Reviews by MathBrush

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View this member's reviews by tag: 15-30 minutes 2-10 hours about 1 hour about 2 hours IF Comp 2015 Infocom less than 15 minutes more than 10 hours Spring Thing 2016
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Cage Break, by Jac Colvin
Choicescript game about a bird escaping with other birds, March 26, 2023
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game is based on a seed from the first round of Seedcomp about birds escaping from a cage and freeing other birds. Another game, free bird, is in the comp based on the same seed.

I liked this game, and found it fun to build up plans to help the other birds. It reminded me of 90's television like Captain Planet and Ferngully.

It was a bit hard at times to see the effects of things I did. I didn't look in a mirror until near the end, when it let me set my name and stuff, and that felt a bit out of place; occasionally text about releasing a bird would be repeated.

There were moments of tension (did I do the right thing letting the Wren get out when they were anxious?) which helped improve the game.

Overall, I liked it; I do think it could use a little more polish on a few things, but I think this is a game the author can be proud of.

Constraints, by Stephen Granade

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A very complex-appearing game for Walkthrough comp, March 25, 2023
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

Walkthrough comp was a competition that had a bizarre 'walkthrough' posited to have been sent by telegram, and each game had to be designed to make the walkthrough make sense.

This game is very rich and complex-seeming, starting with a bizarre meeting with an occult man deep underground. It moves on to magical painting abilities and a sexually harassing duck.

It interprets the walkthrough in very creative ways, making parsing the walkthrough the hardest part.

The walkthrough itself is here:

The one command I didn't understand was 'put grey on', possibly because I dallied around too much in one scene.

As a narrative, it's disjointed; as a game itself, far too complex; but as a walkthrough comp entry, it's fantastic.

While Rome Burns, by CSR

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
An unpolished first game about Emperor Nero, March 25, 2023
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes

It is clear that this game wasn't really finished. It even says so in the description, that it is a first game, rushed, etc.

The idea is that you are emperor Nero and that you are furious, because it is the day of your concert, but instead of paying attention to you, everyone is crying about their houses burning!

You have to investigate three different groups of people to find out what's going on, and then try to get your concert going.

The amount of typos and such increases as the game goes on, with errors in Twine popping up and at least one blank spot. However, I do think it's being updated during the comp, since it says only the Epaphroditus path is finished, while I was able to talk to a few people.

The text is descriptive, and the interactivity is actually a bit fun (should you sacrifice dignity and talk to the guards naked?), but this just needs more polish. Emotionally-wise, Nero is a bit too much of a single note--his arrogance just gets hammered over and over again without anything to contrast it with.

From what I've seen, I think this author could make great Twine games with just a little more preparation and time.

The Bony King of Nowhere, by Luke A. Jones

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A Quest fantasy adventure with a snarky attitude, March 25, 2023
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

I played this game years ago but somehow never reviewed it.

Luke Jones wrote several games in the mid-2010's that had a unique style of humor to them. The games tended to be implemented in kind of a sparse way but to have lots of characters and lots of dialogue. A typical example of the 'Luke Jones' style is the opening of this game, with words like:

You see an apple, a log, and Your Dog here.

But there's also a pigeon that drops a letter at your feet then flies away saying 'F*** you!!'

The goal of this game is to deliver a letter to a king in a fantasy world, although the actual events end up changing over time.

There's a glulx port of this as well, which I haven't tried. Overall, Luke Jones games are just a brand of their own, like halfway between Robb Sherwinn and Zork. If you like one of these games, you'll like his others.

9:05, by Adam Cadre

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
The most-reviewed game on IFDB, March 25, 2023
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes

As of writing, this game has 54 reviews on IFDB, more than any other game on the database.

I had a review of this game years ago that was mildly spoiler-y, and it was my lowest-rated review on IFDB by far (like 0 out of 9 people found it helpful).

I thought I'd give it another go.

This game is short but memorable, and its main defining feature is the way that it sets expectations. Funnily enough, this helps it serve as a great introduction to IF for newbies, since each command is hinted so heavily without feeling like handholding.

For instance, in my games, on the first turn I'll say something like 'You can PICK UP the telephone', just holding the player's hand very heavily, while this game simply says 'the phone rings'.

The room prominently displays loose objects, encouraging the player to pick them up; mentions only a dresser, encouraging the player to try OPEN; clothing, encouraging the player to WEAR, which then triggers the need to shower, adding a little complexity.

Driving can be complex in other games, but hear any reasonable actions with the car will get you in and going. Even the (Spoiler - click to show)ID card, usually something people code in a weird way, is hinted nicely with saying the reader has a place for you to INSERT the card.

For most people, at least in the years when this came out, the events in the game are completely reasonable and logical ones that they've either experienced or seen on TV (younger players may be confused you can't take the telephone with you). For experienced IF players, the bare-bones house descriptions are par for the course. So in this way, the author manages expectations in a brilliant way.

In my last review, I dinged the game for its bland prose, but looking back, it manages to add a lot of character in small ways. Like, if you eat the pop-tart, it says 'It's not Sunday brunch at Le Trop Cher, but it'll do.' That's clever. So it's not that the game isn't well-written and punchy, it's more like an optical illusion where it takes good descriptions and interesting responses but puts them into the same overall 'shape' as a bad, first 'my apartment' game so you just gloss over them until you realize they had more depth than you thought.

Overall, an interesting game, and an influential one.

His Majesty's Royal Space Navy Service Handbook, by Austin Auclair

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
As a bureaucrat play hide and seek with documents, March 25, 2023
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This was a refreshingly well-designed game. There were a couple of things that didn't work out for me, but this game had the kind of smoothness I'd associate with experienced authors like Ryan Veeder or Zarf.

The conceit is that you are a space bureaucrat in a future technocracy. You are in charge of delivering a technical manual, but it's after hours and every chapter of the manual was assigned to a different subordinate. You have to track down each person's personal copy.

There was a lot of light office and space-bureaucracy humor, some fun romance, and a lot of little niceties (like the 'press anything' button being an ascii art anchor and having exits listed).

One nice feature was having all verbs listed, and once you found something using that verb it was crossed off the list. This was very satisfying.

The author seems to have found the lack of verbs a weakness instead of strength; typing the wrong thing too many times gives you a big apology about how they didn't have time to implement responses to everything not on the list. But constrained verb games are their own genre and are fun, and having the player get repeated errors isn't negative, it's just a fact of parser games; the errors are the 'boundaries' of the world, and having firm boundaries can make a game better.

I had a great experience with this. The main thing I disliked is that 8 cubicles are mentioned but you can only ever interact with two, despite learning the names of the others. I'd prefer it if it recognized, say 'Becher's cubicle' and just said 'that cubicle is boring' or something.

A Thousand Words, by Milo van Mesdag

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A dark satire of art criticism, March 25, 2023
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This Seedcomp game is based on artwork submitted to the first chunk of the competition, and this game focuses heavily on the art.

It makes use of Quixe's image embedding features to let you zoom in to various parts of the artwork while commenting on it.

It's tone is intended to mock contemporary art criticism, especially the trope of critics creating entire invented fantasies about what the meaning of the art is, these fantasies having no connection to reality.

It allows for a few sexually explicit actions but only if you thought of and typed them yourself; a few slight sexual references pop up here and there otherwise. There are some few other painful things that can happen.

In a way it reminds me of Exhibition by Ian Finley or the IF Art Shows from years past, because many of them also spoofed the criticism idea. I think this is an effective piece, especially with the images attached.

The King's Ball, by Garry Francis

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A short puzzle-heavy game about sneaking into the King's Ball, March 24, 2023
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game has you as a humble baker who has a chance of a lifetime: a sponsorship from a King. If only you can get into the ball!

The game has a few major puzzles, the first being getting past the guard, and the second involving hygiene.

The puzzles were a little tricky; the first one was hard to guess what method to use until it was revealed all at once by an item, and the second required careful examination of numerous objects.

Overall, it's a fine game, but it had a little more unimplemented scenery than I expected, like the bread in the shop or the fence in one of the back rooms.

Overall, a pleasant experience.

Blorp!, by Shawn Sijnstra

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A game about yeast gone bad and underwater brewing, March 21, 2023
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game was entered in a jam using PunyInform, where the theme was using an airlock.

The author came up with an inventive way to do this, having an underwater experimental brewery that is accessed by an airlock deep under water.

Unfortunately, a lot of the rest of this game was rough. Undo is not supported [Note: the author confirmed that this is because I played the z3 version. The z5 version allows undo, so I've updated my review and increased the star score], and its very easy to lock yourself out of victory during the first puzzle. A lot of interactions just don't make much sense (for instance, why can't we see the (Spoiler - click to show)scuba gear before examining (Spoiler - click to show)the hook? Isn't the first thing far larger than the second?)

I ended up going in and out of the airlock over and over to try things back and forth between the two main locations. That, coupled with the sparseness of the game, ended up with less enjoyment than I'd usually have.

Clearly the author has some good talent for programming things like context-sensitive hints and a complex airlock. But my guess is that because this was a jam they ran out of time to fully test and flesh out the game descriptions. I would be more than happy to raise my score if the game was developed a bit further; it's not a horrible concept, it just needs more care.

In the Deep, by Styxcolor

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A choice-based story about an underwater dive gone bad, March 18, 2023
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game reminds me of bits of a lot stories--Armageddon, Sphere, Alien. But it's it's own thing.

This is a choice based game where you are a oil rig diver on one last job. You're told that something bad happened down there and you have to fix it. But things get...weird.

The game had a pretty small default font and for me only used about 25% of my screen. Most of the choices were between 2 or 3 options, and I felt like I had real interactivity. There were some weird repetitions in the text some times, like when asking questions at the beginning.

The story didn't really resonate with me the way the choices did. Instead of building up tension it revealed things early, then acted as if you didn't know them, and big plot events didn't have buildup while big buildups had no payoff.

Still, I'm glad I played and had a good time.

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