Reviews by MathBrush

15-30 minutes

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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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Archives et trahison, by Doublure Stylo

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
An Ink game that turns a round of magic the gathering into a story, February 3, 2023
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game was vibrant and full of life but also pretty confusing. I couldn't tell if I was just confused because 'bad french' or because the game was weird.

Once I finished it and saw the attached youtube video it made more sense, and it's kind of a cool idea!

Basically the author played a game of Magic the Gathering: Arena and then wrote a story imagining how all those things could have happened. So, for instance, Ormos the Archivist gets played, so Ormos becomes a character in the story, a beautiful archivist you fall in love with.

Some of this translates well into a story and some doesn't. In many parts of the game, you have a bunch of links with unhelpful names like 'a little chat' or 'call a professional' that don't tie into the story. Clicking them sometimes has no effect, but sometimes has a longer story. Overall they don't seem to affect the main storyline much, as I played a couple of times to see what happened.

So I think the polish and interactivity of the game are a little weird, but I did play more than once and found the MTG idea amusing.

Alice, by SAB

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Brief but nice-looking fantasy Twine set in Spooks universe, February 1, 2023
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

I've never read the Spooks series before (called The Last Apprentice in US), but this story makes it seem really cool.

This game is set in the Spooks universe, and follows Tom and Alice, the main characters from the series. You play as Alice, a young woman raised to be a witch who escaped before you became completely evil. However, your actions can increase your connection to the darkness, so you have to be careful.

There is a cool font and some nice coloring on the links. The writing is descriptive as well, and is friendly for people like me who aren't familiar with the book series.

There were two slight disappointments for me: one is that the story was cool, but the ending I found was anticlimactic (it was a 'happy' ending and just ending right after a quote from her father, which sounds like a great ending but it just kinds of cuts off). The other weird thing was that the moon image sometimes cut off the text.

Overall, I was glad to have some real choices; there's at least one choice that splits the game into two very different branches. It does feel a bit unfinished with the endings, though, and has potential for a much larger game.

The Manor at Whitby, by L. E. Hall

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A rough and buggy but compelling short Lovecraftian game, January 31, 2023
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

Honestly I was surprised to see this game was entered in the Jay is Games Casual Gameplay Design Competition #7, since I associated that with one room games (like the excellent Dual Transform by Zarf or Fragile Shells by Sargent). This game isn't a one-room game at all, but has a large manor to explore.

I love Lovecraftian horror games, so I enjoyed the storyline of this one. You have a cousin that has passed away, so you go to his house in order for his mother, your aunt, to bequeath various possessions upon you.

The horror in the game leans heavily on fossils, a feature I haven't seen as much before, as well as some more normal archaeological finds. Also, fire-building takes a prominent place in the game.

The game is very buggy. Most items mentioned in room descriptions don't exist at all. Four items with similar names cannot be disambiguated one from another. Items often can be read or examined but not both. There are odd spacing issues. I reached an ending and the game didn't end, just a statement indicating an ending and nothing more. I reached things in the wrong order, like reading a letter before opening an envelope or putting things in a slot and then later revealing the slot.

Because of this, I resorted to the (very nice) walkthrough early on.

The highlights to me were the fossil stuff and the cool map you find. The drawbacks were the bugs, which were so prevalent that I didn't feel like replaying to try for a better ending.

Der Angstbaum, by Jens Bojaryn

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Character-driven fantasy drama about chicken murder, January 22, 2023
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game has been on my wishlist for years, as it was constantly recommended to me by IFDB's old algorithm. But it's in German, and pretty complex german at that, which my high-school-german brain can't handle well. I also had to use DOSBOX to play it.

But I'm glad I did! The story in this is actually one of the best I've read in a while, not even just in IF, although it is very short.

The game has some worldbuilding you can read up on in a txt file attached to the Zip. It talks about the Boronois, a group of people that live far away that are (I think???) short, non-religious, and with traditions about marriage and competitions, and some relationship with magic.

You're in love with a girl, but to win her heart you have to have the biggest chicken in the competition tomorrow! So of course you break into your rival's house to poison his fat chicken. Unfortunately, you aren't the only one who's broken in...

Beyond one puzzle early on and a basic puzzle later (that is on a timer), most of this game is menu-based conversation, with an interesting cast of characters, including your love, your rival, and his family.

Overall, I really enjoyed this. It was definitely worth the wait. As a non-native speaker of German, the very complex language (for me!) was mitigated by the shortness and the multiple choice aspect.

The Little Match Girl 2: Annus Evertens, by Ryan Veeder

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Dream-hopping assassination through assorted vignettes, January 9, 2023
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game is a sequel to The Little Match Girl, a game that was about hopping through various fantasies to solve problems in each of them.

This game is a bit different, with a different premise (you are an assassin) and a different configuration of dreams (nested, rather than interconnected).

Like the Castle Balderstone games, this give the impression of being a grab-bag of passion projects, where some idea or thread was worked on in great detail and then the rest of a game scaffolded around it and polished till smooth.

The first few visions are pretty light and easy, just follow directions and look around. This can be fun, especially in shorter games, and the worldbuilding was nice with fun fake-outs, and there was animation and title sequences and colors, but by the end of the second one I felt like I could use a little more to dig into. The next world had more involved puzzles (with another fun fake-out), and the one after that was incredibly dense, filled with puzzles of all kind, which contrasted nicely with earlier material.

+Polish: The game was smooth and worked well.
+Descriptiveness: The settings were very vivid, especially the second and last, and I could picture everything.
+Interactivity: Like I said above, there was a good overall balance of streamlined playthrough and puzzles.
+Emotional impact: I was entertained. At one point I took out my plans for my next game and took down some notes.
+Would I play it again? Yeah, I'll probably go through all the games in order when the others come out.

Towers of Hanoi, by Phil Riley

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Completely straightforward ascii art version of towers of hanoi, December 8, 2022
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

One of the old tropes in reviewing IF was to complain about how many people put the Towers of Hanoi in the game, since it was an old puzzle that had a well-known but tedious solution and there wasn't really any mental thought in solving it.

Unfortunately, I haven't seen many towers of Hanoi games recently, so I've lost my privilege of complaining about them.

That's why I'm glad I found this game. It's a perfectly implemented and otherwise completely straightforward implementation of Tower of Hanoi. The only implementation problem I did find was that it was a bit hard to find the instructions (typing HELP is how to start).

Now that I've played this game, I can complain about Towers of Hanoi for several more years. Thanks, author, for your contributions!

Big Nose on the Big Pyramid, by Andrew Schultz

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Q-Bert in text, December 8, 2022
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

I was browsing through games published this year without reviews, seeing if I missed any good games.

I saw an Andrew Schultz game with no reviews, which is surprising because of his well-known style and positive general audience reception of his games.

It seems this was an April Fools game in the style of the old IF Arcade pack, which had some very funny games and some very traumatic/horrifying games.

This is an optimization puzzle game where you have to change the colors of a board that is an isometric triangle of cubes, but presented in text form. Your goal is to change the color of every square on the board.

It's a fun challenge, and I appreciate that the game doesn't punish brute-forcing things. I found some fairly simple solutions, but they took a ton of turns, so getting faster would be hard.

Overall, it was polished, pretty descriptive, I had fun and liked the interactivity. This is a small and simple game, but I'm giving 4 stars because it achieves what it sets out to do in a smooth and forgiving way.

The Lady's Book of Decency, by Sean

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Adjust to life as both a werewolf and a high-society young lady, December 8, 2022
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This is a branching stats-based Twine game that is fairly brief, split up into 4 or 5 segments that each last an in-game week.

You are a young woman from an upper-middle class family who has recently discovered she is a werewolf. You must learn how to deal with that while simultaneously maintaining your lifestyle.

The presentation is well-done, with good font and color choices and cleverly-named stats (like ILL vs VIM and GAL vs FUR). I didn't like the typewriter/slow effect, but hitting any key skips it so it wasn't a factor.

Overall, the things I most wanted more of was more satisfying endings and maybe a little longer game. I had one ending that was just a stat getting to 0, but another one seems like I got to the end but didn't really wrap up anything (Spoiler - click to show)I ate my date at the ball. I liked the writing.

Starlight Shadows, by Autumn Chen

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Assemble your super team and fight, November 14, 2022
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This is a speed-IF written in 4 hours or less. It's written using Dendry.

Basically, you're at a party and need to assemble a party of fighters to take on a coming entity. You have both telepathy and future-telling abilities. You can use your telepathy to talk to others and know what type of arguments will convince them most.

There's still some puzzle elements, despite the mind-reading, as you have to figure out how best to implement what you learn. I always liked Divination specialists in D&D and this game seems to show exactly why being skilled in information gathering would be an excellent power.

This story is brief, but has easter eggs from the author's other works, including A Paradox Between Worlds (referenced in on friends' costume and favorite book series), and The Archivist and the Revolution, referenced in encoding data in DNA.

ZIT, by Amanda Walker

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A brief, pustulent game about a horrendous zit , November 14, 2022
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This is a surprisingly polished game for 4 hours (I've said that a lot this comp, I wonder if this shows that I don't use my time as wisely as others do).

You have a job interview coming up, but you also have a massive zit! It's described in excruciating detail. You're in a bathroom with a little but a few things in the drawers and your cell-phone.

To me, the real appeal of the game is in the insight into your loved ones. Each one you call has a different reaction, some of them showing off a poor moral character, others a sweet or charming one.

The other big component is dealing with the zit itself. I had some trouble near the end with the game saying I hadn't done something when I had already done it, but it fixed itself pretty soon. Overall, a strong entry.

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