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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Falling to Pieces, by Gianluca Girelli

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
An astronaut experiences bizarre hallucinations , March 12, 2023
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This is a short Punyinform game made for Puny Jam #3.

In it, you play an astronaut who has to flee because an airlock is leaking. Bizarrely, the door to the space station is a heavy metal door with a key. More strange things appear as you explore the station.

This has some problems (especially uncapitalized room names and generally empty rooms). However, the author clearly was really into their descriptions and the flow of the game worked well with few hiccups (the only part I got stuck was a puzzle that was actually very fair).

So I think this is pretty unpolished and buggy, but I like the idea (I always like surreal/hallucination games). Having the character be (Spoiler - click to show)The Joker is interesting. Is this what the world looks like from his point of view?

The Fantasy Dimension, by Johan Berntsson

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
A fun little easy treasure romp in a fantasy world, March 12, 2023
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This is, I think, the third Johann Berntsson game I have played, and I tend to enjoy his level of implementation. The other games I played (from 20+ years ago) were longer and more complex, but this one shares a lot of the good elements from those games.

You find yourself in a strange airlock, and have to go to another dimension of your choice. And you choose: fantasy!

What follows is a simple and complete fantasy story. Rooms have 2-3 exits, and each room has at most one object of importance in it. The next task to do is usually clearly indicated, making this more of a fun, breezy exercise than a puzzly challenge.

I didn't feel super engaged by the game, but it is quite polished and very descriptive, and the interactivity was smooth.

Strike Force, by Christopher Drum

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
GI Joe-style underwater action, March 11, 2023
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game has you go undercover with two different characters in an exciting underwater adventure. First, you have to open an airlock door while floating underwater, and then you have to infiltrate a base using stealth!

There were some problems with implementation. Several actions had no response; I didn't see the control panel in the first room, so I tried stuff like 'turn handle with multitool' (which has a completely blank response) and 'turn handle with me' (which gives a really bizarre error with text from later in the game).

The game does have a couple of cool puzzles and fun descriptions, but overall it really herds you one way and doesn't encourage you to stray off the beaten path. There are a ton of useless rooms, a lot like Planetfall and other Meretzky games.

Overall, I feel like it lacked polish and the interactivity was frustrating, but it was descriptive with fun puzzles. I know this was made for a jam, so the author didn't have much time, but this could be an amazing 4 or 5 star game with enough expansion by the author.

Lucid Night, by Dee Cooke

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A symbolic contemplation of dreams and serenity, March 10, 2023
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This is an interesting short game written in PunyInform.

It follows a rhythmic pattern of sleeping, dreaming, breathing, and waking.

It feels like a purposely simple, stripped down game with simple aesthetics and a positive overall message. Puzzles are intentionally light and the focus is on atmosphere.

I found it to be polished and smooth, and the interactivity worked well for me. While intentionally crisp and precise, I did find it descriptive overall.

However, I didnít feel an emotional connection to the overall story, even though I feel like I should have given itís nice theme. I also didnít feel like Iíd revisit it in the future.

So, a good game, but for me doesnít crack the top five of games written by this excellent and prolific author.

A Clean Getaway, by Michael Bub

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Investigate a medical lab after hours, but with some bugs, March 7, 2023
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game has some problems, but most of them aren't serious or too hard to learn from, so I expect the author's next game would probably be great.

In this game, you are a genius scientist who is working late after hours, when suddenly things stop working. You have to figure out how to get past airlocks and get cameras to work.

This game seems to show a lack of knowledge of Inform, with lots of whitespace, items not listed in room descriptions, missing synonyms and commands, etc. These are common things for people who are starting out, and I feel like the next game the author makes will likely be much better.

The standout here is the occasional vivid description. But I found the interactivity frustrating, didn't make an emotional connection with the game, found it unpolished, and left without a strong desire to replay.

I do think the author's next game could be amazing, but for now this one leaves much to be desired.

Hidden Gems, Hidden Secrets, by Naomi Norbez & Josh Grams

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Death and dark secrets threaten a discord community, March 6, 2023
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This is a great, character driven mixed-media game that simulates discord while also using additional text and pdf files to tell an overall story.

Bez and Josh Grams teamed up on this one, with Bez writing and Josh programming (according to credits), and I think the division of labor worked great, because the writing is on-point and the coding is very smooth and looks fancy.

The main thrust of the game is a Discord conversation between a group of friends that gathered together over the years to discuss an obscure (and fictional) poet. However, the main leader of the group is in a car crash. While this is being announced, dark secrets bubble up.

You take turns as the various members of the discord group, selecting between different variations of how to respond. It definitely seemed like my choices could influence the story heavily, but I chose a particular path of every time to get more juicy gossip.

In between the choices, there are interludes with additional information over the years.

I think this is some of the strongest writing I've seen in a while: a diverse cast of characters, realistic scenarios, people reacting the way they do in real life. It was especially jarring because I've lived through or seen a few different variations of the events depicted in this game.

There were a few quibbles I had; I was torn about the timed text, because it does make it harder to fit a game in during a busy schedule, but it definitely contributes to the overall feel of the game. Also, I feel like the game could have been just a little longer or have a firmer resolution. Otherwise, this is a game that I felt joy to play.

Edit: Apparently the poet Dorn is real. Who knew?

In a Tomb with a Donkey, by Dee Cooke

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Clever magical spells a tomb...with a donkey, March 6, 2023
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game was entered in Seedcomp, and is primarily based around the 'seed' of the same name, a text file by Rovarsson containing a vivid description of a game centered around getting stuck in a tomb with a donkey and a bowl of blood and a cat mummy.

This finished game dropped the altar/blood angle but added the rest nicely. You play as a spellcaster struck back in time during a duel. Your spells have scattered to the wind, and after trying to steal some raw materials from a palace you are forced to flee, eventually finding yourself at a tomb.

The pattern of this game is gentle gameplay, generally finding a spell and using it either immediately or in the next room. Some puzzles add in extra twists for more engagement. I got stuck once or twice and I did need a hint in the room with the platforms (I had tried (Spoiler - click to show)LEVITATE ME and received no strong feedback, so I assumed that levitate wasn't the solution.)

Overall, this was enjoyable. I didn't connect on an emotional level, but I found it soothing and sweet.

A1RL0CK, by Marco Innocenti

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Fun amnesia sci fi thriller that needs just a bit more polish, March 5, 2023
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

I always like Marco Innocenti games, they usually guarantee some fun exploration, tricky puzzles and lots of complex backstory.

I also like random games where you wake up on a broken ship with amnesia (like Babel, Trisgaea, etc.).

So overall I was primed to like this. You wake up on a ship as a child and find out that there has been major damage to your underwater base. Huge rocks have broken in parts of the walls and the whole thing is flooded.

Overall, the backstory is slowly revealed in gruesome and disturbing detail. It pulls on a lot of old sci-fi tropes but does so in a relatively smooth way.

The puzzles were fun, but some more coding I think could be useful. Especially I think there should be a more clear response to (major spoiler) (Spoiler - click to show)shoot can and put splinter in rock to show that those two are reasonable actions, and just need a little change to make them better.

La BibliothŤque Monde, by Demiurge55

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
An entire world and ecosystem contained in a library, March 3, 2023
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This is a world-building heavy game about an enormous library the size of an entire planet. In it, there are all sorts of bizarre things: living book-creatures, ink serpents, portals and non-Euclidean spaces, etc.

You are exploring it with many other archivists, including your own apprentice.

The structure is essentially a Gauntlet, where you get two choices at a time, one that keeps you alive and one that kills you. I found this a bit frustrating, and most other interaction was either 'next page' or an option to be nice or mean with words. The game ended fairly abruptly after one major event.

All this is balanced by the very cool storybuilding and fun descriptions. So there was a lot to like here as well.

L'heure du toast, by dunin

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A two-player drama game, March 1, 2023
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game is hard to review for multiple reasons, since it's a multiplayer game I played on my own (I've done multiplayer IF before but since this one is in French I didn't feel comfortable asking someone to wait while I slowly read it), and also describing the plot spoils it, as a big part of the game is figuring out the other person's story. So this I could basically rate it really high or really low depending on how I'm feeling today.

Overall, the setting is mostly muted and indistinct. You are at a society dinner (or maybe political dinner?) and everything is centered around that. Unlike most multiplayer games I've seen recently, which tend to have tons of text interspersed with a very small number of possible actions, this game has 30 turns each of which has ten or more actions you can choose.

However, these actions are almost all inconsequential or are only interesting once. I do have to give kudos for allowing players to pass any message at all to the other person. I did feel it straggled on too long by about ten turns.

Of course if I had played with someone else I wouldn't have spoiled the fun of finding out about the other person, which is a bummer. Overall, I'm giving this 3 stars, but it really could be anywhere from a 2 to a 4.

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