Reviews by MathBrush

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The Usher Foundation III: The Buried, by Apollosboy
A brief horror story about a gay couple and deep snow, December 12, 2022
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes

This is the third game in a multi-part series based on the Magnus Archives. This one focuses on the Buried, or the feeling of claustrophobia.

The main characters are a gay couple on a vacation to a cabin in the mountains. One of them finds a disturbing book in the cabin, a copy of a Jack London novel that's not quite as it should have been.

As the story progresses, things get increasingly more frightening. I actually found the writing very strong, feeling visceral discomfort from the horror.

Unfortunately, I found some formatting issues, which others apparently also experienced. At different points, the white links disappeared, until I went to full screen, and even then I had to change the font size multiple times to reach the next links. This took away from the experience somewhat.


The Usher Foundation II: The Hunt, by Apollosboy
Spend a horrible night in a lab, December 12, 2022
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes

This is the second in a series of short Twine games centered around the themes of the Magnus Archives podcast.

This one is based on one of my least favorite archetypes from the series, 'The Hunt', and it's presented in a fairly straightforward manner without a lot of twists or turns. For most of the game (spoilers for midgame) (Spoiler - click to show)you are running away from bizarre beast, dodging different directions in a maze-like labyrinth.. It was just so on the nose that I wished there was more subtlety, more build-up.

Overall, the writing is strong; in both games I've played there are occasional typos (I've been guilty of that quite often myself), but the ideas and atmosphere are solid. I'm looking forward to the rest of the series.


The Usher Foundation I: The Dark, by Apollosboy

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
First in a series of games based on Magnus Archives, December 11, 2022
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes

While hunting through few-rating games from this year, I was pleased to see a whole series of Twine games based on the Magnus Archives, my favorite podcast (I've listened to the whole thing at least three times). The organization of the games in this series is based on some of the deeper lore of the series, centered around archetypes of fear.

This one is about darkness, a fear the original podcast writers said they had trouble writing effectively themselves. This one does a great job; at first, it's a pretty mild/boring Twine game about going the bathroom, but quickly gets darker...literally. Warning for those who have trouble reading, (moderate spoilers) (Spoiler - click to show)the text gets harder to read and eventually you have to hunt the screen for text that pops up.

The game is pretty short and could probably have been extended, but overall I'm looking forward to playing and reviewing the other games in the series.


Black River Prison, by Sparks
Short game with colorful links about an abused prisoner aided by voices, December 11, 2022
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes

I've been browsing IFDB by searching 'added:2022' by the fewest ratings to see games that didn't get noticed this year.

This was an interesting IFDB entry: added by an author who only was on the site for a couple of days, editing this post a couple of times, with no other activity.

The game itself is actually an interesting concept. You are a prisoner in a torture chamber-based prison deep underground.

Three voices, (a red one, a blue one, and a green one) urge you to acts of escape and violence.

It doesn't last too long, but looks neat visually. There were several typos (it's possible the name of the player was some special effect that doesn't display, since the subject was missing of several lines). Overall, it could stand to be fleshed out a lot more. But the core concept works.


Restitution, by Anonymous

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A classic story with a small addition involving reader response, November 23, 2022
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes

This game is part of a group of similar stories. Other such games by this author have consisted of a classic short story with modern additions by the author where people comment on the story, including a text box where the reader can type something which the game then interprets using sentiment analysis to change some subsequent text.

This game is no exception, although it is smaller than the others. It is also different from the others, in that its 'meta-commentary' is no longer a separate, modern story; instead, it's an addition in-universe, still with the sentiment-analysis text box. However, due to this being a speed-IF, only one text box is included.

The short story chosen this time is obscure; I only found one 'hit' when searching, on an internet archive of an old magazine.

My view on these games has certainly changed over time. I went from believing they had no interaction to believing that they are excellent at hiding all the interactivity.

A game that makes you think its responding to your actions, even if it doesn't, is a game that is very fun to play, if only for one time. (For instance, see Attack of the Yeti Robot Zombies). But the converse is true; a game that does extensive work, but leads the player to think it does none, is not fun to play. Simply putting a message next to the box that is, as the author once said, metaleptic (or maybe extra-diegetic???) saying 'positive sentiment detected' in green and then highlighting the subsequent changed text in green or using red for negative sentiment would instantly improve reaction; this is just one idea, there are many ways to make it look like the game is really thinking.

Like a character says the movie The Prestige:

"The trick was too good, it was too simple. The audience hardly had time to see it[...]he's a wonderful magician; he's a dreadful showman. He doesn't know how to dress it up, how to sell this," and I think that applies to this whole series of games.


You Are a Zombie Yelp Reviewer, by Geoffrey Golden
A light snack of a game about reviewing zombie brains, November 14, 2022
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes

This game has a pretty simple concept and executes it well. You are a zombie who has just completed a tasty meal of brains, and so you write a yelp review.

You pick the number of stars, describe its connection with past meals, discuss how you approached the entree/victim, etc. It's all pretty brief, but I didn't see any bugs, and it was descriptive and funny.

Overall, a nice note to end playing the ectocomp games on.


BLACKOUT, by Playahead Games
It's the end of the world. What do you want to do?, November 14, 2022
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes

This is a speed-written IF game using the Twine system. In it, the singularity has happened, but technology is giving humans exactly 7 days to do what they want with their lives before being assimilated.

It's a sobering situation. The emotional stakes are subtly raised by changing the background color every day.

This is a speed-IF, so options are limited. The main options here are to write or to go outside. I varied back and forth between them, and had an ending that to me was satisfying.

Shoutout to the very specific descriptions of listening to local indie bands, felt very realistic.


origin of love, by Sophia de Augustine

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Love poem about romantic encounter with a husband, November 14, 2022
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes

This brief game is essentially a poem about physical love between the main character and their husband.

It is simultaneously explicit and not, similar to the Song of Solomon, which represents sexual feeling as a form of divine worship. This short poem combines both that religious sentiment and also a form of physical violence.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and each person experiences romantic and physical attraction in different ways. While I could appreciate the author's emotion and feeling, I didn't feel a universality in the experience that called me to share in the experience.

The styling is quite complex, with shades of pink and red. The majority of interactivity is in moving to the next page or clicking on words to get essentially footnotes.

Overall, I valued the elegance of the language the most.


MARTYR ME, by Charm Cochran

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A torture/religious game written in 4 hours or less, November 14, 2022
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes

(I discuss some body horror stuff in this post, so squeamish may want to skip)

This is a speed-IF made for Ectocomp. In it, you play as a victim of a torturer who sadistically injures you.

The game is quite gory. There's a lot of things that various games can have that makes me uncomfortable and not play, but I don't really hear that as often from other players. So when several commenters on other websites had said this game made them feel deeply uncomfortable or stop playing, I was expecting perhaps the most horrible game ever created. With such foreboding expectations, the game itself, while still excessively gory, wasn't quite as bad as I thought.

For one, you are a very willing and happy participant in the events. While the descriptions are written to shock and horrify, is it all that different than a C-section, or a dentist visit? I go to the dentist, and they stab the roof of my mouth with a needle and then grab my tooth with pliers and pull as hard as they can, ripping out what's essentially a bone and leaving a bleeding cavity for weeks. So the game wasn't quite as bad as I expected; in fact, the part that turned me off the most was the first ending which had some unexpected misogynistic language.

Overall, the game captures a rapturous tone in a way that reminds me of some of Porpentine's work, specifically Their Angelic Understanding. The violent torture in exquisite detail reminded me of Paperblurt's The Urge.

I don't recommend this game in general, due to a few people having an adverse reaction (and me personally not being a huge fan of torture), but I think the craft is well-done and the writing is descriptive.


THROW. MARIA. OVERBOARD., by Travis Moy

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A brief Choicescript tale about a troubled ocean voyage, November 14, 2022
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes

This is a speed-IF written in 4 hours or less, written using Choicescript (which is a hard engine to do speed-IF in). It features a dinner party in old Constantinople, where you, a ship's captain, have to tell the story of a fated ocean trip that leads to the title of the game.

The story itself is bizarre and perturbing, and well done. The opening setting is also solid. Other parts of the game are a bit patchy, as is usual for speed-IF, since time runs out; the main things here are the quickly-sketched out endings and the fact that some parts of the game are written in rhyme and others are not.

Still, the story itself is very solid, and I like this setting and would like to see more. The only Byzantine/Constantinople game I've seen before is Kyle Marquis's Silverworld, also in Choicescript. Overall, I'm glad I played this short Ectocomp game.



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