Reviews by MathBrush

15-30 minutes

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All Through the Night, by Daniel "Bosch" Saults

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A short and effective creepypasta, July 11, 2024
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

I was looking back at my 'wishlist' and this game had been on there the longest, for most of a decade if I recall. I thought I'd finally get around to it.

This is a short ADRIFT game with music and some real time effects. The idea is that you are at home watching a nature documentary alone at night when you see something out your window that unnerves you.

I'm giving this game a 5-star rating because I thought through my five criteria and how they applied.

+Polished: I didn't encounter any major difficulties with the parser; WATCH TV didn't work, but that was it. The music definitely added to the overall feel.
+Descriptive: gruesomely so.
+Interactivity: There are 4 endings, and reaching most of them felt pretty natural. The game felt pretty realistic.
+Emotional impact: I was creeped out. I kept turning down the music.
+Would I play again? Yeah, probably.

If you download the adrift 5 runner, and get virus warnings, try one of the other versions of it (e.g. runner+development, just runner, etc.), usually one works.

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Zugzwang, by Vanessa Jygon, Eleanor Jimmy

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Fantasy chess battles in miniature, July 10, 2024
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

**Zugzwang** by Vanessa Jygon, Eleanor Jimmy

This game was compact and fun. It feature a plus-sign shaped map. Movement is N/E/S/W, but instead of having to return to the middle square, the direction you type takes you directly to that quadrant of the map.

This is a chess-based powerup game. You are a pawn, and all your enemies represent chess characters as well. You learn attacks from each enemy, and can try those attacks on other enemies.

The descriptions were well-done and interesting. The combat was fun at first, but I eventually began flinging everything I had at the enemies, as I had difficulty seeing the logic behind which attacks worked and didn't realized at first that order matters.

This games has a secret, it's (Spoiler - click to show)connected to another game in the 2024 Parsercomp. Regarding that:

(Spoiler - click to show)The game is made by the authors of 19 Once. Both games have very similar mechanics and can be solved in a similar way. After beating 19 Once, you can unlock a special command for Zugzwang, and vice versa. The special commentary for Zugzwang makes it much better, giving you that vibe of a friend group that likes each other but has a tenuous hold, with some being grating or weird but you stick with them for now.

Very fun concept.

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The English Restaurant, by Eric Zinda

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A full-sentence parser that struggles with simple commands, July 9, 2024
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

I've played a lot of Perplexity games over the years (well, I can remember 2 or 3). But something seems to have gone wrong with the programming. It's designed to accept full sentences, but even really basic stuff isn't understood. My start was like this:


You’re going to a restaurant with your son, Johnny, who is vegetarian and too scared to order by himself. Get a table and buy lunch for both of you. You have 20 dollars in cash.
Host: Hello! How can I help you today?
?:hello! I would like a table for two
Hello!
Host: Perfect! Please come right this way. The host shows you to a wooden table with a checkered tablecloth. A minute goes by, then your waiter arrives.
Waiter: Hi there!
Waiter: What can I get you?
?:hello! let me order for my son
Hello!
I don't know the words: let and I don't know the way you used: order
Waiter: What can I get you?
?:let me ask my son
I don't know the words: let, ask
Waiter: What can I get you?
?:johnny, what would you like to eat?
I don't know the words: johnny,
Waiter: What can I get you?
?:i would like a hamburger
I don't know the words: hamburger
Waiter: What can I get you?


I got through the whole game, but the whole thing was like this. The most basic words related to restaurants weren't understood:


?:i eat the food
I don't know the words: eat
Waiter: What can I get you?


I know the Perplexity engine is capable of some sophisticated worldbuilding, so I really don't know what happened here.

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Project Postmortem, by Gamefic

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Brief investigation game, July 9, 2024
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

Gamefic! I remember a Gamefic game in my first IFComp, Second Story, I remember the parser being better than many custom systems.

This game is pretty small, but it shows the relative usefulness of the parser system. There are a small cluster of rooms in an academic area. Your job is to investigate the death of a beloved professor. But in the middle of your investigation, everything changes.

This game is very minimal. Descriptions are bare-bones. Each room has one object of interest in it, except for one room with 2 or 3. I solved the game by just trying the only available actions.

The parser is pretty good. I didn’t really encounter any trouble. Some fancy future options might be pronoun recognition and cycling through past commands when pushing ‘up’, but the save and undo system worked well.

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PARANOIA, by Charm Cochran
A nervewracking game, July 8, 2024
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game is pretty different from most other parser games.

In it, you are part of a yes-no experiment. You are placed in a room with several background items like walls, a table, a chair, etc.

You are told that the lights will go out and assistants will change the room (or not). When the lights go back on, you have to compare the room to the original room for any differences.

The game really keeps you on your toes. UNDO is forbidden, but I did use SAVE and RESTORE after a while, but tried my best on each level. It was wild to check everything in the room with every sense (I copy and pasted Touch it. Taste it. Smell it. listen to it. and used it a lot).

Sometimes the differences are obviously apparent, and sometimes not. I was always paranoid something very tiny would change (like the taste of a button). Twice I was fooled by something small; there is at least one thing that has two similar responses that are slightly different but don't count as 'different' to the game.

The ending was anticlimactic. I wonder if I missed something? But the game did make me genuinely agitated; it is named well.

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Iyashikei - The Fountain, by Adam Sommerfield
Small, peaceful game, July 7, 2024
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This is a ZIL game, a system I haven’t seen used much (the most recent I remember is Max Fog’s IFComp game The Restaurant at the End of the Universe). It’s a retro language that’s recovered from the one Infocom used, I think.

This game is a peaceful nature walk; the game whose genre is closest is, in my opinion, The Fire Tower, another game spent inspecting peaceful places.

This game is fairly short; at first, I just found a boat, a path, and a fountain, and I couldn’t find any other locations mentioned in the exits. I tried randomly walking and eventually found my way to a waterfall and later a cave.

The writing was peaceful, it reminded me of Hypnobirthing tapes my ex-wife had at one point. It was a bit repetitive though. In my first 20 moves, I saw the word ‘tranquil’ a lot:

embark on a tranquil journey
smooth and tranquil journey
its beauty a tranquil retreat
the clearing is a tranquil haven
Set in a tranquil clearing,
Several other words were heavily repeated as well. The descriptions were longer than necessary, and could use some tinkering with structure; I’ve found that in IF people almost always look to the bottom of paragraphs for movable or interactable items and to the middle for less important scenery like tables and desks. So I think it could be useful to cut out the repeated words and rearrange the paragraphs to have the most interesting things at the bottom.

Overall, a small but peaceful nugget of a game.

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Alphabet City, by Julian Grant

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A gritty story about addiction, with some rough edges, July 6, 2024
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This parser game is the author’s first Inform 7 game, but is set in a larger series of Alphabet City games.

It’s pretty heavy stuff. Our hero is a recovering cocaine user who had a huge fight with his girlfriend over her refusal to quit using drugs. A torn earring is all that remains of the fight.

The game implements a chunk of New York City, including the weed-filled offices of the magazine our protagonist works for and a night club.

While you can beat the game without it, fighting is a way you can interact with a couple of people. FIGHT ____ or HIT ____ starts combat which you can continue until one person perishes. It’s also usable against (Spoiler - click to show)your girlfriend, surprisingly, although the game converts it to (Spoiler - click to show)LOVE.

The descriptions are vivid and raw, depicting a grungy life. I thought that the descriptiveness was well done. And there’s some fancy highlighting of keywords.

Some of the scenery is underimplemented in ways all too familiar to those who have started Inform 7 (I have done them many times). Things like objects whose names are subsets of each other (in this case ‘key’ and ‘studio key’) and so can’t be referred to easily; takable things that shouldn’t be takable; and objects just listed in a pile at the end of a paragraph instead of including them more discreetly in earlier paragraphs.

(to new authors: if you put the name of an object in brackets like [chair] in a room description, it won’t show up later on. Or, saying something like ‘the chair is scenery’ makes the chair not appear in the list at the end and keeps people from taking it. And finally after you define an object, if your next sentence is in quotese that becomes the ‘fancy’ way to see the object. Like:

The knife is on the table. “The knife you used to make your sandwich is still on the table, dirty.”

Then when the game runs, instead of saying ‘You also see a knife’. It will say “The knife you used to make your sandwich is still on the table, dirty.”)

I think this author has a lot of potential, and I think this game could be pretty great if it had some more polish, so I definitely encourage more experimentation, beta testing, and authoring. Good work!

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Mystery Isles, by Jason Oakley

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A pleasant island adventure that could use more polish, July 4, 2024
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This was a pleasant adventure game someone hampered by programming issues from time to time.

I played the ‘modern’ version which doesn’t have the graphics that the retro does in the screenshots (which makes sense) but that image in the screenshots looks cool!

This game has Scott Adams vibe: just a fun adventure with minimal text and some atmospheric descriptions and most important items listed separately in each room description. You are on an island and need to find your way off, making use of local floral and fauna and the remnants of past visitors.

There were several issues that caused problems during gameplay. For instance, (Spoiler - click to show)if you get the wrench and drop it, you can never pick it up again. The same thing happens if you drop the reeds and aren’t carrying something sharp.

So, a fun concept and pretty good execution, but could use more polish.

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Free Bird, by KADW

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Unfinished, July 2, 2024
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

Here we have another python custom parser game, but this one is surprisingly smooth, once I read the ABOUT text. It understands abbreviations for directions, inventory, and LOOK, and it implements LOOK; it has hints, an INTRO page and a HELP page. While it does fall short in some areas of the parser (I think BREAK MANACLES should have a response, for instance), it is impressive overall, and the presentation was nice (although I had a lot of blank lines before my command prompt for some reason).

The game itself is just a preview, but it’s a perspective rarely seen in parser IF. You play as a (supposedly) evil power, imprisoned for centuries by the forces of good (maybe). You have the ability to SING TO (ST) things to interact with them.

I loved the descriptiveness and the imagery. While I do wish the whole thing were finished, it’s clear that a lot of work and talent went into this. In a good way, it reminded me of EAT ME, with its focus on one verbal phrase (SING TO) and its opening in a dungeon, manacled to a wall.

(would give 4 stars if finished or if polished more, 5 stars if both as the idea is awesome!)

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The Postage Code, by Noab
Deliver packages as the package person, July 2, 2024
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This is a downloadable python executable. I was able to make 7 package deliveries, and then nothing else happened; I presume I won, unless there’s more hidden.

This looks to be a custom engine. It simultaneously looks like it took a ton of work and also is far from the level of other parser in the competition.

The best analogy I could give is that it’s like someone entering one of these realistic cake decorating competitions, but they bring sheafs of wheat, a live chicken, and sugarcane, and spend the first two hours grinding everything by hand and waiting for the chicken to lay an egg. Then, in the last remaining time, they whip together a homemade pancake.

Was it a lot of work? Was it impressive? Yes, and yes. Does it match what others are bringing to the competition, and does it provide what the audience is looking for? In this case, for this audience, I’d say no.

In this game, you are a parcel delivery person. You have a store room with boxes, you take them and look at them to see the label, and then you deliver them. Some of the deliveries are puzzles you have to solve, but these are fairly simple. There is well-done pixel art graphics that look hand made (the shrimp store sign was especially neat).

The parser doesn’t recognize abbreviations, so you need to type out INVENTORY for inventory and EAST for going east. It seems to slice words and only recognize part of the text because typing NORTHEAST is the same as NORTH in some spots, and when I was trying to examine the post office at the beginning it took me inside. The game doesn’t recognize LOOK or LOOK AROUND, so the only way I found to repeat room text was to leave and come back. There is no HINT or HELP, no UNDO, SAVE, or RESTORE. Synonyms and partial matches with nouns don’t work (so you must TAKE SQUARE BOX, not TAKE SQUARE, TAKE BOX, or TAKE PACKAGE). Pronouns aren’t recognized (so TAKE IT won’t work). GIVE PACKAGE or TALK won’t work, you have to DELIVER ____ BOX. Fortunately the game is designed to run fairly smoothly given these constraints.

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