Reviews by MathBrush

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Dear Elise, by CD Libine

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A claustrophobic exploration game about mystery, science and love , March 13, 2022
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game is part of the Running out of Ink: Limited Spaces anthology recently released on itch.

The story is about you, a youth who discovers a mysterious door in the forest. You are barred from entering, but when you return as an adult, no one can hold you back.

Gameplay is centered on finding journal entries and tapes. The tapes have very nice voice acting, although I was playing around my kid and the first tape started with some loud profanity, so I ended up just reading the thoughtfully-provided transcripts instead lol.

The feel of the game is simultaneously full of terror but also calm. All of the damage is in or from the past. There are lots of spiders, claustrophobic situations, darkness, hints of obsession, etc.

There are some puzzles in play. The first puzzle completely stumped me. I was flabbergasted, not knowing if I had enough info. Then I realized (moderate-to-strong hint)(Spoiler - click to show)certain parts of the documents are highlighted.

Overall, I found the storytelling high-quality, professional tier; this reads like a sci-fi story in an anthology you'd see displayed at a Barnes and Noble table. The design and layout are custom Twine that look very nice, especially the tapes.

Overall, it's a strong game. I don't know if I'd replay it; while every piece was strong, games also some times need a je ne sais quoi that ties it all together, and for me I didn't get that overarching sense of completion that would make a game perfect. But it is a game I can recommend and praise.


Les Androïdes, by Atozi

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A hard-hitting series of vignettes about androids and white male culture, February 22, 2022
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This 2022 French IFComp game really reminded me of 60s and 70s science fiction books of my dad's, which often had hard-hitting social issues not as an allegory but as the main feature of the story, with the science fiction only serving to shed light on the bigger issue.

This game is about androids but also about young white men, incel culture, etc.

In 5 short vignettes (and an epilogue), we encounter a growing number of young men who are convinced that they are not human, but are, in fact, androids.

But strangely it is only androids, and not gynoids. No minorities think they are androids either.

It's worth reading. For a non-native speaker, it felt long, but it was around 7K words total in my playthrough, so definitely doable. Gave me a lot of thoughts and taught me a lot about French slang and 'cuisine bretonne'.
Your choices in each story generally are about choosing between making a situation more volatile or making things more calm. The interactivity felt a little weak; occasionally it seemed clear my choices were doing something to the story but often it didn't feel that way. The excellent writing did a lot to mitigate that.


Past Present, by Jim Nelson

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A game about divorce and loss told through shifting perspectives, February 16, 2022
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This is a well-coded TADS game about coming to grab your things from an empty house after a divorce.

Play primarily revolves around exploration and discovery of key items that advance the story in some way.

The theme is about divorce, loss, and 'what might have been?' I took these themes seriously, as I am recently divorced and could understand some of what the narrator was going through.

This is a pretty messy divorce, though. Unhealthy events and actions abound. The narrator is regretful, of course, but regret can only take you so far, and I think that's one of the main themes here.

Overall, the mechanics and story work for me, but there are a few sticking points here and there. I had a lot of difficulty getting started. The game provides no hints, and takes the position that players should take careful notes and that some info won't be repeated. I figured things out in the end but I was frustrated (spoiler for main mechanic: (Spoiler - click to show)more specifically, I noticed that some objects wouldn't go through the shadow, so I thought none could, and didn't try taking the soil through. I thought I had left the shards behind and the pot appeared, so it too me a while to realize what was going on).

For the story, I felt like things were perhaps spelled out a bit too much for my personal taste. This is a real, visceral story, but I feel like a lot of art that I find 'magnificent' has a sort of ambiguity to it that allows you to draw many interpretations from it. Having our feelings and reactions to everything and the 'meaning' of it all spelled out at the end felt somewhat restrictive.

Overall, I think people who play this will be pleased, especially for those looking for mild but non-trivial puzzles mixed with emotional storytelling.


Locked Door IX: Under Obstruction, by Cody Gaisser

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
An iteration adding a strength-based puzzle, February 4, 2022
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

I think this will end my journey through the iterative puzzle games in this series. I hesitated last game due to some graphic material (a dwarf that was (Spoiler - click to show)hanging by a noose), and this game includes some drug-related activity; put together, it feels like a kind of humor I'm not into, kind of like the Unnkulia series from the early 90's.

This iteration is much more reserved than the last. It adds a few simple items to a previously empty area in the midgame. Again, it can be difficult to figure out which commands to use. I feel like the previous episode may be better overall.

Edit: I see the next one's tagline is 'can you polish a turd' so I feel justified in assuming this vein of humor will continue.


Locked Door VIII: Enemy Mine, by Cody Gaisser

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Much bigger game with dwarven subplot and some disturbing parts, February 4, 2022
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

I suppose I should say that this game might need a warning for either suicide or lynching, depending on how you interpret it (there is a (Spoiler - click to show)dwarf hanging from a noose), which honestly felt unnecessary.

This update adds a very large area with interesting mechanics including scoopable items, an NPC with several requirements, timed actions, and flame. However, very precise commands are required. I had to decompile the game to discover that the necessary command for an important action was (Spoiler - click to show)BURN something WITH FLAME and not just BURN SOMETHING).

However, that whole dwarven area can be skipped. I didn't even know what the purpose of it was till I decompiled; apparently its final item (the (Spoiler - click to show)axe) is meant to solve the puzzle of the (Spoiler - click to show)nest with a doorknob in it, which you have to cut down, but you can just take that object directly.

That said, this is a pretty significantly large game now. It's pretty rough with implementation and needs polishing (several beta testers would have helped) but has come a long way from the original game, which was just two rooms with a locked door and a key.


chiaroscuro, by Kim Berkley

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Damp Martyrs, by Gavin Inglis and Failbetter Games

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

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

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

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


Reunion, by James Chew, Failbetter Games

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Follow Victoria's grandson as he searches for drugs and power, December 11, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

One of the key features of Fallen London is prisoner's honey, as substance which transports its users to the world of dreams. It plays a role in society similar to opium dens from that time.

Something you can learn about in many of the stories (especially early on in the Nemesis ambition) is about (Spoiler - click to show)gaoler's honey, a stronger variant that is made by bees invading someone's brain and sucking out the memories. It lets you experience their memories but causes them terrible pain. Even further in the lore, you can find a connection between this and the Royal Family, as (fairly big spoilers for those who haven't read stories involving the royal family) (Spoiler - click to show)they all used tainted red honey and became hideous beasts, except for one who gained horrible mental powers).

This game follows a member of the royal family who stayed on the surface, a grandson of Victoria named Albert together with his mother. He wants to experience the honey drug dens and wants to be like the rest of the Royal Family. A lot of the game seems intent on portraying a weak and sad outsider trying to be part of a larger group.

It is a solid story, but pales in comparison to most other royal family stories, especially The Gift or the captivating princess storyline in Sunless Skies.


Leviathan, by Mary Goodden and Failbetter Games
An expedition for bones and monsters at the Gant pole, December 11, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This is a Fallen London exceptional story, meaning it is a supplementary tale to the overall main game.

This story was meant to explore the bone market and its side characters more. When the bone market first came out, the Carpenter's Granddaughter was (and is) an important figure who can sell the largest bone frame and manage your market exhaustion.

In this story, you go on a journey with that character to the Gant Pole, a location first featured in the spinoff game Sunless Sea. The Gant Pole is an enormous decomposing heart of a sea creature that is lived in an attracts things that have lost all other desires or purposes in life. Gant is one of seven fictional colors in Fallen London, described as the color that exists when all else is gone.

As you search for giant bones and fossils in this story, it takes a darker turn into body horror, including a chance for you to alter yourself in disconcerting ways.

Overall, this story is an interesting character study of its main protagonist and antagonist. The interactivity aids the story but isn't memorable in and of itself. A good option for fans of the Zee and/or bones.


La dulce compañía, by DareDoge

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A very long multimedia Twine story about goblins, November 26, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This is the biggest game entered into the Spanish 2021 Ectocomp.

It's a Twine game using a lot of images and sounds. There is very little interactivity; the majority of the game is long pages filled with text and images with 'CONTINUAR' at the bottom. Occasionally there are choices, but they don't always remember what you do (for instance, (Spoiler - click to show)giving an item to a teacher early on doesn't get recorded, because you can give it to someone else later).

The main interactivity is thing of incense that you have that you can burn to stop the goblins. However, it isn't always clear when you can do this; frequently when the goblins were doing something bad I tried to use it, but just wasted my 'charges'. It seems reserved for moments when (Spoiler - click to show)the game is trapped in a loop.

There were a few typos here and there. The story often switches between second and third person, although that might just be me as a non-native speaker misunderstanding. As for the story itself, it was very descriptive with a wide variety of characters and a lot of imagination. Goblins were tied together with a high school that was once a military base, and both tied to another world. It was a complex and long story, and one I'm not sure I understood very well. But the story itself, with the images and the sounds, are a great accomplishment. I just wish I could have done more myself.



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