Reviews by MathBrush

about 1 hour

View this member's profile

Show ratings only | both reviews and ratings
View this member's reviews by tag: 15-30 minutes 2-10 hours about 1 hour about 2 hours IF Comp 2015 Infocom less than 15 minutes more than 10 hours Spring Thing 2016
...or see all reviews by this member
Showing All | Show by Page


La dulce compaŮŪa, by DareDoge

2 of 2 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.


Fiesta Mortal, by ivsaez

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A high school party murder mystery with tons of 3d illustrations, November 18, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This is a pretty weird game. It's a horror game written for the Spanish division of Ectocomp, and it has tons of illustrations that are made by posing some 3d models whose quality is somewhere between roblox and Sims. It's intentionally garish and pretty funny.

In the game, one of your old friends who had been ghosting you invites you to a party hosted by the most popular girl in school, Steisy. Unfortunately, dastardly things are happening there.

I got a bad ending, but didn't feel like replaying, as I prefer text-only games (or at least games where the text is the primary source of interaction). There were several puzzles involving movement and collecting objects. There are some sexual references and a variety of profanity (I learned some new words!) Overall, a funny experiment.


Leyendas del Castillo, by Mery

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
An amusing and complex story about exploring a monster-filled castle, November 17, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game was entered in the Spanish division of Ectocomp as a Grand Guignol game, meaning it took > 4 hours to complete.

It is an excellently written game, using amusing and complex writing to tell the tales of a haunted castle. It has the form of a CYOA book, with different 'page numbers' references (although they aren't actually numbered). Different branching paths let you experience different monsters.

As a non-native speaker, I found a lot of words I didn't know here, as the author uses very descriptive and colloquial language. I found two monsters in two different paths. One, (Spoiler - click to show)the succubus, included some sexual scenes that were detailed but not explicitly describe sexual acts.

Once you've completed a path, the game gives you links to interesting facts about the creatures you encountered and lets you 'warp back' to a convenient place to find other paths. Overall, this was very well written.


Grandma Bethlinda's Remarkable Egg, by Arthur DiBianca

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
Random experimentation with one-word commands, October 24, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

For the better part of a decade, Arthur DiBianca has been putting out limited parser games, where most commands are shut off and only a few work.

This game is kind of an opposite version of that. Instead of few commands, there are tons of commands, some of which you have to guess (for full completion) and most of which you don't know what they do.

This is a game that invites experimentation and discovery. Part of the fun is trying out a command and having it do something surprising but, in hindsight, reasonable.

There's not much storywise, but a lot of depth. Reaching the first winning situation isn't too hard, but getting all the points is very difficult (I admit I looked at the intfiction thread for most of the extra credit points).

Overall, I found the game enjoyable.


The Corsham Witch Trial, by JC Blair

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
An account of a trial with extensive fake documentation, but few choices, October 23, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This is a pretty long game content-wise but pretty short choice-wise.

You are a new legal expert at a firm (I think?) and you're asked to look through evidence in an old case.

The case is described from beginning to end, primarily through PDF documentation that opens in another window. Your character can react to what they find, but opening and reading the documents is the main form of interaction, kind of like the more involved SCPs on the SCP wiki.

The game does touch an several important points in law like he said/she said and the balance between punishing the guilty and protecting the innocent.

I found the writing overall strong (with one caveat: I don't think the (Spoiler - click to show)child's writing is accurate. Children tend to use correct rules in the wrong places (like 'I goed to the store') instead of just having random misspellings (like 'I like stiks)). Characters were highly dramatized but were differentiated from each other.

The interaction style isn't what I usually go for in games, but it is what I like in SCPs and other collaborative static fiction sites. However, since I'm reviewing for an IF site, I'll stick with my usual rubric, for which I'd give this a 3.


Fine Felines, by Felicity Banks

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Cat breeding, dating and disability simulator in Choicescript, October 21, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game is a polished Choicescript cat breeding simulator.

You have $10,000 and a small monthly income, and have the opportunity to buy several different varieties of pedigree cats while buying different supplies and living areas for the cats.

Simultaneously, you have to deal with a new disability, which costs money and takes up your time.

I had remembered hearing before that buying pedigree cats was unethical, and you should get them from pounds. But looking it up, it seems like the main reason people say that its bad is because they have puppy mills or cat mills where animals are stored in unhealthy conditions. Even 'backyard sellers' can be problematic, with one website offering these red flags:
(Spoiler - click to show)
-The seller has many types of purebreds or ďdesignerĒ hybrid breeds being sold at less than six weeks old.
-Breeders who are reluctant to show potential customers the entire premises on which animals are being bred and kept.
-Breeders who donít ask a lot of questions of potential buyers.
-No guarantees-responsible breeders make a commitment to take back the pet at anytime during the animalís life, no matter the reason.

Anyway, the point of the long digression is that my character did none of these things; quite the opposite in fact! So I was happy to do some ethical cat breeding.

The biggest strength of the game is, absolutely, its cute cat pictures. I like cats, but I spend very little time looking up pet pics online and don't really feel interested in such pictures in general. But the cats in this game are very cute, especially since you follow their story.

There are also several romantic options. It was actually a bit too easy to romance people; I thought I was picking a 'be nice' option but my character ended up asking the person out.

Overall:
+Polish: The game was smooth and looked good.
+Descriptiveness: The game had plenty of detail.
+Interactivity: It was clear what different options I had and how it could affect my strategy, without being too easy
+Emotional impact: It was pretty cute
+Would I play again? Sure


The Libonotus Cup, by Nils Fagerburg

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A fancy javascript parser game about a pirate race, October 21, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game is, as far as I can tell, written in a custom javascript engine, since you can see how its constructed in the JS and I don't think Dialog does that (but it feels like Inform or Dialog).

This is a pirate racing game with a multitude of different puzzles, some optional, including a maze, a crossword puzzle, traditional parser puzzles, directing people, shopping and economy, logic puzzles, etc.

The idea is that you are entering a racing competition with pirate ships and have 1 day to get and spend money and time to prepare your ship for the race. Then you enter a choice-based segment where you race, encountering various threats and making choices you don't know the consequences of ahead of time, like classic CYOA books.

I found the game overall enjoyable, but I felt like it was missing some key direction at various points. In the beginning, it wasn't clear what was desired or what was possible. Similarly, during the parser interlude in the race, it was unclear what form commands should take, and it was somewhat fussy overall.

That's my only real complaint with the game. Otherwise, it has excellent polish and a fun setting.


The Golden Heist, by George Lockett and Rob Thorman

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Rob Nero blind: if you can!, October 21, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This is a choice game with some images and sound. In it, you play as a poor young thief whose father was the architect for Nero's palace. With the insight that gives to you, you decide to rob the place.

It seems that your choices matter quite a bit in this game. You can choose three different companions. My companion had a major effect on the story, so I can only imagine the other paths were very different. Also, the game referenced how I treated my companion and several other choices.

So there's a lot of replay value here, quality writing, good interactivity. There was some strong profanity and a few filthy-minded romans I met that put me off, so I don't plan on checking the other paths. I also learned some history from looking up things related to the game.


extraordinary_fandoms.exe, by Storysinger Presents

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Friendship simulator based on a real story, October 21, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game is meant to emulate an older teenager or young adult hopping on Discord and hanging out with friends by talking about a Japanese virtual idol group and making a wiki together.

The friendships in the game are uncomplicated and straightforwardly positive. All drama and tension come from the (Spoiler - click to show)abusive situation that the author finds themself in.

I feel like the representation of discord is accurate, and overall the writing was authentic.

The display was a bit puzzling; it's flat white text on a flat white background with no special styling or extra polish. The puzzling part is that one of the major focuses of the game is the protagonist's growth in the use of CSS, with the code listed in-game. Why not use CSS to make the game itself look fancier?

Finally, I feel a bit spoiled here, as one of my favorite games from last year (Lore Distance Relationship, which I voted for in several XYZZY awards) was also about fandoms and also treated the same real-life scenario (the authors are siblings). This game, while having emotional authenticity, doesn't have the same depth and polish of last year's game. But I am glad that both seem to be in a better situation.


Universal Hologram, by Kit Riemer

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Explore layers of reality with AI-generated art, October 20, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This is a long Twine game that uses distorted sounds and AI-generated art to tell a story about a being in a world where astral projection is real. You discover in the first half of the game that (Spoiler - click to show)you are in a simulation of a universe that is roughly 9 simulations deep.

Much of the game is about gaining different versions of ascended consciousness, mixed with what I'd call 'stoner-dude' conversations with a lot of profanity and 'woah man!' type of interjections.

I liked the storyline, but didn't really care for our character, who had a lot of jerky options.

Overall, there was a high level of polish and descriptiveness and the interactivity worked for me. However, due to the dialog style I didn't really connect with the protagonist and don't think I'd replay.


An Aside About Everything, by Sasha

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Dense allegory in a symbolic world, October 20, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This is a Twine game with multiple worlds that all seem to represent the same allegory. Each world contains 4 women, who travel with you, and the worlds have symbolic meaning.

Simultaneously, you're searching for a woman, with an inventory of items and a mental retreat called 'the void'. Your character's name is He, and her name is She.

The game is not too long, but it is quite dense allegorically. One gets the sense that everything has deep inner meaning. However, I had difficulty teasing it out. Given the names and the quotations, the game seems to have originally been in Italian, and while the translation is generally good, it can be difficult to get 'vague but powerful prose' to work right across language barriers, and in this game I wasn't drawn in emotionally by the prose.

Overall:
+Polish: It had a few cool systems. I was able to create a bug early on that I think exists in some of my own Twine games where clicking on the inventory when you're already in a sub-routine with its own 'return' link will trap you in a loop forever, but besides that it seemed generally smooth.
+Descriptiveness: While the characters are vague, the description of the strange smog and the computers was vivid.
-Interactivity: It was hard to grasp what to do or what mattered. I went to the void a lot, but did it matter? I bought three pills and took one, but did it change anything?
-Emotional impact: Like I said earlier, I wasn't really drawn into this game.
+Would I play again? There are a few key points I'd like to revisit and understand better.


The Waiting Room, by Billy Krolick

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A creepy but somewhat unpolished hospital horror story, October 19, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

I recently mentioned in another review how I'm a big fan of genre fiction. This is exactly the kind of thing I'm talking about: a classic haunting story set in a hospital.

It's in standard Twine format (blue on black) and generally simple Twine branch-and-bottleneck, with some state tracking.

You play as a new CNA working at a nursing home where a dark secret stalks th halls.

I found the game genuinely frightening, playing late at night. The author makes good use of tropes; there's nothing really new here, it's just down well.

There is some use of text animation (including some flashing text). I feel like there were typos strewn throughout the text, mainly with quotation mark errors.

I'm giving this game 4 stars, due to its lack of polish but overall enjoyability. This is due to my personal enjoyment of this style of horror; for the general public, I'd say it's likely a 3-star game.


Mermaids of Ganymede, by Seth Paxton

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
An underwater sci-fi game with deep worldbuilding, October 19, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

Seth Paxton first entered IFComp last year as part of the writing team behind "Big Trouble in Little Dino Park", a fun dinosaur game that unfortunately suffered from bugs and a gauntlet-style structure that frustrated players, ending up in 82nd place.

This game is a significant improvement, incorporating numerous fixes requested in last year's game. It has far fewer bugs, excellent visuals and sounds, and a more free-form structure that encourages exploration and multiple playthroughs.

I think there is still room for improvement, but that's the best way to improve IFComp reception: try something out, tinker with it, see what people think, and adjust accordingly.

In this game, you play as a team of scientific researchers who crash on Ganymede and discover a mysterious underwater world.

It takes place in 5 different chapters, each with several variables saved that significantly changes later chapters. I can only describe my playthrough, though.

Each chapter has a different mechanic, from conversation to fetch quests to what felt a bit like a game of 'battleship'.

(commentary on chapters 2 and 4):(Spoiler - click to show)I felt like the Chapter 2 quest was hard to get started. I got started at the university but had trouble after that because no one else was interested in talking. I would have liked maybe one or 2 smaller successes along the way to keep me going until I got the big series of quests working. I felt like I saw variations of 'you can't go here yet' over and over. And in Chapter 4, it was similarly a bit hard to understand the mechanics without death, especially since I was told to find and return shark DNA, but every encounter with them ended in instant death! And that quest never came up again.

Overall:
+Polish: There were a few rough edges (like one uncapitalized sentence in the 4th chapter that stuck out), but overall I loved the smooth design and music and images.
+Descriptiveness: Lots of nice little details.
-Interactivity: I was frustrated on occasion, although this was definitely an improvement over last time. I considered making this a +.
-Emotional impact: Again, I went back and forth on this one. I liked the big reveal at the end, I enjoyed the dramatic dangers in chapter 4, but all of them felt like they could use a little more breathing room, a little time to contemplate and unpack what was going on.
+Would I play again? It'd be interesting to see other paths.

I think I'd give this a 3.5, but I'll round it up to 4 for IFDB.


Sting, by Mike Russo

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
A literary autobiography in parser form, October 18, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

In this interactive fiction piece (which I played as part of a group and then again on my own), you play as the author, going through all the times in his life when he was (early spoiler) (Spoiler - click to show)stung by a bee. It also deals with his evolving relationship with his sister and others, and experiences in the 90s.

A lot of the nostalgia references hit home for me; I was about 4 years younger than the author, and remembered being fascinated with Dragonlance, and both entranced and off-put by the weird card-based Saga system (which got retconned pretty quickly!). I didn't play MM VI but I would have been playing Diablo or Chrono Trigger right around then.

The game bills itself as puzzleless, which is true, but it's puzzleless like Photopia, not puzzleless like Rameses. The difference is that in this game you have to actively investigate and think what would actually happen at that point. You can get through much of the game by hitting Z by you'll miss out on a lot.

I had mixed emotions while playing the game, and for me I'd describe it most as being about the literary quality of this game.

I devour fiction for its escapism. I like to see different views on what and how the world could be. I love it for its potential. Because of that, I love genre fiction. I prefer Poe over Hawthorne, Christie over de Maurier, Sanderson over Wallace.

This game has the same raw detail and undifferentiated take on life that great literary work has. This game shows the world as it is, through a certain perspective (that of the author). But the world it shows is an uncomfortable one, filled with many of the things I personally seek to escape through fiction. I prefer the ideal worlds that could be to the lonely and often dreary world we live in.

Quality-wise, there is a lot of polish. I think on the boat there were a few sentences with a double period at the end, but that's the extent of bugs I saw. There is occasional strong profanity and some sexual references from the perspective of a teen boy's thoughts.


AardVarK Versus the Hype, by Truthcraze

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A multi-character parser game about defeating soda zombies, October 17, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

Every IFComp brings with it some unusual coincidences. I find it fun that this comp has 2 different games (both enjoyable) where you have to assemble a rock band to stop another group from mind controlling people, and you have to use the power of music (the other game being Codex Sadistica).

This game uses a menu-based conversation system and allows you to switch freely between 3 main characters for much of the game.

You play as 4 kids who have a rock band at a school. The school and the whole town have been consumed by Hype, a new drink that turns you into a zombie!

You have to go on a series of wacky escapades to get all the stuff you need to defeat the monsters. Quests can be done in any order story-wise, but there is a definite chronology of which one happens first (which can be used to give yourself hints).

I found the game funny and well-conceived, but it had several parser hiccups I usually associate with games that haven't been tested well. My only assumption is that the game is so complex that some things slipped through. Examples include the (Spoiler - click to show)hype can in the second quests, which can get stuck in a state where most actions with it return no text at all; an uncapitalized standard response; the game telling you to look at (Spoiler - click to show)the shelf but there is no in-game object called that, etc. Besides that, I enjoyed this game a lot.


The Best Man, by Stephen Bond

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
A glimpse into the mind of a 'nice guy', October 17, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

I know Stephen Bond entirely from his two earlier games:
-Rameses (from IFComp 2000), a popular and influential but controversial parser game about a young Irish teenager which was notable for not allowing the player any real agency, and
-The Cabal (from 2004) a joke game about how all of IF is run by a secret cabal that decides who's in and who's out.

I assume it's the same Stephen Bond, unless there are two Stephen Bonds writing interactive fiction stories about unappealing young Irish IF protagonists and agency.

This game combines a main storyline (from the viewpoint of Aiden, a young man) as well as numerous other snippets from the personal lives of bystanders, which kind of gave me a Spoon River Anthology vibe.

Aiden is consumed with love for for a girl named Laura, and has been for a long time as one of her friends. While they have an actual friendship, he spends most of his time imagining a happier future or a potential deeper love. Unfortunately, Laura is marrying another man. Today, in fact; and you've just been asked to be the best man at the wedding.

The gameplay feels pretty linear, although that's a bit belied by the complex web of Twine code you can see if you open it up in Twinery. There are numerous changes of viewpoint with corresponding changes in text color, a couple of images and some digital music sequenced from real songs.

This game falls in the category of 'very accurate representations of insufferable people', kind of like Savoir-Faire or the original Rameses. Aiden's mentality is that of a classic 'nice guy', and the ending suggests (Spoiler - click to show)that Aiden becomes involved in a bigger community, possibly incels or red-pilled stuff or MRAs.

I find Aiden understandable. I think Bond has done a good job of taking regular human weaknesses and amplifying them to a high level. Who hasn't had a crush in high school or on a distant celebrity that was unrealistic? But those come and go. This is a story about an enduring obsession, and that's what makes it more chilling.

I find this game polished, descriptive, and it had emotional impact for me. The level of interactivity worked for me for this specific story (with the different perspectives adding another layer of richness), but somehow the whole thing never completely gelled for me into a complete experience in a way that's hard to pin down.


BLK MTN, by Laura Paul

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A surreal exploration of history and the present, October 14, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

I had trouble grasping this game as a whole, perhaps due to tiredness or picking unusual branches.

From what I can gather, it's a branching Twine game where you travel around the South, contemplating life in an almost dream-like way while also experiencing bits of the Civil War and the historical, experimntal university Black Mountain College.

In presentation, it is the standard blue-on-black Twine with no fancy features. It uses both text-replace links and normal, new-screen hyperlinks and doesn't distinguish between them, so it can be confusing at times. The Twine games of Hannah Powell-Smith are good examples of how to differentiate between different links effectively.

I'm always sympathetic to surreal, trippy games, like Harmonic Time Bind Ritual Symphony (recreating the author's real-life mental break) or drug trip games (like the excellent Blue Chairs), as it presents a view of life I'm not used to. This game was hard to pin down, though, and I feel like I definitly missed something important. Feel free to comment if you've found a deeper layer to the game.


Goat Game, by Kathryn Li

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
Beautifully illustrated game about a goat considering a career change, October 12, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This is a Twine game which can be completed relatively quickly (around 30 minutes, much faster if clicking fast). It has 15 different endings depending on 3 different statistics that change throughout the game.

You play as a goat who works at a laboratory doing research on a mysterious substance. There is an accident, and you have to decide how you feel about work and what you want to do with your life.

I played through to all 15 endings, though the text of the middle game doesn't change much from playthrough to playthrough (there are about 2-3 variations for each section, so you'll see them all multiple times by the end).

The art is really lovely, it was the high point of the game for me.

Where Goat Game succeeds the most, to me, is in making a high-quality, smooth and bug free experience for the player where they can get absorbed into a story about an alternate world.

Where Goat Game falls short, to me, is in agency and plotting. The player character never really acts; everything is a reaction, except the final choice. Questions are all about how we feel, or how we respond to the actions of others. I would have wanted more chances to act independently of others.

Plotwise, there are many Checkhov's guns that never fire. There is a lot of worldbuilding here that just never goes anywhere. Like another reviewer said, the fact that these are goats is essentially immaterial; you could change a few details in the game and it would be the same. Similarly, you could change the dangerous magical substance to any kind of workplace safety issue and get the same feeling.

Finding all endings can be tough. I stalled out after 8, and ended up looking at the source for tips. The system is actually really clean and nice; if you want to see all endings and are really stuck, here is a complete breakdown (major spoilers:)(Spoiler - click to show) there are only 3 real choices in the midgame, each one raising one of the 3 main stats. The choices are the 'i like working/living/don't like living here', 'don't acquire secrets/sign petition/don't sign petition', and 'defend/criticize/decline'. Your final stats fall into one of 7 categories: tied stats, a value of 3 in a single stat, and any combination of 2 stats>0 and 1 stat=0. Each of these 7 cases has 2 endings depending on whether you leave or stay.


Recon, by Carlos

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A science fiction twine game with unique puzzles, October 7, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This is a game originally written Spanish and translated for the competition.

You play as a kind of rebel against an all-powerful corporation called Faro.

Gameplay proceeds through several puzzles, including interrogation, reasoning puzzles, and at least one that I've never seen before (entering Hack's house, a puzzle that required me to (Spoiler - click to show)adjust my computer settings).

The puzzles are pretty tricky; I frequently looked at the answers in the code. One puzzle require clicking on a moving link; I ended up (Spoiler - click to show) highlighting with tab and then hitting enter.

The translation is not idiomatic. In addition, some words are not translated at all (Continuar for continue, for instanc, or the 3 meters for the Mind scan). The story has interesting characters, but I don't believe it has the backstory and/or continuity for us to care a lot about them. All of these are normal problems for writers that usually get easier with more and more practice, so I look forward to any future games.

Programming-wise the game is very sophisticated.

-Polish: The game text could be polished more.
+Descriptiveness: The writing is very descriptive
-Interactivity: I felt like some of the puzzles were unfair.
-Emotional Impact: I think if some of the other problems were fixed I would have a better connection with the game emotionally.
+Would I play it again? Yes, if it was updated!


Starbreakers, by E. Joyce and N. Cormier

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A bunch of logic-type puzzles in one big Twine game, October 6, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This, like Retrocon 2021, another entry in this year's IFComp, is a collection of puzzles thrown into one big story.

However, this game has much more story, including a large overarching mystery in the 'wrapper' story around this game.

The puzzles are mostly traditional ones (like having 3 different-sized measuring cups and trying to get a specific value, or a slightly faster than usual Rings of Hanoi, a crossword, a wordsearch, etc.).

Each puzzle has a story associated to it. If you die by making wrong choices or running out of time (in Normal mode, there is sometimes a timer, while in Easy mode there is not), then you get the same puzzle but with a different story.

The very first puzzle is a bit weird (it is logical, but not a 'classic puzzle') like the others. Once you get past it the rest should be more familiar.

I thought that was pretty cool. I never became super invested in the ever-changing characters and the puzzles were mostly ones where the solutions are known, but I had fun doing it.

+Polish: Very polished.
+Descriptive: Yes, especially the changing settings
+Interactivity: At least there were no cryptograms or (at least for me) real Towers of Hanoi. What was there was frequently fun.
-Emotional Impact: Didn't get invested.
-Would I play again? It was fun, but I'm not sure how much replay value there is.

I really think this game is a 3.5, and would round up to 4 to be nice, but E. Joyce has already made many incredible games, so I'll point to those instead. Check out "Lady Thalia and the Seraskier Sapphires" (also co-written by N. Cormier) or "Social Lycanthropy Disorder", especially, because those are really fun!


Unfortunate, by Jess Elizabeth Reed

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A complex and vivid parser game with active NPCs but parser hangups, October 6, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This is a game with solid writing and design but shaky implementation, what one would expect from someone with a good writing background that is just now breaking into Inform 7. On Twitter I see that the author is an MFA student in game design, and the game's ABOUT text says it's a demonstration game, so that would all check out.

You play as a young would-be fortune teller in the house of a professional fortune teller. They dare you to tell the fortune of everyone in the house correctly.

There are 7 people in the house, and you can assign each of them 3 different fortunes.

Once you've done so, after a certain amount of time, they start interacting with each other, and after a certain time limit is reached, the game automatically ends and you are evaluated on how accurate your fortunes are.

Conversation works well in this game. But the complex scene-changing machinery is problematic. At one point I was in the closet and saw dramatic happenings in the room, with somebody storming out. Then I left the closet and the room, and saw the exact same scene, this time from outside the room.

More egregiously, on multiple playthroughs, after the first cutscene, I tried talking to Lux and then became stuck in the kitchen, with no way to leave. Any attempt to exit resulted in no text at all.

I wasn't able to determine if any actions you take besides fortune telling matter. It seems like it might; there are a few random objects scattered about. But with the bugs it's kind of hard to tell.

This game is far better than most projects made for MFA or BA degrees in game design (although there was a really nice Choicescript one recently). No testers are credited, and I think that having several more testers would have really pushed this to 'excellent' territory.


Codex Sadistica: A Heavy-Metal Minigame, by grave snail games

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
A heavy metal parser puzzler with colors and a couple rough patches, October 5, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This was a genuinely fun game. You are part of a heavy metal band whose set is being taken over by a glamrock band. You have to assemble your band together, but each is distracted and can't come help you.

After some initial exploration, you gain the power to JAM with the other members of your band, which lets you cause interesting effects. Jamming with 2 people at a time provides more effects, leading to about 10 jam powers all together.

The writing is snappy and fun, the colors are cool, and the mechanics are interesting.

The only real downsides are (for me), a lot of profanity (in line with metal fans, though) and a lot of missing synonyms and alternate solutions. I kept trying things like RIP SHIRT or SURF CROWD or UNPLUG SWITCH or TAKE SWITCH and getting error messages, when it seems like these things ought to have been implemented. The game is very smooth in other areas and had testers, so I guess I'd just recommend in the future piling on even more testers and implementing everything they try in a transcript. I think this game is already great, but I think it could be pushed to 'completely awesome' territory by such efforts. I definitely hope to see more games by this author in the future, because they have a real talent for writing and mechanics.


RetroCON 2021, by Sir Slice

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A bunch of mini games wrapped up in Twine, October 5, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game is unapologetically just a bunch of mini games wrapped up in Twine with an ultrathin story applied.

The minigames include:

-A slot machine with fruit graphics and some animation
-A poker draw game
-Keno
-Horse Racing
-A football game
-A zombie-shooting card game
-A short custom-parser text adventure.

Each of the games worked pretty well, and some of them were pretty fun. All are based on RNG except the text adventure. The text adventure has a pretty basic parser (which has a tendency to insult you) and is of the classic 'my dead male relative's house' style, with each room lovingly recreated.

+Polish: Very smooth. The parser isn't awesome compared to dedicated parser languages but impressive for Twine
+Descriptiveness: It was easy to see what was going on usually
+Interactiviy: Most games worked well for me.
-Emotional impact: I felt distanced emotionally from my character and the games
-Would I play again? It was interesting, but I don't think I'll be revisiting.


Finding Light, by Abigail Jazwiec

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A parser game about a magical fox-human, October 5, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This is a fantasy parser game where you play as a human/fox creature that can switch between forms at will. You are a guardian to a young human who has been captured and you have to rescue him.

Gameplay is centered on switching between forms to your advantage. This is done very well: your animal form can speak with other animals, has heightened senses and can fit into tight places, while your human form is stronger and can use tools.

The parser could use some work, and the opening scene is where it struggles the most. Going up or down gives a blank message, and trying to apply the bandages is really rough when it comes to guessing synonyms (things like PUT BANDAGES ON ____ don't work).

The cast of characters is described well, although the raiders stick out as weird (they use strong profanity, where the rest of the game is more at a YA level, and they seem fairly dumb). The animal characters are great.


we, the remainder, by Charm Cochran

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Surreal horror game with religious themes in a compound, October 4, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game features a hungry young protagonist in a wheelchair that explores a large world in Twine.

This game is very location-and-inventory based, with a large map (including an actual in-game map at one point) and several lock and key puzzles.

Gameplay consists of exploration, with special optional memories unlocked while a larger main storyline plays out.

Stylistically, it leaves many words uncapitalized and switches to different colors to signify different themes.

The story is a surreal religious horror where it's difficult to know what is real and what isn't. There is a large amount of imagery taken directly from the book of Revelations, and much of gameplay revolves around the fact that you are someone in a cult.

Overall, I found the surreal religious imagery to be effective. Many of the parts about wheelchair use seemed realistic based off of my experience with living with a wheelchair user for almost a decade (except getting through farmland!).

I appreciate the author leaving a lot up to imagination, using nuance and hiding behind symbolic imagery.

-Polish: There were noticeable typos. Everything else was great.
+Interactivity: The world map and the puzzles felt good.
+Descriptiveness: Very vivid writing, some of the most descriptive I've seen this comp.
+Emotional impact: I'm really into this stuff. It doesn't represent my worldview (I have a more hopeful interpretation of Revelations) but it lies in the intersection of my interests.
-Would I play again? It was pretty dark and I felt like I understood the message I was going to get, so I'm not sure I'll revisit.


The TURING Test, by Justin Fanzo

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A classic-style Twine game about creating and detecting robots, October 4, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game feels like it would fit well in the early era of Twine. It's standard white text on black with blue hyperlinks, uses a couple text animations and has a standard branch and bottleneck structure with a sci fi or fantasy genre.

I like a lot of games like that (like Hunting Unicorn, for instance). This one turned out pretty well.

You play as a participant in creating sentient robots. You undergo questioning similar to a Turing test with your answers fed into the programming for a field of robots.

Later on, you encounter those robots, and must at a crucial moment conduct a Turing test.

I felt engaged with the story, and thought that the characters were vividly described. I felt like my choices mattered. I do think the game could use a little more polish, like a title screen or custom CSS or even some more callbacks to earlier choices. And while I liked it I don't think I'd replay it.


Second Wind, by Matthew Warner

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A post-apocalyptic game about helping a baby's birth, October 3, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

I enjoyed Matthew Warner's last IFComp game, Tombs and Mummies, but I think this represents a substantial upgrade. The author makes excellent use of the Adventuron engine here and I had little trouble with the parser itself.

You play as a man in a shelter that survivors of two apocalypses have constructed. Outside roam the infected weremen. Inside, your wife is about to have a baby, but she needs a c-section, and the only person who can help you is someone not likely to want to do so.

This game is Cruel on the Zarfian scale. It is very easy to unknowingly lock yourself out of victory. It also includes some randomized combat, although there are ways to fix anything that goes wrong.

There is a timer going on, so you can't dilly-dally too long.

A lot of puzzles have a riddle-like or crowssword-puzzle-like quality, like unscrambling words, remembering famous pop-culture numbers, or navigating a maze.

I beat about 60% of the game, but I had missed a major component early on and couldn't figure out why I always ran out of time. The walkthrough helped me through that.

Once you know the codes replay is faster, so it's not too bad to retry if you die.

Overall:
+Polish: Very smooth. This is Adventuron at its best implementation-wise, I think.
+Descriptiveness: It was very descriptive.
-Interactivity: I like the game, but fiddling with the doors and equipment and doing the unscrambling puzzle weren't really my cup of tea (although the unscrambled messages were funny!)
+Emotional impact: I think the game may overreach at times in the emotional effect it's going for, by relying on a selfless choice as the main thrust but requiring that selfless choice to proceed. Still, I found the story interesting.
+Would I play again? Yes, after I've had some time to forget the puzzles.


The Spirit Within Us, by Alessandro Ielo

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
A custom executable game about pedophilia and violence, October 3, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

I'll be frank and say that I don't enjoy playing games about pedophilia in any way; I don't find them fun, and I have yet to play one I find enlightening. I think that games can and should treat difficult and heavy topics, but for me playing game about pedophilia is like reading a coffee-table book full of high-quality illustrations of feces. My apologies to authors who have attempted to treat this topic in a sincere and thoughtful way.

Anyway, this is a custom parser game where you explore a house and try to recover your memories. You wake up weak and bleeding, with a health counter that slowly decreases until you die.

The storyline centers around pedophilia, with texts by de Sade and inappropriate photos (described in vague text terms only) to be found. There are also several weapons to find.

The game isn't too big. I wandered around for a while before trying the walkthrough, and found that I had seen about 50% of the game already. The walkthrough itself contains many unnecessary but interesting commands, such as looking at every wall in every room and trying to go in wrong directions in most rooms. These commands are in the walkthrough because the author has implemented custom text for much of them.

The parser is pretty good, but I miss being able to use pronouns, since you must take an object before looking at it and it would be easier to type "take paper; x it" instead of "take paper; x paper". Some synonyms would be appreciated, like 'turn on car' instead of 'turn on engine'.

Overall, this game is solidly in the simulated realism camp of parser implementation, with a wound/hunger timer, lots of red herrings and random scenery, randomized combat, etc. There are multiple endings, of which I found 3 (although 1 of them just ended the game immediately, so I don't think it was a real ending. This was (Spoiler - click to show)driving away before discovering the truth.).

My overall rating:
-Polish: more synonyms would work well, I think. There are very few typos, but some of them are noticeable.
+Descriptiveness: The game is very vividly described.
-Interactivity: Finding the objects of importance often meant looking at things that are not described, such as walls or floor.
+Emotional impact: The impact was negative, but it did provoke strong emotion.
-Would I play again? I tried a couple of endings, but I don't plan on looking again.

I would have given 3/5 if the subject had been different.


The Belinsky Conundrum, by Sam Ursu

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
A Facebook messenger game about a cyborg spy thriller, October 2, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game is played on Facebook messenger, and requires you to be logged into Facebook to play it.

This is a choice-based comedy spy thriller. Most choices are out of three options.

The story is set in a future where everyone is controlled by a PLUS chip, especially you, an Enhanced cyborg, the first of your kind and the number one assassin for the United States government. You are asked to assassinate a man and his 2 young children to preserve the current regime.

This heavy story contrasts with the goofy and often mean-spirited writing. Your choices are often reactions like 'OMG?' or 'This is nuts', etc. Your character frequently insults each other and seems to have problems with women. There are several errors (such as a character whose name changes from Roosk to Roost and back), and characters often seem to change motivation or personality without warning.

Overall:
-Polish: The new system is very impressive, but the game itself could use some more editing.
+Descriptiveness: The author is good at vivid descriptions.
+Interactivity: At first I felt like almost all choices were meaningless, but some later on seemed definitely to matter. Whether or not it's true it was good at making me feel like it was true.
-Emotional impact: I tried to get invested in the story but the stakes and goals frequently change. Our character is a jerk, and I've realized that, while many people like playing as a villain, few like jerks, and the difference is that well-written villains have strong motivations for their evil actions, while jerks go out of their way to cause harm for no benefit to themselves.
-Would I play again? The somewhat slow performance of facebook messenger and the difficulty with backtracking or saving, combined with the length of the game means that I don't plan on replaying.


Return to the Stars, by Adrian Welcker

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A science fiction prison break game, August 2, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game is the author's first game, which is surprising considering the level of detail and programming in the game, although there are a few bugs.

This game features a prison break from an alien base. For some reason (never explained in-game), your captors disappear and you have to shut everything down.

The puzzles are a mixed bag. A lot make sense, a lot are fun, sometimes the two groups aren't the same (I enjoyed a language code puzzle that had simple, nearby hints involving interaction, but later everything was in English). Occasionally solutions seemed really obscure.

The coding needed a bit more synonyms. For instance, late in the game there are buttons that have names, but saying PUSH [Button name] doesn't work. Instead, you have to say the action that they perform (this example isn't in the game, but it would be like having a button saying lights where 'push lights button' doesn't work but 'turn on lights' does). A couple of other inconsistencies with synonyms was probably the major fault of the game.

Story-wise, I feel like it omitted some major features, but what's here is okay. It has some pretty strong gore at one point.

As a game, it's okay. As an author's first game, it's much better than most, and I'd expect the now-experienced author to be capable of making very good games in the future.


The Arkham Abomination, by catventure

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A windows parser Lovecraftian game with compact story, August 1, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game is an interesting mix of skill and rough edges. I'm going to review it on my five-criteria scale:

-Polish: The game could use a bit more polish, especially in the area of synonyms and responses. A lot of art is in error responses, to guide you towards the correct phrasing. I was told repeatedly I couldn't (Spoiler - click to show)tie a vine to different things, only later to find that I had to call it (Spoiler - click to show)a creeper, not a vine. That's not so odd, but the error messages all implied that the problem was the action, not the noun. There are similar issues later on, with a lot of people having trouble with the final actions of the game.
+Descriptiveness: The game is lushly descriptive. I could quite clearly picture everything in the game outside of the mazes.
-Interactivity: The frustrations of the parser took this one down for me. Otherwise it's honestly not bad. There are mazes and combinations but they're all solved easily for you. The better parts of the interactivity are all the little hidden details that reward your actions. The worse parts are instant deaths with no undo :(
+Emotional impact: Despite the many frustrations, I'm a fan of Lovecraftian horror, and I thought the core of this was well done.
-Would I play again? Not until it's souped up a bit more.


Acid Rain, by Garry Francis

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
A fastidious timed puzzle about assembling electrical components, August 1, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game has you stuck at the side of the road with a dead battery in the middle of some deadly acid rain. You'll end up searching a mansion with a timed light puzzle and inventory limits to assemble a door opener.

The game is polished, but descriptions are fairly sparse.

The timed light puzzle, many empty rooms and inventory limits, as well as frequent responses where the game knows what you are asking but wants you to do it in more steps (like turning on the car) reminded me of different advice I've seen over the last few decades.

I'll share some of that here:

From a list of rules for games in IFComp by Jessica Knoch, with additional commentary by Andrew Plotkin from 2003:
"> Rule Three: Do not impose an inventory limit for its own sake.
> Rule Four: Do not include hunger or sleep puzzles.
> Rule Five: Check your spelling. Check it again.

All just as true outside the IFComp.

> Rule Nine: Do not include lots of empty locations.

Important for everybody."

Jan Thorsby's list of 'things that cause automatic playing' from 2005:

"List of things that causes automatic playing
By automatic playing I mean when a player types in commands more or less
automatically without thinking much. None of the things listed is necessary
always bad, and there are probably instances when they don't really lead to
automatic playing.
[...]

2. Many rooms

Traveling between rooms doesn't take much thinking, and the more rooms the
more traveling.

[...]


7. Time limits/eating puzzle

If a game has a time limit and the player is unable to keep it, the player
is likely to play the game again and just type in all the commands over
again minus the useless ones. A time limit that last through a large part of
the game is more likely to be annoying than a time limit for just for one
scene of the game. An eating puzzle is when the player dies if he does not
eat after a certain amount of turns. It is in effect a time limit.

[...]

11. Limited carrying capacity

Some games have a limit on how mange objects a player can carry. This often
leads to the player going back and forth a lot to pick up things he had
previously left behind. In many games it also leads to the game potentially
being made unwinnable, because the player may not have a vital object when
needed.

12. Having to type more commands than should be required to show ones
intention

For instance say there is a closed door to the north. If the player types
"north" it is fairly clear that he intends to open the door and go north.
But the game may not let him go north until he has first typed "open door".
Machinery is often needlessly complicated to operate.

[...]

14. Very easy puzzles

A very easy puzzle can be things like: unlock a locked door, buy something
in a store or give an object to a person who has asked for such an object.
These easy puzzles can be important to a story but are arguably useless from
a gaming point of view. If they are not important to the story one might
consider eliminating them.
[...]"

An intfiction thread including this quote from Michael Roberts from 2010:

"A word of caution on these is in order. Many authors worry that itís unrealistic if the player character can carry too much at one time, so theyíll fiddle with these properties to impose a carrying limit that seems realistic. Be advised that authors love this sort of ďrealismĒ a whole lot more than players do. [Ö] Donít fool yourself about this -the thoughts in the mind of a player whoís tediously carting objects back and forth three at a time will not include admiration of your prowess at simulational realism. In contrast, if you set the carrying limit to infinity, itís a rare player who will even notice, and a much rarer player whoíll complain about it."


willow blossoms, by Meg Sharp

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

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

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

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

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


Captain Cutter's Treasure, by Garry Francis

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A compact pirate puzzle game, May 9, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game is part of the PunyInform competition. It's fairly polished, and features an quest to go looking for pirate treasure.

In the tradition of classic adventure games, the puzzles don't really make much sense, but they're fun. One involves a 2d block pushing puzzle (easier than the infamous Royal Puzzle from Zork III, but generally similar), and there are some math and logic puzzles.

The game has two endings, one easy to achieve and another harder. The game eschews walkthroughs and hints, but I decompiled the game to find the 'good' ending, which is significantly harder.

The largest negative in the game is the pedantry. Very frequently the game knows exactly what you want to do but forces you to phrase yourself a different way.

Examples include:

">UNLOCK BOX

I think you wanted to say ďunlock wooden box with somethingĒ. Please try again."

and

">ROW
I think you wanted to say ďrow somethingĒ. Please try again."

A particularly egregious example (spoilers for the 'good ending'):

(Spoiler - click to show)
> lock chest
I think you wanted to say ďlock treasure chest with somethingĒ. Please try again

> lock chest with golden key
Sorry, I donít understand what ďgoldenĒ means.

> lock chest with gold key
First youíd have to close the treasure chest.

> close chest
You close the treasure chest.


This is the equivalent of eating at a restaurant but the chef occasionally grabs your hands to make you move your knife to the other side or to drop your salad fork and take your regular one, to ensure that you are eating the meal in the proper way.

Overall, I think this will please people who primarily look for IF to have fun scenarios and puzzles that aren't immediately solvable but are fair.


A Mummy is Not an Antique, by Randy Cordon

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A humorous mummy game with some repetitiveness, May 9, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

I purchased this game on my own recently because I wanted to explore the less-played games on the Hosted Games app on my iPhone. This game was the least-rated one on there, with 3 ratings since 2018.

I was expecting something much worse, to be honest, but it looks like Hosted Games' requirement for a public beta test ironed out a lot of problems that you might see in, for instance, the least-played IFComp games. I found no bugs and only one grammatical error ('would of' instead of 'would have').

Storywise, you are a host for an antique appraisal show when someone comes in with a mummy to get appraised. A horde of people come in chasing the mummy, including someone with a scroll that brings it to life. The majority of the game involves trying to stop the mummy with the scroll.

+Polish: No problems with the game.
-Descriptiveness: A lot of it feels bland. I have trouble picturing any of the characters.
-Interactivity: A lot of the choices are the same.
-Emotional impact: The jokes mostly didn't land for me.
+Would I play again? Honestly, yes, it was a pleasant way to pass a short amount of time.

For me, the game felt pretty flat. Characters are generally indistinguishable, with everyone's personality being 'kind of selfish and likes to make witty remarks'. Most scenes are the same: you try to take the scroll and someone stops you. Most of your choices are the same throughout the game, either 'pick one of these punchlines for the author's jokes' or 'keep filming/help someone off-camera'. I think this kind of general ambiguity is the main thing that decreased my overall enjoyment.

I still finished and it definitely wasn't terrible, and took me around an hour (would have been 30 minutes if I read quicker). Overall, I'm definitely pleased by the quality of the least-played Hosted Games, especially since my own game is one of the least-played Choice of Games.


Dungeons of Antur, by Ricardo Oyon Rodriguez

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A dungeon crawl with randomized loot and monsters, May 2, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game was pretty fun, although I think it could use a bit more hints or subtle nudges for incorrect actions.

It's made using pre-existing 3d RPG assets, including chests, goblins, skeletons and spiders. These form static background images for an adventuron game.

This is like a little AD&D 1st edition dungeon as a warrior, with randomized loot. You explore different areas, find hidden traps, etc.

I thought this game was too hard for me, but I found that carefully noting all items and examining things helped quite a bit.

The game suggests there are non-violent solutions to some encounters, but I fought through most of them, including the werewolf, where I had to restart the game a few times until I found both helmet and armor. Apparently I missed one secret room (probably the one hinted in the note), but otherwise did okay.

I would have been a bit less frustrated if the game had hinted more when I was doing things the wrong way. Otherwise, pretty fun if you like TTRPG fantasy modules.


Sunny's Summer Vacation, by Lucas C. Wheeler

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A prototype for a summer fun game about dogs and divorce, April 17, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

In this game, you play as a corgi who comforts a girl on a summer vacation with one parent soon after a divorce.

There are many minigames you play over 8 days, building up seashells to upgrade your shanty.

Each day you sleep you get more story, with one interaction per story segment.

There are a lot of games implemented, but most of them are somewhat confusing for now or simple, and I think that's what's going to be tweaked later on.

The story is sweet but doesn't have real emotional stakes, in a way. Tension only builds during the 'sleep' scenes but could benefit more from significant changes in the game world over time. As a reader, we know the girl will be sad, then come to accept the divorce, so it would be interesting to have some extra tension as well through a side story, maybe one the parallels the main story.


Some Space, by rittermi

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
An alien puzzle game with codes and racial dynamics, April 16, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game is about you, recently immigrated to an alien planet, learning to handle the customs since everyone speaks in 'puzzlespeak'.

In reality, this means the game has three different threads: one about your emotional life, one about the political and racial situation on the world, and one where you solve puzzles.

I like puzzles, crosswords, cryptograms, etc. but I wasn't feeling some of these puzzles. Like a beta tester recently said about a game of mine, some of the puzzles are obviously telegraphed and some aren't communicated very much at all. I left 3 or 4 of the puzzles unsolved, such as the ascii one and one that seemed cryptographic but had some kind of twist that I couldn't figure out. Others may have more success than I did!

Storywise, I liked the friends subplot. I thought the racism subplot was a mystery story, not realizing it was just straight-up racism. And the mom plot seemed kind of disconnected from everything.

The game has a couple of built-in failures, which I think is tricky in a game like this. Specifically, there are times when solving the puzzles prevents social embarassment, but there are times when you experience it no matter what due to your character's (not the player's) failures, and I think that's not a good design strategy. That only occurs rarely, though.


Wintervale, by Ethan Erh

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Fantasy worldbuilding and surreal occurrences, April 15, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game has some great ideas but needs some polish.

In it, you play a tavernkeep in an inn inside a city built inside of a giant hill of ice that is the lair of a now-dead ice dragon. The game opens with a big chunk of encyclopedia-style worldbuilding that is optional. Amusingly, the links you click comment on how exciting and cool the worldbuilding is.

In the game itself, you repeatedly explore a tavern and talk to NPCs with varying results every time. As you do so, you uncover more and more of a mystery.

I love mysteries, fantasy, and surreal things, so this game has a lot going for it. But there are quite a few typos, occasionally raw twine code (I saw 'if(0>0' somewhere), and there was never a real payoff for all the random things. Some of it paid off, but most of the interesting parts of the game seemed to just have no meaning by the end. I wonder if multiple endings could have been better.

Overall, though, I love the concepts, but I think the execution needs work.


[PYG]MALION*, by C.J.

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
A murder mystery in a fantasy dimension, April 12, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
A graphical game packed with tons of endings, April 11, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Bee, by Emily Short

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A long choice game about life as a home-schooled child, April 4, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

I had mixed reactions to Bee by Emily Short, most of which were favorable. I compared this game in my mind to Bigger Than You Think by Plotkin, which is another choice game by a famous parser author.

The game is in a completely real-life setting. You play a homeschooled child over three years or more as they prepare for the national spelling bee. Time is organized in months. Each month, you can choose from a variety of activities usually three), and within each activity, you can control your reactions to events and sometimes some big choices.

The game allows quite a variety of choices; the first time I played, I practiced my butt off for the finals. The second time I played, I goofed off as much as possible.

The game was enjoyable; as someone who entered competitions like this as a kid, it was fun to study for the test and get competitive. The interactions with neighbors were fun, too.

But the game got pretty monotonous, perhaps because I tried to be so focused each time. 36 months, with multiple actions a month, makes for a long game, and there was not enough material to fill it all up. Instead, many scenarios were repeated five times or more.


Choice of the Pirate, by Alana Joli Abbott

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
The simple pleasures of pirating, March 19, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

Alana Joli Abbott is a prolific Choice of Games author, having written Choice of Kung Fu (a very good game), Showdown at Willow Creek (very short but fun), and Blackstone Academy for the Magical Arts, which I felt had good ideas but less exciting execution.

Also, I had previously played another pirate game (by a different author) from choice of games, "7th Sea: A Pirate's Pact", which I thought was fun but that didn't highlight the exciting parts.

This game, for me, improves on Abbott's other games and on the other pirate game, because it's fun. It highlights all the best parts about the pirate life. We get ghost ships, flamboyant and treacherous captains, refined but insidious Crown operatives, sea monsters, owning a fleet, getting a hook for a hand, etc. Very little time is spent on the trivial or boring.

The stats are great, too. They're clear to understand, you have many opportunities to increase them, and they're clearly differentiated early on.

There are some things I didn't like too much. I tried to get a haunted ship at the beginning, but failed too many checks in a row and lost miserably. But the game handled it with optimism and reassured me as the player that things would be okay despite my setback, and that gave me the confidence to keep playing without retrying.

I'm not sure exactly how much branching there is; the way it's written and the wordcount given makes me think you largely experience the same set of events each playthrough, but the game offers you a lot of freedom in your intent. And there is definitely some branching; I completed the entire game without finding the identity of one of the people in the relationship bars (probably because I refused to work with the Crown at all).

Overall, lots of fun, can recommend.


Showdown at Willow Creek, by Alana Joli Abbott

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A grab-bag of investigation, outlaws, Ute indians and science, March 18, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This is one of the shortest choicescript games sold by Choice of Games. Coincidentally, at 72,000 words, it's longer than any parser game I've written. But in the world of choicescript games, it's fairly slight.

But it uses that time better than most short games. You have a variety of stats that are clearly differentiated from each other during the first chapter, different factions to support against each other, a resource (money) that can be used for many things, etc. There also is a play between supporting science and supporting the wild countryside.

But each thread is somewhat underdeveloped. You play as a sort of private investigator with a single case: finding a missing young woman. This case will take you to the houses of the rich and poor and to the Ute indians, which seem to have been researched fairly well (at least, the relationship between them and the settlers is similar to what I've seen in histories from that time and area).

There's only one case, and romance options only have a few opportunities to interact with them. Your overarching goal evolves a lot in a few short chapters, making the game lose focus.

Of all the < 100K games, though, I'd put this down as one of the best, along with Choice of the Dragon and Choice of Broadsides. I just think that a length between about 200K-400K would have allowed more space to to develop the core ideas.

The one other thing that keeps me from completely recommending it is that the game frequently puts you in spots where you have to pick between using stat A, using stat B, and running away; since there are several stats, this means you often just have no luck.


The Daring Mermaid Expedition, by Andrea Phillips

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A brief and fragmented journey to discover mermaids, March 17, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game is well-written on the line-by-line level or even scene-by-scene but doesn't know what it wants to be. It starts out seeming like a promising kid's fantasy, then changes to a bit older (you're told that all the patrons at the science society are hot and get divorced all the time because of it), then into more slapstick comedy, with some magical adventure thrown in.

The main thrust of the game is that you saw mermaids as a child and want to join the Marinological Society to study them when you are grown. You need to pick a patron to support you (and the game informs you that patrons are often romantic partners), then you go to the island to look for evidence of mermaids.

Parts of it were actually pretty great and/or funny, while other parts were a bit more weird. Instead of skills you have only opposed stats, and once you pick a patron if you want to please them it determines a lot of the choices you have to make.

There were some big choices to make near the end, and I ended up alone and sad, but at least I kept my promises.


Choice of the Rock Star, by Jonathan Zimmerman

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
On the shorter end for Choicescript, , March 17, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This one was hard to review: didn't like it at first, liked it a lot more near the end, but not sure about it overall. So I'm going over my 5 point scale in hope it helps me.

+Polished: I didn't find any bugs or typos, which is normal for Choice of Games.
+Descriptive: The game was certainly descriptive and vibrant.
+Interactivity: There were a lot of options to fiddle around with: your sound, your relationship with your frequently-annoying brother, whether to sign with a record label or not, going solo. The ending was somewhat abrupt but fit in with the rest of the story.

Some people have pointed out that a few key points are forced on you. In one very late game move (involving relationships) (Spoiler - click to show)you find yourself in a relationship with a famous artsy person. This wasn't a problem for me, as I was pretending to be Paul MCcartney the whole game, playing bass etc., so I was fine dating 'Yoko' and splitting up the band by going solo. I suspect that a lot of the choices I made worked out for me because it was the 'ordained path'. A lot of the reports I had heard from other people seem to confirm that (for instance, the game seems to favor your brother).

+Emotional impact: I had fun. I disliked it at first but grew to like it.

-Would I play again? I feel content with my choices, and it doesn't seem like there's a lot of wiggle room, so I'm not sure I'll revisit this one.


HMS Foraker, by Paul Wang

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A brief nugget of nautical military history retold, March 16, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game has a little bit of history, much of which I don't know. It's a sequel to the original Choice of Broadsides, a navy battle game, but by a different author, Paul Wang, author of some games I enjoy quite a bit (mostly fighting games).

The original game was low in wordcount but long in feeling, spanning an entire career in the navy by having quick narration and choices that could affect months or years at a time.

This game is longer than the original but feels shorter. It is a 3-chapter game that essentially retells a specific part of history of the War of 1812, as described by the author at the end.

I believe it is related to the free games Zip! Speedster of Valiant City and Sky Pirates of Actorius as being commisioned by Choice of Games as shorter games to offer free on the omnibus app. I may be wrong there.

I think that the reason this game feels shorter is that it reads much like the intro to a longer game. Like I said in my review of Zip! Speedster, both games feel like instead of being constructed small from the get-go, it took a larger setup and shrunk it. There are very few possible changes to stats, and the plot arc seems to start slow and never really take off.

I saw a comment on Twitter by Dan Fabulich that suggested the timespan in-game can contribute to a feeling of length in a game, and I think that's true. This game takes place over a couple of months and covers the lead-up, action, and denouement of a single action.

In any case, the historicity was fascinating, but I don't feel this game succeeded in its 'small package' design. I do enjoy the author's writing quite a bit, though, and as a game free on the omnibus app and relatively short I feel that any fan of history should try this out.


Sixth Grade Detective, by Laura Hughes

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A charming and well-written episodic kid detective game, March 16, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game placed highly recently on an 'underrated choicescript game poll'. It's pretty easy to see why it placed highly and why it's underrated.

The strikes against it are it's size (it's in the bottom 20% in terms of size) and the fact that it is centered on younger kids (Choicescript games that appear to be for kids tend to sell less, including my own).

The good things are the writing, the stats, and the strategies.

Writing-wise, the game has an episodic structure (about 5 mystery cases) and a lot of freedom in how your character can approach them: greedy, secretive, friendly, etc. Each of the main characters seemed fully-fleshed out to me by the end. The finale seemed fairly abrupt, but it makes sense for a game that is more a string of episodes than anything else.

The stats were great. It was generally very clear which stats applied to what, how to raise them, and where you stood.

The game kept it interesting by strategizing. Staying secretive sometimes benefits everyone but sometimes keeps you from getting money or making certain friends. Similarly, having integrity locks you out of many options but feels good.

Some events had risks you could take with rewards or failures that were logical but unknown ahead of time. I like this better than randomness (from playing a random game earlier today), but it still provides some tension like randomness does.


The Fielderís Choice, by Nathaniel Edwards

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A career-spanning major league baseball game with randomization, March 16, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

One nice thing I've noticed through playing Choice of Games entries is that they're willing to take chances with games, leading to some nice results like Nebula-nominated games or niche works that appeal very strongly to specific people (like Cannonfire Concerto, for me).

This game, I think, is an example of an experiment that didn't work out too well. Specifically, it relies heavily on randomization. You can train in 5-6 different kinds of pitches like curveballs and fastballs, and then a big chunk of the game is you facing different hitters with you pitches. It lists the chance for each pitch of getting a strike, a 'ball', or them hitting it, and using the same pitch several times in a row makes the batter more likely to hit it.

I appreciate the idea but both gameplay and roleplay-wise I wasn't really feeling it. In general, I just chose the best strike option, although I realized near the end that choose the lowest 'in-play' option was a different strategy. But then much of the story ended up as a result of these randomized choices.

I don't think randomization is horrible, but most games that use randomization well are games that have frequent save points and involve repeating the same tasks over and over (like gambling mini-games, RPG combat grinding, etc.). In this game, with no save points and no second chances, it's rough, and that's playing as a 'power player' (the game's easy mode).

Outside of that, the game has a lot of threads towards interesting ideas but doesn't really pursue them in depth. I did enjoy the freedom to go to a completely different country for a chapter and playing on the moon was cool. The last few chapters have a focus on preparing for your life after baseball and that was by far my favorite part, as you strategize things that might hurt you in one area (like your friendships or future income) but help you in another. Very cool part.

I can't help but compare it to Slammed!, which for me did a better job with making a story about humans. Ironically, my character in Fielder's Choice was very analytical, and when I first tried out sports broadcasting I was told to back away from the stats and focus more on the human element, and I think that this game itself could probably benefit from that advice.

I received a review copy of this game.


Avatar Of The Wolf, by Bendi Barrett

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Determine the fate of animalistic deities, March 15, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This is a shorter Choicescript game from 2017. In it, you play as the avatar of the recently-dead god Wolf, in a pantheon shared with Spider, Gazelle, Eel, and Bear.

The game draws on mythology from several different cultures. It is fairly quick, but has several replay options.

Most of the game feels like a spiritual journey, like an ancient Odyssey. You constantly run into the avatars of the other gods, and you are essentially judged on which God you become the most like.

Simultaneously, you can choose to ally with a group of anti-God soldiers.

There are actually quite a few Choicescript games where you play as a powerful champion of the Gods and must decide whether serve them or destroy them (the most well-known being the aptly-named Champion of the Gods). I have to admit, it's a genre I'm a big fan of.

The stats in this game are communicated fairly well, although it can be hard to know when a stat is tested vs changed. There were some story threads I feel could have been deeper, but I feel that Avatar of the Wolf succeeded for me both as a story and as a game. It has the single-mindedness and simplicity that made me like Sword of the Slayer.


Welcome to Moreytown, by S. Andrew Swann

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Anthropomorphic animal game about a dystopian city, March 6, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This was a fun game, and I thought about giving it a 5, but it has a few issues. But it's not that bad, and if the subject matter interests you, I'd go for it.

In this game, there are 20,000,000 or more 'moreaus', or sentient creatures resembling mammals which are the result of genetic experimentation. They are second-class citizens.

You, an ordinary citizen, have a rude awakening when your building is bombed. You have to navigate between two gangs, the cops, the press, and a ton of people (both human and moreau) who are very attracted to you.

I enjoyed the game overall, but it does have its problems. Pacing is one of them. In the beginning of the game, a bomb goes off so you stand outside of your apartment. That event takes up 3 of the 10 chapters just by itself. There's just not a lot of meat to the chapters, with only 1 or 2 significant things happening in each (but with each event having a lot of detail).

The characters are both expressive and generic in a weird way. They were memorable and distinct in my mind, but don't really express themselves strongly about things and don't have much backstory.

The stat gains and checks are reasonable (although there seemed to be a lot of 'cunning' checks which isn't a listed stats) up until the end, where as others have said it gets really hard. I died, but the epilogue was just long enough to be satisfying, especially as my death fixed essentially every problem.

This game contains explicit sexual scenes, strong profanity, animal-type violence (all of those in moderation) and many mentions of both drug use and suicide.


Runt of the Litter, by Kelly Sandoval

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
This gryphon is pleasing but a little toothless, March 5, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

In this game, you play as a 'thrall' (a member of a servant caste) in a community where gryphon riders are trained for war against wrym riders.

One day, a gryphon mom rejects a small egg. You hatch it and raise it, which is against society rules.

Most of the game is about hiding and raising the gryphon, with a slightly smaller chunk involving the aftermath of being discovered.

The game has a very small number of stats for yourself (with several more once you get a gryphon), but manages to be fairly confusing with the stats. It's pretty hard to know which stats are being tested when.

The game itself is oddly toothless. It sets up some worldbuilding but doesn't do much with it. There is tension between 'thralls' and 'keepers', there is a war, but what is actually going on? Everything is so vague. Are you 12, or 16, or 24? (That may have been answered somewhere, but it's hard to tell). One second you can be what seems like a highschool kid, and another you can scare a guard by saying you've killed people. The wyrm riders are different from you, but how? Do they speak another language? Wear weird armor? You are in the wilderness for months. What does that do to you, mentally and physically?

Nothing really gets answered. And like other reviewers here and elsewhere have noted, there's not really a climax; you kind of wander around until the end, with the ending final scenes very similar to scenes from the middle of the game in terms of tension and result.

All that said, the best parts for me were the ones interacting with the griffin and training it. In that respect, this game reminded of The Last Monster Master, but with less systematic training and more individual personality.


Broadway: 1849, by Robert Davis

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A CS game based on real New York history with slow start but stronger finish, March 4, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game was pretty good overall, but had some sticking points.

You play as a Broadway theatre owner in 1849. You mingle with many historical figures such as Horace Greeley and Herman Melville.

The main challenges are to balance the demands of the people with the demands of the elite; to work with the mayor and the real government or the Know-Nothing gang; to befriend or destroy Hamblin, the rival theatre owner; discovering a supernatural mystery; deciding what kinds of plays to run; and handling romances.

I thought the opening chapter was fairly boring, but by the middle I was invested in the story and found it entertaining.

Stats were a mixed bag. It was very confusing telling the difference between acting and showmanship, between authority/negotiation/producing, between streetwise and notoriety.

The game very frequently forces you to make choices then pick why or how you do it; I was writing down every time it happened but it was too frequent. It's especially jarring since these forced choices can directly contradict your play method. For instance, (Spoiler - click to show)I worked with Ned Buntline and the gangs from the start, with no interest in the 'fancy' part of town. But the game forced me twice to confront Ned about things, and forced him once to attack me, despite us doing everything together and me keeping his secret. Similarly, you are forced to accept a possible spy into your midst, you are forced to rescue an attacked news person, etc. The effect of all of this was to feel a lot less in control of the story. Of course, it makes the overall narrative tighter since the author is in control of most things you do, but it was frustrating.

The stats are very meagre, as well. After the first chapter, I had only 3 skills which were above baseline, each by only a single boost for a total of 3 boosts. If I had chosen differently, I could have boosted only 2 skills with the other boost going to an opposed stat (which could later be erased by other choices). The author solved that by making essentially every choice in the game winnable if you have even a single boost in a stat, but made it more difficult by obfuscating which stat helps with what.

Overall, though, it was a positive story experience, and made me interested in early New York.


Zip! Speedster of Valiant City, by Eric Moser

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A mini version of an outsized hero story, March 1, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

I enjoyed playing the Heroes Rise trilogy by Eric Moser before [edit: it's been pointed out to me that Zachary Sergi, not Eric Moser, is the author of Heroes Rise; I would never have noticed without someone pointing it out!], so I was interested in seeing this game. I knew ahead of time that it's a 'mini' game, free on the omnibus apps. designed to be a bonus to whoever downloads those apps (together with another 'mini' story, Sky Pirates of Arctorus by Kyle Marquis).

Overall, I think this game is quick-paced, charming and fun. You play a super-fast hero who is getting old (sadly, their 'old age' is pretty much the age I am now) against an enemy called 'The Sloth'. You're married, but to a person who cheated on you, and there is another romantic option (but not one you are required to pursue). The other main things you can do are getting a shoe sponsor deal, running for mayor, or training your sidekick.

This game was good, but it felt like a regular 100K-200K story that had parts removed instead of being built for a smaller game. For instance, it has well-defined, clear stats and clever use of resources, but the opportunities to build and use those stats are limited, and there are quite a few (I think 6 major skills). Contrast this to the even-smaller Choice of the Dragon, with 2 major stats (although Choice of the Broadsides has 12, so it's not hard and fast).

Another 'big game made small' feature is the numerous story threads that aren't given much treatment: your relationships with spouse, sidekick, romantic option/rival, and the CEO of a company; your background with the Sloth; handling the outbreak of other minor villains; etc. I feel like if each theme got twice the screen time it could have been stronger.

I don't have any suggestions on how to write shorter games (I know a lot of great authors have tried it over the years to varying success). This game wasn't bad, and is free with the app, so if you're thinking of getting into Choicescript games, it's one of the better free options on the omnibus app.


Le Donjon de BatteMan, by BatteMan

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A french parser game with a compact dungeon filled with traps, January 23, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This is a polished parser game entered in the French IF Competition. It comes with nice feelies and runs on retro devices as well as in-browser.

You wake up in a dungeon with four exits, wearing an empty scabbard and some armor. In each direction, there is some kind of threat: a trap, a monster, a guardian, etc. and you have to defeat them all in turn.

I thought this was fun, but also very hard. It includes some forms of interactions which I consider unfair, like having to die to progress. I was very happy the author provided a solution! (although one line of it provokes an error, but it's okay and doesn't affect the end result).

The author seems to enjoy IF a lot and I look forward to any future games.


Choice of Zombies, by Heather Albano and Richard Jackson

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Short, branching zombie survival game with lots of replayability, January 16, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This is another game from near the very beginning of Choice of Games, and I think this one works well.

It's different from more 'modern' games in that each playthrough is short and there are a lot of ways to mess up or die early. So if you screw up everything your game can be significantly less than an hour, with a 'successful' game being a lot longer.

But the shortness of the dead-ends go well together, since it encourages replay and (more importantly) this game has a lot of different paths to success. You can meet completely different characters in different playthroughs. I'd say about 30% of my two playthroughs was repeated material.

I enjoyed how the stats were clearly differentiated from each other. Although, the game kept relationship stats hidden. There doesn't seem to be any romance in this game (though sex is mentioned). Each stat gets used in a variety of ways.

The characters all have different interactions with each other, some of them detesting each other.

All in all, it was short and fun.


To the City of the Clouds, by Catherine Bailey

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
An early choicescript game with a dissolute archaeologist MC, January 15, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

Well, if you enjoy games where you can play as a hard-drinking, cheating professor, stealing artifacts, snorting lines of coke and hitting on students, this is definitely the game for you.

That's not really my style. This is an early choicescript game. In the beginning, they had 3-4 pretty great games in a row, but they didn't really know what worked, and that resulted in a string of very short games with weak use of stats, unfulfilling scenes and hit-or-miss humor that was often miss. After that, they hit their stride with some games that are still awesome to this day (Slammed! and Choice of Kung Fu, for instance).

That said, this game is still well-polished, with few, if any errors, and the interactivity generally worked for me. I had to sweat over a few choices, and they had actual consequences.

At 68,000 words, this game is a tenth of their most recent game (Luminous Underground) and a little less than half of the average game.

The story is about you, an archaeologist, hearing rumors of an ancient Incan city, the 'City Lost in the Clouds'. You have to dodge Columbian militia and ancient spirits to explore the city, and then safely make it back.

This game was recently in the 'Most underrated Choicescript games' poll, and was second to last (before Treasure Seekers of Lady Luck, which I actually like). If you play even 1 or 2 choices of the demo, you'll instantly know if you like it or not.


Spy Mission, by Ogre

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
A spy game with many different branches, endings and items, January 13, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This chooseyourstory game has a setup that's a lot more complex than most. You have an inventory, stats you can train, etc.

You are an ordinary man in an ordinary job when a mysterious package changes your life. You're taken to a spy agency and given a dangerous mission.

The opening segments have an inventory with clickable links, but later on that seemed to disappear in favor of choice-based inventory (like when choosing what to take out of your trunk).

The pacing is good, with a strong overall narrative arc. Some of the endings happen a lot sooner than others (I think there are at least a couple dozen endings), so it can be worth backing out and trying again, even if you get a good ending on the first try.

Here's my five-point scale:

+Polish: This is a pretty complex game and I didn't run into any bugs/spelling errors.

+Interactivity: I really felt like I could dig in and strategize and try different things. Even with unlimited undo's, you can get so far into some branches that it's hard to cheat the system, which is nice.

+Descriptiveness: Most of the characters are just spy stereotypes, but the level of action was good.

+Emotional impact: I felt interested in the game and enjoyed seeing what came next.

-Would I play again? On the one hand, the game has a lot of endings and different replayable parts. On the other hand, I feel like the whole thing could use just a little bit more 'something' to be completely compelling, like a really cool opponent or a love interest (or someone who's both!). I know that's not very specific, and maybe that already exists in one of the other branches, so this is totally subjective.


Imagination, by Endmaster

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Like a classic CYOA book. Get sucked into a fantasy world, January 3, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game probably recreates my childhood experiences of reading CYOA books more than any other.

The chooseyourstory format is adapted more to CYOA books. Most Twine and Choicescript games have shorter text and more frequent choices that frequently meet back up later because it allows you to reuse a lot of text and code. Making a game where every branch goes somewhere different is usually too tedious to code, although some people have done it (like the game Animalia or Porpentine's Myriad).

But a lot of chooseyourstory games seem to get over the problem of needing to write a lot of text by just writing a lot of text, ending up with games with hundreds of thousands of words.

This game is meant for kids, I'd say between 10 and 13 or 14. You are sucked into a fantasy world where you meet strange wizards and adventurers.

There are few choices in this game but a ton of text in each one, and each choice branches a lot. Some are dead ends, but the engine lets you go back and retrace your steps quickly, which the game seems to encourage. This makes the small number of choices make sense, since each replay goes quickly, like paging through an old CYOA book.

I enjoyed it overall, and it gave me some ideas for my own writing.


Santa's Trainee Elf, by Garry Francis

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A fun and tricky puzzlefest in Santa's workshop, December 27, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This is an Adventuron Christmas game that is quite large. You have to find out what 9 kids want for Christmas and make their toys after finding all the ingredients necessary. There is a large system of free shops and recipes for toys.

There are many locations and as of this writing all but one of them has art.

The puzzles range from fairly easy to the very obscure. The hardest puzzles were those involving guessing-the-verb or lack of in-game responses to incorrect actions.

This is large and complicated and I enjoyed it overall.


Deck the Halls, Gieves, by VerdantTome

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A verbose Adventuron game about Wodehousian antics, December 26, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This Adventuron game has more words than any other I've seen. It's firmly in the Wodehousian vein, with a butler named Gieves and hijinks caused by upper-class British misunderstandings.

It was quite clever and parts of it were very funny (including the ending). It suffered from a certain problem that many humorous games have, which is that the author clearly had some very funny solutions in mind, but that requires several leaps of intuition that aren't always fair.

Overall, though, this is a hefty game with good writing and clever puzzles. I think this would have done fairly well in IFComp, placing in the top half.


Northpole, by John Blythe

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A complex Adventuron puzzle in Northpole, December 26, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This is perhaps the most complex Adventuron game I've seen.

You play as a falsely-accused elf who has to find 7 missing presents. There are two main areas (an outside one and an inside one) as well as an endgame area. There are numerous NPCs, as well.

This game has its own share of Sierra-type-logic (such as there being 4 different sharp-bladed instruments, each of which can only be used on one thing) and adventuron implementation issues (the biggest being error messages not disambiguating between default statements for correct commands on non-interesting present items and correct commands with non-present items).

Fortunately, there are helpful hints in every room. Even with that, though, I had to comb through the itch pages (I found three different ones: the regular page, the submission page, and some comments in the community page for the jam) to finish off the game. Art's very good, and fortunately no puzzles require the art, for people who are visually impaired.


Save Bigfoot's Christmas!, by Quizlock

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Clever puzzle concepts with plenty of implementation issues, December 26, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This Adventuron game has you using a teleporter to access three different areas with interlocking puzzles.

The story idea is clever: Bigfoot has been implicated in 3 different acts of mischief and is on the naughty list. He asks you to clear his name.

In a world of perfect implementation, this would be a fairly fun puzzle game. It relies on some visual puzzles included in the graphics.

Unfortunately, there are numerous errors. Adventuron doesn't let you know if an object is undescribed or you typed it wrong, so that caused a few issues with things like a vital but undescribed rock show ad. The main verbs necessary for solving two key puzzles are implemented weird (for one, (Spoiler - click to show)PUT something INTO something doesn't work but INSERT something INTO something does, and for the other (Spoiler - click to show)you have to UNSCREW something instead of TURNing or RATCHETing when you have a ratchet).

A few other things added up to make it a frustrating experience. If the game were polished a bit more, it would be more enjoyable. Still, it had many charming moments.


The Wayward Story, by Ralfe Rich (as Cristmo Ibarra)

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A fractured tale in the style of Photopia, December 2, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game seems strongly influenced by Adam Cadre's work, specifically Photopia (for its fragmented story, multiple viewpoints and use of color) and Narcolepsy (which is specifically referenced in the text)..

This game switches back and forth between multiple points of view, including real-life people and fantasy stories. The game is themed around three lights: red, green and yellow.

It uses fancy techniques such as color and even upside down text.

Unlike Photopia, the overall story didn't congeal for me. I see themes; for instance, (Spoiler - click to show)all of the three 'colored' passages involve an option to help yourself or to help someone else and die right before you achieve your major goals.

Similarly, I couldn't really see the connections between the real-life stories. (Spoiler - click to show)While writing this, I realize that Diane went from scared kid helped by Ben to teenager missing Ben to woman on a train getting a call from (or calling?) Ben. But how are George and co. connected?

There are some typos (like a double period somewhere, and some missing letters in the upside down text. If I play through again I'll record it!) More importantly, on my first playthrough, I was (Spoiler - click to show)selfish in yellow and green scenarios and kind in red, and that led to the game crashing (Spoiler - click to show)immediately after getting my POV after the white door where Diane is in the train. The game just stopped and ended with 'press any key to close the interpreter'. I then replayed trying to be as nice as possible, and got an ending.

So, for me, this is technically and narratively impressive, but the storyline remained inscrutable to me.

This game contains segments with frequent strong profanity.

-Polish: Several bugs, including game-ending bug
+Descriptiveness: The fantasy sub stories were especially vivid
+Emotional impact: Again, the fantasy segments carry this for me, especially yellow and green.
-Interactivity: The conversation system required both typing a topic number and retyping TALK TO instead of letting you continue in menu format. This and a few other such things were frustrating.
+Would I play again? Yes, especially if it gets a post-comp release.


The Curse of the Scarab, by Nils Fagerburg

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A surprisingly rich and complex but difficult optimization games, November 7, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

I beta tested this game briefly.

I usually think of Ectocomp games as being quick and simple, but the Grand Guignol games have been pretty intense the last few years.

This game has several innovative/amazing features:
1. It's in a custom parser that's brand new but so good that it felt like Dialog or Inform for me
2. It has excellent javascript integration with smooth scrolling image sidebars
3. It has an optimization puzzle that requires in-depth strategy and a lot of spatial thinking.

So it's pretty cool. You're breaking into a tomb (like Infidel) and need to grab a scarab amulet as well as as much treasure as you can carry (which is rough, given you can only carry 4 things at a time in your hands).

The puzzles are harder than most optimization games I've seen. Just getting a successful ending at all will likely take several tries. There's enough complexity here that I probably saw <1/2 of the game when I beta tested it and still there are things I don't understand (like the purpose of the (Spoiler - click to show)map and cursed disk).

The only drawback I found is, like the other optimization games, the puzzle itself detracted somewhat from the emotional impact of the story, as the story is mostly a frame for the puzzles and is repeated over and over each time. Otherwise, for fans of optimised treasure runs, this is a great game.


Several Other Tales from Castle Balderstone, by Ryan Veeder

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
A grab bag of four Halloween games, November 6, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

Ryan Veeder's playing a completely different ball game than most authors. It's almost like he just has fun making up things with weird ideas and then polishing them intensely before releasing them. Who does that?

There are four mini-games that I encountered, like the other Balderstone games (with each game serving just fine as a release on their own). They are:

-A complex combat game (Spoiler - click to show)This one reminded me of Kerkerkruip. You have a large map filled to the brim with weapons. You have to fight a lot of different people, but each weapon is destroyed upon use. This was fun but difficult, it took me a while to solve some of the cool sub-puzzles.
-A small game that is more interactive than most interactive fiction. (Spoiler - click to show)This is a mad-lib game where you are asked for a series of words, then you play a game involving that series of words, and it's implemented very well.
-A story told by children.(Spoiler - click to show)This has some surprises in design. Like usual. Ryan seems to think 'What if the players tried something weird and I just ran with it?
-A more traditional game at an abandoned gas station with some narrative surprises.

I thought as I played these games is that one thing Ryan does well is making sure the player encounters every story beat on every playthrough. It's so easy, due to the non-linear nature of games, for players to miss important backstory or details, but all of these games incorporate that into the gameplay itself, which is wonderful.


Crocodracula: The Beginning, by Ryan Veeder and Harrison Gerard

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
An immersive text experience with a satisfying conclusion, October 29, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game is an ancient relic discovered and remade by Ryan Veeder, who has found all the documentation relating to it. By pure luck, the style of the gameplay has the whimsical charm and quality implementation characteristic of Ryan's own writing style (probably why he was attracted to it in the first place).

This game has a fairly hefty map, with a city of about 12 locations, many with an interior, and another chunk from extra side rooms and a couple of (not at all bad) maze-like locations. (maybe maze-lite locations).

The game has a built-in hint system where you ask your friends for help (which I accessed many times), and Dan Fabulich has made comprehensive invisiclues.

The story is basically what you would get if you had the Hobbit, but instead of the background of the Silmarillion you had a custom story that was a mashup of Captain Planet, Gargoyles and TMNT, and instead of Bilbo wandering around the very edges of the backstory you had a girl wandering around doing random stuff.

And the main theme of the game is (Spoiler - click to show)trading. If you every played the original game boy Zelda game, there was a long, involved trading quest involving everyone. That's basically what's going on here. You wander around town, slowly realizing what everyone wants or needs. Then all at once you find the starting point and it falls like dominoes. Until you get stuck.

The 17 digit key wasn't as hard as I expected it to be, but was computationally satisfying, especially the dichotomy chart, which reminded me of the tree dichotomy chart in the kids' encylopedia I had growing up, where if you identify the tree wrong, you get devoured by monsters on the next page.

I enjoyed the game, and also when I saw the Help text, I felt overcome and rested my head on the table in gratitude. I had fun with this game.


Ferryman's Gate, by Daniel Maycock

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Comma use and Christianity in a puzzle-filled house, October 20, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This is the final game Iím playing for IFComp, and was pretty good to leave off on.

In this game, you play as the inheritor (with the rest of your family) to the estate of your Great Uncle. This uncle cared a great deal about commas and had feelings about them that were entangled with Christian religion and Greek mythology.

The game has several puzzles (accessed more or less in order) and all are based on commas. Itís hard to write this review without overthinking my comma use. Iíve already removed two, and now Iím scared.

The idea is clever, the puzzles arenít too bad, but the implementation is very thin. A lot of empty rooms are implemented, most descriptions arenít written in. There is conversation, which is good, and some complicated things have been implemented. But overall this would benefit a great deal from custom responses (you can see all possible responses you can change when in the IDE by typing RESPONSES ALL). The locations could also be cut down or made more vibrant and interesting.

Overall, though, this was a fun game to end up on. Thanks for making it!

-Polish: Could use a lot more custom responses and descriptions.
-Descriptiveness: Most of the writing is bare-bones.
+Interactivity: I enjoyed the puzzles.
+Emotional impact: Fun from puzzles.
+Would I play again? Yes, maybe next time I'm going to be working on long-form fiction.


A Rope of Chalk, by Ryan Veeder

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Experience a sidewalk chalk contest through multiple viewpoints, October 19, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

Ryan Veeder has been one of my biggest influences in game design. His games are generally the model I use for quality and ease of play.

One thing Iíve always admired about his work is how he makes the most trivial parts of his games as elaborate as possible and simplifies the important parts. In the first review I ever wrote of one of his games, I said:

"The game gives you explicit directions on what to do at first. I love ignoring directions in parser games; in some games, like Bronze, the game just doesnít move forward at all if you ignore the directions. In this game, ignoring the directions gives you a lot of different, fun results.
[Ö]
The conversation system seemed at first incredible, and then very annoying, especially with the main favorable NPC. You have a lot to say, but 95% of it is completely irrelevant."

I no longer really see that as annoying, because now itís something I look forward to. And those two quotes above could easily describe this game as well.

This game is a multi-perspective look at a sidewalk chalk contest in 2011. Given Ryanís predilection for going whole-hog into fictional backstories for his game, I think itís likely this is entirely fictional, but there is a great deal of worldbuilding behind the scenes included in an epilogue. Itís especially interesting that the intent of the epilogue is to construct in the player an image of Ryan and his personal life, giving the game a pseudo-autobiographical nature.

The actual gameplay is walking through a sidewalk chalk contest multiple times as different people, together with some flashbacks and some flashweirds where things go bizarre. The game is abstract enough at times that you could put any personal interpretation on it, and I enjoy the interpretation where the sidewalk chalk contest represents IFComp. Funnily enough, it represents this comp very well, with games with heavy worldbuilding, a game that is entirely a political statement/slogan, games that are mostly decorative, games based almost entirely on other media by other creators, and sexy games that some judges feel are too sexy (guess that judge is me!).

So I enjoyed the game, it had exactly the kind of things I look for in a Ryan Veeder game. Itís always a pleasure to see the directions his mind takes him. If you liked this game, I could recommend Winter Storm Draco for a generally similar style. If you want more puzzles, Iíd recommend Taco Fiction, The Lurking Horror II: The Lurkening, the Crocodracula games or Captain Verdeterreís Plunder.

+++++Polish, Descriptiveness, Interactivity, Emotional Impact, Would I play again?: All 5 categories are satisfied here.


High Jinnks, by M. Nite Chamberlain

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A modern-day Jinn story in Twine, October 18, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

So this game has you play as an ancient jinn trying to get back some cash from a hustler.

This is a pretty long Twine game, with interesting styling and good sentence-by-sentence writing and also excellent worldbuilding. It also features romance of several kinds and stories within stories.

I found the story and the interactivity fairly good, but I feel like they could go further. There are different layers to games: if they're buggy or full of typos, nothing else really matters, the game's just too weird to play. If it's not buggy but the interactivity is really frustrating or the text is boring, then it just makes you want to stop.

This game clears all of those hurdles (which is a real feat in and of itself), but I think it misses the last one, which consists of things like emotional depth and compelling gameplay.

The characterization of the player and NPCs are all over the place. Sometimes we want to murder everyone, sometimes we're lonely. Sometimes we want things for years, and then a second later we don't. Our main ally goes from assertive to passive to aggressive to loving.

And the interactivity often seems like 'Do things this way or do things the same way but with different phrasing'. I feel like it missed some chances to let you consistently characterize yourself or provide long-lasting effects. There are some choices to do such things though (I especially enjoyed [spoiler]the effects of buying a leopard-print shirt.[/spoiler] )

I think this is a good game, but I think this author is capable of making an entirely awesome game, and that's why I pointed out those specific things. Your mileage may vary!

+Polish: No bugs in my playthrough, nice styling
+Descriptiveness: Writing was vivid and funny.
-Interactivity: I felt like the choices weren't very effective.
-Emotional impact: I couldn't get a read on people's motivations and characteristics.
+Would I play again? Yes, this game was pretty fun!


Academic Pursuits (As Opposed To Regular Pursuits), by ruqiyah

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A game about unpacking your office, with some mysterious secrets, October 17, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game falls in the middle of the compís parser games for me. Itís reasonably well-polished, has a nice slow trickle of information, and has a well-defined progression. On the other hand, itís fairly linear and could use some more emotional impact. So it was better than many other comp games for me, but it could use more to rise to the top.

In this game, you play as an academic moving into an office. You have a bunch of boxes stacked on top of each other. As you open them one at a time, you have to find a place to put everything. But thereís only a finite amount of room in the office, and a lot has to go into the trash and storage.

The idea of taking things out of boxes one by one and thinking about them while you decorate an office isnít all that bad, but itís not exactly action-packed (I say this as someone who wrote a game where you put things -into- a box while thinking about them while moving -out- of an office). The best parts are where you slowly learn more about the characterís background. In that sense, it becomes a mystery puzzle, and thatís completely up my alley.

The one thing that I think could be improved with the parser is near the end when youíre trying to wrap up. The game frequently told me I wasnít done unpacking when I tried to leave, but all the boxes were gone (when I tried to leave the room). LOOKing usually gave me a hint, so I think if I could ask for anything itís that the message for going WEST would change after the boxes are gone to give you more hints.

I was happy to play this, overall, and the name makes a lot of sense by the end of the game!

+Polish: The game was generally well-polished.
+Descriptiveness: The writing had a distinctive voice.
+Interactivity: I was able to make plans and execute them, which is nice.
-Emotional impact: The game's big moments didn't land for me.
+Would I play again? Yeah, it's pretty fun!


(s)wordsmyth, by Tristan Jacobs

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A talking sword and a hero get out of troubles through conversation, October 15, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game uses Unity (and possibly Ink?) to give you a series of choices as you progress on a journey to avenge your master who has died. His spirit now inhabits a sword.

You pass through many interesting situations such as a pirate ship, a minotaur battle, etc.

I found the writing interesting and the concept charming. The text is typed out but fairly quickly, although that still hampered play somewhat The occasional use of graphics worked well.

In structure, this game reminds me of nothing more than Chandler Grooverís game Left/Right. In that game, you can either choose left or right over and over. One direction will kill you or end the game, and you never know which. Itís partially (I think?) a lesson in the inscrutability of that choice structure.

And itís that way in this game, too. You have to guess the authorís mind on each choice. Itís possible to see the logic in each choice, but usually only after youíve attempted to go through and die. I think it stems from a desire to make interesting decisions with only binary (or occasionally trinary) choices. But I donít think having frequent deaths is the best option; itís much more interesting to have old decisions affect future decisions several turns later and then to add some hinting to the game so that people have a general idea of whatís expected of them. Even better is adding multiple conflicting goals.

Overall, I had to stop at the cat-womanís den because I was dying too often. But I found this fun.

+Polish: The game runs well and seems generally bug-free.
+Descriptiveness: The use of dialog made the game more interesting to me.
-Interactivity: Not a fan of 'guess which path is life and which one is death'
-Emotional impact: The characters didn't sink into my soul, so to speak.
-Would I play again? Not unless there were a faster way to replay.


The Brutal Murder of Jenny Lee, by Daniel Gao

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A Quest murder mystery with interesting narrative tricks, October 15, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game is written in Quest, and I engage with Quest games differently from Inform and TADS games.

Quest games tend not to come from the culture of Ďimplement everything smoothlyí that other systems have, which is both bad and good. Bad because thereís less immersion, but good because youíre less likely to miss important things.

This game uses a lot of fancy features, like the parser voice and the player being separate entities; different worlds; timed text (used sparingly); and some clever writing tricks.

The style of the gameplay was difficult for me, so I went to the walkthrough and followed it all the way through. Overall, the writing is fairly solid; I donít think I could do better myself; but it could be improved. I didnít get a lot of the hints behind the big reveals, and the gradual reveals about the narrator flew over my head. I know thatís on me as a reader, but I wonder if we could improve narrative flow.

I do think the whole key thing is pretty neat, and Iíd love to work something like that into a game into the future.

+Polish: For a Quest game, this is pretty smooth.
+Descriptiveness: The writing was creative and interesting.
-Interactivity: I struggled to engage with the game as intended.
-Emotional impact: The big reveals didn't land with me.
+Would I play again? I could see me trying another time.


Popstar Idol Survival Game, by CrunchMasterGowon

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
An unfortunately bugged KPop reality show Twine, October 14, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This is a KPop simulation game. You have several stats (such as physical appearance, singing ability, dancing) and different challenges you can meet with your stats.

The game is pretty rough, and needs a lot more testing. The overall storyline seems interesting (reality show + mystery subplot). But this is a good reminder that authors should run through their games right before submitting to check if its completable!

-Polish: Too buggy, several typos
+Descriptiveness: The author has interesting descriptions
-Interactivity: Too many options are 'Do the right thing' vs 'Do the wrong thing'.
-Emotional impact: The choppy writing style and bugs made it hard to enjoy.
-Would I play again? Not until it gets some bug fixes.

If you're interested in seeing more of it, you can get past the first place the game becomes impassable by opening the file in Twinery and going to the passage Song A and deleting the first time it says to display untitled passage 12.


Shadow Operative, by Michael Lauenstein

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A very polished Vorple cyberpunk game, October 14, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

I beta tested this game.

This is a really technically impressive game that uses Vorple for a cool layout, a single graphic and some fun music.

Itís a cyberpunk world where people jack into cyberspace (presenting Wild West/Fantasy and Ancient Japanese settings in this game). Youíre asked to infiltrate a base, but chaos ensues.

The game is exceptionally well-polished, with very few bugs. Itís also fairly linear. Most conversations end up with you saying all available options, and most settings are constrained, with the most freedom being late in the game.

This makes the puzzles simpler, aided by the nice keywords, but comes at the expense of freedom. Iíve realized as I study the comp that players value both polish and freedom, so Iím really interested in seeing where this places!

+Polish: Looks great
+Descriptiveness: I liked quite a bit of the worldbuilding
+Interactivity: I found the puzzles enjoyable
-Emotional impact: I found myself at an emotional distance from this game, and don't know why.
+Would I play it again? I've played this game twice, and enjoyed it both times.


Turbo Chest Hair Massacre, by Joey Acrimonious

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A complex parser game about trying to shave your chest hair, October 14, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

Joey Acrimonious has been posting great reviews of other games so I was interested in seeing how this one plays out.

This is an enormously ambitious and complicated game. I thought it would be a relatively mild real-world game, but it includes a ton of worldbuilding and even two different protagonists!

Your goal is to shave some chest hair before a date. There are many things to try, almost all of them ending badly.

Your house is absolutely full of stuff. Stuff in the bathroom, stuff in the bedroom, stuff in the closet, stuff in drawers.

So all of this has the hallmarks of a first (or early) game by a talented author: it models an apartment, has lots of extra things, and has a lot of implementation into tricky things while neglecting a few of the smaller things.

What are the smaller things? Well, the game mentions that you can see the exits by LOOKing, but some rooms have no exits listed at all (like the bathroom as Marigold). Room names are all lowercase, which is a common mistake in Inform (you have to capitalize them the first time they appear in the code, wherever that is). When you use the special device, it doesn't indicate a change in location (by LOOKing), which may be intentional but is kind of confusing.

The game indicates several beta testers, and it is more polished than many games in the comp, but I think that having some more people beta test next year that have comp experience could help, and of course the feedback from this year will be very helpful. This game is well-written, funny, complex, and generally polished; but there are some things that I think would be better left off the next game, especially the large groups of unnecessary but well-implemented items. I definitely think there should be a next game, as I would expect this author to be capable of coming up with several interesting stories and some very fun game mechanics, if this game is any indication.

-Polish: The game could use some touchup for sure.
+Descriptiveness: It can be confusing at times, but this game is definitely descriptive.
-Interactivity: I often felt at a loss what to do, and beat my head on the wall a lot as I got lost moving around (probably because the device mechanic didn't make sense to me early on).
+Emotional impact: I definitely experience a lot of interesting feelings while playing this game.
-Would I play again? Not until there were an update.


Doppeljobs, by Lei

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
An Ink game where you are a doppelganger with business needs, October 13, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This is a weird game but I'm into it. You play as a doppelganger in a bizarre magical world powered by technology and fantasy. I suspect there are deeper secrets to the game, but I enjoyed my ending (1/4, Humanologist).

Gameplay consists of getting several cases in a row. In each case, you can choose what to talk to your client about, then you become them, then you have several choices on how to carry out your tasks. You get paid different amounts of money depending on your performance. You can then invest that in various things.

I liked this quite a bit, although it's different from most games I like. Every year, I come up with theories on what does well in the comp and what doesn't, and this year my theory is that choice games that give you a lot of freedom of action (like a world model you can move in or completely different paths of characterization with tradeoffs like choice of games) do better than those without. On the other hand, longer games tend to do better, and while this is long, it's not huge like some of the games in the comp. So I predict this will do well, probably in the teens. But my predictions are always really wrong each year, so who knows?

+Polish: The game worked smoothly.
+Descriptiveness: I liked the worldbuilding.
+Interactivity: I felt like I could choose my characterization.
+Emotional impact: I really immersed myself in the character.
+Would I play again? I plan on it!


The Land Down Under, by The Marino Family

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A bizarre world of constrained paper-people with moral messages, October 12, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

I beta tested this game.

I've played a lot of the Wobbles games by the Marino Family (although apparently there's a Parrot the Pirate episode I never read?) and this one is definitely my favorite.

The Wobbles series are all written in Undum, a system that was like Twine before Twine and is very powerful but requires advanced technical knowledge to use.

Each game in the Wobbles series deals with a magical house full of foster kids where kids with various disabilities or uncomfortable real-life situations or other things that make them marginalized come to groups with themselves.

It's written at a kid or teen level, and written by younger people, too. I have a son with muscular dystrophy, so I'm glad to see representation in these games of various types of disability.

This particular game has the hero go into a world where everyone is transformed into paper on rails. The world is described with startling specificity that provides a lot of the enjoyment of this game. How would paper people eat? Sleep? Go to school? It's all laid out in excellent detail.

The other main feature I appreciate for this game is the overall. I have to say, I think this has some of the best choice structure in this competition. When I first played this game as a tester, I thought it was somewhat on rails (haha) but on my playthrough today I was able to take significantly different actions and still have it seem like the 'intended story'. That's really hard to pull off, and increases my admiration for this game.

For the detailed worldbuilding and intricate choice structure, this is my favorite of the Wobbles games. If you're going to play, make sure you realize that it is designed with specific morals (although you can go against them), a specific audience, and a distinct narrative voice (that of a talking book). Since most of the games ever entered in IFComp are either adult-targeted genre fiction or avant-garde exercises, this good-natured and marginalization-conscious series is definitely unique.

+Polish: These games are always smooth.
+Descriptiveness: Love the worldbuilding.
+Interactivity: Feels like choices matter
+Emotional impact: The parts with the King and the Queen struck home after my recent divorce.
+Would I play again? Yeah, would like to see different paths.


Last House on the Block, by Jason Olson

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A detailed implementation of an old house with independent NPC, October 11, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

**Last House on the Block by Jason Olson**

This game seems like a classic first-attempt at parser programming by a reasonably talented individual.

It has a house implemented in minute detail, including multiple bathrooms, several empty closets, a tackle box with many different kinds of tackle in it, etc.

The most complex part of the game is an NPC that follows you everywhere, interacting with you and doing independent actions, very much like Floyd the robot in the ways you interact with it.

The main puzzles require some very specific actions that I'm not sure are easy to discover on your own, and the language is fairly plain. While a solid game for a first-time author, I think the next game could use less extra objects and more of the fun NPCs, as well as a more vibrant setting.

-Polish: The game could use some more work, especially in talking with your friend.
-Descriptiveness: The setting and objects are plain and plainly described.
-Interactivity: There are so many objects that the state space of possible actions is just too big.
+Emotional impact: I liked the whole 'view of an older man's life' story.
-Would I play again? I don't think so.


The Eidolon's Escape, by Mark Clarke

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
An escape-the-tower game with spirit protagonist, October 11, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This is a medium-length Twine game with one overarching, fairly difficult puzzle.

You are a spirit, and have been imprisoned in a mage's tower. Your goal is to possess one of two people and escape. But the tower you're in is protected in several ways, and your quest will be difficult.

The writer of this game is a freelance author, and I found the game as a story fairly satisfying. The characters were interesting and there were several subplots.

Mechanically, it's a little bit rougher. There are usually two choices at a time, and it's usually 'guess the right action', although thankfully you can usually back out of a wrong course the first time. There are clues to the right actions, so it's better in that regards than some of the other games, but I believe it could have been improved by going beyond binary choices more often.

The writing was interesting enough for me to look up his website and see some other work. He's done a lot of advertising copy, and it reads really well. Happy to see more work from this author.

+Polish: The game is smooth and bug free
+Descriptiveness: Lovely writing, great characters.
-Interactivity: The puzzle structure didn't appeal to me as much as it could.
+Emotional impact: I was shocked when one of the guards (Spoiler - click to show)ripped up my permission slip.
-Would I play again? The story was satisfying on its first run, but I wasn't invested enough to go through and try another round.


The Call of Innsmouth, by Tripper McCarthy

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A lengthy Lovecraftian game based on The Shadow over Innsmouth, October 11, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

I'm a big fan of 'Lovecraftian' horror, (although I generally like the genre referred to that more than Lovecraft's work himself; I especially like The Willows, which I think was before him).

Lovecraftian horror is a major genre for parser games, including XYZZY- and IFComp-winning games: Anchorhead, Coloratura, Hunger Daemon, The King of Shreds and Patches, Cragne Manor, Theatre, Strange Geometries, The Lurking Horror, Slouching Towards Bedlam, Lydia's Heart. Outside of parser it still does well; I especially like Heart of the House and Fhtagn! - Tales of the Creeping Madness, Anya DeNiros' Feu de Joie series, and the Failbetter oeuvre.

So I approached this Lovecraftian Twine game with eager interest, especially given the extended length.

In this game, you are commissioned as a private detective to investigate the disappearance of her son. The missing young man has been spending too much time at Innsmouth, a city inhabited by strangely fishy people.

As I write this review, I looked up Innsmouth, and realized that most of the story elements of this game are borrowed from the story The Shadow Over Innsmouth (and I now see that was mentioned in the blurb). This actually relieves me, because I felt like parts of the game were echoing the worst part of Lovecraft. The man whom the adjective Lovecraftian was named after is not the best author in his own genre.

This game has a lot of great elements in it; it's smooth, looks good, the writing flows well line by line. But I have problems with the pacing and the interactivity.

First, the pacing. As the opening quote of the game makes clear, fear of the unknown is one of humanity's most primal fears. That's why Lovecraftian games thrive off of slow burn. Outside of maybe one initial bizarre event, most great Lovecraftian stories start with mundane but disturbing situations. Slowly, over time, more frightening (but still plausible) events occur until by the end you are confronted with horrifying unknowing realities.

This game spills the beans really early on, though. An intelligent, sane man explains all of the game's mysteries very early on, with no skepticism, and shows you an impossible artifact. There are no major revelations after that; everything in the game follows directly from his pronouncements.

Despite this, the game follows the usual tropes of the protagonist refusing to believe in the supernatural. Here's some text soon after those revelations:

(Spoiler - click to show)When this case began, you had no idea it would lead you to the old, decaying port town of Innsmouth. You didnít even know the place existed. Now, the more you hear about it, the more you are filled with a sense of foreboding. Itís not that you believe the wild stories youíve heard. People living on a razorís edge of disaster are apt to fill the world with all kinds of fantastical tales and superstitions. But Professor Armitageís words and seeing the Innsmouth tiara in person give you pause. Still, the world is filled with enough man-made nightmares; the supernatural needs not apply.

Despite the professor explicitly saying [spoiler]the townspeople breed with fish demons[/spoiler], the protagonist is stymied by a genealogy chart:

(Spoiler - click to show)His wifeís name is listed as Phtíthya-líy, an odd name whoís ethnic origin you canít place.

My second issue is the narrative structure. It's what Sam Kabo Ashwell calls the Gauntlet is his very good article on shapes of narrative games. Every optional choice is either wrong and leads to death (with an undo, thankfully) or right and progresses the story. There are usually few clues as to which one is the right answer, making it somewhat an exercise in frustration.

I think both of these issues come from adhering to closely to the original story. By having a plot that 'must happen' to match the story, it forces the gauntlet structure. To make sure the stories are connected, the author doles out information at weird times. I had the exact same issues when I adapted some Sherlock Holmes stories.

The very best parts are when the author goes out on his own. I would love to see a game that has a lot more of the author in it and a lot less Lovecraft. The whole story revolves around a sub-species of human that is less than human and is characterized by bulging eyes and flat noses, which definitely stems from Lovecraft's obsession with racial panic; and Lovecraft's treatment of the homeless man and his thick accent isn't my favorite.

So I definitely think this is an amazing author and programmer who made this, I just would prefer an original story and structure next time (and I hope there is a next time)!

+Polish: The game looks great, no bugs that I saw.
+Descriptiveness: The game goes into significant detail about objects and people.
-Interactivity: The gauntlet structure didn't really work for me.
-Emotional impact: The early reveals spoiled a lot of the emotional oomph for me.
-Would I play again? Since there's only one main path, I don't think there's a lot of replay value.


A Catalan Summer, by Neibucrion

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A story about four family members in 1920's catalan, October 10, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This is a game about horrible people. It reminds me of a lot of depressing literature, like Six Characters in Search of an Author or Ethan Frome or other books about a collection of bad people gone wrong.

This game is about a family of four, all of which you take turn controlling, and their house and its environs, a map that stays static throughout the game. Each of you has your vices: the father likes lusty young boys, the mother as well; the son spends time with violent anarchists, while the daughter is a haunted by a ghost from the past.

I like hope in my reading, and thatís one reason why Verdi was never my favorite composer. He once said that he wrote operas to convince others of the impossibility of human happiness.

Narratively, this game is strong. The storylines weave together well and the writing is coherent and vivid. Visually, I found the game pretty hard to look at, like tomato soup with basil floating in it.

The game reminds me quite a bit of Pseudavidís popular The Master of the Land.

In any case, this is an impressive piece of work and good writing. It was interesting to meet Marcel Proust, even if it was in rather indecent circumstances.

+Polish: Very smooth.
+Descriptiveness: The writing was very clear and descriptive.
+Interactivity: I felt like my choices had strong consequences.
+Emotional impact: It was good at making me feel bad, I suppose.
-Would I play again? Not my cup of tea.


The Arkhill Darkness, by Jason Barrett

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A classic-style RPG made in Twine, October 10, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game is a classic RPG scenario. You arrive in a town cursed by darkness, get a quest at a tavern, level up by killing some mobs and getting gear, then take on the big bad.

There have been a lot of attempts at putting quality RPGs in IFComp (and there are several good ones this year, too). This oneís pretty good: lots of non-combat exploration and puzzles, some fun text effects and an interesting backstory.

On the other hand, it could use some spellchecking. One thing you can do in Twine is go to the menu where you can Ďpublish to fileí and right above that is Ďview proofing copyí. That gives you an easy-to-read version you can put into grammarly to correct most errors.

Overall, this was pretty fun, but I feel like it could have used something to set it apart from other RPGs more.

-Polish: Could use some fixes to spelling and grammar
+Descriptiveness: The jokes are pretty good in this game.
+Interactivity: It's not groundbreaking, but it doesn't have to be for me to have a good time.
-Emotional Impact: I didn't feel very invested in the storyline.
+Would I play again? I might seek it out later on.


Stuff of Legend, by Lance Campbell

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A charming and polished about the village idiot doing quests, October 9, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

I beta tested this game several times.

First Inform games tend to have a lot of issues from authors not realizing Inform's quirks (like forgetting to describe things or making them portable). Lance Campbell manages to avoid those problems here and make a smooth and interesting parser game.

You play as the village idiot who's out of a job. You head back to the farm you live at and try to find useful things to do around the farm, including dealing with the mutated squirrels you accidentally unleashed earlier.

The writing is pleasant and funny, with what I think of as 'dad humor'. The puzzles are well-constructed, with some animal-based conversation puzzles and some construction problems. While testing, I had some difficulty at times knowing what to do, but the game has numerous hints and a walkthrough that makes it pretty accessible. I had fun testing this.

+Polish: The game is pretty smooth.
+Descriptiveness: It has a definite writing voice.
+Interactivity: The animal puzzles are pretty fun.
+Emotional impact: The game is funny.
-Would I play again? After extensive testing, I think I'm done with this. But if I revisit this in future years I'll change this point!


Trusting My Mortal Enemy?! What a Disaster!, by Storysinger Presents

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A well-written longish Twine game about two enemies collaborating, October 8, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

So the author of this game (I had wondered if there were several, but there seems to be one main author with some help from Norbez) has been advertising this on Twine for quite some Twine, and I was interested to see how it would come it.

Story-wise, this is one of the stronger games in the competition. Thereís a delightful tension between the two protagonists (you get to play both): a hero named Lightbearer, middle-aged and with the ability to control energy; and Promethium, a villain who creates synthetic humanoids.

The story takes you through a strange situation where the two of you must work together for each otherís good. I found the writing and storytelling to be witty. Lightbearer is fairly generic as a hero, but interesting as a person. I wondered if Promethium was coded as autistic (reacts poorly to sensory stimuli, has a specific soothing sensory experience, and, as we later discover, ).

The graphics and styling are very nice.

Interactivity-wise, I went back and forth on my feelings. Itís the same kind of model as the successful game Dull Grey from last year, where you make the same choice over and over again leading to a final ending (although I donít think there are any Dull Grey-style secret endings here). I think that works fairly good here, but I think thereís not very much reason in-game to pursue the Ďbe meaní options.

Thatís something Iíve thought a lot about while playing Choice of Games titles this summer. Several of them offer Ďmean pathsí, but itís best when theyíre strongly motivated. For instance, in Champion of the Gods, itís okay if you are wild and kill everyone on site because the Gods commend you and the people around you are glad to be protected. Itís also okay to spare the enemies because the Gods are cruel.

But in this game it just seems set up to always pick the same choice. Iíll go back and try another run. Overall though, the story was great, and Iíd definitely be eager to see a new Storysinger Presents game in the future.

+Polish: Very smooth and nice
+Descriptiveness: Loved the writing in this one.
-Interactivity: I felt like my choices could have used a little more oomph.
+Emotional Impact: Yeah, I was definitely curious about the big mysteries.
+Would I play again? I could see me coming back to this in the future.


Dr Ego and the egg of Man-Toomba, by Special Agent

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A short jungle-raiding classic-style adventure, October 8, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game is another parser game (like Elsegar I) that is simple and spare in writing, with a small number of locations, each with one task to do, and generally written in an older-school style. If anything, it reminds me of the older adventures JCompton has been putting on IFDB recently. I will say that it has less empty rooms and significantly more complex puzzles and interactions than Elsegar I.

In this game, you play an Indiana Jones-like adventurer (complete with bullwhip and fedora) that must find the Golden Egg of Man-Toomba, Along the way, you meet a jungle tribe, consult your journal, and interact with several animals.

The puzzles were interesting, but I had some trouble with guessing the verb (for instance, figuring out what to do (Spoiler - click to show)when climbing up the tree or interacting with the sun stone in the temple).

There are several beta testers listed, which is likely why this game runs smoothly in general. The hint system makes winning a lot easier, too. I guess that (like my own game) I feel like this game could be significantly expanded in scope, and maybe give a bit more direction. Otherwise, it was a smooth play.

As a final note, raiding jungle tombs doesnít feel quite as fun anymore since someone pointed out to me online that Ďjungle tribesí are just people of a different culture and weíre just taking our stuff. Itís kind of like playing a game where youíre a Nepali breaking into Notre Dame to steal a gilded crucifix. But I was happy that you have to pay the tribe for their skilled services in this game.

+Polish: In what it does, it does pretty well. I'll leave the synonyms to my Interactivity criterion.
-Descriptiveness: The writing seemed a little flat to me.
-Emotional impact: I didn't feel invested emotionally in the game.
-Interactivity: It was hard to know what commands to type even when I knew how to solve the puzzle.
+Would I play again? It's short enough and responsive enough that I wouldn't mind taking it for another spin.


Ulterior Spirits, by E.J. Holcomb

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A Unity game with good graphics and UI about a threat in space, October 8, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game is written in unity, and, unlike most IF games written in unity in past years, it actually makes good use of the processor-intensive engine.

Itís a very slick design with hover-over links and a sidebar of choices. The art on this game is great; my son kept popping up by my computer to look at it.

It uses slow text, which is fine in a short game but really not that fine in a long game. Fortunately, you can click to speed it up at least a little faster.

In this game, you are a famous governmental figure in a space coalition between various races. You are known for having caused the death of a cat-like alien years ago, and now you are threatened by the repercussions of that. The different alien cultures are distinct and well-drawn.

Itís hard to know how your choices affect the story. The game never really settled down into a rhythm or gave hints about its length, or provided saves, so I was just kind of flying blind. In the ending I received, there were several loose threads, which makes me believe that the game has multiple paths and significant branching.

The art and UI programming were excellent, and the actual story were excellent, but I wonder if they worked at cross purposes at times. I guess it was the slow text that really inhibited this for me; I think the intent is to get people to read slow, but I have a reading pattern where I look over the whole page, planning which segments to focus on and then moving in. I read non-linearly, I guess Iím trying to say, and slow text really messes that up for me. And whatís the purpose of it? To make sure people donít miss your text? The best way to do that is just to write only whatís essential. Clicking helped but was still fairly slow.

This is a great team, though. I could definitely see all 3 of them working for AAA if thatís something they were interested in.

+Polish: Very polished.
+Descriptive: Writing was great, not gonna lie.
-Interactivity: I couldn't figure out how to strategize or immerse myself in character, and either would have been fine.
-Emotional Impact: I felt an emotional distance from the character, and the stakes felt low emotionally, due to my issues with interactivity.
+Would I play again? I'd like to see more endings.


Lore Distance Relationship, by Naomi "Bez" Norbez

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Two teenagers trying to connect through an old digital game, October 5, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

So I tested this game for the competition.

Like Accelerate earlier, this choice-based game has a lot of visual and audio detail.

When I first tested it, I was struck by the cute neopets-esque game graphics that it contains. But playing the full version, I was blown away by the voice acting. Great audio quality, believable voice, better than most podcasts Iíve listened to. Very impressive, and helps make the animations more cinematic.

I had a bit of trouble with my eagerness causing me to scroll quickly, while many of the animations reload the page. But that was minor.

The story is a long-term (as in 10 year) relationship with a friend on Neopets. You both experience marginalization by your classmates and you struggle with your relationship with your parents. There are hints throughout the game, but itís later revealed that a major theme of this game is .

The writing is sharp and on-point; the chat feels real to me, and the pacing is good. Bez has put a lot of work into improving games and pushing boundaries over the last few years and itís really paid off.

Check the content warnings for the game ahead of time.

+Polish: The animations could be smoother, but that's a small thing when the voice and art are so good.
+Interactivity: I've played it several different ways and it feels fairly responsive.
+Descriptiveness: I feel like I'm there when I read it.
+Emotional impact: Definitely feel it. On my 'be mean to stairs but not so much the game ends early' run I felt sick in my stomach when being mean.
+Would I play again? I've played it three times, so yeah.


Tavern Crawler, by Josh Labelle

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A smooth and polished game exploring an odd medieval city, October 5, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

Josh Labelle is a fairly well-known professional narrative designer, so I was interested to see how this game turned out. Skills developed working in a team on graphical projects don't always translate to solo text works and vice versa, so I figured it could go either way.

For me, I find this very successful. I have a soft spot for dungeon crawls and western RPGs (I enjoyed the parser game Heroes and the Choicescript series Hero of Kendrickstone better than most reviewers on average), and this game satisfies that.

It's very polished, with slick menus and nice highlighting and color use. I wasn't even sure it was Twine until I opened the file.

You play as one member of a team of three who has been assigned to kill a dragon then return to town. But once you get back, you have trouble finding where to claim your reward.

There are some complicated stats. It does fall a little bit into the Choicescript meme where you pick one of 3-4 skills and just max it out the whole time, and there's no reason not to accept most side quests; both these options make strategy a little less well-developed. On the other hand, the relationships with your partners and your decisions with the enemies (like the dragon and your employer) have more long term consequences (and many side quests have meaningful ending decisions that last even until the end credits).

Writing, setting and story are all high quality, with huge variety between the taverns in the game and several plot twists. Overall, I think this will do pretty good in the comp; if anything limits its appeal, it might be that traditional RPGs have been considered overplayed in IFComp in the past. It'll be interesting to see where this places. I consider it one of the better games I've played so far.

+Polish: Very polished, smooth, well-designed.
+Interactivity: Even lets you pick how much of the game you want to interact with, by making a lot optional.
+Descriptiveness: The variety in the bars was strong.
+Emotional impact: Suspenseful and funny.
+Would I play again? Yes.


Red Radish Robotics, by Gibbo

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A puzzle-based choice game with interesting mechanic, October 3, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game was interesting, and I think it shows a lot of promise for the future.

In this game, you wake up in an office building that seems fairly destroyed and embark on a search and rescue mission. It was quite a surprise when I discovered that (Spoiler - click to show) someone had taken all my fingers!

The map consists of two floors (for most of the game) with several rooms, each room containing various objects. As you explore the map, you find more of your (Spoiler - click to show)fingers, which gives you greater access to other things.

The UI was smooth and the writing was good. The puzzle structure was a little constrained, though. At most points in the game, it seemed like there was only one course of action possible at a time, so I spent most of the game 'lawnmowering' through choices (trying every possible action over and over). I think that allowing a bit more nonlinearity would make this an awesome puzzle game, and so I'd definitely look forward to anything else the author puts out.

+Polish: Smooth and perfect.
+Descriptiveness: The writing had some pretty clever moments for me.
-Interactivity: The linearity of the puzzles felt constrained to me.
-Emotional impact: Because I was repeating options so often, they lost a bit of their impact.
+Would I play again? I think I would, yeah.


Deelzebub, by Morgan Elrod-Erickson, Skyler Grandel, Jan Kim

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A funny TADS game about summoning a demon for your boss, October 3, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game is related to or part of a school project, which kind of setup hasn't made super successful games in the past (I've run some game camps, and long games take a ton of time; a polished IFComp game is about the same work as a Master's thesis and less like a semester project).

This one manages to be better than most, although it still has some rough edges.

Each of the people who worked on the game had successes. The art for the cover is done well; the writing has very funny moments; and the programming handles some pretty tricky material and multiple solutions to most puzzles.

In this game you play as a young member of a cult who has a very funny reaction to being a parser game PC. Your cult leader wants you to summon a demon, who turns out to be a real mild fellow. Shenanigans ensue.

The weak spots are evident in the game, too. The only file available in the download is a compiled executable for 3 platforms with no t3 file. Some of the conversation feels off (in general, reading your dialogue out loud can help make it stronger). You can't leave your leader's room early on until you ask him certain topics, but there is no TOPICS command or other way I found to remember what you need to do.

All of this can be fixed by general experience and maybe getting a few more beta testers that have experience testing comp games. But I think this is the best school-related IFComp game that I can remember playing, and I'd be pleased to see more from these authors.

-Polish: Could use more polish.
-Descriptiveness: Pretty good, but overall could use some more variety and colorful details.
+Emotional Impact: I found this funny
+Would I play again? Has plenty of replay value.
+Interactivity: Outside of the polish issues, the stuff you had to do made sense. The summoning ritual was very good.


Tombs & Mummies, by Matthew Warner

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Compact Quest game about exploring a tomb, with timed events, October 2, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

**Tombs and Mummies by Matthew Warner**

People named Matt W have been doing good work in the math world for a while, including Matt Weiner (mod for this website) and Matt Wigdahl (author of IFComp-winning Aotearoa); so I was looking forward to this game.

This is a quest game and is online-only (you might be able to download an offline copy from textadventures.co.uk, but the download button on the ifcomp page just links to the website). It does not allow undo, has timed events, and if you leave it alone for 5 minutes, it will kick you out and lose your progress.

Fortunately, the game map is compact and the actual solution requires about 20 moves (mostly directions), so if you lose everything you're not set too far behind.

About half of the things you see in the games are traps, and unhelpful, and the rest are useful. Some are both (like the hint machine that hurts you while hinting).

The images, taken from ancient Egyptian art, were lovely, and the puzzles weren't unfairly difficult. I'm glad I'm played it.

+Polish: Nice images, well-thought out design and item placement and responses
+Descriptiveness: The game was very vivid to me.
-Interactivity: The above mentioned troubles with timing out and active events weren't too bad but enough that it impacted my enjoyablity
+Emotional impact: I felt a sense of adventure
+Would I play again: Maybe I would.


Timeout in the Wasteland, by Feneric

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A science experiment in the wasteland, September 23, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This one is an interesting game that shows a lot of promise, but has a lot of little details that can make for a frustrating experience. With a few tweaks, it could work pretty well. I'd love to see a longer game from this author with a long period of testing entered into IFComp or Spring Thing one year.

You play as a plant geneticist who has survived an apocalypse. You must keep your little garden of food safe, feed yourself and create hybrid plants. There are 4-5 days of gameplay with time tracked.

The programming here is impressive, from the time tracking to the puzzles involving three nouns at once. But a lot of ground level work is missing, the kind of thing that generally comes with experience or exhaustive beta testing.

Here are my scoring criteria:
+Polish. The game is technologically impressive, with complicated puzzles, active animals, a time system, etc.
-Interactivity. The game lacked exit descriptions in important areas, and some interactions were 'fiddly'. (For instance, to drink water, you must 'drink canteen'. DRINK WATER instead results in 'The Canteen is not open.', since the water is modeled as an object inside the closed canteen.'
+Descriptiveness. The writing is spare at times, but so is the setting. And the author put a lot of effort into backstory and thoughts in 'the wilderness'. I think the writing is good for a parser game, and will only improve with time.
-Emotional impact. The fiddliness of the interactions kept me at a distance from the game. Had the background actions been smoother, I think the feelings would be stronger.
-Would I play again? It was fun to see everything possible, but the difficulties made me loathe to return and tinker around.

The author's other game (The Gateway of the Ferrets) has the same kind of complicated game techniques but adds some cute ferrets that amplify my enjoyment of the game. It's worth checking out!

Edit: The interactivity and polish have increased since I wrote this, so I've revised my score accordingly!


Not Made With Hands, by Emily Short

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Emily Short's first public game, September 21, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game was announced as uploaded to the IF Archive on February 15, 2000, before Galatea. You play as a pilgrim who falls through some leaves into an ancient shrine. There are three rooms.

It was a proof of concept game. As such, it has some details implemented amazingly well, and others not implemented at all.

For instance, every object is marked as flammable or not; as cuttable or not; etc. but many objects listed in room descriptions are not implemented and reasonable synonyms (such as 'cookies' for 'packet of cookies') are not implemented.

Things this game models include:
-breakability
-flammability
-visibility/lighting and taking pictures
-shaking
-wearing a variety of things

I've played this game a few times over the years, and never got as far as I did today. For posterity, here are a few things that are interesting to do (spoils everything I found):

(Spoiler - click to show)
-SHOOT something (takes a pictures)
-BURN something WITH LIGHTER
-TURN ON LIGHTER before going into other rooms
-WEAR SKULL
-BREAK DEMIJOHN WITH METAL BOX
-CUT CHEST WITH SAW
-BREAK JAR (and look at your inventory!)
-CUT things WITH SHEARS (and repeating it)
-LOOK UNDER ALTAR
-X PANELS in altar room
-BREAK PANEL WITH METAL BOX
-ENTER PANEL or HOLE (can't remember which)


Things I haven't done:
-unlocked the metal box
-found the crayon

As for a rating:
-Polish: Half polished perfectly, half terribly.
+Descriptiveness: Lots of nice extra details. Very vivid, similar to later work.
-Interactivity: Very janky. This was created to demonstrate simulations of various physical attributes, and not to be a smooth game.
+Emotional impact: Despite its numerous frustrations, or perhaps because of it, the game has always held a certain mystery for me. There's just so much to find, and its rewarding. Kind of like So Far, which had a similar impression of there always being one more thing to find.
+Would I play again? I've visited this game several times over a few years' span.


NOLA Is Burning, by Claudia Starling

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
I honestly have no clue what I just played. Gangster horror?, September 19, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game is completely off the rails. It started out as weird, segued to somewhat offensive, and then just took off into a bizarre void that somehow improved it.

The main character in this game is perhaps the most despicable MC in any Choice of Games entry I've played. You are a 'headcrusher', a violent enforcer for a local mob boss, and you're famous for torturing and killing people with a jagged, rusty knife. You are in love with your boss's wife and have been given a suicide mission to rescue her within 6 hours.

Now, I have no problem with aggressive protagonists. I've enjoyed taking over Alaska with a robot horde in Choice of Robots and being a slaughtering warrior hero for the Gods in Champion of the Gods.

But both of those games motivated the evil or violence. Before I played NOLA is Burning, I started compiling a list of what I think works and doesn't in Choicescript games, and having a motive for violence is one of them.

This game just kind of throws you out there. I don't know, it didn't really work for me.

Each chapter is a different step on your way to your final confrontation. You pass through an area with friends who practice Vodou, the turf of an Asian gang led by 'The Dragon', the local police precinct, and a strip club.

The game heavily uses slang, such as 'juice' for money and 'large' for (I think?) lump sums of $10,000 each. It uses phrases like 'Let's blow this popsicle stand' and 'hip to my jive'.

No other Choicescript game treats its main character so bad. You're constantly being betrayed or degraded or having body parts deeply injured or removed or having weird stuff shoved down your throat.

It's last few chapters took all this bizarre confusion and made it almost sublimely ridiculous. I had the honor of (Spoiler - click to show)losing my right arm, being possess by a Vodou loa and gaining a bionic bone-shooting arm, confronting the mob boss who was naked and wearing a baby's bonnet in a bathtub full of money before being lured by him into a room filled with robotic spiders.

The only game I've ever seen that can compare with the circus this puts on is Bolivia By Night, which has a memorable segment where you drive an armored hottub that is powered by a DVD from a South American knockoff of the Olsen Twins.

Ooh, boy. I told myself I'd never rate a Choice of Games article below four stars because 1. I love choice of games titles, 2. I wrote one and know how it feels to spend months or years of your life on these things, and 3. they've all gone through a lengthy review process and are generally polished.

So I'm just going to go through my rating system blindly and see where I end up.
+Polish. This game felt completely smooth mechanics-wise. No problems here, no typos.
+Descriptiveness. It had it in spades, often to my regret.
+Emotional impact. Yes, again by the above.
-Interactivity. I felt like the stats were confusing and didn't add up quite right.
+Would I play again? From seeing some others' comments, there's parts I definitely would want to see.

So 4 stars. You know, I almost gave it a point for interactivity anyway because I felt like I had real agency, but I honestly can't recommend this game to people in general, which is what I believe a 5 star review represents. I did not enjoy this game in the sense that its scenes filled me with delight. But as a critic I find it fascinating. I would recommend it to people who are into seeing the weird corners of company back catalogs and other obscure things.

The writer is definitely talented, they just use that talent in ways that give me discomfort, much like the opening scene of this game where I had to chug a bottle of Pepto Bismol after waking up in a dumpster.

I received a review copy of this game.


Mushroom Hunt, by Polyducks

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Gorgeous graphics in an examine-centered game, September 18, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

Text-based games are so interesting because they get reinvented and renewed and spring up in different communities over time. Some groups have been making Inform-like games ever since Inform went out of business, while some have recently reconstructed and reimagined Magnetic Scrolls and Level 9 style games for nostalgia's sakes, and others still have made text adventures based off of popular culture's depiction of text adventures in TV, webcomics and film.

So this Adventuron game seems firmly in the retro/nostalgia camp, with chunk text and old-style cursor together with beautiful pixel art. Unlike the Inform 5/6/7 stream of games, the emphasis here is less on exhaustive smoothness or synonyms and more on having a small set of commands to work with.

In particular, the main commands you use are LOOK and GET. While there aren't traditional puzzles, there are puzzles similar to those in Lime Ergot and other games where you have to examine something then a detail of something. It also tracks state from room to room, so LOOKing in one room can affect a LOOK in another room.

The story is about gathering mushrooms for a stew of differing amounts of lethality. There are 10 mushrooms to find. Before getting hints, I had only found 4 mushrooms and had no clue how to get more.

Here's my rating:

+Polish: For what it's trying to be (a speed-jam retro adventure) it is very well polished, with perfectly-fitting graphics and a lot of hidden nuggets.
+Descriptiveness: The mental images the game gives are very vivid, especially of the mushrooms, which aren't pictured in the art. The smells were described very well, too.
-Interactivity. The play style didn't gel well with me. Most of my experience involved error messages, and the central puzzle for unlocking more content (finding (Spoiler - click to show)the shears) was a puzzle where I definitely knew what I had to do but didn't know how to type it/bring it about.
+Would I play it again? I've already played it several times.
+Emotional impact: I've gone back and forth on this. I can confidently say, though, that it is charming, and that's a good emotion.

This game has been nominated in the XYZZY awards for Best Use of Multimedia.


The Gateway of the Ferrets, by Feneric

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A fun little game with a complicated device and two NPCs to control, September 15, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This parser game was made as part of last year's advent calendar.

It centers around a mysterious sort of room, inspired by Planescape and Land of the Lost but also reminiscent of Myst-like games and machines.

You have a pedestal with all sorts of doodads and contraptions. To get them to work, you need the help of two ferrets of varying talents.

The overall puzzle took me a while to puzzle out, and I was very happy to get the solution in a flash, but I was stumped before that.

The ferrets are cute and have nice little narrative touches, one of the highlights of the game.

The game only needs polishing to be great. A few things that could use improvement:

-The game starts with a wide open state space but only one thing advances the puzzle. I didn't notice that thing because (Spoiler - click to show)it requires examining the gateway and I had spent my first minutes exploring the device and trying to play with ferrets.
-Some actions can be difficult to phrase. In particular, instructing the ferrets to go to specific platforms was quite tricky for me to get (I tried climb to platform, go to platform, go up, etc. before hitting on the correct (Spoiler - click to show)climb mesh and (Spoiler - click to show)jump to w/e commands)

Those frustrations are mostly what made me feel the interactivity and polish could use some tweaking. But as a 'figure out this device puzzle', which I enjoy and I know quite a few others do, I would recommend this.


Congresswolf, by Ellen Cooper

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Congressional campaign manager sim/werewolf rights, September 13, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

So this game is better, I think, than its steam reviews would suggest. A few people seemed to have bombed its reviews over there. But its not perfect.

The writing in this game is descriptive, and I could picture all the characters clearly. You play as an aid to one of 4 different congressional candidates. Unlike other games that play it a bit safer, this one uses real life US parties (Republican and Democrat). It doesn't seem extremely biased one way or another; someone mentioned the game as treating Republicans as 'evil' but I chose a Republican millionaire and the game seemed just fine with that choice.

In this game, similar to Werewolves: Haven Rising, werewolves have been around for a while and are subject to harsh restrictions on their freedom.

The main threads of the game are:
-Deciding to do a dirty or fair campaign fight
-Making a decision about how you feel about werewolves
-Dealing with the aftereffects of a grisly murder
-Running a monthly budget

Someone said on Steam that the game seemed to assume a female protagonist. You can choose your gender, but some scenes in the game do feel written for a female protagonist in mind. For instance, there is a frightening scene where the protagonist (major spoilers for the middle of the game) (Spoiler - click to show)is being followed on a dark street alone at night, and is attacked in an alley by a werewolf, and is worried for about a month afterwards so it can see if they turn into a werewolf at the next full moon. Its easy to see this as an analogy for (Spoiler - click to show)rape and possible pregnancy, and that's not a theme that's very common in other media (except for the (Spoiler - click to show)Alien series). But it worked for me, and I don't see it as a drawback.

The biggest drawback I do see is that the narrative arc is relatively flat. I didn't feel a real build-up in tension in any of the main plotlines, although there was some there. The overall writing level was great, though, and I felt like my decisions definitely mattered. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this to fans of werewolves, political games, or simulation text games.

I received a review copy of this game.


Choice of the Petal Throne, by Danielle Goudeau

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A deep dive into the worldbuilding of Tekumel that is cut short, September 4, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game is based on the world of Tekumel, a world setting almost as complex (or more) than Middle Earth and created starting in the 40's by M. A. R. Barker.

This game uses this setting well, but relies on prior knowledge of it or the desire to read several pages of backstory in the stats screen. I had that desire, so it was okay.

It's a lush world that incentivizes you to act violent, proud, sensual, etc. It's very interesting, and it leads to an exciting underground adventure.

And then, it stops. I thought I'd have quite a bit left to play, but it ends at what I thought would be the midpoint of the game. There are several pages of epilogue, but I felt like the overall narrative arc wasn't satisfying. It doesn't have to be longer, but the plot threads that are given prominence should, I feel, occupy more time.

I enjoyed it, regardless, and would recommend it to people who want to see if Tekumel and its novels and RPG settings are worth reading. It's made me think about reading them.


A Squire's Tale, by Benjamin Appleby-Dean

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A great medieval/fairy game sandwiched between two disappointing chapters, August 25, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

I had trouble starting this game. It begins with a story about you, a squire, helping your lady chase down a rogue baron who may have kidnapped the prince. I found this chapter very lacking, for my tastes one of the most difficult opening chapters of a Choicescript game to get through. Choices were confusing, there were a lot of stats but very few points to go around (my largest stat was a 29 at the beginning, which in most Choicescript games represents dismal failure), and the story seemed fairly dry.

But the middle part of the game was very good for my personal tastes. I love games about the Fae or the fairy world, and much of the game revolves around attending a fair and a tournament. The fair has plausible deniablity with magical involvement, such as a tent that looks suspiciously like a giant flower.

In the path I chose, I ended up in a faery land, and found that part very enjoyable. I left with a strong assurance that I would somehow return.

But the last chapter all built up to a final choice, and I failed that final choice. I didn't die, but apparently I lived a sad life and never had any connection to the faery world again, which seemed a direct contradiction to the earlier paths.

I may need to play again, but I found the last chapter a bit lacking. And as for the first one, I wonder more and more as I play through the Choice of Games catalog whether authors should write the first chapter last, using a small set of 'preset' stats and names for a placeholder for placetesting until the very end. So many Choice of Games titles (pretty much all the ones I've given 4 stars) have mediocre opening chapters but satisfying mid-games. I think that you really get to know your characters and world as you write a game like this, and that you tend to grow as an author as you write. This game has the second-lowest rating on the Apple omnibus app, and I think its opening has a great deal to do with that.

I received a review copy of this game.


Neighbourhood Necromancer, by Gavin Inglis

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A (purposely) ridiculous game about commanding a horde of zombies, August 23, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This is a game I went back and forth on for a score (between 4 and 5) for a while.

It's different than most other Choicescript games, but, in common with Gavin's other game, For Rent: Haunted House, it has a very, very small number of stats. There seems to be very few ways to tell what, if anything, your stats are used for and what effects them. There is one point in the game where you can actually ask a banshee what the stats do, but that is only one option out of many, and I didn't try it as I had others I was more interested in.

Most of this game involves you commanding a group of zombies and skeletons (the numbers of which are tracked and change), and basically creating a ton of gore. A lot of intestines and decapitations and devouring.

The game is completely self-aware, and includes outrageous characters (like an romantic option who urges you to complete destruction, or a vampire). The opening is very different from the rest of the game and I would definitely recommend pushing past it.

'Winning' is hard; my run (and most people's I saw online) ended in arrest. Strategizing is difficult in a way that's not entirely fun, and that's probably the biggest reason I'm going for a 4 instead of 5.

Strongly recommended for people that like parodies of horror movies, and there may be some overlap with fans of this game and fans of Robb Sherwinn games.

I received a review copy of this game.


The Fleet, by Jonathan Valuckas

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A purely strategic Choicescript game set in space, August 11, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This is a Choicescript game which feels like a streamlined, story-fied text version of some war game like Alpha Centauri or one of those boxed set tabletop games with hex maps (but only in spirit; it's shorter and more linear than those games).

You have stats like energy reserves, fighter pilot strength and fighter pilot numbers, etc. There is no romance at all, and all of your decisions are on how to manage your fleet, its strengths and its political positions.

I enjoy simulation games, but this one had a few flaws that prevented total enjoyment. I had trouble deciphering why some of my actions led to some of my skill changes. One complaint I've had with a few Choicescript games is that it can be difficult to tell when your stats are being tested vs when they are being changed.

Another issue is the lack of narrative surprises. For me at least, everything was telegraphed from very early on and never really changed. I read something about tips for writing heist movies and novels once that I think applies here. Paraphrased, it said, "Either the audience knows the plan ahead of time or the plan works perfectly, but never both at once." There just wasn't enough dramatic tension.

Fortunately, the strategic elements were engaging and well-thought out. Overall, worth playing if you know what kind of game you're getting into and enjoy that genre.

I received a review copy of this game.


Choice of Kung Fu, by Alana Joli Abbott

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A Choicescript game that really gels together. Lots of action, power fantasy, August 10, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This is the 'old school' Choicescript at its best, like Choice of the Dragon. This is a power fantasy stretching over decades from your time as a student to (in my game) your final question to the legendary Dragon Sage.

The game is set in a fantasy version of China. The author is a blackbelt in Shaolin Kempo Karate. I wondered about cultural appropriation a bit, but the game turned that on its head near the end in an enjoyable way.

You have quite a few stats, and you can get them very high. Following your stats lets you win several fights. There are other challenges where you need to play to your strengths, but I found that consistent roleplaying let me solve these challenges the 'right' way every time, as opposed to a lot of other games I've seen where you have to just guess what the author's thinking.

There were several romantic options in this game, but I didn't have spend much time with them, as I chose an arranged marriage and devoted most of my time to monkly things.

The game isn't super long but it felt like a complete story arc with a significant investment in the overall story. I look forward to reading the other games by the same author.

I received a review copy of this game.


For Rent: Haunted House, by Gavin Inglis

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
An amusing shorter sarcastic haunted house game, August 9, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

Choice of Games started with Choice of the Dragon, which was a great game but pretty short at 30K words. From there, it's grown to where there are now games over 1 million words long. In the last year or two, though, they've commissioned two shorter games as a sort of free sample for their omnibus app (those games are Sky Pirates of Actorius and Zip! Speedster of Valiant City).

Besides those three games, this is the shortest among all Choice of Games titles at 56K words. It's also one of the earliest, the 6th game ever made.

I think it suffers a bit from early experimentation, which produced some amazing games and some that were more lessons for the future.

This is a very funny game, don't get me wrong. I enjoyed trying to keep my tenants from demonic rituals or getting possessed. But some parts really show their age.

For instance, there are only three main stats in the game: one relationship stat (with your boss, non-romantic), your Ruthlessness, and your Activity level. These, along with your income and work-life balance, are the only things visibly tracked by the game.

This hampered the classic Choice of Games scenario where you can strategize your statistics, making difficult choices between them. Instead, it felt more like a branch-and-bottleneck twine game, with exploration and trying to find 'the right option' in each case. Those things aren't bad, but it's not what I was hoping for here.

Also, the story kind of puts a snarky and competitive viewpoint on you, and I wish I had an option to choose not to be like that. But those kinds of options are the things that make games longer, and again, this is one of the shortest.

Gavin makes great games in general, though. He's written several Exceptional Stories for Fallen London and Hana Feels is one of my favorite hyperlink games, and one that's touched a lot of people.

I received a review copy of this game.


Reckless Space Pirates, by Rachel Zakuta

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A space-based pirate game with odd logic and math puzzles, August 8, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game has some very unusual features for a Choicescript game. But I'll get to those in a second.

Like Treasure Seekers of the Lady Luck, this is a Choice of Games title where you find yourself abducted by alien pirates, met with a few friendly faces and others out to get you, inducted into the party, and sent on a heist. Both are named after the ship you find yourself on.

This one is a bit shorter, with 6 chapters to play through that go by relatively quickly. There is one romance, as far as I can determine, and one major mission you go on.

As opposed to Treasure Seekers of Lady Luck, which had a crew of very diverse aliens, this game has humans (mostly), making it a bit harder to differentiate between the crew members.

As for the odd features, I had a feeling when I was playing at first that the game was intended as some kind of intelligent test. It had a lot of pass/fail logic and math puzzles at the beginning, and it included math conversations that (as a math professor) I felt were worded in intentionally confusing ways.

To my surprise, in a later chapter, you actually do take an intelligence test, quite a long one as well. It was pretty frustrating to work through and get every question right only to be stymied by a low relationship check later on with the person I'd spent the most time with.

There were a few stray coding oddities (I received an achievment twice, and the Choicescript code for your significant other was left as {so} instead of ${so} at one point, so it displayed incorrectly). But the intelligence puzzles were technically impressive, and I could see several people purposely seeking out this game as perhaps the most puzzle-heavy 'official' Choicescript game I've played. (The Race is a Hosted Game, meaning it wasn't vetted through the long Choicescript process, but it also contains numerous puzzles).


Pendragon Rising, by Ian Thomas

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A Celtic-centered retelling of the legend of King Arthur, August 7, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This story had me in the beginning and slowly lost me over time. I was pleased with the overall result, but it didn't have staying power for me.

To begin with, this game was all the Arthurian characters, but with Welsh names, like Bedwyr for Bedivere and Emrys for Merlin.

Also, for the first half of the game, it seems like a non-fantasy, more realistic version of King Arthur, with Merlin being basically just a Roman-educated scholar and troublemaker and the Sword in the Stone just being a symbolic trophy laid on a table.

It offers you romance early on, and has some good stat variability (I put all my stats in Violence, Bravado, and Christianity/Rome).

But all of that changes in the later part of the game. I encountered only a few romance options, and the realism took a sharp left turn into (Spoiler - click to show)wolf-demons and spirits, and somehow all of my stats got cancelled out into one big neutral mess, all almost exactly in the middle. I've never had that happen in a Choicescript game before; I'm certain it was from my own actions, but it was very odd.

The game has a lot of good features, such as the distinctive Celtic feel and a habit of doing omniscient narrator sections in italics.

I received a review copy of this game.


Trials of the Thief-Taker, by Joey Jones

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
A choicescript game heavy on history and consequences, August 6, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

I've been approaching this game and review with some trepidation. I've known Joey Jones for quite some time and admired his work (including the excellent Sub Rosa and the short but sweet Andromeda Dreaming). I was also aware that this game, like my own, was shorter and less-discussed in the forums and reviews than many recent Choicescript games. I was worried about writing a negative review for a game that took a great deal of effort from someone I respect.

I was pleasantly surprised by this game, though. I think I understand why it's less talked of by the fanbase. The best-selling Choicescript games are decadent games where there are no wrong choices and no consequences, power is yours to grab, a half-dozen people are interested in you romantically, and ultimately you have power over everything. These games aren't bad, but they have common themes.

This game goes against almost all of those things. You are essentially a bounty hunter in a grim London. You have very little money (or a lot of debt). You are frequently powerless. Romance is scarce. Each attempt at solving (or committing) a crime has a high chance of failure, and often there is only one right path to victory in a given situation. Your actions often lead to brutal deaths, and there are grim reminders of the harsh conditions of 18th century London everywhere.

But I found those same features intriguing, especially after playing a few silly-hijinks games in a row. The writing is historical and ornate, like water from an oaken bucket. The setting and language are meticulously researched, as is the money system and the kinds of people involved.

It's a fast-paced game. There are 11 chapters, I believe, but they went by quickly for me. However, this game has more replay value than most, due to its difficult puzzles. The fairness of these puzzles is a bit in question; could someone solve them without any prior knowledge? Some of them I did, but not others.

The most enjoyable part of my playthrough was freeing ten people from prison to join my gang, and learning their backstories. The most disturbing part of my playthrough was trying to decide whether to help the family of a condemned man to kill him faster or not to end his suffering.

I received a review copy of this game.


Choice of Broadsides, by Adam Strong-Morse, Heather Albano, and Dan Fabulich

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
The second Choicescript game ever: grand adventure on the high seas, August 1, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

Now that I've played several of the very early Choicescript games, I can see a bit more of a pattern. They are all very adventurous, leaning heavily into the TTRPG/gamebook style of one encounter after another. They tend to have the narrator comment on your actions, are quite a bit shorter than later choicescript games.

That can work well; I really enjoy the fast-paced dramatic action in Choice of the Dragon, and the first third of Choice of Romance (which was the only part initially available) is likewise a quick fun play.

This game didn't do it as much for me. But I've never really liked seafaring stories, besides Moby Dick (which was more of a whale encylopedia, which I am into). For some into Horatio Hornblower or the like, I think this would be amazing.

It has a fairly satisfying rival set up, providing the best moments of the game, and lot of action. There are 3 romances (you can't romance your rival, but there is quite a bit of underlying tension there).

Again, this is a great game, but it pales (to me) in comparison to some of the other great Choicescript games out there, many of them inspired by this one. It's kind of like Ditch Day Drifter, a game which kicked off the whole TADS movement but which was surpassed by its followups.

This game is also notable for letting you genderswap the entire world, making women the fierce and soldiery types of the world and men the gentle beaus at the ball.

I received a review copy of this game.


Thieves' Gambit: The Curse of the Black Cat, by Dana Duffield

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A straightforward heist game written in Choicescript, July 28, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This is the third Choicescript heist game I've played in the last week (the other two being The Martian Job and The Treasure Seekers of Lady Luck), so I can't help but compare them.

The Martian Job had the most memorable writing and setting of the bunch, with more emotional choices, while Lady Luck had more memorable characters and a zany atmosphere.

This game was just pure heist. You learn about the heist, you recruit your crew, you conduct the heist, you leave. There are a few twists, but they are mostly telegraphed, making them pleasant but not anxiety-inducing.

I'm a big fan of mysteries and crime, so I enjoyed this game, and found it polished. Most of the choices made sense, with a recurring choice of 'Sneaky, Brutal or Flashy' showing up, despite not mapping directly onto the choices. I think this helped in characterization.

I guess I didn't really connect with this game emotionally. My enjoyment was at arm's length. I am interested in playing it again, though, to get some of the more unusual acheivments.


Cannonfire Concerto, by Caleb Wilson

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
A dreamlike and mystical game about music, rivalry, and land wars , July 27, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

Rarely has a game given me more to think about. For the first time I can remember, I had to keep open a notebook on my thoughts for this review as I was writing, because there was so much I wanted to comment on.

This game felt surreal to me. Caleb Wilson is well-known for his haunting or magical games like Lime Ergot and Starry Seeksorrow. I was definitely looking forward to playing this, and it was one of the games IFDB had most suggested to me over the last few years.

The dreamlike quality pervades this piece. The other works of film or literature I compared it to as I played were Pilgrim's Progress, Dante's Inferno, the film The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, Amadeus, and the works of Baz Luhrmann. If it were produced as a film I'd expect it to look like The Cabinet of Dr. Calegari, and I wonder if the whole Choicescript game couldn't be reinterpreted as a mental exploration of the subconscious. A major feature of the game is numerous bright stages where you sit alone before a dark and murmuring audience in a towering theatre which features bizarre architecture.

As to the game itself, you are a famed composer and musician. This world is an alternate version of Europe, set after the exile of its version of Napoleon and on the eve of a war between Napoleon and Russia.

In this world, many people are possessed with a parasitic intelligence known as a Genius, which may or may not just be a feature of their subconscious. Your genius has various opposed qualities it can lean towards.

Each chapter is played in a different town, each of which is characterized by an abundance of one thing (and here I think of the works of Kafka [but more cheerful] and Michael Ende, although neither one exactly applies).

There are a cast of distinct characters who shadow you everywhere you go, including a rival, a journalist, several love interests, and quite a few spies.

The text of the game is so interesting. I have a whole file of the most dreamlike and surreal bits, but here is a taste:

(Spoiler - click to show)"You approach a glowing rectangle: the strangely small doorway that must open onto the concert stage. Perhaps it is just the peculiar atmosphere of the castle, but you feel oddly nervous. The room is awash in bright light and for a moment you can't see a thing. When your eyes adjust you find yourself standing at the back of the curiously small stage. The hall stretches away farther than the stage lights allow you to see. There is no applause to greet your appearance: half of the audience is staring at you in silence, while the othersóclerks, to judge by appearanceóare hard at work, pens scratching at ledgers. It seems that for much of the audience, this is a working lunch. There is a blurry square, lit by dim lights, to the side and high up the wall, which is concave like the inside of a spoon. King Ferenc's box, perhaps?"

and another one:

"An elegant woman dressed in black and purple is standing before a marble mantel. There is no fire, just a hint of ashes; instead sheó"May I present," says Peruz, "Countess Zerov, an esteemed visitor from the court of Sclavia!"óis the flame. A dark and liquid flame, like that which smolders unseen, sending up barely a hint of smoke and devouring a building from within."


Why, then, would I give 4 stars to a game that affected me so dramatically instead of 5?

I had some troubles. The enormous multitude of names was overwhelming, and I found the game had no almanac or list of names of places and people. Some kind of accompaniment to remind us might be nice.

I had difficulty knowing when my genius was being changed and when it was being tested. I had spent a great deal of time cultivating a mathematical genius, but then realized I couldn't change it more. A chapter or two later, it had suddenly reversed itself to be as unmathematical as possible. One of my choices must have changed it, but when, and where? Many other challenges were similarly opaque.

Overall, this game is a masterpiece of writing and setting, and I feel it will linger in my mind for many years to come. I had a long, long dream last night and this morning, and when I woke up there was a short time where the dream world felt more real than this one. This game parallels that same feeling, and it was surreal and haunting to play it so soon after that experience.

I received a review copy of this game.


Treasure Seekers of Lady Luck, by Christopher Brendel

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
An older Choicescript sci-fi game about joining a crew of criminals, July 26, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

It's interesting playing two criminal Choicescript games in a row, one from years ago and the other recent (The Martian Job).

This game comes from a time before Choice of Games' had firmly established their game philosophy, it seems, because it breaks it in many ways. There are a lot of binary options. There are a lot of choices where there is an obvious 'right answer' (like an early choice where there is only one escape pod and either you can save a little girl or yourself. Knowing that you're in chapter 1 and the chance of you dying is low, and the chance of a future reward is high, there's really no reason for you not to save her).

Perhaps most unusually, every relationship is an 'opposed stat', which in Choicescript is a pair of stats that sum up to 100%, so raising one lowers the other.

This puts some of the odder choices of the game in perspective. There are many, many options which are just 'be a jerk'. But in this opposed system, being a jerk to one crew member is the very best way to befriend their 'opposite'.

I found this bizarre. Another early facet really put me off. Your first encounter with the crew is with a blue-skinned alien from a 'race of slaves'. When meeting him, he asks you about slavery and three options are how you think it's fine and only one is against it. It's really odd.

As a representative for house-style Choice of Games stories, this is pretty poor. But if I had randomly found this game (such as in IFComp), I would have rated it fairly well. I can compare it the recent '4x4 Galaxy', with which it shares some similarities. This game has a fairly robust money and inventory system. It invites numerous strategies on replay, and despite its small word count, manages to feel pretty large.

I think I'd give this a 4. In a way, though, I'd be more likely to recommend this to people who don't like the Choice of Games housestyle and less likely to recommend it to fans of their other games.

I received a review copy of this game.


Ghost King, by Jason Compton

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
An often witty but difficult Shakespeare game in the vein of Scott Adams, July 25, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This Scott Adams game was designed with the retro format in mind. The download includes source code with design notes, and it's fascinating to see the discussion of how many lines of text will fit where and what needs to be removed.

This game is a shortish text adventure using the Scott Adams format (short in the sense of 7 treasures and about 16 rooms; it takes a good hour or more to finish without hints, longer if you get stuck like I did). It's based off of Hamlet and contains many joking references to it.

This is a hard game. Much of the ease of modern parser games comes from adaptive hints or helpful responses to incorrect actions. This game has some of that, but only so much can fit into the constrained format. I had to request help and then discovered the (well-commented and organized) source code provided in the download.

While I appreciate the craftsmanship in the game, it definitely is the type to be solved by careful exploration of the state space and deliberative thinking, as opposed to my general play style of 'charge ahead recklessly and see where the story takes me'.

I will say that I think this is much more successful as a game than Graham Nelson's adaptation of The Tempest or my own Sherlock Holmes adaptations.


Rent-a-Vice, by Natalia Theodoridou

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A gritty crime story about dark virtual technology, July 22, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This is the one of the darker Choicescript games I have played. In a world where virtual reality can hijack another's senses, people use the technology to live through others: cliff diving, gorging on food, and darker things.

This game includes references to drug use, self-harm, suicide, and more. I didn't experience sexual content on my run-throughs. Each chapter has optional content warnings.

As a detective story, this is top-notch. It was nominated for a Nebula award, and its easy to see why. I've replayed it a few times and it's always fresh.


American Election, by Greg Buchanan

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A long Twine game with illustrations and music about Trump's election, June 23, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game is one of the most difficult to rate that I've had in a long time. Not to play, but to rate adequately.

What does a good rating mean? Is it an endorsement? Is it a message that says, 'Hey, I'm sure you'll like this game?" Is it an objective measure of technical skill?

This game is very long, 11 chapters of text that took me over an hour to play. In it, you play one of Trump's campaign staff as you aid him (with an in-game alias of Truman Glass) in getting elected, and the aftermath.

There's been a lot of talk on Twitter in the last weeks about authors appropriating others' stories. As a white able-bodied man, I have written protagonists as female, or disabled, or hispanic, without really thinking about it.

This game goes a bit further, in that the author writes the experience of a queer woman in America with a minority second-generation immigrant background. And these facets are essential to the story. I see in the credits that others were consulted, so it's possible that this is what they were consulted on.

The minority you are is an option, and Polish ancestry is oddly listed along with Hispanic, Black and Indian ancestry. Is this saying that Polish people have similar experiences with POC? Or is it saying that it's immaterial which one you pick? Other details are off; the twin towers attack is described as happening at sunset, when I remember it happening during early hours at school in the West.

What is the story? It portrays the protagonist as divided against herself, constantly experiencing ill effects that are contrary to the ideals of the campaign she works for. It's not a straight-up retelling of Trump, but it's close enough. It veers between painting Trump as a hideous cartoon and glamorizing him as a tough-guy mob boss.

Politics have belonged in Interactive Fiction for decades, almost since the beginning. Infocom even had a game that was just a big anti-Reagan message (A Mind Forever Voyaging). It's a medium especially well suited to political messages.

I don't know if I felt comfortable with this game's messages. Like Trump itself, it stated controversial things (like saying being anti-vaxx and pro-choice have to go together) and then played it off as satire.

I don't endorse this game, except for players who are interested in seeing a take on American politics. I do give it a 4 star rating on my scale, knowing that this will be effectively seen as an endorsement, as it will be fed into the overall average.

My scale:
-Polish. The game is thoroughly polished, with text transitions, styling, illustrations, and music.
-Interactivity. I am definitely anti-slow text but this was better than most, with fast-forwarding enabled by clicking and a fairly fast speed to begin with. Choices were sometimes clearly not important/not offering real choice, but in general I felt like my choices mattered and they were brought up again in the future.
-Emotion. Well, I felt a large range of emotions playing.
-Descriptiveness. The writing made me feel like I was there.
-Would I play again? This is the star I'm not awarding. I don't really agree with this game, and don't feel like playing again.


The Prongleman Job, by Arthur DiBianca

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
A heist game with a limited parser--but watch out for the owner!, May 13, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

I helped beta test this Spring Thing 2020 game.

In it, you play as a someone trying to rob a house for an organization of thieves.

Like DiBianca's other games, you have limited parser options here. All interactions are performed by typing the name of the object you are interacting with.

The puzzles are interesting, with puzzles involving far-flung parts of the house, searching puzzles, combination locks, etc.

The owner can come back at any time, and discerning the patterns of his visits is one of the biggest puzzles of the game, one which I didn't see for a long time and which really surprised me. I'm not sure it worked for me completely, but I enjoyed this game well. If you're a parser fan, this is one of the best parser games released this year, and definitely worth checking out!


Napier's Cache, by Vivienne Dunstan

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
An unusual historical parser game, April 11, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

I beta tested this game.

Napier's Cache is in an unusual niche of historical fiction, and is based on a family story of the author.

It is fairly linear in story with nonlinear interactions in each 'phase'. You first have a small treasure hunt, followed by a dinner scene, then another treasure hunt and a simple maze.

In design it reminds me quite a bit of Christminster, an early (pre-IFComp) inform game that was well-regarded at the time, that also had you doing things like eating at a dinner with scholars and discovering the history of old alchemists.

Overall, the quality is well-done, and most reasonable interactions are coded for. I enjoyed each iteration of this better than the previous, and I believe this is something to be proud of.


Pensťes Profondes, by White Fangs

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A long, obscurely written French Twine game with minimal choices, February 28, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This is game that is hard for me to review, in many ways.

First, it was difficult to play. It is in French, not my native language, but it also is written in a very allegorical and elusive style. It is very long, with at least four chapters each with a dozen or more pieces. I encountered a bug while looking at my objects list at the very end of Ch. 3 where the link to return to the main story disappeared.

Also, it's hard to say what score to assign. According to my rubric, I give 1 point for being polished (it is), 1 point for being descriptive (which it also is), and 1 point for interactivity (despite the fact it's linear, giving me a choice to see the objects page or not was in fact useful). But I didn't feel an emotional impact as the scenes were too disconnected, and I was too exhausted by it to play again. I believe that many of these problems would be mitigated for a Francophone.


The Empty Chamber: A Celia Swift Mystery, by Tom Sykes

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
A pleasant little murder mystery in 1950's England, November 30, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game is a fine addition to the long tradition of murder mystery interactive fiction games.

This is a one-room game. You, Celia Swift, are aiding Inspector Land in researching the mystery of an orchestra member's death.

There are two phases: a puzzle-based investigative phase, and a deduction phase.

The investigative phase requires patience, and the deduction phase doesn't give too much away if you guess wrong.

The one thing that mars this game is the large number of unhelpful responses. If a second edition were released, or a similar game released in the future, I would wish for more custom responses.


Summer Night City, by ghoti

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A challenging Twine game about dystopia and intrigue, November 19, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

I beta tested this game.

Visually, this game is nice and polished, and the text is free from typos and bugs.

You play as a man blinded by the government and sent to work. While at work, you encounter a cast of characters entangled in a web of intrigue, and must make your own decisions and what to investigate and who to help. There are 6 different endings, some of which can happen unexpectedly, which makes this game pretty difficult (especially with no undo feature I saw.)

The first chapter's text is incredibly dense, with a lot of big words and long sentences. Once other characters are thrown into the mix, the pace picks up, and the dialogue especially is fresh and well-written.

I would love to see a dialogue-only game by this author (like the very popular games Birdland and Hana Feels). As for this game, I was interested enough to play to several different endings, and felt satisfaction at reaching a good one.


Frenemies; or, I Won An Andy Phillips Game!, by B F Lindsay

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A loving tribute to/light parody of Andy Phillips in a single room, November 19, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

Andy Phillips is a figure in the IF community known for occasionally releasing massive IF games that generally feature science fiction of some sort, large maps with a few puzzles available at a time, and deadly women.

In this game, you're a super-fan of Andy Phillips who has been locked in by his roommates. You're wearing a jumpsuit from an Andy Phillips game and you have tons of memorabilia around the rooms, all of which is directly based off of the games.

There are a few start puzzles and then one main one, getting out of the room. I found the starter puzzles not too hard, but the main puzzle requires few leaps of intuition. Given the constrained size of the game, however, it's possible to suss out the solution after time, and there is a great help system.


Additional Tales from Castle Balderstone, by Ryan Veeder

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Short horror parser games connected with a backstory, November 19, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

Like the original Balderstone (which you don't have to play to understand this), you are at a gathering of horror writers who tell 'stories' which are minigames. The order of the stories is randomised.

The games are coded well, and the tone varies a lot, sometimes dramatic, sometimes silly, sometimes frightening, all sort of tongue in cheek. Many of them have twists, whether geographical or as a meta-narrative etc.

I came, I saw, I had fun, the stories aren't really related, so why don't you just go try it out and see for yourself?


Faerethia, by Peter Eastman

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A polished Twine game with music and philosophy, October 9, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

I'm a fan of 'two-world' type games, and this one fits the bill.

This game starts out with you in a sort of Plato's Cave. Soon you find yourself in Faerethia, and then there is a flashback to (Spoiler - click to show)the real world.

While there is an overarching story (one that has been done by several people, even up to Dr. Who and MLP fan fiction), the real thrust of this IFComp entry is its philosophy. It tries to tackle identity and the idea of continuity of self.

Does it work? It might have been hard once to imagine getting any kind of deep discussion out of interactive fiction games, but there's been quite a lot of work in IF that tackles big issues in a professional and educational way (like the excellent game Hana Feels).

Does this game reach that level? I'm not really sure, but it has a lot of polish, and it's not quite so heavy-handed as many other 'deep' games. I felt my playtime was well-spent.


Enceladus, by Robb Sherwin

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
A participatory space western comedy, October 9, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

Robb Sherwin is legendary for a certain kind of game, one with many creative NPCs, imaginative and creative language, and blood, sex, and profanity.

I love his style, but frequently it gets too much for me. But Enceladus has the wittiness and imagination without as much of the blood, sex and profanity. This IFComp game is like Respectable Robb Sherwin, as if Sherwin's writing were a teenager seeing a cop drive by, doing their best to walk normal and not look like they're high.

So this is a Robb Sherwin game I can genuinely recommend for most audiences. It's not meant for kids, though (there's some gore and it could get pretty scary for them). This is a great chance for more people to discover Sherwin's clever humor (or stupid humor? or both?).

You play as a character on the HMS Plagoo. A werewolf is loose in space, and you soon crash on the moon Enceladus. You have to defeat your enemies while simultaneously taking care mentally and physically of your friends while they do the same for you.

The game is completely linear; the interactivity is "do the next thing we tell you too". There's a few smatterings of puzzle elements, a little bit less than Photopia, for instance, but more than 0.

This style of interactivity made me feel like I was an actor in a play, giving lines at the appropriate part. And since Sherwin's writing has always reminded me of Shakespeare (focusing on witty turns of phrase and a mixture of lowbrow and highbrow), it works well.

(P.S. It may seem hyperbole to compare anyone to Shakespeare, but I'm not saying that quality of writing is exactly equal. I'm just talking about the sense of humor)


URA Winner!, by Carter Sande

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A troll game (?) portrayed as test prep, October 8, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

Carter Sande is just trolling us all at this point, I believe.

Last year, his game Let's Explore Geography! Canadian Commodities Trader Simulation Exercise was a tongue-in-cheek take on edutainment game. He spent a long time in the forums going back and forth on whether his game was actually edutainment or not, and it's still a little hard to tell.

This game has you clicking on a jpg island map to get help in different areas, in addition to taking small mini-tests of three questions at a time.

The tests are a bit hard (and I swear the compound interest one is wrong!). The little story segments between are more story-based and more clearly Interactive Fiction, but they honestly wouldn't be out of place in a real edutainment game.

The only place I found anything odd was (Spoiler - click to show)the very end, where there was no 'end game' link, and I scrolled down and found I 'missed something'. I noticed the replay this time was different, but not significantly so.

I then followed the walkthrough, the game went all (Spoiler - click to show)Zalgo, and the end result convinced me more than ever that Carter is trolling us all. I did reach a final The End after (Spoiler - click to show)destroying the obelisk.

Why 4 stars, not 5? Because, and this is written in my heart:

"Simulated Boredom is Still Boredom"

Otherwise, I had a good time.


Fat Fair, by AKheon

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Great programming, terrible idea, October 7, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

It's a real shame. This game has a sandbox environment, reasonable puzzles with multiple solutions, several endings that require completely different strategies and have distinct results, no bugs or typos that I found. Basically, everything you'd want a comp game to me.

The problem is that it's super offensive. You play a morbidly obese teen that is so fat they can eat anything and smash things with their fists. Your eyes and ears are so full of cholesterol that you have to type 'WUOOO' for echolocation every few turns.

There are other instances of, as the game calls it, 'crass humor and worse'. I didn't like that, not at all.


Remedial Witchcraft, by dgtziea

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A pleasant, mid-length witch-based parser game, October 7, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

'Wizard/Witch's Apprentice' games are very common, from old ones like "The Wizard's Apprentice" and "Berrost's Challenge" to more recent ones like "Charming" and "Oppositely Opal" (one of my favorites!).

This game avoids many of the problems of the genre. It restricts its state space nicely both with regards to books (there are only a few, and only a few topics to look up), locations (only about 7), and ingredients (about 4). Most of these witch/wizard games just open up too quickly.

I found the puzzles very satisfying. My most negative experience was right at the beginning with the crystal ball. (Spoiler - click to show)I couldn't reach the ball, but there were length-enhancing things around (like the duster). It was not intuitive to me that you could climb up).

I felt like the ending could have used a bit more build up or that there could be more details here and there. But that's more of a design preference, and not a bug. This is a solid game that will please parser fans.


Bad Water, by Waking Media

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A FMV game tribute to an old FMV game, October 7, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game is essentially a home-made remake of the obscure old CD game Bad Milk.

In both games, there is no text, only videos or audio. You pass out after consuming something bad and must go through puzzles.

The interactivity baffled me here, with spinning icons and bizarre link options.

I don't decide what's interactive fiction and what's not, and I think this is fine to have in IFComp. But I really don't know how to play and find the whole thing pretty opaque.


Turandot, by Victor Gijsbers

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful:
An erotic self-aware retelling of Turandot, October 6, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

Reviews serve many purposes. Helping authors feel noticed; providing feedback for future games; monologuing; and helping players decide what to play and not.

In the interest of the latter, this game is overtly sexual in a crass way. I abandoned it once, and only persevered when told that the large middle portion contains very little of that nature.

Aside from that, Gijsbers has used all of his excellent storytelling powers in crafting this game.

It takes Puccini's Turandot, a story that is very problematic in and of itself. I'm in the camp that believes that Puccini had built up something he couldn't finish: there was no reasonable way to finish the story or the music that could mesh well with what went before. There's no realistic resolution whatsoever.

This game takes that on head-first. The player traverses death and destruction in pursuit of the princess, but there's a sort of in-game fourth-wall-breaking (third-wall breaking?) where everyone comments on the ridiculousness of it. It's all just a joke.

But is it? (Spoiler - click to show)The player's obsession is never really explained. And the neat wrapping up of 'none of the people' actually died ignores the friend. The murder of the guard is glossed over. These huge plot holes are explained away by the overall self-critical nature of the game.

I've noticed that every writing community has it's own views on what is 'great'. I made a chart once displaying where each community lies on the scale of 'earnestness' vs and 'originality' vs 'canon' in their judging. Creepypasta and Battle for Wesnoth both have extreme earnestness in their writing, while IFComp tends to value self-awareness. This game is far in the self-awareness area, almost a parody of self-awareness.

The choice structure is essentially all fake choices. There may be some actual state tracked, but I don't think it necessarily improves the game if that's true. For instance, I chose to (Spoiler - click to show)let the crocodile kill me and the game explained it away, again, in a very self-aware manner.

This game achieves everything it set out to do. I would say it was one of my favorites except that the feelings of shame I get reading erotic works doesn't go well with the pure enjoyment I have from text games. I believe it will do very well in the competition, possibly the top three, unless other voters have concerns about the content as well.

All in all, Victor Gijsbers started out as a good author, and its clear he's only improving with time. I can't wait to see what he comes up with next!


Poppet, by Bitter Karella

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Zombie dolls, October 6, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

You play as a doll who was once brought to life by a child's magic, but awakes now when the child is long gone.

You explore a dark two-story house filled with death, decay, and dark magic.

I loved the cast of characters, and found many of the puzzles satisfying. I think I had more fun with this game than I did with anything else in the comp so far.

Quest is just not as powerful as Inform or Tads or Dialog, though. Quest's worst feature is synonym handling. Synonyms apparently must be typed in for each verb combination.

For instance, if something is called ADJECTIVE NOUN, then one puzzle might be solvable by typing VERB1 NOUN, but another puzzle might only except VERB2 ADJECTIVE NOUN. And due to Quest's weaker engine, it won't tell you you're close or detect if you've almost typed the right thing.

Bitter Karella usually does much better than other Quest authors in this regard, but some slipped through this time. For instance, (Spoiler - click to show)TAKE CLAWS or GET CLAWS produced no text, incorrect text, or just baffling text at different points in the game.

Overall though, I love this game. Fun!


Roads Not Taken, by Doug Egan

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
Graduate school and scouting: a series of memories and choices, October 4, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

Hmmm.... this game hit home in several areas. You play as a young man entering graduate school to satisfy his father's wishes. You reflect on your past life scouting as you deal with the drudgery of graduate school.

It wasn't my parents who pushed me, but I did graduate school and also had been a scout. Both parts rang true: boys discussing the forbidden parts of life in tents on trips, graduate school largely consisting of a series of failures aggregating very slowly into a dissertation.

The problem is, and this comes up in so many games: can a simulation of a boring event be fun? And my answer is no. Sure, Farmville and Universal Paperclips simulated boring things, and yet were popular. But they added a social aspect and/or increasing complexity. Just showing the drudgery of graduate school is accurate, but it's just not fun to me.

In fact, the overall structure of the game is pretty dull. Flashbacks are linear, with scattered 'expand' links that sometimes give extra text in-line and sometimes link to another page.

So why do I give it 4 stars? Well, it was just all so relatable. The prose didn't jump out and bite me, but it wormed its way inside of me. The narrator feels like a real person, even though this is a work of fiction. There's just a kind of raw honesty to it all that appeals to my sense of self and my own history.


Black Sheep, by Nic Barkdull and Matt Borgard

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A cyberpunk mystery about robots, religion and identity, October 4, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

Writing a mystery IF game is hard, but rewarding. The hardest thing to handle is the deductive process: will the PC find clues before solving the case, or can the player can deduce the answer on their own? Does the player need to link clues themselves, or do they automatically process them?

This is a good game, but I'm not quite sure it nails that deductive process. In this Twine game, you play as a young woman in a sci-fi future renting out an old detective's office for the night. Your father has died, your sister is missing, and you have to search for her.

You have numerous locations you can go to. You have an NPC companion who can examine things for you. You have an inventory where any item can be used with any background link, giving quadratic complexity. You also can deduce things with your companion, linking concepts with, again, quadratic complexity. Dying alters the game subtly.

All in all, it makes for a rich game. But the state space is so large that it's difficult to know where to proceed next. Do you need to deduce in the middle of the game? Is dying essential? Do items need to be examined by your companion, used on NPCs, or ignored? I found myself frequently turning to the walkthrough.

Storywise, it uses some classic sci-fi tropes (techno-cult, do robots have feelings, etc.), but it executes it well. I felt comfortable with this game. The author says 'hire me' at the end, and I would feel comfortable hiring them for a writing project.


Truck Quest, by Donald Conrad and Peter M.J. Gross

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Truck-based government, October 3, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

Okay, this is a great game in many ways. Pixel art is on point, characters are compelling, the atmosphere at Dan's shady truck dealership is just perfect, and the storyline comes to a great point.

But I found the day by day gameplay a little less compelling. My choice of which job to pick up didn't seem to matter too much, and neither did my driving strategy. It's possible they mattered, but I didn't see it in in-game, unlike my choice of 'side hustle', which strongly affected the game.

So, I liked it, but found parts a bit tedious. This is a trucking simulator where you make money doing increasingly shady jobs, while individuals begin approaching you for help. Your choices of who to help affect the politics not only locally but eventually globally.


Heretic's Hope, by G. C. Baccaris

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A fantasy/horror game with deep worldbuilding and impressive UI, October 3, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This author has become well known for Twine UI work. with many people interested in learning how to make games look the way, for instance, Devotionalia did.

This game has that same rich UI. Buttons instead of hyperlinks, character portraits, rich backdrops, multiple save files in a button in a collapsible menu.

Story-wise, this is heavy stuff, epic fantasy mixed with horror. You are a lone human burying their mother, living on an island filled with huge, sentient insects. You have been offered a controversial position on the island in the religious hierarchy, and life is complicated.

Most choices are about your attitude and response to others (agreeing, disagreeing, deflecting). Others have agency affecting the story. The real replayability factor is in the characters, not all of which you can talk to in one go through.

It's polished, descriptive, interactive, creepiness-inducing, and I would replay, so I'm giving it 5 stars!


Treasure Hunt in the Amazon, by Kenneth Pedersen and Niels SÝndergaard

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
A fun little treasure hunt in the Amazon with some parser issues and colonialism, October 3, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game is a remake of a 1985 Danish game (which explains the two authors).

The game warns you that it comes with randomization, hunger timers, etc. and has a really clever idea: allowing you to turn all of those off. I tried playing with them on at first, and it was actually fun, since the map wasn't too confusing (especially with the automap. And Adrift online makes playing a lot better!). The music and images worked well with the text.

Some parts of the interactivity just seem too farfetched to guess on your own, though. I knew I needed to (Spoiler - click to show)find the key in the jaguar, and I knew that (Spoiler - click to show)I had to eat in the game, but I never thought the two would be combined to solve a puzzle. And some tools seem like they could have many uses (such as the (Spoiler - click to show)dynamite). But a lot of this stems from older game design where it was expected the player would only have a few games available and play each of them off and on for multiple days or weeks.

More concerning is the inherent colonialism in the game. I ran into this when adapting Sherlock Holmes in to a game; I left in negative references to gypsies, and the feedback I received taught me a lot more about the negative experiences gypsies have had over the years (including in the Holocaust!) This game does something similar, where the natives are portrayed as more or less dumb and associated with alcohol, and there are no moral qualms about entering sacred spaces and stealing artifacts to take back to Europe. This wasn't exactly unusual in 1985 (just look at Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom from the year before!), but sticks out now, to me, especially since I've also adapted older works with colonialist views. I don't really have any advice, these are just my thoughts.


Pirateship, by Robin Johnson

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A rollicking pirate adventure game in Johnon's signature parser hybrid style, October 2, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

Robin Johnson is one of the best IF authors of the last few years, putting out games like Detectiveland and Zeppelin Adventure. These games, and Pirateship, use a parser-hybrid engine based off of Johnson's Versificator parser (used in games like the Xylophoniad).

This game doesn't reach the heights that Detectiveland did (which had 4 separate cases to work on), but it's a solid entry that will please fans of his previous games, and of puzzles in general.

You play as a pirate on an island that has a surprising number of inhabitants. There is a lot of conversation, and several complex mechanics (including a diving apparatus and a kind of pirate prosthetics lab). I used a walkthrough for a few of the trickier puzzles.

This game is polished, descriptive, has good interactivity, and I would definitely replay. It didn't draw me in emotionally, as I didn't really feel any kind of connection to the NPCs, or find an overarching story like Zeppelin Adventure. But this isn't a game looking to be deep; it's looking to entertain, and its succeeding. I debated on whether to give a 4 or a 5, but the primary purpose of my ratings on IFDB is to indicate the quality of a game compared to all other IF, and so I think a 5 is appropriate here. Compared to Johnson's other games alone, I would give this a 4.


The House on Sycamore Lane, by Paul Michael Winters

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A long, ghostly mystery parser game with some cleanup issues, October 2, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

I give stars based on five criteria: being polished, being descriptive, emotional impact, interactivity, and if I would play again.

Polish: This game is severely lacking in this area. There are numerous typos (such as 'wet' for 'west' in one room), synonyms aren't implemented, disambiguation needs work (like trying to look at the books in the library while holding the textbooks).

Descriptiveness: This certainly isn't a lushly described game, but some of the images were vivid, especially the doll room. The author did a great job of ambiance, in my opinion.

Emotional impact: I felt the eeriness of the house a bit, and the sadness of the story, but I think both needed more work.

Interactivity: The differences in functionality between trowel, pliers, and mallet were hard for me to grasp. Alternate solutions often didn't work (for instance, why don't (Spoiler - click to show)the shears work for cutting after you weaken the vines?).

Playing again: This game doesn't draw me back in for replay.

So that's a 2/5. I think that all of my concerns could have been resolved by having several playtesters, including ones experienced in playtesting games. I'd love to see a more polished game by this author, and would volunteer for playtesting it!


Ocean Beach, by James Banks

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A thoughtful parser game with timed text and a peaceful, symbolic setting, October 2, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game is meant to be contemplated slowly. You wander along a beach, looking at symbolic locations, waiting for the end of day.

The walkthrough is especially entertaining. (It only says (Spoiler - click to show)Don't worry about the puzzles., and I listened). Overall I found it peaceful, if a bit slight.

The timed text, though, was rather aggravating. Other readers may not have the same reaction, but timed text goes against everything I like and find distinctive about parser games, and this game contains sections with timed text that takes over a minute to get out a page's worth of text.

The writing and design is otherwise excellent. The portrayal of a beggar seemed a bit classist at first, but the beggar's home shows that perhaps things are not as they seem at first. A lot to think about here.


The good people, by Pseudavid

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
An artistic Twine game with images and mythological-based story, October 1, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game grew on me over time.

Like Pseudavid's previous work, this game is a highly-polished Twine game that focuses on time, place, and interpersonal relationships.

In The Good People, you play as a person descended from the inhabitants of an ancient village which was covered by a reservoir, and which has now only recently emerged. The exact setting escapes me; it seems like Native Americans in the Southwest due to the reservoir setting, but could also be Irish perhaps (?) or South American.

You've started a relationship with a travel writer who is of a different race from you, and you feel alienated from your past and your people.

This slice-of-life opening is pretty good but a little too 'high art' for me. It takes a sharp turn in the middle, though, that resonated strongly with me.

Uses unusual text placements, graphic images, occasional slow text and text animations.


Known Unknowns, by Brendan Patrick Hennessy

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
High school ghost investigation with teen romance, September 22, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

I had this game mixed up with the short Birdland sequel Open Up, and so I never got around to playing this until after the XYZZY Nominations. Then I had to see what it was all about.

Brendanís writing is what I wish I could write like. Characters are so vivid, and the text takes startling turns of phrase that you canít help from laughing at. The characters felt alive to me.

Part of that left me with a bad aftertaste in a way that a lesser artist couldnít do. The events in the game are the kind of thing I was terrified of growing up. My area had a lot of teen pregnancies and deaths from alcohol and drugs that affected people I knew. The idea of going to parties where all the highschoolers are getting drunk, watching each other have sexual experiences, using drugs, and having young men who wonít listen to Ďnoí (like Jayden) wander around seems like a reminder of personal nightmares.

But I donít believe thatís what the author intended. Games are a Rohrschach test that brings out whatever the reader is thinking. I wouldnít have had such a strong reaction to the game if Brendan hadnít written such strong characters.

The rest of the game is wonderful. The use of emoji is like a comedy version of 10pm, and the overall mystery and romance were well done. I liked the use of red options to distinguish paths that were very different from the others. It made choices feel more significant.

I also found the structure really interesting, with conversations like multi lane highways and exploration segments like city streets.

This gameís craft level is very high, and Iíve found myself thinking of it frequently in the last few days as Iíve been working on my own games.


Party Foul, by Brooks Reeves

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A difficult 4-room parser game set at a cocktail party, August 24, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game took 4th in the Jay is Games Casual Gameplay Competition #7, a competition which produced more good games than just about any other competition I've seen outside of IFComp.

You play as a woman who has been stuck talking to a bore at a cocktail party for two hours. Once he's out of the way, you have an explicit list of 3 things you have to do to escape.

Conversation plays a vital role in this game, making the characters more fun. Puzzle solutions are off the beaten track. Logical in hindsight, but difficult to come up with. It does, however, have an extensive hint system.


Victorian Detective, by Peter Carlson

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Long choice-based Quest game with a Holmes feel, August 22, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

You are not, in fact, Sherlock Holmes in this game, but you are pretty similar.

In this game, you read several paragraphs of text, then make a deduction based off of it. You have to read carefully, and may require occasional google searches, but most of the choices are deducible through logic. Some, though, just seem like guesswork, which I suppose increases the replay value of the game.

You are investigating the murder of a man after being pulled off of a big bombing investigation.

I played online, and it became slower and slower until it crashed near the end.


P. Mason und der Schlitzerhans und die Busenkathi, by Sophie Fruehling

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A goofy German game about Perry Mason in a resort, August 21, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game is in German, and it's not just regular German, it's very joke-y German with many allusions and in-jokes. My German was not up to the task, and I only completed with google translate and the built-in walkthrough.

Still, I could see how funny this game was. It's presented as a TV show with intermittent ads and other such artifices. You start the game in a hot tub or something and have to find your clothes while investigating a murder at the resort. There are some entertaining characters and a few tricky puzzles. The game isn't quite as big as it seems at first, as many potential areas are closed off.

I enjoyed it, but I often enjoy games not in my native language, as it adds another layer to the gameplay.


First Times, by Hero Robb

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A creepy, surreal Quest game with music, August 19, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game feels fresh despite being a surreal game with deeper-meaning imagery, an amnesiac protagonist, and a lab/medical setting, all of which are overused tropes.

But this game seems like something new anyway. It uses Quest and only requires the verbs USE, TAKE, LOOK, and directional commands. The parser is extremely fidgety if you try and do anything else. Even if you think you ought to do something else, you should not do something else.

Basically, you are alone in a symbolic hospital with a lot of dolls and blood and spiders, and you try to enter new areas. Near the end, there is an extended sequence of strong profanity. The whole game is pretty gory and/or disturbing.

This is one of those games that breaks all of the rules for 'good games' but gets an effect anyway. Worth trying if you like horror.


Heated, by Timothy Peers

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
A frustrating game about frustration, June 27, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

I usually take a star off of most annoying games precisely because they are annoying. But this is a game about a man where anything at all can set him off.

The game makes UNDO act differently, and tricks people who thought of other solutions to puzzles. Its puzzle solutions become increasingly unfair, although some of the most unfair ones are optional.

Sort of like 9:05 played straight, you wake up before work, worried about getting their on time, and have to go through your daily tasks before work starts.

I found it more frustrating than enjoyable. But isn't that the point?


Signos, by Mauricio Diaz Garcia a.k.a. "M4u"

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A Quest game with graphics and sound about meditation, June 26, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game, in Quest, has you navigating a mostly-symmetric area apparently seeking for wisdom.

You have a book depicting the 7 deadly sins, which you can slowly fill out by various actions. In addition, there are many religious figures here, including a monk, a fakir, a buddah, etc.

Each room has an image, and many have sound.

However, the implementation is odd, cumbersome, and often interferes with the player. The pictures vary widely in quality, and the game is frankly frustrating.

I didn't finish it, but I did appreciate the symbolic quest.


Building the Right Stuff, by Laura Mitchell

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A graphical windows game about exploring space, June 26, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This is a graphical game where you click on text buttons to control a spaceship. You find planets and see if they support life.

I've rated the game on the following 5 criteria:

-Polish. The game relies heavily on a graphical interface, but I feel that interface could be tuned up, especially with faster transitions and back buttons that only go back one step in a menu.

-Descriptiveness. Most of the descriptions are fairly plain.

-Interactivity. The slowness is frustrating, and the game's overall pace drags out.

-Emotional Impact. The pace lessened any impact I would have felt.

-Would I replay? No.

I'd love to see a new game from this author, though.


Search for the Ultimate Weapon, by Sharon Lynn Chu Yew Yee

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A fancy windows game about chinese martial arts, June 26, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game has an overly-cluttered windows GUI that is very reminiscent of the time period it is from. The top row is cluttered with a row of icons that whose meaning is opaque and whose use is questionable.

The game has side bars, command prediction, and other such features, but they often end up hindering more than anything else. There is a time feature and changing background colors.

The story itself is interesting, but could be better. I think this game is a good example that reinventing the wheel isn't always the best.


A Martian Odyssey, by Horatiu Romosan

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
An adaptation of a famous sci-fi story with a lovely soundtrack, June 26, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game is an adaptation of A Martian Odyssey, the short story, and one which I liked quite a bit before starting this game.

This game takes a long time to download (and can't be played online) because it's 50 mb, most of which is a truly lovely space soundtrack. I really liked it, and it's context-sensitive.

The game itself suffers terribly from adaptation-syndrome: content not from the actual story is not as good as the original, and you have to guess the correct action to advance the story.


Dracula's Underground Crypt, by Alex Whitington

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A poorly implemented vampire hunt, June 26, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game has a vote for it on the 'worst IF ever' poll, but I don't think it's there. It's just problematic. I evaluate games on the following five categories:

Polish: Not here. The game's bugs are numerous.

Descriptiveness: Well, it succeeds pretty well here, to be honest.

Interactivity: Problematic. It's very hard to guess what actions you are supposed to do.

Emotional impact: Dampened by the obnoxious jerk professor and the overly objectified Eva.


Cry Wolf, by Clare Parker

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A touching love story and tale about wolves, June 26, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

I played this game last year, maybe two years ago, but couldn't pass the first scene. There are so many finicky steps, and its buggy (6 kinds of pill bottles cause a nightmare).

But, following the walkthrough, you find a touching and compelling story. I quite enjoyed it. Many of the surprises you can guess ahead of time, but there are enough surprises that I'd rather not reveal any of them.

The interactivity is really messed up, and its not super polished, but it's otherwise great.


Gathered In Darkness, by Dr. Froth

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
An unfinished occult Quest game with some issues, June 26, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This is a game planned on an epic scale. Only 3 chapters were entered into the competition, and the author clearly promised greatness in those missing six chapters. There was to be an entire other complex (or multiple ones), many rooms, etc.

But even these chapters are unfinished in some ways. Many things are unimplemented. Trying to guess the right verbs can be hard even with the walkthrough.

It's also a bit offputting. Woman are all nude and described like meat. Murder is casual. I'm just not that into it.


Ananachronist, by Joseph Strom

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A sandbox time travel game that just need a little more love and better hinting, June 26, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This is another game that would be better off with extensive beta testing.

You have access to three time periods, and items in one period affect items in another, even in reverse form (so changing the future affects the past). There are no NPCs. This general effect can make an incredible game (look at Dual Transform by Plotkin), but this game doesn't help the player narrow down the solution space enough. There are so many actions that could be useful, but only a few are recognized.

Also, the game could be a bit more peppy. Many of the locations are the most generic thing possible in their timeframe.


The Lost Dimension, by C. Yong

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
An older windows game with custom interface and battle system, June 26, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game's main features are a fancy window with directional compass, list of actions to take, items, etc.

I found it difficult to run. I got it part way there, but not quite. From the guides, though, it's clear to see that the game mostly revolves around attacking enemies to gain experience with a few puzzles thrown in.

Games like this show the great wisdom in creating virtual machines with backwards compatibility, like Inform or TADS. Inform games have remained playable for decades (except for those using graphics and sound), as have TADS games.


Magocracy, by Joseph Rheaume

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
UNDO simulator disguised as a battle against mages, June 26, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game is like a mix between Kerkerkruip and Varicella without the balanced mechanics of the first or the interleaving puzzles of the latter. You are in what is essentially a battle royale with several other wizards. You have a spellbook. Killing a wizard gives you access to some of their spells. They also fight each other, so you can just wait around for a while then go loot corpses. There are some puzzles, most of which are fairly complex.

Due to the nature of the randomized combat in this game, and the unbalance of it all, it mostly devolves into an UNDO-fest. The hints even suggest this in certain scenarios. It was, though, shorter and more fun than expected. But the interactivity, polish, and replay value just weren't there for me.


R (Pron: Arrr...), by therealeasterbunny

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A somewhat faulty pirate adventure Š la Scott Adams, June 26, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

Scott Adams wrote minimalistic games to run on small computers. Theyíre free, and I recommend playing them. They use two word parsers, scanty descriptions, and so on.

This game is not as good as a Scott Adams game. There are less synonyms, somewhat weird implementation, and an overall sense of frustration I didnít experience when playing Scottís own games. One of the most popular of all of Scottís games was his own Pirate Adventure.

Robin Johnson and Arthur DiíBianca both have a very successful series of games with a Scott Adams sensibility.


Waldo's Pie, by Michael Arnaud

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A fun clown/circus game that suffers from walkthrough-itis, June 22, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game from IFComp 2005 was a pleasant surprise. You play as a retired clown trying to find his kids on a circus island.

It's simple and innocent fun, with varied locations and an honestly unique setting. The only other circus game I know well is Ballyhoo, and this is quite different from Ballyhoo.

However, it suffers a bit from 'walkthrough-itis'. It's pretty clear that the author had some awesome actions scenes and clever puzzles in mind, but the game doesn't really clue you into the required actions all that well.

I still enjoyed this game quite a bit.


Cheiron, by Elisabeth Polli and Sarah Clelland

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A very precise medical simulator, June 21, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game summarizes itself pretty well with this disambiguation text:

"Which do you mean, lymph nodes generally, the inguinal lymph nodes, the supraclavicular lymph nodes or the cervical lymph nodes?"

This is a game written by two medical students for the 2005 IFComp. They wanted to show exactly what it was like being a medical student, and they succeeded (as far as I know!) The game comes with both images and sound.

It's polished and descriptive, but there's no emotion and it's too confusing to be as interactive as I'd like. I played it quite some time ago, but for some reason I never reviewed it.


Terminator Chaser, by Bruno Dias

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A pro-proletariat space story with some puzzles, June 12, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

I played this game a year ago but somehow didn't review it.

This Parser Comp game has two facets: first, it's a space game where you wander an abandoned station. Second, unlike most such games, instead of amnesia you have access to many memories, most about unionized labor.

At the time this game was released, and the first time I played it, many people (including me) thought the puzzles were a bit fussy. But on this second playthrough, I found it pretty enjoyable. It does require a kind of relative positioning command that's not typical in parser games due to its complexity, but this is good for puzzle fiends, space buddies, or those concerned for social welfare and the plight of the masses.


Tethered, by Linus Ňkesson

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A smooth puzzle game with compelling backstory built with new language, April 21, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This is the author's showpiece for a new language, Dialogue, that compiles to the Z-machine format.

Showpieces for new languages are a varied lot. Curses!, the showpiece for Inform, is one of the best games I've ever played: huge, puzzly, with deep connections to literature, religion, mythology and history. Ditch Day Drifter is sparser and smaller, but still pretty fun. Bronze and Floatpoint, showpieces for Inform 7, are both intensely detailed games.

This game takes a different tack. Instead of a massive adventure, it's a compact puzzle game in the snow. You play as a couple out climbing a snowy mountain, and must solve puzzles involving classic adventuring situations/items like darkness, ropes, and large pushable items.

I found the story in this compelling, as well as the puzzles. One of my favorite IFComp 2018 games.


Writers Are Not Strangers, by Lynda Clark

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A complex sci-fi choicescript game that ponders the nature of writing, April 21, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This is a complex game, which makes sense as it is part of a thesis. Unlike many IFComp games, it's less of a short story and more of a novella that should be played slowly, perhaps overall multiple days. It's not as long as a full-length Choicescript game, but it's still very hefty.

Such longterm playing is facilitated by the excellent save feature, one of many advanced design features. This game has been heavily modified from baseline Choicescript.

The main conceit of the game is that you are asked at several points to evaluate the quality of writing, and the game looks deeply into the relationship between reader and writer. The first few short stories are takes on famous writers, and some of these are just fantastic (I especially enjoyed the riff on Metamorphosis).

It also includes science fiction elements and some post-modernism.


Written in the Glim, by Mary Goodden, Failbetter Games

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A pleasing monthly story involving 'astrology', April 20, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This was an excellent addition to the Fallen London mythology. I played it several months ago, but forgot to write the review at the time, so pardon me if there are errors.

I strongly remember the 'astrological signs' in this story. Of course Fallen London is under the ground in a giant cavern, so the existence of stars and astrological signs is a somewhat contentious subject.

The story takes you into a strange world with insects and caverns. Very fun.


‹rs, by Christopher Hayes, Daniel Talsky

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A gorgeously illustrated Rabbit game with puzzles, April 20, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game is really breaking new ground. Among Twine games, it's remarkable for both using extensive beautiful graphics, animations, etc., but for also being long and puzzle-y.

You play as a rabbit in a warren of other rabbits, but something truly odd is happening. As you explore more, you uncover an entirely new setting.

A few of the puzzles seemed fussy, and I wasn't completely emotionally invested in the story, but this is a Twine game I can strongly recommend to those new to Twine and those experienced in IF.


The Missing Ring, by Felicity Drake

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Great twine mystery in an old house, April 19, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

I really enjoyed this game in Introcomp, and the finished version is even better.

This isn't a grandiose or intense game. This game is just like an Agatha Christie story, with great attention to psychology and detail.

It manages to have a lot of material you have to plow through without feeling too much like lawnmowering. The author has a lot of context-sensitive programming with inventory-based puzzles, and that's what gives this game a good 'choice feel', if that's even a phrase.

You are at a hectic Christmas Eve dinner and Grandma's ring turns up stolen. It's your job to track down the culprit before the police have to be called.

Overall, this was my favorite Spring Thing game. Well done.


Escape!, by Marnix van den Bos

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A pleasing little puzzle game, April 19, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

I helped beta test this game.

This game is pretty simple. It's a series of locations (28, I think), many of which are connecting rooms like hallways. It has one NPC. The rooms are fairly plainly described. The puzzles are contrived a bit.

But it all works. The puzzles are supposed to be contrived; you are literally exploring a 'demo game' within the game that is unfinished, and you must take advantage of errors in the code to win (like IAG Alpha).

The puzzles are fun, including a modular arithmetic/Chinese remainder theorem type puzzle.

This is a game that fills its own niche of small puzzle-fest exactly well.


Grimnoir, by ProP

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A solid and enjoyable Twine mystery game with a fantasy noir setting, March 13, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

I love this game. I'm a big fan of mystery games in general, but they tend to have a common problem: how do you model the investigative process?

Some games have you collect physical evidence until you have enough to convict (the Infocom mysteries, for instance). Other games represent knowledge as individual clues that can be combined or traded (like some of my games and the excellent Erstwhile). Some games have you just guess who did it after you collect enough information (like Toby's Nose).

This game follows the latter path, and does it well. You're given quite a few cases (this is a big Twine game), and in each one, you read information about a monster causing trouble. You have a big encyclopedia listing different monsters' characteristics. Your job, as the player, is to read the encyclopedia, compare it to the monster's characteristics, and guess which monster it is, as well as its motivations.

This game wouldn't be nearly as good without its slick presentation. Beautiful intro, nice transitions and classy color use.

I beta tested this game, but it got a lot of work done after I did so. Very pleased with the outcome here.


Dead Man's Fiesta, by Ed Sibley

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A quirky Twine game about self-reflection and death, March 12, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This is an IFComp game that had some standout moments. Overall, it's a quirky game about death. A car you receive turns out to be haunted, and dealing with the issue requires you to think about your life and the life of the ghosts.

I enjoyed one particular moment of this game a lot, when it discussed how the human fondness for randomness is associated with us trying to prepare for the unfairness and randomness of death.

I had some weird formatting issues both times I played, even with full screen, and the story as a whole was a bit uneven. But for people trying to find quality Twine games I'd give this a go.


The Forgotten Tavern, by Peter M.J. Gross

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Smash vicious vegetables in a high fantasy setting, February 24, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This is an interesting game; I had a ton of fun, but felt a bit deflated by my own ending (in hindsight, I should have saved!)

It's a homey game. You are on the run, but taken in by a sweet couple who run a tavern. They have odd chores for you...this game primarily consists of beating animate vegetables to death with a hammer. I found this very satisfying, and it even had an RPG-like element.

I got the ending faster than I thought I would, and I was specifically told I had picked the dullest ending, so I wish I had saved right before that or had an undo button.

Overall, it was an innovative concept and a game I enjoyed playing.


I.A.G. Alpha, by Serhii Mozhaiskyi

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A brilliant choice game with a meta narrative and text input, February 3, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This is a well-done IFComp 2018 game.

It runs in ITCH and is primarily choice-based. The conceit is that the author wanted to develop a big, fun sci-fi fi puzzle game, but didn't succeed.

Instead, he leaves the frame of his unfinished game alone, and adds author commentary. As the game progresses, the protagonist has more and more power to affect the game itself.

The styling is excellent, with several beautiful images and switches between different interfaces. The music is lovely and appropriate.

This is a game made with love, and it shows.


Let's Explore Geography! Canadian Commodities Trader Simulation Exercise, by Carter Sande

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A parody of educational/trucking sim games set in Canada, February 3, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game uses the Desmos online educational software to make a game about leaving your humdrum job to take on a trucking gig in Canada. Each city has things you can buy and things you can sell.

There are several endings you can reach, including giving up and one really interesting one that takes you all over, which I never quite completed. A guide is included on the IFDB page.

I say it's a parody because the author called it that, but the parody element isn't too strong. It mostly seems like a serviceable trucking game.


Instruction Set, by Jared Jackson

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
An innovative game using the Scratch programming language and classic puzzles, February 2, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

Unfortunately, this game seems to no longer work in the current version of Scratch.

Scratch is a programming language originally designed to help children make simple games. Jared Jackson and his daughter used (or abused) the system to make a parser game with animations and puzzles.

This game is based off of conceptual, educational-style puzzles: manipulating amounts of water, moving around mazes, etc.

The overall storyline is brief but illustrated. It has a different feel than almost all other IF games out there, and I hope that one day it can be recreated in Scratch 3 or a stable language.


Dilemma, by Leonora

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A few dozen trolley dilemmas all put together, February 1, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game is a custom web parser built from UnityGl. It seems to work based on searching for one or more keywords in your text, ignoring extra words.

It's built around the trolley dilemma, which is an ethics puzzle: if you know someone is about to die (due to, say, a trolley crash) and you could stop it by having other people die, what would you do?

In this game, your choice on one trolley puzzle may lead to another and another and another. You have 51 possible outcomes to search for.

It was interesting, but hard to interact with.


Flowers of Mysteria, by David Sweeney

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
A homebrew small fantasy parser game, February 1, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game is a homebrew parser game. It seems expansive at first, intimidatingly so, but it soon settles down to a fairly small, nice-sized map.

Unfortunately, the possibility space of commands is fairly high. In most modern parser games, Inform or TADS take care of common synonyms (LOOK AT vs. X vs. EXAMINE, TAKE vs. GET, etc.), and new verbs are generally hinted at in the text or provided by using items where only one word works (a shovel leads to DIG, for instance), and extensive beta-testing finds all synonyms a general player might use. This fails at times, frequently even, but it is a standard that is widespread among Inform/TADS authors.

Games written in other engines tend not to have this flexibility (with Robin Johnson's Versificator parser games being a notable exception). The standard synonyms in Inform and TADS are the results of hundreds of hours of work and playtesting, and even well-established rival engines like Quest and Adrift fail to come close to their standards. And personally written parsers tend to have even more trouble.

This is a long-winded way of saying that there are a lot of commands I wouldn't have guessed on my own without the walkthrough. Besides that, I adored this game. Crossing the chasm reminded me of The Neverending Story for some reason, finding the island reminded me of the first Zelda game. A fun slice of enjoyment.


Tohu wa Bohu, by alice alexandra moore

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
An extensive free-form poem in Texture with styling and graphics, February 1, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

Tohu wa Bohu is intentionally poetic, utilizing allegorical language, stream-of-consciousness, and unusual punctuation and capitalization.

It's developed in texture, with a short, skippable intro followed by a 19-part quiz, with each quiz question actually a link to another poem segment, some with images or other enhancements.

I found it well-done and beautiful. The reason for my low score is my scale. I found it:

-polished, and
-descriptive,

but somehow I felt an emotional distance that kept me from fully enjoying the piece. And, occasionally, the sheer length of the piece made the dragging and dropping tedious, leading me to be unlikely to play again.

If you're interested in poetic IF, I'd check this out.


Eunice, by Gita Ryaboy

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Psychology in a metaphorical parser game, December 19, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This parser game has an intriguing concept: provide psychological therapy while playing a game.

You play in a metaphorical and dreamlike world, with trolls in houses and random cookware scattered everywhere.

The therapy occurs in the gameplay: you are told relaxation techniques and other tips, asked to exercise them in-game, and generally work on laughter, dance, happiness and fixing things.

This game has a lot of implementation trouble, both with guess-the-verb and unclear instructions. This gets in the way of the relaxation experience, and makes me less likely to play again in the future.


Escape from Dinosaur Island, by Richard Pettigrew

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A homebrew web parser game with minimalistic old-school dino style!, December 19, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game was entered in IFComp 2018.

Escape from Dinosaur Island is a homebrew parser game that features nice coloring and styling.

The parser has most of the weaknesses of homebrew parsers in general, mostly a lack of synonyms or responses for things like 'get up' or 'push basket'. However, this is alleviated by generous in-game hinting of the correct verbs.

The plot and gameplay are Scott-Adams-esque: each room has an item or two, the plot is mostly scenery for the fun setting and puzzles, and most of the gameplay is bringing the right item to the right place.

If you like that style of gameplay (like I do), then this will be a fun little nugget of gameplay.


The Master of the Land, by Pseudavid

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
A masterful fantasy game with a unique interaction style, December 13, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

Twine games often fall into two traps: branching too much (so that playthroughs are short and miss almost all content) or branching too little (so that players feel frustrated, as if their choices don't matter). Games with strong writing can make up for this (like Myriad or Polish the Glass), but it's definitely a big problem for this system.

Pseudavid sidesteps this problem neatly by using a unique form of interaction. The player is put into a physical space and allowed to navigate while multiple storylines unfold simultaneously.

The game, then, becomes about being in the right place at the right time. It gives you a real sense of a bigger world, of life and vitality.

I suggest playing this game multiple times to see the different storylines.

The one thing that I had trouble with was, even when I knew exactly what I wanted to do and had some ideas about how to do it, I had trouble carrying it out.

(Note: I helped beta test this game.)


Erstwhile, by Aster Fialla, Marijke Perry

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A smooth Twine murder mystery with complex puzzles, November 30, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This was one of of my favorite games of the competition. Itís a smooth Twine game that plays well both on desktop and mobile.

You play as a ghost who died, or was murdered, during Thanksgiving. You have to simultaneously learn (as a player) about the neighborhood while gathering (as a ghost) mental clues to find out what happened.

The game is divided into two chunks: exploration and linking. Exploration has you looking through the thoughts of others to gain clues, and linking has you pick two related clues to produce a new one in a complex multi-layered system. Iíve seen mysteries use this technique (and written one), but this is the best implementation of the idea Iíve seen so far, and very satisfying. I got stuck near the end, but I feel like a puzzle game is perfect difficulty if I do well until the end and need a hint then.

Great for mystery fans, and fun for everyone.


Animalia, by Ian Michael Waddell

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A richly responsive game about animals occupying a human body, November 19, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This was one of the best and most-talked-about games form IFComp 2018.

I played through this one once during the comp and about 6 or 7 times afterwards.

This game has some of the greatest responsivity I've ever seen in a choice game. You make a choice between several different characters to inhabit 4 regions of a robot-child's body. Each area of the body has 3 choices.

Throughout the game, the character inside a given area will talk, and there are 3 variants every time this happens. In addition, there is a point where any two characters can talk to each other, which gives (I believe) around 90 combinations, some of which are merged but still very impressive. There are multiple pathways through everything.

Basically, this is a combinatorial explosion game, which are usually very short because it's impossible to make them long. This is a long game, though, so that means the author worked incredibly hard.

It also made me laugh a lot at different points, literally laughing out loud (for instance when (Spoiler - click to show)Charlie the robot is standing in the toilet flushing his feet over and over until mom comes in).

I'm giving it 4 stars just because I felt that, although my choices mattered a lot, it was hard for me to make and execute plans. I tried so many times just to get to Martin's house, even with the author's help, and I wish I could have known better how to do that. But this is an incredible achievement of a game.


The Addicott Manor, by Intudia

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A classic CYOA-style online game book about a haunted mansion, November 15, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This IFComp 2018 game features a professional thief protagonist who is exploring an old, haunted mansion with the intent of finding treasure.

The style is unique to the company, Intudia, with numerical choices listed in the text and buttons with numbers on them lined up below.

The game itself has an intricate backstory, with the mansion having many levels and many ghosts and villains.

There are numerous problems, however. The text is overly long at times, with scattered grammatical errors (like 'to' instead of 'too). The numbers on the bottom are often in a strange pattern with one number far to the side of the others. Instead of tracking state, it seems as if the game relies on you to remember what actions you took in the past.

Still, the story is compelling, and a fun read for fans of horror.


Border Reivers, by Vivienne Dunstan

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A murder mystery set in Old Scotland, November 15, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

I helped to beta test this game.

This is a fairly big conversational game set in medieval Scotland. The player must converse with over a dozen characters to figure out who is planning a murder.

The ambitious game design makes this feel epic, and it's exciting to get tangled up in the web of deceit. However, the large number of characters and the many topics makes for a combinatorial explosion, and it becomes easy to get lost in a forest of information.

The author has an Introcomp game that is also set in medieval times that is worth checking out.


Santa Carcossa Nights, by Bitter Karella

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A big, fairly serious horror game by bitterkarella, November 9, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

bitterkarella is known for making horror-themed games in Quest, both serious and humorous.

This game has more styling than most, with hand-chosen fonts and neon colors.

The storyline seems well thought-out, and the setting is evocative. It all feels like an intense and overwhelming dream, the kind you wake from gasping for air. It starts out light-hearted but gets more intense.

This game has the usual problems Quest does, which I think are inevitable given the platform. Of all bitterkarella's games, this is the one I'd most like to see polished up in Inform or TADS 3.


Pumpkin Night, by Eleanor Hingley

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A novella-length game about a crew of teenagers and a haunted town, November 5, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game combines dating game-type choices with complex static storytelling to form a rich interactive game.

You go to a Halloween party, and a lot of people are there. A supernatural event puts the whole town in danger, and you have a group of 8 people you can interact with, including multiple romantic partners.

Most of the choices relate to how you treat people. It doesn't track perfectly, though...I picked constantly to have favorable interactions with one character (Zachary) and twice with another (Ione) and received romantic possibilities only with Ione.

Very impressive. The title and cover art led me to believe it would be a short and under-implemented parser game. Instead, it was a rich and polished novella.

The font was a light grey that was a bit difficult to read, as a warning to the visually impaired.


Fhtagn! - Tales of the Creeping Madness, by Design Imps

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
An entertaining fusion of Lovecraftian horror with the roaring twenties, July 19, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

I received a review copy of this game, and played through a couple of games.

This is a single- or multi-player board game that goes through 6 rounds. In each of the six rounds, you are trying to increase your 7 stats. These stats allow you to pass challenges. In the end, you see if your stats will qualify you for a 'role', determining if you win or not. The roles have 2 hidden stat requirements which you must guess from their descriptions.

I've played many commercial IF games in the last couple of years, and I would put this one in the top tier in terms of polish. The music, graphics, animations, and overall presentation are professional and engaging.

Writing-wise, I was strongly reminded of Fallen London in its more humorous sidequests. You are playing as a cultist each time. A good amount of text was repeated on two playthroughs, more repetition than is typical for a pure text game, but less repetition than I'm used to in a board game. It allows for mods (several of which are already developed), which increases the replay value.

The game was charming and funny. I found myself excited by the game map with its bouncy art of classic locations like an old town hall, an asylum, a speakeasy, etc.

The interaction was a little fiddly. It took me two playthroughs and two readings of the tutorial to fully understand what was going on, and I'm not really convinced of the 'elder sign' mechanic. The game doesn't tell you how to pass certain tests, including the test to see if you win, but you can spend elder signs to see what tests include. Replay also helps you know what tests require.

However, I enjoyed both of my playthroughs. Because I hadn't paid for the game, I considered what price I'd pay for the game. I thought, "Is this $20 range like Sunless Skies? Because that would be pretty steep." When I saw it was $4.99, I thought, "That's more than fair for the price you're paying."

So if you're a fan of Lovecraftian references, gothic humor, Ruby Gloom-style art, or complex board games like Arkham Asylum, this is a good game for you.


The Hall of the Fount of Artois, by Simon Ellis

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A homebrew parser game that leans on classic tropes, May 2, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This is a parser game written in C++. I played it on my own at first, but after I found it had trouble responding to several commands (and crashed after a few unexpected commands) I resorted to the walkthrough.

This game leans heavily on old text adventure cliches, especially making homages to Curses! and, perhaps, Scott Adams games.

Several scenes from Curses! are exactly reproduced, such as the delicately balanced key and the spade joke.

The worldbuilding was fairly well done, but I can't recommend this one due to the difficulties of the parser.


if not us: an interactive fiction anthology, by ub4q

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
An ambitious and sprawling collection of games, April 29, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This is unique among IF; the closest thing to it I've seen is the current Spring Thing game Life in This Northern Town.

This is an anthology of five games: one inform game and four heavily modified Twine games.

I'll discuss each game in a minute. First, an overview: the folder from itch.io contains six images, one of each of the main protagonists together with a cover photo. The art is very well-done.

The general idea is that five heroes banded together, and then something occurred to them in the long run. The games focus on the beginning and the aftermath, skipping the traditional climax. It's contemplative.

Each game is named after a main character. Looking at the photos before playing is advised.

Alemayehu is the Inform game, and perhaps this should not be the game to start with when you're playing through. It is a constrained parser game, with a few actions primarily relating to other characters. It is a one-room game.that last a couple dozen actions or so.

Apollinariya is a textual labyrinth in Twine. The screen is split in two, with a table of contents on the left and text on the right. Your goal, if there can be said to be one, is to fill out the table of contents on the left, after which you can read the story as a whole. Links are unusual, as clicking on them reveals arrows going left or right, occasionally crossed out. To me, this was the weakest Twine game, as I ended up lawnmowering every link to get the last bits of story. But I enjoyed the final story.

Arzan is a heavily styled letter with a number of binary choices. in tone and styling it is reminiscent of First Draft of the Revolution. While the story is fairly linear, it offers some significant choices in terms of tone and emotion.

Cevahir was perhaps my favorite Twine subgame. Based on a taciturn character, it is minimalistic in writing but uses evocative visual imagery.

The final Twine game, Renatum An Amurum, uses retro styling, similar to text boxes in SNES RPG's. Similar to the Texture writing system, hovering over links provides additional context, but links are still clicked instead of dragged. This game requires replays to get the full story.

On the negative side, I found the new names and the obscure writing hard to get into at first, and I was surprised that the Twine and Inform games had been bundled up into applications.

I felt like I knew the characters by the end, which is a good sign.


American Angst, by m3g1dd0

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
An ambitious amnesia horror RPG with some rough edges, April 21, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game was not what I expected. With warnings about graphic violence and explicit language, the title 'American Angst', and the logo of an American flag-colored smily face, I expected something like a mix between 'The Purge' and 'Saw' and anti-Donald Trump revenge horror.

I got something else instead, and was pleasantly surprised. This game is an amnesia-based horror game that tells the story passively through set pieces, until the end when all is revealed.

It uses extensive styling, with special 'emphasis' boxes, an 8-bit looking battle interface, and special designs for links and devices. Profanity occurs about once or twice a screen, but my chrome extension blocked it easily.

The game saves automatically, and takes you back to checkpoints if you die.

I found the story compelling, and was surprised by the ending(s).

The game has rough patches, though. The credits don't list a single tester, and it shows. There are several mis-spellings (such as the word 'matrace' for mattress) and small grammatical errors (like 'the flashlight doubles for a nighstick' instead of 'doubles as').

Similarly, there are many game elements which should improve interactivity but end up not doing much. There is a panic stat which doesn't seem to do much besides letting you choose between having a panic attack or not. The battles are more random than strategy based. And choices aren't informed, some literally being 'left or right?' with no other information, making it feel like you don't have control.

Having had this game tested would have caught some of these issues. As it is, though, this is a well-done game and one of the best Twine games of 2017.


Ultramarine: A Seapunk Adventure, by Seven Submarines

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A visual novel with combat elements set underwater, April 18, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This was a first for me: a visual novel with RPG elements. I know visual novels are a big field, but I've generally played text-only games.

The art seemed high-quality, but characters would switch positions on the screen at odd times, which was kind of distracting. It was hard for me to distinguish the two male protagonists, who changed expression sometimes when they were talking and sometimes when others were talking.

The overall storyline was interesting, and seemed like part of a larger and well-developed world.

The RPG combat was fun, I don't see that a lot. I was allowed to go into negative MP with the main character, making winning easy.

Overall, I found some of the graphical elements unpolished, but the story very descriptive. The interactivity worked for me, and the combat and some of the decisions made me feel anxious for the characters. Overall, I feel satisfied with my playthrough and don't plan on revisiting the game. So I'm assigning it a score of 3/5.


Best Gopher Ever, by Arthur DiBianca

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A pleasant mid-length minimalist puzzle game that is kid-friendly, April 11, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This is a game in the vein of DiBianca's other games, with an emphasis on a minimal verb set and getching puzzles.

You have to help sixteen animals in a gridlike town. Each asks for various things, and you have to help them. Some give hints, and others just add flavor.

I beta tested this game, and I enjoyed it then and now. Highly recommended for a pure puzzle experience.


Game Producer!, by Jason Bergman

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A puzzle game with intentional and unintentional insights to game industry, April 3, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game is a puzzle game with three difficulties (corresponding to more or less turns) and gender options.

You have to cram through a packed day of tasks to get a game produced.

I worked in the game industry in the early 2000's, and all of this was very familiar. The caffeine-fueled late nights testing bugs, the feuds, the wheeling and dealing, and the shiny, beautiful golden master CD. I was on the outside of it, but it was intense.

This game is really tricky, and not all solutions are coded for, even fairly reasonable ones.

This game also offers unintentional glimpses into game culture, which also ring true in an unpleasant way. The main puzzle involving a woman executive has her being embarrassed to ask you to open a box that she's struggling with. All women are assumed to have long hair, etc. The penknife you have is a Mexican penknife, about which the game says the following:

"* What's up with the "Mexican army knife"?

Again, no politics, I just needed something that could cut twine but still be flimsy enough to break off after one use. Given the comparatively small size and budget of the Mexican army, it seemed like an easy gag. Plus I got to put in a funny line about a hazy trip to Tijuana."

All of these things that I mentioned were fairly innocuous in the game culture when this is written, but don't hold up to modern scrutiny.


The Reluctant Resurrectee, by David Whyld

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
An amusing game with a unique PC, April 1, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game was influential on my own writing. In this game, you play as a disembodied eyeball which must solve various puzzles on a desk and on a fireplace mantel.

It's creative and its fun. However, I found the interactivity frustrating, and so I never completely engaged with the writing and the concept.


Unauthorized Termination, by Richard Otter

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
An Adrift robot murder mystery, March 30, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This was a charming game, and in a genre I haven't seen too much of: a murder mystery set completely in a world of robots. Bad Machine and Suspended both give off the same vibe of this game, that of a purely mechanical society, but this game achieves a remarkable contrast between the impassiveness of the robots and the emotion of the investigation.

It suffers from ADRIFT's standard problems, but to a much smaller degree than usual. I did have some trouble guessing the later actions, but overall I found myself pleased by this game. I've been lucky enough to find a string of good games in a row this week.


The Big Scoop, by Johan Berntsson

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A short murder mystery game with a mid-level of polish, March 30, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game was entered in IFComp 2004. It has two PCs, one featured in the prologue, and one who is a main character detective.

The opening scene was clever, but I soon find myself frustrated by small bugs and a lack of implementation. Without proper feedback, it was hard to know if I was on the right track or not.

The game has several puzzles which are fairly hard to guess on your own, and which seemed somewhat unfair to me.

Overall, it was interesting, and had a nice cat character.


Final Selection, by Sam Gordon

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A wonderful one-room puzzle box with tons of items and layers of clues, March 27, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This is a great one-room puzzle game in the same vein as The Wand or Lord Bellwater's Secret.

You are placed in a room and tasked with finding a certain word. This is quite a difficult task. The room is split up into 9 different sub-locations, each with puzzles, usually several puzzles. There are experimentation puzzles, intuition puzzles, red herrings, crossword-style puzzles, math puzzles, etc.

I was able to solve it without hints, but I think I played it once 8 years ago, and it gave me a hint on a particularly tricky problem.

About half of my playtime was just going to each of the 9 sections of the room and examining everything. The other half was putting the clues together.


Faute De Servo, by Jack Welch

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
An intriguing horror mystery with humor, January 20, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

I beta tested this game, so it's hard to be objective about it. I think I would give it a 4.5/5, so I rounded up.

Faute De Servo combines several game ideas that I love, including waking up in a lab-like environment with no clue what's going on (like Babel) and gaining powers by devouring random things (like the under-played Mangiasaur).

Much of the game consists of figuring out the action system, as well as the backstory of your location. I found this somewhat confusing (which is why I gave 4.5/5) but the presentation is so slick that it makes up for it.

There's also a good deal of humorous banter in the game, which I enjoyed. It is derivved from a cast of characters with distinct personalities and varying levels of intelligence.

This is definitely worth playing, both for the overall game concept and for the nifty implementation.


L'exil, by Benjamin Roux

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A fairly long fantasy CYOA game in Inform 6 with vivid characters, January 15, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This French game is in a CYOA format. Itís an adventure story, almost novella length, set on a fantasy world. It has a tone that is lighter and appropriate for young adult and middle school readers. In fact, it reminded me of Norbezís IFComp game If You Squint it Looks Like Christmas in its tone, genre, length, and choice structure (as a point of reference for ifcomp players).

I liked the story overall, even sharing parts of it with my wife. Itís a heartwarming and cheerful story, with vivid characters and moments of excitement.

The choice structure wasnít what Iím used to; many of the choices were ďdo something awesome or leaveĒ. I never tried leaving, because I wanted to see what would happen. Eventually, I become somewhat paranoid that the leaving choices were important, so it gave more weight to my decisions.

I would give it 4 stars if it had a save system. I couldnít find one, and this is very lengthy.


Alicio en la Kurioza Kongreso, by Ariel Bonkorpa

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
An educational esperanto adventure in 5 chapters of Twine, January 12, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game is, it seems, written in Esperanto. I thought it was Portuguese at first, but the game itself corrected me.

You are Alice, and, I believe, you are headed to an Esperanto-speaking conference, where you meet someone who tells you about Esperanto. I learned that Esperanto has between 100,000 and 1,000,000 speakers. Given that the number of Twine fans is probably somewhere in that range, too, and the intersection is fairly low, I don't think many people will be able to complete this game.

I only got through the first third of the first chapter. Looking through the code, it seems like there is a compelling fantasy element in the middle.

This is an intriguing game, and a great amount of work.


All Visitors Welcome, by Bitter Karella

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A creepy but buggy tale about a state park , December 3, 2017
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This quest game has refreshingly original storybuilding. It includes a big pamphlet you can read which does a good job of displaying a 'descent into madness', although I think it could have done better if it left a bit more mystery in the last few pages.

The game has a layout (story-wise) similar to Karella's earlier Night House. You are alone in a building, and something is outside, and you have to figure out what it wants.

I was unable to complete this during Ectocomp. Afterwards, some people commented on intfiction with the solution.

Overall, this was a positive experience once I knew what to do.


The Sisters, by revgiblet

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A fairly good ghost story in Adrift with some bugs, November 17, 2017
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This story is actually pretty fun, given how little this is done in IF.

It's a traditional ghost/creepy story with an old abandoned house to search through.

It has numerous bugs, and a huge number of 'guess the verb' problems, but I was glad I played it and enjoyed it overall. I used the walkthrough.


Fetter's Grim, by Paul Allen Panks

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A mishmash of DnD tropes with Christianity and roman history, November 17, 2017
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This has to be a troll game; Panks admitted before that some of his IFComp games are troll games (such as Ninja II). But if not...

You play as a weakened mythological god, except that that never gets mentioned after the first screen. You can find and kill Jesus. Most of the game is fighting DnD characters. There is a village with a tavern, like most Panks games.

It was interesting, but not his best offering.


Hedge, by Steven Richards

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
An ambitious puzzly club game with implementation issues, November 17, 2017
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game attempts quite a bit. You are trying to get into a mysterious club. The game is full of puzzles and many, many red herrings.

There was obviously a lot of thought and effort put in, but it could have used more testing. Fun with a walkthrough.


Domestic Elementalism, by fireisnormal

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Awesome transformation witch game, November 17, 2017
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

I beta tested this game.

This game has a utilitarian interface, but don't let that fool you: this is a seriously great game.

Your magical witch house is broken, and you need to fix it. You have an inventory (even though it's web based), and you have the power to alter the elements of various inventory elements.

It has a cheerful backstory. Different items you carry interact with each other.

The various interactions are fiddly sometimes, and perhaps even unfair; but somehow everything gelled for me in a great way. Not everyone may feel the same.


A Castle of Thread, by Marshal Tenner Winter

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A three-act fantasy game with a big cast of characters, November 17, 2017
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

I beta tested this game.

This game casts you as a translator of ancient languages in a fantasy world. It's split up into three acts: a tense moment on a boat, a fight in a town, and a climactic finale in an archaelogical dig.

The overall story, the characters, etc. are all well-drawn. But the game is so big that more needs to be filled-in; more responses to synonyms and commands, more conversational topics, more alternate puzzle solutions.


AND WHEN I SQUINT IT LOOKS LIKE CHRISTMAS, by Norbez

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Basically a children's novella with some interactivity, November 17, 2017
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

I could see myself picking this book up and reading it in the library. You play as an orphan who gets sucked into another world by a mysterious stranger.

This other world is an Oz-like fantasy world that is creatively engineered. A long story plays out.

There's not much interactivity to speak of, though there are options scattered throughout. But I liked this; it reminded me of 'pulpy' kids books that I read when I was a teenager, like Deltora quest.


1958: Dancing With Fear, by Victor Ojuel

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A dancing-based historical game in a magnificent setting, November 17, 2017
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

Ojuel is a master of setting, and this is a great game. You play as an former dancer in 1958 in a communist Carribean country. You have to extricate something from a house party, but you don't know what it is.

The game has great storytelling, using flashbacks and conversation to good effect. I see it getting nominated for several XYZZYs.

There were several implementation difficulties, though, because it was sometimes hard to know what verbs to use. A post-comp release that implemented every command response contained in judges' reviews would not take much time, and would add the finishing touches to this already great game.


Will Not Let Me Go, by Stephen Granade

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A powerful Twine game about dementia, November 16, 2017
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

I beta tested this game.

Stephen Granade has written a wonderful game here about an old man coping with dementia.

It makes magnificent use of unreliable narrator to depict the disorientation that dementia causes.

It is a fairly long Twine game, but autosaves, and has a nice feature that tells you how long the game has been playing.

Highly recommended.


The Unofficial Sea-Monkey(R) Simulation, by B.J. Best

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A polished and well-designed story framed as a simulation, November 16, 2017
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

I beta tested this IFComp 2017 game.

This is a Twine game framed as a situation (specifically of feeding sea-monkeys), which the actual story is fitted into.

I found the colors and presentation very nice, and the game overall very polished. I did find it frustrating how long it took to reach the final ending, but that was mostly due to time crunch around IFComp. If you have time to play, this is a relaxing and enjoyable experience.

Contains infrequent strong profanity.


Ultimate Escape Room: IF City, by Mark Stahl

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A tight puzzle fest in a color coded escape-room game, November 16, 2017
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game has you going to a live escape room in a mall or building somewhere.

Inside are a series of color-coded rooms with a variety of puzzles. They include a variety using slightly-less-standard-but-still standard verbs like 'search' or 'look under', etc.

I enjoyed this game. It didn't really inspire any emotion in me, but as a small puzzle snack, it does what it is intended to do.

I feel like this is an improvement over the author's previous game, Questor's Quest, and I'd like to see more from this author.


The Traveller, by Kaelan Doyle Myerscough

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
An imaginative graphical game with few choicepoints, November 16, 2017
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game plays out like a branching graphical novel. It has quite a few beautiful hand-drawn backgrounds and images.

You are a space traveler who has left the earth with her young daughter. You are separated, and must travel to five different planets, seeking your daughter.

Choices are few, but you get some major ones. For me, the biggest attraction is the interesting characters and depicted societies in each world.


Transient Skies, by dgtziea

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A great mid-sized Twine space exploration/trading game, November 16, 2017
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

I beta-tested this game, and I deeply enjoyed it.

It's a twine game with some really nice use of color and a cool title screen.

You venture from world to world, doing some grinding of resources, and buying different equipment.

Other parts of the game include more room-to-room travel and taking and using items. There are story interludes, and so on.

It was a little shorter than I hoped for, but I'm still giving it 5 stars.


Temperamentum, by Matthew Sawchuk

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A buggy but intense psychological symbolism game, November 16, 2017
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game reminds me of Pilgrimage by Victor Ojuel. Both are symbolic games with female protagonists based on the 4 humors: sanguine, phlegmatic, bilious, and melancholic.

Beyond that, though, they diverge significantly. Temperamentum has a 'real world' and 4 different worlds themed on the idea of hot/cold, wet/dry associated to the 4 humors.

The game is heavy, about loss. I enjoyed it, but parts of it are almost impossible without the walkthrough, and the walkthrough itself is unreliable in parts (for instance, west and east are switched at one point, and in another, it uses the word 'woman' when only 'her' works).


Redstone, by Fred

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A well-done parser hybrid mystery with graphics, November 16, 2017
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game has you explore a reservation-based casino to try and uncover the truth behind a murder.

It implements a blackjack game, and uses graphics and a hand-made parser hybrid engine.

The primary portion of the game is investigating a few suspects by interviewing them, examining their items, and talking to those who have seen them.

However, I never felt strongly emotionally invested in the game. I did feel interested while playing, though.


Off the Rails, by Katie Benson

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
The meek shall inherit...something, November 16, 2017
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This is a fairly long and polished Twine game with multiple branches, more or less in the Gauntlet style under Ashwell's classification system.

The game is centered around meekness. You are a milquetoast character on a train dealing with family issues and personal anxiety.

If you choose to, you can be sent on a small adventure, where you learn more about the possibilities in yourself.

The writing was engaging, but I felt like my choices didn't really matter (outside of Do you want to continue or Not), and I feel like they didn't drive the text forward. The concept was creative, though.


Mikayla's Phone, by Mikayla Corolik

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A tech-savvy game about the end of a young girl's life, November 16, 2017
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game is about a girl named Mikayla, whose phone you find. The game consists of digging though all the apps in the phone to see what her life was like.

I enjoyed the photos (of random things like dogs and writing) and the poetry. There were text notes and voice memos that were, I think, too long for me. They seemed to be there mainly to provide a feeling of reality and background; however, in a storytelling environment, being 'true to life' often makes things too unwieldly. I feel that the purpose of stories is to condense and crystallize reality, and those two parts of the game could have used significant condensing and crystallization.

Overall, it left a good impression on me, especially the ending (which I found by poring through the code).


Harmonia, by Liza Daly

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
An excellent and well-illustrated academic time travel game, November 16, 2017
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This is probably the slickest of all the games entered this year.

This is a short mystery tale set in a women's college in (I think) the northeast. You are replacing a professor who has mysteriously disappeared.

The main narrative is about time-hoppers (which feels more like a temporal Gulliver's Travels than H.G. Wells), but there is a sub-narrative about the place of adjunct/temporary/visiting faculty and the various roles of women in academia.

The game beautifully divides between 'asides'-links and 'moving forward'-links by having the first show up as notes in the margin and the latter extending the text.

It's well-illustrated and well-written. One of the best web games available.


Goodbye Cruel Squirrel, by Extra Mayonnaise

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A squirrel game with some tricky puzzles, November 16, 2017
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

I enjoyed the puzzles of Goodbye Cruel Squirrel with a walkthrough. I enjoyed the writing in general, but not the mean-spiritedness.

You play as a squirrel raiding another tribe. You have to progress through a series of locations, each with its own puzzle.

I got stuck early on and used a walkthrough the whole time.


Future Threads, by Xavid

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A hidden-object like game involving visions of the future, November 16, 2017
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This is a game with a brilliant premise; you are some sort of alien being charged with protecting a young girl.

You have visions of the future, showing you that seven enemies will come and attack her.

You can do various things to improve her chances of survival, with each thing you do providing you with a new vision.

This was very successful in general, but I found it fiddly in two areas. First, some things weren't implemented; for instance, the first thing you learn about Kayla is that she has pulled-back hair and a simple dress. But if you try to examine either one, there is an error.

Second, the game essentially becomes a hidden-object puzzle. You have to scour descriptions for nouns, examine each noun, and hope that you find the right thing. Some solutions that seem like they should work, don't; like finding alternate things for burning/clogging, etc.

But I still enjoyed this game a lot. It has a nice map.


Eat Me, by Chandler Groover

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A grotesque limited parser game about consumption, November 16, 2017
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

I beta tested this game, and it was my personal choice for winner of IFComp 2017.

It is a grotesque game; you are a child granted a bottomless pit by a magical character in a fairy tale. You are imprisoned in a dungeon where countless other children have met gruesome deaths.

The game revolves completely around eating, with eating the only real action. Like DiBianca's Grandma Bethlinda's Variety Box, where USE was the only verb, the puzzles in this game revolves around timing and sequence.

I found this game satisfying, and have played it 6 or 7 times.


Green Falls, by Paul Allen Panks

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Same as all the other Panks games, October 27, 2017
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

I had just played Fetter's Grim and Westfall (or Westport or whatever it is), as well as a few other Panks games.

This game has all the usual suspects: a village, a tavern, a cathedral on the west side of town with a nook to the north, jokes about the author being drunk or not being drunk, a hellhound that is in the first dark forest area south of town, etc. exactly what's in all the other games.

It doesn't understand 'X' or 'TAKE' even though other Panks games in the same year do. It's just bizarre.


Packrat, by Bill Powell

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A parody of Sleeping Beauty and IF, September 28, 2017
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game casts you as The Packrat, and adventurer who is trying to fight their urges to take anything and everything they can get a hold of.

This is played up for laughs early on, but not so much later.

This game centers around 'guess the author's thoughts'-type puzzles, and as such is very difficult to finish unaided.

A ton of work went into this, but it could have used more polishing.


Cat Scratch, by Allyn (Yilling) Chen, Hannah Turner, Laura Weber, Shirley Park, Will Hagen, Chris Klug, Scott Stevens

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
An augmented story book with graphics, animation and sound, September 28, 2017
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This is a small chapter book with a story about a cat.

It is well-written, with no typos that I saw. It incorporates animations that respond to screen touches and (I think) accelerometers. It also includes sound.

This type of augmented story is not something that has traditionally been entered into the IFComp, although I could see a day when things become more common. For me, though, I found it uncomplying emotionally, and the interactivity that was available was not exciting.


Moonland, by BillyJaden

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A porpentine-esque surreal bio-cyber Twine game, September 28, 2017
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game is strongly (by the author's admission) influenced by porpentine.

It mimics Porpentine's uses of multi-colored links and cycling back to one location, and background music, as well as visceral/gooey scenes and identity horror.

However, it lacks a great deal of porpentine's pacing. Frequently, new text is delayed for several seconds before appearing. There are no consistent 'rules' for how scenes proceed; many threads are introduced that are not resolved.

I found that the game was stronger the longer it went.


Channel Surfing, by Mike Vollmer

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A reality tv show parody with some guess-the-verb problems, September 28, 2017
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

In this game, you use a remote control to interact with various tv shows. These include a game show, a survivor-like show, and one I'll leave unmentioned for surprises.

The concept is fun, but the execution combines under-implementation, heavy-handedness, and lampshaded 4th wall breaking that is never resolved as to why it should occur.


Carmen Devine: Supernatural Troubleshooter, by Rob Myall

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A short, fun werewolf romp that could use some more cluing, September 28, 2017
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game casts you as a werewolf agent for a large group of werewolves. You have to travel to a snow-covered Chinese village to investigate its destruction.

The story and setting are actually pretty good, and I liked this game. Where it falls down is in presenting information to the player; nowhere, even in the extensive menu system, are you told how to transform between human and wolf. Conversation topics have to be guessed to proceed with little in-game explanation.

Fun mid-length game to take for a spin. Nice use of different senses in descriptions.


The Rocket Man From The Sea, by Janos Honkonen

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A mid-length sci-fi game with multiple viewpoints and a vintage Sci-fi feel, September 28, 2017
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game feels just like all of the 60's scifi stories I read growing up, in a good way.

You play as a young child on a lonely outpost in the sea during a war between Earth and Mars. Alone for the day, you get to use your imagination around the island, until events take a sudden turn.

The multiple viewpoints reminded me favorably of Rover's Day Out and Delphina's House.

There were a few parts where the interactivity just didn't do it for me, which is why I deducted one star.


wHen mAchines aTtack, by Mark Jones

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Very, very big game about a robotic conspiracy at a factory, September 28, 2017
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game has numerous issues, and is best played with a walkthrough.

With a walkthrough, it can be pretty fun. It does include steps like waiting 19 times in a row, with each Z producing a text dump.

The reason it can be fun is that its story, which has early hints about employees not being all the way there and oddly intelligent robotic devices, is compelling in the large scale.

Worth trying if you like to skim read and don't mind walkthroughs.


The Sword of Malice, by Anthony Panuccio

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A mid-sized fantasy game about foreign the perfect weapon, September 28, 2017
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game has you sent on a quest to collect parts to make a magic item, escape from a jail cell, search a dungeon, and has both a classic logic puzzle and a collection of riddles.

I didn't really like it at first, and played through with the walkthrough the whole way. Along the way, though, I began to like it more. The descriptions can be fun and interesting, though unpolished. The story has some fairly large plotholes, but I feel like the game was close to being complete, fun, and bug free, if the author had had more time.


Sylenius Mysterium, by C. E. Forman

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A game about playing inside of classic arcade games, September 28, 2017
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game by a good author (see 'Delusions') reminds me a bit of Gris et Jaune by Jason Devlin, another talented author. Both games have very strong openings that hint at a great game full of polish.

However, both were not completely finished/polished in time for the competitions they were entered in. This game, in particular, falls flat in the most exciting part: the actual game simulation. You play as Mario, and you have to jump with timed Glulx effects, but it just doesn't work out, and later levels are, I believe, unfinished.


Neon Nirvana, by Tony Woods

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A heartfelt but choppy gangster game, September 28, 2017
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game seems to almost certainly have been written by a talented but inexperienced teenager who had a great idea for a game but fell down in the execution.

This is a mobster story, with gunfights, methlabs, explosions, burning buildings, etc. But everything is disjointed; creative scenes are established, but not connected to each other. No one seemed to notice horrible deaths or accidents that had occurred minutes earlier, and massive plotholes come and go without comment.

It was an entertaining read, though, with the walkthrough.


I Must Play, by Geoff Fortytwo

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Reworkings of several old arcade games into IF, tied by a plot, September 15, 2017
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game, similar to Sylenius Mysterium, has you entering an arcade at night and playing a variety of arcade games in IF form.

Some of the games work out really well (I like the way that Pong was presented). Others are just bizarre (what game corresponds to the politics scene?).

Overall, fun with a walkthrough.


A Paper Moon, by Andrew Krywaniuk

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
An origami-based 'fetch items for wizard' game, September 15, 2017
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game is part of the incomprehensibly large subset of 'a wizard asks you to collect items' games.

It's also part of the 'parser likes to insult your character' genre.

It also begins with 'my lame apartment', including waking up with a hangover in just your underwear, which is also a surprisingly large genre.

However, it also lets you make about 15 different objects with origami, which is pretty cool.


Identity, by Dave Bernazzani

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A mid length sci fi game with complicated wiring puzzle, September 15, 2017
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game has you wake up with amnesia in a space wreck.

Eventually, your world opens up a bit more, and you get to explore an alien world.

It's a fairly interesting game setup, but the story doesn't have much 'bite'. Concepts are introduced but then never explored.

It has a pretty complicated electrical wiring puzzle that requires experimentation at the end.


Murder at the Aero Club, by Penny Wyatt

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A murder mystery set at an airplane field, September 15, 2017
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game was an IFComp game. It has you as a detective investigating murder at an airplane field.

You collect clues by searching scenery and by talking to people. It has a lot of elements of a good detective story, but it's really easy to get stuck and throw off the timing. There's also some goofy oddball elements that don't really fit in.


Beta Tester, by Darren Ingram

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
An interesting puzzle game marred by implementation issues, August 15, 2017
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game has you trying out various products in a puzzly environment. It has a snarky parser that jokes about a corporate environment, uses text pauses extensively, and has you assemble a complicated system.

It's actually pretty interesting, but the implementation has increasingly greater issues, making the latter half impossible to complete.

Was this review helpful to you?