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Reviews by MathBrush

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Zip! Speedster of Valiant City, by Eric Moser

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A mini version of an outsized hero story, March 1, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
I enjoyed playing the Heroes Rise trilogy by Eric Moser before [edit: it's been pointed out to me that Zachary Sergi, not Eric Moser, is the author of Heroes Rise; I would never have noticed without someone pointing it out!], so I was interested in seeing this game. I knew ahead of time that it's a 'mini' game, free on the omnibus apps. designed to be a bonus to whoever downloads those apps (together with another 'mini' story, Sky Pirates of Arctorus by Kyle Marquis).

Overall, I think this game is quick-paced, charming and fun. You play a super-fast hero who is getting old (sadly, their 'old age' is pretty much the age I am now) against an enemy called 'The Sloth'. You're married, but to a person who cheated on you, and there is another romantic option (but not one you are required to pursue). The other main things you can do are getting a shoe sponsor deal, running for mayor, or training your sidekick.

This game was good, but it felt like a regular 100K-200K story that had parts removed instead of being built for a smaller game. For instance, it has well-defined, clear stats and clever use of resources, but the opportunities to build and use those stats are limited, and there are quite a few (I think 6 major skills). Contrast this to the even-smaller Choice of the Dragon, with 2 major stats (although Choice of the Broadsides has 12, so it's not hard and fast).

Another 'big game made small' feature is the numerous story threads that aren't given much treatment: your relationships with spouse, sidekick, romantic option/rival, and the CEO of a company; your background with the Sloth; handling the outbreak of other minor villains; etc. I feel like if each theme got twice the screen time it could have been stronger.

I don't have any suggestions on how to write shorter games (I know a lot of great authors have tried it over the years to varying success). This game wasn't bad, and is free with the app, so if you're thinking of getting into Choicescript games, it's one of the better free options on the omnibus app.

Le Donjon de BatteMan, by BatteMan

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A french parser game with a compact dungeon filled with traps, January 23, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
This is a polished parser game entered in the French IF Competition. It comes with nice feelies and runs on retro devices as well as in-browser.

You wake up in a dungeon with four exits, wearing an empty scabbard and some armor. In each direction, there is some kind of threat: a trap, a monster, a guardian, etc. and you have to defeat them all in turn.

I thought this was fun, but also very hard. It includes some forms of interactions which I consider unfair, like having to die to progress. I was very happy the author provided a solution! (although one line of it provokes an error, but it's okay and doesn't affect the end result).

The author seems to enjoy IF a lot and I look forward to any future games.

Choice of Zombies, by Heather Albano and Richard Jackson

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Short, branching zombie survival game with lots of replayability, January 16, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
This is another game from near the very beginning of Choice of Games, and I think this one works well.

It's different from more 'modern' games in that each playthrough is short and there are a lot of ways to mess up or die early. So if you screw up everything your game can be significantly less than an hour, with a 'successful' game being a lot longer.

But the shortness of the dead-ends go well together, since it encourages replay and (more importantly) this game has a lot of different paths to success. You can meet completely different characters in different playthroughs. I'd say about 30% of my two playthroughs was repeated material.

I enjoyed how the stats were clearly differentiated from each other. Although, the game kept relationship stats hidden. There doesn't seem to be any romance in this game (though sex is mentioned). Each stat gets used in a variety of ways.

The characters all have different interactions with each other, some of them detesting each other.

All in all, it was short and fun.

To the City of the Clouds, by Catherine Bailey

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
An early choicescript game with a dissolute archaeologist MC, January 15, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
Well, if you enjoy games where you can play as a hard-drinking, cheating professor, stealing artifacts, snorting lines of coke and hitting on students, this is definitely the game for you.

That's not really my style. This is an early choicescript game. In the beginning, they had 3-4 pretty great games in a row, but they didn't really know what worked, and that resulted in a string of very short games with weak use of stats, unfulfilling scenes and hit-or-miss humor that was often miss. After that, they hit their stride with some games that are still awesome to this day (Slammed! and Choice of Kung Fu, for instance).

That said, this game is still well-polished, with few, if any errors, and the interactivity generally worked for me. I had to sweat over a few choices, and they had actual consequences.

At 68,000 words, this game is a tenth of their most recent game (Luminous Underground) and a little less than half of the average game.

The story is about you, an archaeologist, hearing rumors of an ancient Incan city, the 'City Lost in the Clouds'. You have to dodge Columbian militia and ancient spirits to explore the city, and then safely make it back.

This game was recently in the 'Most underrated Choicescript games' poll, and was second to last (before Treasure Seekers of Lady Luck, which I actually like). If you play even 1 or 2 choices of the demo, you'll instantly know if you like it or not.

Spy Mission, by Ogre

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
A spy game with many different branches, endings and items, January 13, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
This chooseyourstory game has a setup that's a lot more complex than most. You have an inventory, stats you can train, etc.

You are an ordinary man in an ordinary job when a mysterious package changes your life. You're taken to a spy agency and given a dangerous mission.

The opening segments have an inventory with clickable links, but later on that seemed to disappear in favor of choice-based inventory (like when choosing what to take out of your trunk).

The pacing is good, with a strong overall narrative arc. Some of the endings happen a lot sooner than others (I think there are at least a couple dozen endings), so it can be worth backing out and trying again, even if you get a good ending on the first try.

Here's my five-point scale:

+Polish: This is a pretty complex game and I didn't run into any bugs/spelling errors.

+Interactivity: I really felt like I could dig in and strategize and try different things. Even with unlimited undo's, you can get so far into some branches that it's hard to cheat the system, which is nice.

+Descriptiveness: Most of the characters are just spy stereotypes, but the level of action was good.

+Emotional impact: I felt interested in the game and enjoyed seeing what came next.

-Would I play again? On the one hand, the game has a lot of endings and different replayable parts. On the other hand, I feel like the whole thing could use just a little bit more 'something' to be completely compelling, like a really cool opponent or a love interest (or someone who's both!). I know that's not very specific, and maybe that already exists in one of the other branches, so this is totally subjective.

Imagination, by Endmaster

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Like a classic CYOA book. Get sucked into a fantasy world, January 3, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
This game probably recreates my childhood experiences of reading CYOA books more than any other.

The chooseyourstory format is adapted more to CYOA books. Most Twine and Choicescript games have shorter text and more frequent choices that frequently meet back up later because it allows you to reuse a lot of text and code. Making a game where every branch goes somewhere different is usually too tedious to code, although some people have done it (like the game Animalia or Porpentine's Myriad).

But a lot of chooseyourstory games seem to get over the problem of needing to write a lot of text by just writing a lot of text, ending up with games with hundreds of thousands of words.

This game is meant for kids, I'd say between 10 and 13 or 14. You are sucked into a fantasy world where you meet strange wizards and adventurers.

There are few choices in this game but a ton of text in each one, and each choice branches a lot. Some are dead ends, but the engine lets you go back and retrace your steps quickly, which the game seems to encourage. This makes the small number of choices make sense, since each replay goes quickly, like paging through an old CYOA book.

I enjoyed it overall, and it gave me some ideas for my own writing.

Santa's Trainee Elf, by Garry Francis

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A fun and tricky puzzlefest in Santa's workshop, December 27, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
This is an Adventuron Christmas game that is quite large. You have to find out what 9 kids want for Christmas and make their toys after finding all the ingredients necessary. There is a large system of free shops and recipes for toys.

There are many locations and as of this writing all but one of them has art.

The puzzles range from fairly easy to the very obscure. The hardest puzzles were those involving guessing-the-verb or lack of in-game responses to incorrect actions.

This is large and complicated and I enjoyed it overall.

Deck the Halls, Gieves, by VerdantTome

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
A verbose Adventuron game about Wodehousian antics, December 26, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
This Adventuron game has more words than any other I've seen. It's firmly in the Wodehousian vein, with a butler named Gieves and hijinks caused by upper-class British misunderstandings.

It was quite clever and parts of it were very funny (including the ending). It suffered from a certain problem that many humorous games have, which is that the author clearly had some very funny solutions in mind, but that requires several leaps of intuition that aren't always fair.

Overall, though, this is a hefty game with good writing and clever puzzles. I think this would have done fairly well in IFComp, placing in the top half.

Northpole, by John Blythe

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A complex Adventuron puzzle in Northpole, December 26, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
This is perhaps the most complex Adventuron game I've seen.

You play as a falsely-accused elf who has to find 7 missing presents. There are two main areas (an outside one and an inside one) as well as an endgame area. There are numerous NPCs, as well.

This game has its own share of Sierra-type-logic (such as there being 4 different sharp-bladed instruments, each of which can only be used on one thing) and adventuron implementation issues (the biggest being error messages not disambiguating between default statements for correct commands on non-interesting present items and correct commands with non-present items).

Fortunately, there are helpful hints in every room. Even with that, though, I had to comb through the itch pages (I found three different ones: the regular page, the submission page, and some comments in the community page for the jam) to finish off the game. Art's very good, and fortunately no puzzles require the art, for people who are visually impaired.

Save Bigfoot's Christmas!, by Quizlock

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Clever puzzle concepts with plenty of implementation issues, December 26, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
This Adventuron game has you using a teleporter to access three different areas with interlocking puzzles.

The story idea is clever: Bigfoot has been implicated in 3 different acts of mischief and is on the naughty list. He asks you to clear his name.

In a world of perfect implementation, this would be a fairly fun puzzle game. It relies on some visual puzzles included in the graphics.

Unfortunately, there are numerous errors. Adventuron doesn't let you know if an object is undescribed or you typed it wrong, so that caused a few issues with things like a vital but undescribed rock show ad. The main verbs necessary for solving two key puzzles are implemented weird (for one, (Spoiler - click to show)PUT something INTO something doesn't work but INSERT something INTO something does, and for the other (Spoiler - click to show)you have to UNSCREW something instead of TURNing or RATCHETing when you have a ratchet).

A few other things added up to make it a frustrating experience. If the game were polished a bit more, it would be more enjoyable. Still, it had many charming moments.

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