over and over.

Near the end, you finally break free, but it's tricky to find. The final screen, interestingly enough, shows a breakdown of what final choices people made. Only 15% of people made my choice, which was a partially hidden ending, but apparently there's an even better ending that 1% of people found.

I'm not afraid of choice-deficient games (I loved last year's very linear Polish the Glass), but I feel a bit odd giving this 5 stars when it's more of a computerized book. However, the constrained interactivity does serve a purpose, and reflects the constrained options of the protagonist. On the other hand, this kind of constraint-as-story as been done many times before. On the other hand, just because something isn't new doesn't mean it's bad. So I go back and forth between 4 stars and 5, which is why I've given it a score of 4.5. I'd love to see more from Provodnik!


Old Jim's Convenience Store, by Anssi Ršisšnen

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A small nugget of a puzzle game, October 2, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This author has been writing for almost two decades now. His games are compact, with small settings allowing for experimentation.

This game is no exception. We have a very constrained situation at first, which opens up into a somewhat larger area. We're investigating our uncle's abandoned gas station which we have now inherited.

It took me a while to get the gist of the game. I missed the big twist because I tried (Spoiler - click to show)look under newspapers instead of (Spoiler - click to show)look under cardboard, but a peek at the walkthrough sent me on my way.

The writing is brief, reminiscent of Adventure and other mainframe games. The programming is mostly polished, my favorite feature being that the game remembers your past solutions to transversal puzzles and repeats them for you after you've done it once, like Hadean lands.

There's nothing bad here, I just wish it was more exciting and longer.


The Ouroboros Trap, by Chad Ordway

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A cyclical, surreal twine game with many bad endings and one good, October 2, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

"Stop me if you've heard this one before," the game says. Well, I have heard this one before. The game replies, "Oh, you have heard that one? Well, okay. Well, I guess you'll just have to trust me on this one. After all, what's the worse that could happen?"

Well, the worst that can happen is that I can have a bit of fun doodling around with this cyclical game before finding the 'good ending'.

The game is very aware of its reliance on tropes. The 'you are in a room, escape and weird branchy stuff happen' is an old one, perhaps best expressed in J.J. Guest's enormous, decades-in-the-making Escape From the Crazy Place. This game is much smaller, possibly created in response to a school assignment (a credit thanks a professor).

None of it is bad, but it doesn't push the boundaries at all. All of the links work correctly, but the styling of the text is standard. There is some timed text, done better than most. The branching interactivity works well with the small, cyclical nature.

I'm a fan of soothing, small, cyclical surreal games (like Astrid Dalmady's early work). If you are too, I recommend this.


Saint City Sinners, by dgallagher

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
An amusing over-the-top noir story about solving a mystery, October 2, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game emulates the Clickhole type of games, which I haven't played very much, but they are generally very over the top, the kind of writing you'd see in Mad Magazine twenty years ago.

You are a hard-bitten detective trying to solve the mystery of the mayor's death. You have three suspects to investigate to discover the murder.

This game and the clickhole games borrow more from CYOA books than from the overall Twine genre. This means a moderate amount of instant deaths, encouragement to back up an option, and one right path hidden among many others. It's not my favorite organizational style, but at least it does it well.

The writing is funny. It's very wink-wink fourth-wall-breaking stuff, so I found it amusing but difficult to become invested in.


Mental Entertainment, by Thomas Hvizdos

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
A sci-fi game about VR that guides you in thinking about political issues, October 2, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This is a conversational game, a difficult genre to do well. I was pleased at how this game handled the difficulties.

The game puts you in the role of a 'dependency evaulator' who must decide if people are unhealthily addicted to VR or not.

Each of the three people you discuss has strong opinions on political issues that are important to us and exacerbated in their future. Climate change, privatization of police and military, and war have made their mark on this world.

You are not required to feel any particular way yourself. If you hear someone go off on an opinion you don't think is justified, you can put their file in the 'bad' bin. The game doesn't judge you. It doesn't comment.

I liked it. Parser needed some touching up, especially dealing with names and their possessives (for instance, "Brian" wouldn't be a synonym of "Brian's file").

Conversation is usually hard because its either too linear or the state space grows too quickly. This game restricts the state space by telling you what to start with and that all new topics will be nouns in previous replies. Wonderful! Similar to Galatea in that respect.


Limerick Heist, by Pace Smith

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A clever and witty crime game based entirely on limericks, October 2, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game is a crime game where you assemble a team to pull off a heist. Absolutely everything is in limerick form, even the choices, which are all first lines of limericks.

I give stars in 5 criteria: polish, interactivity, emotion, descriptiveness, and if I would play again.

This game is both very polished and very descriptive. The limericks are clever, and the game uses color very effectively.

It's funny, I'll admit, but the sheer number of limericks was wearying by the end. I often feel this way with poetry (I've never finished Paradise Lost), so I didn't feel very emotionally invested.

The interactivity was a sort of gauntlet style where you could lose at any point in the story making the wrong choice. It makes for less writing (which makes sense with so many constraints!), but I wasn't really into the overall structure. There are some paths that do branch and recombine, though.

And overall, I would play again, and I would recommend it to people looking for something quirky.


Flight of the Code Monkeys, by Mark C. Marino

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Collaborative coding mixed with computer dystopia, October 1, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game is clever. It is a python notebook with code that you can run. You are assigned tasks to do, altering the code and running it.

The code is obfuscated, with a large portion of it hidden in a huge string array. Making the code changes suggested in the text portions reveals 'secrets' in the code. Some secrets are a lot simpler than others.

This game is complex and creative, but I found it a bit confusing near the end. The first 'subversive' instruction was difficult for me to follow (especially 'put it in the parenthesis'. Put what in which parenthesis?)

Overall, I was glad I played and love the innovation happening here.


Ombre, by Andrew Plotkin, Hugo Labrande, Monsieur Bouc

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Effective in any language. Chilling., August 26, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game is the French translation (by Hugo Labrande and Monsieur Bouc) of Shade. I found it very useful to use Emily Short's French IF manual (translated by Eric Forgeot).

The translation is implemented very well, with many synonyms and verbs allowed. Due to my difficulty in completely understanding the French, I appreciated having the to-do list; it made completion much better (I had never used it in English; some of the lines made me chuckle).

A worthwhile play, both for Francophones and for others trying to learn French.


Three More Visitors , by Paul Stanley

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A speed-IF based on A Christmas Carol, August 25, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game takes place ten years after the original Christmas Carol story. Scrooge is very happy now, and things seem to be going well.

But then a wrench is thrown into things, a murder plot is brewing, and you have to speak with the ghosts again.

The game is descriptive for a speed-IF, but it suffers from the usual speed-IF implementation flaws. I liked the story, though it was on rails. A fun little Christmas snack.


Gardening for Beginners, by Juhana Leinonen

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A short little 'what could go wrong' game about gardening, August 24, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This is a speed IF, so it has a lot of rough edges, but the mid-game is pretty fun.

You are a gardener who just can't handle all of the problems going on. You start out with a nice checklist of things to do, but it soon dissolves into chaos.

A lot more synonyms and actions could be implemented. But that sort of thing is exactly what separates Speed-IF from regular IF, isn't it?


Little Falls, by Alessandro Schillaci, Roberto Grassi, Simonato Enrico

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A short drama parser game with sounds and images., August 23, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game has good production values. Background colors, images, sounds, real-time text, etc.

It's a drama. You play a police officer involved in a dramatic incident years in the past. Now a disturbed individual is on the loose and you have to stop them.

The story is very drama-heavy, with flashbacks, dread implications, and so forth.

The effort is here, but some of it could have been redirected in other areas. More synonyms, better hinting. And the emotions are kind of hammered in, something I've had trouble with in my own writing.


Detritus, by Mary Hamilton

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A variety of mechanics involving possessions, August 21, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game began as an experiment in different Twine mechanics. It is a game in five parts, with backgrounds and sometimes sounds.

Each part deals with your possessions, which are similar through the five parts. The people you play as seem quite different, though, unless your character is interested in both men and women and has numerous relationships, swinging back and forth between pessimism and optimism. It's possible, of course, but unlikely.

I enjoyed the game, but it felt a bit bloodless. All of the characters seemed kind of distant emotionally. But all of the scenarios are ones in which characters themselves are removed emotionally from their immediate surroundings, whether through shock or relief.

Finally, some of the background images made the text hard to read. But there is certainly something appealing about the game.


A Crimson Spring, by Robb Sherwin

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A gritty and vulgar but descriptive superhero game with battle system , July 30, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This was Sherwinís second IFComp game. It toned down the sexuality, but there are still quite a few inventive vulgar descriptions throughout the game.

This is an intense story (using a menu based conversational system) about superheroes in love and revenge. There are quite a few superheroes in this game, including some old familiar ones (an ice-guy) and also some innovative ones.

Outside of the vulgarity, the story is intriguing and even touching.


Chicks Dig Jerks, by Robb Sherwin

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Sherwin's earliest IFComp game. Sordid shallow life simulator, June 30, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

According to my rating system, I'm giving this game 2 stars. Here are my criteria:

-Polish. This game has several holes in implementation, enough to be annoying.

-Descriptive. This is where this game (and all of Sherwin's games) really shines. The game puts as a shallow gravedigger who only thinks about picking up women and digging up graves. You are extremely shallow and the game depicts that well.

-Interactivity. I think the game does well here. I felt like I hide control.

-Emotional impact. I didn't like all of the sex, and it made it harder to enjoy the rest of the game.

-Replay. I don't intend on replaying.


Kicker, by Pippin Barr

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Intentional boredom simulator--football edition, June 27, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game shows the life of a football kicker. Which is super boring. You are on the sidelines for about 120 turns, and you are called on to kick a few times. In the mean time, no one wants to talk to you and you can't do much.

It's supposed to be that way, but that doesn't make it any more enjoyable. The game is really well polished, though, which makes sense given its constrained play area.


Desert Heat, by Papillon

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
An early CYOA dealing with a medieval Arabic setting and femininity, June 27, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game contains erotic themes, but youíre told you can avoid anything explicit. I found that to be true, and played to two pleasing endings without encountering anything shocking.

Papillon was a prolific author around this time, producing several excellent games before moving on to visual novels.

This game involves you, an Arabic noblewoman, experiencing violence and oppression in the city. You are required to enter a brothel in the game (although one early ending doesnít require this), providing most of the opportunities for erotic choices (which, again, you need to choose).

The main drawback I felt was that the game felt like it could have developed more. It would have done better as a Choice of Games novel, but such tools were limited or unavailable at the turn of the millennium.


The Bible Retold: The Lost Sheep, by Ben Pennington

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A small comedy biblical game about a sheep, June 26, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

In this game, you experience a biblical scenario: one of your sheep has escaped.

The game consists entirely of chasing the sheep, with a couple of puzzles.

The map is small, with 5 or so important rooms and then a sequence of minor rooms. The main puzzle is pretty hard to guess, even if you think of the old-testament related clue.


The Sealed Room, by Robert DeFord

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A very small game with extensive conversation, June 26, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game has two characters in locked room. You have a few items around and you can talk to them. There is one puzzle, with multiple stages.

Itís not a bad concept. A problem that arises is that the number of topics is large, and they are all dumped on you at the same time (well, most of them are). If it was gated at the beginning more, Iíd give this another star.

But the whole game is bloodless. What makes it all tie together? Nothing, as far as I can see.

I believe the author went on to make some other, great games.


Caroline, by Kristian Kronstrand

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A dark religious romance game with constrained parser, June 26, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game is completely CYOA. However, to make your choice, you must type it in.

This is obnoxious and wasteful. But, on the other hand, it makes choices more meaningful as you must type them out.

I went through 5 chapters, and reached some white text that faded out after a fairly-explicit romantic scene. My game didn't work after that.

I didn't really connect with this game, and the interactivity left something to be desired.


Nowhere Near Single, by kaleidofish

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
An in-depth look at entertainment life and multiple relationships, June 26, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

I avoided this game for a while because I thought it was just a polyamorous sex simulator. But, trying it, I found that sexuality played a very small role in it, and even less if you chose not to.

Instead, it depicts what life would be like in a polyamorous lesbian relationship. I can honestly say that it made me feel like that kind of relationship would be a ton of work and not worth the intense cross-connections.

Secondly, it was very satisfying dealing with the work-related portion of the game. I spent the first half as a workaholic obsessed with my career, and eventually realized that fame as a singer was crushing my life, so I purposely torpedoed my job to find freedom from the old ball and chain.

Polished overall. A lot of pages in linear order, but mixed in with enough choices that it didn't feel overwhelming. I don't plan on playing again, as I'm satisfied with my choices.


The War of the Willows, by Adam Bredenberg

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A poem combined with a combat simulator, June 26, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This is an odd little game, and the lowest-ranking game of IFComp 2015. In its own sphere, it's great and wonderful, but it's just not what most people are looking for.

What it is is epic, obscure and symbolic poetry about trees planted over ancestor's graves coming to life to take revenge on their descendants for blasphemy. There is an intentional emotional distance between the listener and the author.

The battle system is similarly opaque. You can attack. You can pray. What do these do? Is not knowing an essential part of the experience?

It starts with Choice of Games-style choices establishing stats before diving in.

Interesting game. To get it to run in modern python 3, open all the python files and change raw_input to input.


Vampyre Cross, by Paul Allen Panks

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Standard Panks game, got disqualified from IFComp, June 26, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game is just a regular Panks game: a village with a central well, with a two-story tavern and a cross-shaped church with altar in a different direction, forest and monsters outside of town.

It's a commodore 64 game, so you'll need an emulator.

This one was disqualified from IFComp due to being released early.


Requiem, by David Whyld

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A harboiled occult detective story with a CYOA/parser hybrid structure, June 26, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game is very similar in theme to David Whyld's previous IFComp game, as they both involve a tough guy with a beautiful blonde who conspire against the woman's necromantic former partner.

Again, this game focuses for some time on the male gaze towards the woman, although there is no explicit sex or too much gore. It relies pretty heavily on the 'people can get knocked unconscious frequently without any adverse consequences).

The storyline, that of a detective having a client who comes in requesting an investigation of her own murder, works well. I didn't reach a perfect ending, but the third or fourth ending I got was good enough for me.

It's mostly CYOA with occasional parser-focused segments.


The Initial State, by Matt Barton

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A thoroughly depressing grimdark space amnesia homebrew parser game, June 26, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This homebrew parser game from 2006 works a little better than others. It has easily readable source, which helps, especially when divining what verbs are allowed. It doesn't do disambiguation well, but everything else is passable.

You wake up in a space station with amnesia, discovering logs and evidence of what has come before.

This is a grimdark game, with mentions of topics like (Spoiler - click to show)frequent contemplation of suicide and enforced rape. It's pessimistic and sad.


Ariadne in Aeaea, by Victor Ojuel

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A short, polished adventure through a segment of Greek mythology, June 24, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

I put off playing this game for a couple of years because I thought it was a sexual game. It mentions a few things here and there, but is quite a bit tamer than I expected, with almost all salacious material at the beginning. If Shakespeare is acceptable, this has about the same level, or Don Quijote.

Anyway, this fun adventure puts you in the role of Ariadne (THE Ariadne from mythology), engaged in a wasteful and promiscuous lifestyle, who receives a wake-up call from her aunt Circe (THE Circe). Most of the game is fairly linear, with TALK TO being the main interaction, but its well-oiled and polished. This is a great little game.


Mortality, by David Whyld

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A long CYOA/parser hybrid about a torrid affair, gritty violence, and mortality, June 22, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game definitely is not written for children. From the opening few paragraphs:

"I've slept with high class dames and drug-snorting whores; professional models (even a couple of top shelf centrefolds); nurses and secretaries; yet none of them, even one, came close to Stephanie Gamble in terms of sheer physical beauty."

to the scattering of heavy profanity, this game is adult-oriented, which isn't really my thing.

But the interactivity and story work well. It's about 75% a CYOA game with numbered selections, kind of like Choice of Games, with an emphasis on conversations and making plans. The rest is limited parser, with most actions being movement, looking, or talking.

The story is about a plot you have to off the old, rich husband of your girlfriend.


Amissville II, by William A. Tilli

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A slightly better sequel to the broken original game, June 22, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

Santoonie Corp. was an interesting group in the early days of IF, and there are debates about whether the games released under their name are really there's or not. Suffice it to say, the games released under their name are poor quality.

This one is better than the other Amissville's, but still dreadful. There are TADS errors I've never even seen before for trivial actions. There is a fairly expansive map with some interesting scenes, but the scenes are built into the text description, so typing 'look' will repeat large chunks of action.

The story is nonsensical, something about hiding out in the woods and looking for weapons for your friend while being on run from the cops. Half of items are portable, the other half (often identical things to the ones you can carry) are 'too burdensome to carry'.

This is not the worst game I've ever played.


xkcd: Right Click, by Randall Munroe

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A highly polished game hidden in menus with wild branching, June 13, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This is a clever concept. You right click on a picture, and the menus are huge, with enormous branching.

Some do relatively nothing, or are just dumb jokes taking advantage of the menu structure. Others have functionality: turning off the whole system, or allowing editing.

An interesting feature is a text adventure in the 'games' section with nods to Leather Goddesses of Phobos and to Adventure. It tracks state and allows revisiting locations, but it is easy to lose your spot.

Overall, it's funny as an idea, but too tedious to explore fully, and tedious even in medium exploration.


Lies & Cigars, by Katherine Morayati

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A complex, innovative multimedia work about NYC mediaites , June 7, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This hypertext work uses Undum and Raconteur to create a relatively rare system for IF (I canít really think of any parallels to it). The premise of the game is technology allowing you to interact with memories of the past. (Bizarre corporate emotio-tech is a theme in a few Morayati games, like Laid Off at the Synesthesia Factory and Take). The mechanics of the game are selecting from a frequently-refreshed menu of questions followed by curating everyoneís responses (asking for clarification or rejecting the comment).

These mechanics are opaque, and intentionally so. You are meant to get a feel for the game through experimentation. Iím still not sure quite how it works after several playthroughs, but rejecting everything vs rejecting nothing certainly has an impact. Certain characters take on strong personalities once you begin picking them out.

The story is a sort of decadent ironic self-gazing thing, something you could imagine bored aristocrats writing about their hobbies a few weeks before a brutal revolution toppled them. Wealthy New Yorkers (here meaning Ďpeople who actually have somewhere to live in NYC due to their job) have a party where they trash a historical(ish?) building, are cruel and vapid to each other, and basically act like upper class jerks.

It gives a glimpse into another world. But I vaguely bounced off the interaction and setting, as I always felt like an outsider. Although that may be the whole point.


Into the Lair, by Kenna

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Essentially a twine version of a vampire table top RPG module, June 1, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game has all the hallmarks of a D&D or Vampire: the Masquerade boxed adventure. A short backstory about why youíre seeking revenge, a quest giver, a maze-like dungeon, NPCs for battling and talking with, a vampire boss, traps, treasure and magical items.

This isnít typical of most IFComp games, but itís what I played around with a lot growing up, so I had a nostalgia factor while playing this.

Going back to the same parts over and over again was a bit frustrating, and it can be difficult to strategize. Death and failure are easy, while success is not.

Overall, I see this as a successful game.


Re: Dragon, by Jack Welch

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A self-referential game that is choice-based. Made with Vorple. Urban fantasy., May 27, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game is a response to the 2017 game The Dragon Will Tell Your Future Now, a sort of troll game that promised an ending that never came, despite it's clever writing.

This current game, Re: Dragon, an unauthorized sequel, purports to tell the true story behind the earlier game. Like the first game, it dabbles with a blend of modern-day language and esoteric magical and astrological terms.

It is presented in a novel format using Vorple to create a false e-mail inbox. Other games have used other methods to do this, both before and after Re: Dragon (including Alethicorp and Human Errors). This is a particularly complex version, with several inboxes, timed messages, and mutating formats, as well as some pictures and sounds.

Overall, the one area I found a bit lacking in the game was emotional investment. It was presented with such irony, absurdity, and complex language that I felt more like an outside observer than an earnest participant.


En Garde, by Jack Welch

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A funny and drama-filled zombie parser game with innovative mechanics, May 27, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

I beta-tested the French version of this game, and played the English version during IFComp and now.

This is a funny game in a very particular genre: the 'gain powers by eating' genre. Other games in this genre include portions of Spore and the Adrift game Mangiasaur.

Using Vorple, En Garde replaces the parser command line with colored buttons. These buttons are, at first, unlabeled. This represents your mental state. You begin this game as a weak, unintelligent creature, but quickly become more intelligent and powerful, and your options change accordingly.

This game is short and not too complex, puzzle- and story-wise. However, it's value is boosted by its amusing dialog between various species and people., which elevates it from a 4 star game to a 5 star game for me.


The King of the World, by G.A. Millsteed

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A story cobbled from great pieces but lacking in cohesion and pacing, May 20, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This story is an interesting mix. So many of the concepts it has are great: how do men and women with power like Gods of different elements find a way to defeat someone who is almost impossible to reach in their domain?

Betrayal, love, power, it's all here. A mysterious library, a maze to navigate.

But there are a few key flaws that I believe the author could improve on for the next game. If they fix these kinds of things, I think they could make truly awesome stories.

First, the pacing is off. The things that break up a story are compelling plot twists and choices. The most boring part of the game is first, and it's marked by a single choice in a sea of 'continue' style links. Incredibly momentous events are marked and gone in a moment, but a long march with stats and a maze search take up a large chunk of the game.

Second, cohesion. Are you a tender romantic or a ruthless conqueror? Both. Do you seek the favor of your partner or destroy their world? Both. Is your brother a power-hungry madman or a gentle friend willing to step aside for you? Both.

I feel like these problems could be solved simultaneously by adding significantly more choices. These choices wouldn't have to branch the game; the author has already showed the capability of writing such choices (like flavoring your brother's personality, affecting stats, or navigating). You could even have meaningless choices that have a small paragraph in response but don't affect anything else. Then you could react to crazy stuff and make those moments longer.


Ostrich, by Jonathan Laury

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A political game about censorship and dystopia, May 2, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

I'm giving this 4.5 stars, rounding up to 5 on IFDB.

Ostrich is a multi-day Twine game set in a country similar to modern-day America.

In this story, you play the role of government censor, deciding what does and doesn't pass into the news (and later, branching out into further works).

The interactivity has a nice pattern to it: an ongoing saga in your daily commute, with choices remembered over time; your actual job which is graded and performance mentioned; and your evening rituals, which gain importance as the game progresses.

The first few times I played this game, I had the impression that it was fairly linear, but after multiple replays, I've realized that it has quite a bit of freedom. I felt like it did a good job of balancing hard choices in some bits.

There was something just a bit missing from this, though, that would would have made it a classic. I can't identify what it is.

I recommend this author's other games, as well.


Terminal Interface for Models RCM301-303, by Victor Gijsbers

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
An excellently polished short sci fi game with multiple endings , April 25, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game by Victor Gijsbers contains many of the best elements from his former games, including an examination of player agency and strong NPCs.

You play as the commander of a mech, complete with manual and custom parser messages. Unfortunately, your visual components are damaged, so the on-scene pilot Lemmy has to do the talking for you. But Lemmy's quite the character, making life pretty difficult.

The parser is constrained to those verbs recognized by the mech, and even by the nouns which Lemmy 'tags'.

This game is shorter than I would like, but it's pretty good when my main critique is that I want more of it.

Contains some strong profanity in some paths.


69105 More Keys, by Andrew Schultz

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Complicated puzzle game involving combinatorics, April 20, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game is similar to David Welbourn's classic 69105 keys. You search through piles of keys divided by adjectives, trying to find a unique key. It includes some innovations over the previous game, including multiple game modes, a different kind of randomization, and an anti-game for finding the 'worst' key.

There seems to be a bug with the second half of the game that lets you instantly win, but otherwise this is a nice to game that goes from 'banging your head' to 'oh I see'.


Porter Cave Adventure, by Cam Miller

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A game designed to explore academic writing concepts in game form, April 19, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game was designed as part of a class in game history. It's one of the most successful games I've seen done as part of a course, since most such games are very timid in their scope. This one is decently-sized.

The author decided to feature game history and critique heavily. Something happens in the game, and then you get a quote relevant to what you just experienced.

I found that an enjoyable premise. It did suffer from implementation issues, which are the bugbear of parser games in general. For instance, there is a telephone which cannot be referred to at at all.

Overall, it's a valuable addition to the niche of 'games about games'.


San Francisco, 2118, by Leah Case

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A complex relationship sci-fi Twine game with heavy themes , April 12, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

I can't tell if this game is genius or just confusing. But I like it.

It's a pretty hefty Twine game at around 30K words, with much of this tied up in different relationship tracks.

You play a worker in a futuristic San Francisco that seems to be on the edge of apocalypse. You've suffered intense losses, including the recent passing of your mother, and most of the game deals with reflection on your relationship with her.

The game has excellent media usage, including a skyscraper that scrolls up and down as the player moves, and heavy usage of a beeping watch alarm.

The writing style makes heavy use of inference and allusion, making for a confusing read. It also employs non-linear narrative, so this is a pretty complex game.


Founder's Mercy, by Thomas Insel

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
A completely smooth but sparse space puzzler, April 11, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game is pretty interesting. It reminds me structurally of Infocom's first sci-fi game, Starcross. Both deal with cylindrical space stations with a variety of components and pieces that must be dealt with. Both are highly polished in terms of implementation and bugs.

Those interested in parser games primarily for puzzle-based reasons or for the 'parser feel' will certainly enjoy this game, and I found enjoyment in this area.

Writing-wise, it's very sparse. Every message is custom, but the custom messages are sterile and non-descriptive. This aids in the abandoned space-station feel of the game, but I felt emotionally detached from the game. Starcross had alluring alien ecosystems and evocative descriptions of strange technology. This game doesn't have to be starcross, but I wished for something exciting or unusual in space.

tl;dr Solid small puzzle game with top-tier implementation but standoffish story.


Among the Seasons, by Kieran Green

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A shortish Twine game about a bird's life throughout the season's, April 9, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game has an interesting structure: part stat-based, part poetry, and part dynamic fiction.

You play as a bird who has suffered a violent attack, and must make several choices over the next year or so.

The writing is lovely and descriptive of the various seasons.

You make about one choice per season, with one text-entry choice and all others binary. The binary choices have various effects later on.

After your choice, each page is just a sentence or two that you click through to get to the next season. This is the poetic/dynamic part I referred to earlier.

The game was overall enjoyable, but the format just seemed spread thin. Being stat-based but only making 1 or 2 stat choices seemed odd, and more of a 'win by remembering what you did' sort of thing.

I'd like to see more games by this author, and will keep an eye out.


The Devil and the Mayor, by Jonathan Laury

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A nice mid-sized Twine demon simulator with stat tracking , April 5, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

The author bills this as a 'small' game, but it's pretty hefty (about 20K words). Most of that is in branching paths.

The writing is witty and on-point. You are a demon in hell, and you are given the opportunity to tempt mortals. Each character is painted with distinct personalities and mannerisms, and there are numerous jokes (I enjoyed being paid in 'exposure' at one point).

You have six chances to influence mortals with various conversations. Your conversational choices impact the deals you can make. Each conversation ends in a deal of some time.

Your stated goal is to obtain a ton of power, although there are other paths in the game. This game is pretty tough, but fair. I definitely would like to play again to try out other strategies.

Overall, this is excellent. The interaction was a little bit finicky from time to time, where it seemed like a some lawnmowering was necessary, but I couldn't really tell. Fun game.


Do I Date?, by Aurora Kakizaki

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
An incomplete demo of a dating game related to mental illness, April 5, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game is incomplete, which is why I've given it a lower rating for now.

This is a dating simulator visual novel. This is a genre which I'm not very familiar with, but this game seems to follow many of the tropes.

You play an office worker who encounters five women, each with differente mental disorders. You have the choice to date any of them and learn more about them.

Only one of the women is implemented right now, and that one is incomplete.

The writing was fairly descriptive and the women are all very different. I was surprised by the heavy focus on physical appearance (the male gaze, or lesbian gaze, depending on how you think of your main character). The one path we see has the character eager to please us, and us eager to comment on them.

I think this is normal for dating games (as far as I know), so the main content of interest is the mental illness. It's hard to tell how exactly this will be handled in the full game, but so far it seems to be trying to raise awareness of mental illness in healthy ways. As long as it doesn't end up with the character 'curing' one of the women I think it will be okay!


They Will Not Return, by John Ayliff

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A Bradbury-esque robot story about independence and free will, March 31, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game involves a series of vignettes that can only be completed in one way, followed by a long open sequence of puzzles and choices with consequences.

You play as a robot managing a household for 3 humans. You learn about the humans and the world in general over time.

Nearer the end, you gain the power to significantly affect your world and the world of others.

I feel like the choice structure was a bit weak in this game, with the majority of the game (including a late puzzle sequence) solvable by lawnmowering. I think it could have benefited from more tradeoff-style choices and delayed effects.

However, the lovely worldbuilding and vivid descriptions make this a worthwhile game to play.


Within a circle of water and sand, by Romain

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A text-heavy gamebook with an innovative polynesian setting, March 5, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game has some beautiful styling and good mechanics.

You play as a Polynesian woman on a quest or rite of passage. You meet a strange group of islanders hiding secrets of their own. You have to investigate, with gamebook-style gameplay (finding inventory items, exploring with some time-progress elements).

The biggest obstruction to full enjoyment for me was the huge chunks of text, especially near the beginning. But, if you have time for the reading, and are a fan of gamebooks or Polynesian culture, this is a good read.

Has several well-done illustrations.


Bogeyman, by Elizabeth Smyth

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A gut-wrenching horror game with flawless execution, February 18, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

It's rare when an IF game is presented exactly right, every portion designed perfectly well to give a uniform presentation. Liza Daly's Harmonia is sort of the standard for this type of presentation.

I think Bogeyman has achieved that level of quality. The layout, fonts, sound, and color scheme give gravitas and a haunting sense of dread to the story.

And the storyline fits the presentation, with interactions that lead you to believe that you can identify with your character, followed up with choices that pit your beliefs against themselves.

An effect, but disturbing, game. One of my go-to games when introducing IF to people.


Dungeon Detective, by Wonaglot, Caitlin Mulvihill

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A fun high fantasy mystery romp, February 13, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game has a lot going for it. Fun images, a strong character voice, and nice, descriptive writing.

The setting is similar to D&D, with gnolls and dragons. The main character gnoll has caveman-like speech despite his intense intelligence, kind of like the narrator in Lost Pig and exactly opposite of the birds in Birdland.

It's a mystery game, and relies on the 'notice clues then pick the correct answer at then end' method of mystery writing. This isn't my favorite method, but the game's writing suits this style really well, as the clues are all based on worldbuilding.

The greatest flaw for me was how short it is. I wish that this game had been significantly longer.


A Woman's Choice, by Katie Benson

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A shortish, well-polished series of vignettes related to women's choices, February 3, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

I found this game touching. A short game (5 chapters or so, each with 5-10 choices), it moves you through different phases of life and talks about women's reproductive choices, the expectations of society, and the consequences of these actions.

The styling is well-done and understated, a good backdrop to the ongoing storyline. As a man, it gave me a lot to think about.


Tower, by Ryan Tan

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A meditative twine game with some puzzles, February 3, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

I beta tested this game.

This is a visually well-polished Twine game, with images, colors, and fonts used to enhance the presentation.

The game itself consists in a vertical tower. The player spends some time in each of the rooms, which are described in rich prose. Some rooms have puzzles, others are more poetic.

There is also an overall puzzle that ties everything together.


Stone of Wisdom, by Kenneth Pedersen

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
An old-school (in a good way) compact ADRIFT game, February 2, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

I beta-tested this game. This is the best ADRIFT game I've seen in a while. It feels like a nice little slice taken from a Zork-like universe, with lamps and stone dungeons and a troll and little people and so on. There's conversation, treasure, and a satisfying map.

A lot of time Adrift games seem to be trying to get you to do something specific but won't let you actually do it without struggling for the right command. Thankfully, that didn't happen here!

It's like a nice-sized slice of old-fashioned game, not too hard, not too easy. Worth downloading ADRIFT for.


Murder at the Manor, by Obter9

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A classic-style murder mystery in Twine, January 30, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game is a straightforward implementation of classic Golden Age-style murder mystery. Each page has several paragraphs of text. You investigate 3-4 locations, 3-4 murder weapons, and 3-4 people, then guess the murderer.

The details are generic enough that they could fit in any detective story from Holmes to Poirot. If you like murder mysteries, it's worth playing, but I wish it had more spice to it. The author has proven they can make a complete and coherent game, and I'd be interested in seeing more work from them in the future.


Nightmare Adventure, by Laurence Emms, Vibha Laljani

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A small game with a custom parser about magical dreams, January 6, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

Despite my low star rating,this game succeeds in (what I believe is) itís authorsí goal. It seems like their intent was to write a complete parser game from scratch that had an interesting storyline, and theyíve done so.

This game is pure fantasy, with mysterious ailments and amulets. Itís very short. The parser lacks almost all conveniences of modern parsers, such as standard actions and abbreviations and robust keyword detection.

The game is short, but has some puzzles I personally found enjoyable, as well as some nice dream/star imagery.

For the IF player used to playing Inform games, I would not recommend this. But as someone who has tinkered around with parser programming, I know how hard this was to make, so the authors did a good job.


DEVOTIONALIA, by G.C. "Grim" Baccaris (as G. Grimoire)

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A short dark fantasy game about an ancient religion, December 25, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

I beta tested this game.

Devotionalia is a shortish but replayable fantasy game that is all about atmosphere and contemplation. It is a choice-based game, but not immediately recognizable as Twine, due to the extreme customization: graphics, music, many variants of link types, and more.

The game comes with a helpful instruction page. Essentially, you are a priest of an ancient religion, the gods almost forgotten. You wish to learn from them, and thus you make your devotions.

There's not an action-driven story or a big cast of characters. It's a somber reflection on life. If you've ever seen the painting "The Monk by the Sea" by Caspar David Friedrich, this game is essentially the interactive fiction version of that painting.


Conjuring and Prophecy Unit, by Eric Gallagher and Acacia Gallagher

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A gauntlet-style illustrated game about troubleshooting magical tech, December 21, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game is listed as educational, but I found it to be amusing and well-written as well.

You play as a character being asked to repair a sort of magical computer, with a crystal ball instead of a screen and an abacus and magic soup as part of the internal units.

The style seems more like old CYOA books, with most paths leading off to death. I think a 'back-up' button or more cluing could make this less frustrating. As it was, I was put off by the frequent deaths and didn't finish the game. But the writing was enjoyable, and the illustrations were very well done.


Dream Pieces 2, by Iam Curio

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A word-puzzle game involving breaking a word up into syllables, December 19, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game is a sequel to an earlier IFComp game, Dream Pieces.

Both games consists of rooms where you are given a few highlighted objects. These highlighted objects are words that can be broken up into their syllables and recombined.

This game centers on creating and using doors and other exits. I found it clever and interesting. The Quest engine was a little blocky and chunky (for its own reasons, not the game's) and I didn't feel emotionally invested in the game, but as a puzzle game it was effective and fun.


Intelmission, by Martyna "Lisza" Wasiluk

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A complex conversational game about spies and relationships , November 30, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

Intelmission is primarily a long conversation, with an introductory segment.

You and another spy are captured together and have to talk. The game features many many topics, and makes you aware at the end of how many you explored. You can choose what to discuss, or allow the game to choose for you after a certain time.

In a way, this game reminded me of Mirror and Queen. Both are conversational games with a ton of work behind-scenes to provide many topics and allow for user flexibility. But in both games, that flexibility gets communicated to the user more as mirroring what you choose rather than gaining new information. There were few surprises, narrative twists and turns.

I did enjoy this one though, and Mirror and Queen.


Shackles of Control, by Sly Merc

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A riff on the Stanley Parable, set in a school, November 24, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game is based off of the Stanley Parable, which I've never played. This version is set in a school.

It's short, and deals with ideas of autonomy, player/author relationship, and meta narratives. I don't know if the enjoyment is higher or lower for those not familiar with the Stanley Parable.

It seems, though, like someone thought, "I like this popular game, so I'm going to adjust it to my circumstances and make a Twine version of it." The writing and structure of this game make me think that if the author tried a new game after this based on their own ideas, that it would be pretty great. I hope you write again!


H.M.S. Spaceman, by Nat Quayle Nelson, Diane Cai

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A racy space comedy, November 24, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This reminds me in an odd way of a more optimistic and gender-swapped version of In The Friend Zone from a few comps back. In that game, you explored a world that was a giant woman.

In this, you are aboard a giant male-shaped spaceship. It is a riff on Star Trek and general science fiction tropes. In style, it reminds me of 80's college humor movie.

The level of explicitness is similar to Leather Goddesses of Phobos on Safe Mode.

It's polished, descriptive, and amusing, although I didn't personally care for the subject matter.


The Broken Bottle, by The Affinity Forge team, Josh Irvin

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
An illustrated book-like game set in a fantasy circus, November 21, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game is by (I think) a commercial team that had a different approach to IF than most of the authors in the competition.

This game is lavishly decorated as a book, with occasional beautiful illustrations.

You play as a wolf who is friends with a young child.

It has essentially one choice per 'chapter', with the later chapters having the strongest effects. This is in contrast to most twine-style games, which encourage frequent irrelevant choices or gradual choices. This game's style is exactly what I would expect Netflix's choose your own adventure shows to be like: long segments punctuated with individual, large-effect choices.


Railways of Love, by Provodnik Games

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A complex many-variable bilingual game about love, November 17, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game was featured in IFComp 2018. It has a beautiful custom interface featuring pixel-art animations, and includes sound.

Basically, love goes wrong on a train. The sequence of events just interrupts everything.

But, you have a chance to go back and change that sequence!

This is a wonderful premise. By going back and changing the order of things, you can unlock 7 preliminary endings and then a final ending.

However, I found the choices opaque. Instead of being able to strategize, it came down to more or less random guessing. There are some hints in the text (changing options, for one thing), but even with the walkthrough, I never reached the final ending on my own. I saw what it said, though, and I thought it was beautiful.

Because I struggled with the interactivity, I didn't receive the full emotional impact of the game. Other than that, I enjoyed it.

Edit: With help from the forums, I finished this, and I loved the ending.

Where I got stuck was (Spoiler - click to show)Forgetting to confess for the 'love' ending.


Polish the Glass , by Keltie Wright

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Dynamic fiction about the perils of obsession and family secrets, November 17, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This was an IFComp game that I liked quite a bit more than, it seems, many of the other IFComp reviewers did.

This is almost purely dynamic fiction, a style of interactive fiction where you mostly read a linear narrative, with different special effects adding to the atmosphere and some scattered choices. "My Father's Long Long Legs" is a classic example of the genre.

This story is about a woman whose mother tended a bar and was obsessed with 'polishing the glass'. It's a story about growing up in a broken household, coming to grips with our parents' problems, and the spiral of obsession and addiction.

There's probably a metaphor here, but it's abstract enough not to be clear on what the metaphor is, which makes this game much more effective for me.


Abbess Otilia's Life and Death, by Arno von Borries (as A.B.)

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A gorgeously illustrated medieval-looking cybertext game about an abbess, November 15, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game is lavish, with a medieval-looking font and scattered illustrations and capitals.

Presented like a book, interactivity is done by either turning the page or by selecting between binary choices.

There are quite a few paths in this game that you can take, and I found it overall impressive. My 3 stars is because I didn't feel an emotional involvement in the game, being put more at a distance by the elaborate presentation. I also didn't feel an inclination to play again, due to the energy required in poring through the text.


my own paper walls, by fia glas

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A horror game set in an abandoned school, November 6, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

I was impressed and a bit frustrated by this game.

The bad: the text is a bit hard to read. I had to bulk up the page size a bunch before being able to see the fancy-font white on black text. Also, possibly due to the font, I felt weirdly discombobulated while playing and had trouble focusing.

The good: this is a genuinely engaging tale about a girl and her friend meeting up with three guys to explore a haunted school. The true horror is in the relationships here; I had several honestly surprising and unsettling experiences with people in the game that wasn't based on supernatural horror at all.

I actually feel like I love this game, but I wish it were easier to read and didn't have that sort of vague procedurally generated feel (it's not actually procedurally generated, but it has multiple paths, so some of the text is vague to suit several scenarios). I want to play this again.


Wretch!, by Josh Labelle

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A long exploratory Twine game about a Frankenstein scenario, November 4, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

In this game, you play a patched-up person made up of different people's parts.

It comes in three acts, two of which are exploratory, and the third of which is mostly a coda.

In the first act, you explore the house of yourself and your master, spending several days or weeks in-game exploring, thinking, learning, and solving some puzzles.

In the second act, you have the chance to interact more with the real world.

The styling was nice here, with Harmonia-like spacing and margins. Options are greyed out to indicate places you should explore more.

This really worked well on a lot of levels. I found the exploration tedious at times, but I don't think that there's an easy fix, and the game is good as-is. My ending was touching.


Death By Powerpoint, by Jack Welch

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Frankly amazing story about trying to give a powerpoint presentation, November 4, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

Sometimes Twine games just click for me, and sometimes they don't.

Two ways they can fail is to either encourage/require you to just click everything, or to have trivial choices that clearly don't effect the story.

This gave really gave me the feeling of strategy. Even if it was an illusion, I felt like I could play a specific kind of character and have it matter.

The game contains some highly unusual events, part of which gets explained near the end of the game. I don't think everyone will love this game, but I know many others who also like it. For me, this is the kind of Twine writing that very few people get right: Hennessay, Dalmady, Corfman, Lutz and Porpentine, a few others. Welch can write with the best!


Walk Among Us, by Roberto Colnaghi

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A short horror romp, like a music video, November 4, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

Playing this game felt like being in the video for Thriller or some other sort of famous creepy song.

It's largely linear, with a series of obstacles and strong hints on what to do (except at one point where I completely failed multiple times in a row at what turned out to be the last two puzzles of the game).

Some of the content of the game wasn't really up my alley (you follow a girl out of a bar because she's so attractive), but it was coherent, and everything meshed well with the opening.


The Voodoo You Do 3, by Marshal Tenner Winter

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
The third in a voodoo-based parser series, November 4, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

In this Inform game, you are a private investigator who is haunted by strange phenomena. It has a large cast of characters and expansive geometry.

However, due to its nature as a fairly quickly written game (for Ectocomp), it suffers from a lack of implementation that makes it difficult to play without the walkthrough. I took my time, examining things, in the opening scene, and missed out on all the triggers that would have led me to discover more.

Best experienced with a walkthrough.


Night of Nights, by Grim

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
This game gave me rabies and leprosy, November 3, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

In this Ectocomp Grand Guignol game, you play as a masked reveler in a sort of grim fantasy realm.

This is a substantial game, bigger than most IFComp Twine games (though I think this is a proprietary system, not Twine). There are at least 13 locations, an inventory system and economy, various sicknesses you can acquire.

It seems like an Italian horror version of Carneval, with decadent displays by comedians, dancing, buffets, etc.

I found a satisfying ending after exploring about half the map, and felt content. Styling was rich and gorgeous. I think this is even better than Devotionalia, the author's IFComp game.


Tales from Castle Balderstone, by Ryan Veeder

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
A humorous and horrifying collection of short Halloween games, November 3, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game is framed as a collection of friends sharing tales. After an intimidating wall of opening text, you begin playing the mini-games in random order.

You can, at any time, excuse yourself to go to the bathroom to skip a tale, which opens up a small segment of the game.

The stories were fun, and in a wide range. One was essentially a one-note joke; one was a deeply disturbing exploration in three parts that was frankly horrifying; another was like a fairy tale; and the fourth is a fun riff on metaphorical games.

I found this game truly enjoyable. Its one defect for me was the difficulty in finding the right actions/verbs on a regular basis. However, that may be part of the charm. But when I saw a pattern on the wallpaper and couldn't X PATTERN, or couldn't get a response for cutting it with one of two items present in the game, I got frustrated. SHOUT could work more often, TALK TO isn't implemented. But I don't know if it's worth it going back to spruce this game up, since the fun's already there.


Restless, by Emily Short

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A debut for a part of Spirit AI's new character engine, November 2, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

First, it's fun that Spirit AI is putting out a Halloween game.

This is a unity game, and it's big: 140+ mb. It has graphics, courtesy of Tea Powered Games, and text, courtesy of Emily Short.

The basic framework is a nice wallpaper-y background with a visual novel-style character you're speaking with.

You have three forms of interaction:
-selecting a topic (I found 3 topics in my playthroughs). Different topics allow different conversation options.
-selecting emotions (up to 6 or 8 or so, each an on/off button). These are independent of each other, so I could, for instance, choose to be curious, open, angry, sad and hungry. These alter the conversational options in a procedural way, sometimes unlocking more.
-the conversational options themselves. Some, with an exclamation mark, have a greater effect on the game.

You play a ghost who is haunting an old house. At first, you have great difficulty in speaking, but that is gradually relieved (unless you mess up like I did on my first play-through.)

This game has many endings and quite a few topics.

Overall, I was impressed by the flexibility of the engine. I could see this being integrated with 3d Unity games, with physical location or costumes being a fourth way of influencing topics or replacing one of the methods above.

The procedural text had pros and cons.

At its least enjoyable: clicking a radio button on and off rapidly would cycle through the options, changing words like 'abject' to 'inconsolable', for instance, exposing the guts of the game.

At its best: when used as intended, the proceduralness lets the game respond to your intentions in a pleasing way that would be horrible to write as an author.

So you only really see it when lawnmowering or experimenting. But in this game, I found it easy to get lost, as I frequently had trouble guessing what the effect of my actions would be. So I ended up seeing a lot of the 'guts'.

As a demo of the system, it worked very well. As a story, I found it interesting and worth playing several times. I'm glad this was in the competition, and I hope a lot of people sign up to try out the engine (I know I'm interested, if I can find the time!)


Deliver Until Dawn, by roboman

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A quest game written for EctoComp with multiple paths and riddles, October 31, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This is a Quest hyperlink game written for Ectocomp. It was written in less than 4 hours.

You play as a vampire masquerading as a newspaper delivery girl, visiting different areas in the city.

The game had nice styling and art, and I appreciated the apparent depth. But there were some translation issues that made the puzzly parts of the game hard for me to understand, and several typos.


Whoah Cubs Woe, by Andrew Schultz

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Tricky location-based puzzle, October 31, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This Ectocomp Petite Mort is a tricky little pentagram puzzle.

It took me a while to understand what I needed to do. The game had a fairly entertaining framing story which (especially the latter portion) elevated the game in my opinion. Even though I didn't necessarily agree with its message, I respected it.

The main puzzle consists in placing objects on a pentagram (with both inner and outer pentagons). I thought for half of the game that I could only walk on pentagram lines themselves. Certain objects repel each other, and the game encourages experimentation.


Curse of the Garden Isle, by Ryan Veeder

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
A short, rocking Hawaiian game, September 25, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game drew my attention when I discovered that the 'provided map' is just google maps centered on the island of Kauai in the Hawaiian islands.

This is not my favorite Veeder game, but it was enjoyable, both when I played on my own and then later at an IF meetup.

The game as-played seems to have two phases: an exploration phase, and an action phase. I found it necessary to google some locations in the game at different points, and google provided information that helped in some puzzles.

The game offers several methods of interaction, including one that may be time-limited.

If you like this game, I recommend Crocodracula. If you hate this game, I recommend An Evening At Ransom Woodingdean House. If you haven't played this game yet, I recommend Taco Fiction and this game.


Lost and Found, by Felicity Drake

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
An intriguing short story about a missing woman in Japan, September 19, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

I played this game because it has been one of the most-rated games this year. It's a short-to-mid-length Twine game set in Japan with three endings.

I gave this game/story 5 stars based on my criteria:

-Polish. The writing is smooth, the images add to the story, and the structure seems thought-out.
-Interactivity. I wanted to pursue the main thread of the story but feel like I had some investment. This game is fairly linear and branches in some "do you want to win or not win?" kind of ways. But it worked for me.
-Descriptive writing. This story is vivid and very descriptive.
-Emotional impact. I found the story effective from two angles: one about a man showing concern for a fellow human, and another angle where the protagonist is a deeply concerning example of a man believing that he has the privilege to become obsessed with and interfere with a woman's life.
-I would play this again.


Escape from the Crazy Place, by J. J. Guest, Loz Etheridge and friends

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
A sprawling absurd Twine game with a tangled and deep backstory, August 21, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

Escape from the Crazy Place is a sprawling, labyrinthine Twine game with significantly more content than games such as Birdland. It's absurdist, surreal, dreamlike, and ridiculous.

It's history is almost more absurd (parts of this may be inaccurate; play the TADS version to see more). It began as a physical handwritten CYOA book in school over 30 years ago, passed around by students and added to over time. That copy was lost, rewritten from memory.

It became an online html game before anyone was doing much CYOA html, then it became TADS in 2006. Now, years later, it's been redone in Twine.

It has dozens of authors. It has parts that are clever and exciting.

But it also has parts that are less exciting. One reason passing around a physical CYOA book in school is thrilling is because you can see the heft and size of it and think, "oh man, this puppy is huge!". Flipping through can give you an idea of its contents.

Escape from the Crazy Place is online, though, so you don't really know what you're getting. And the first passages are the oldest, by those with the least experience, referencing 80's and adolescents. The first about also loops around itself somewhat, making it even harder to get a grip on the size of the game.

I kept pushing through (playing with my 6 year old son) and we found a lot of really great content. That experience made me think that this is a good game to play collaboratively, just as it was written.


With Those We Love Alive, by Porpentine and Brenda Neotenomie

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A dreamlike dark fantasy in service to the empress, June 10, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game is one of Porpentine's best games, by her own admission and the acclaim of others.

It has music and takes the unusual tack of having you draw symbols on your skin as the game progresses. I chose not to do so, but many who have played have done so, and you can search for some of their images.

The game casts you as an artificer for a massive, insectoid alien queen. Isolation and body change are themes, as you wander a city and castle and spend time on yourselves.

The game has music and interesting styling. The story includes friendship and love and bizarre, alien history.