Reviews by MathBrush

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The Trials and Tribulation of Edward Harcourt, by manonamora and MelS

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Excellent gothic horror choice game, currently a WIP, November 14, 2022
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

I loved the part of this game that is currently complete. It's a well-style gothic horror game involving you and an old acquaintance, Edward Harcourt.

The idea is that you are one of the few people who are acquainted with Edward Harcourt, who has newly come into power and position. He has asked you to join him at his castle, where you have to deal with suspicious servants, dark dreams, and a town filled with unfriendly folk.

The demo has a lot of branches that seems to really affect the game, as I chose one of three backstories and ended up with some lengthy sequences regarding that backstory later.

So far, only the first two chapters are complete. It's still enjoyable, but I'm definitely interested in seeing the final product. One of my favorite Choicescript games was Heart of the House, which has similar vibes, but this one is taking some different directions that make it fresh.

The Good Ghost, by Sarah Willson, Kirk Damato
A lovingly written short story about a ghost protecting a family over time, November 13, 2022
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game is written with Twine and takes place in five acts, each of which is brief but meaningful.

You play as a ghost that finds itself in and out of existence, with the times in existence being important moments in the lives of your surviving family members. At first, there is very little you can do, but over time you develop more abilities. But it's not really a power-based or puzzle-based game; it's more about the story, about how your connection with the family deepens and grows over time.

The five acts vary between light hearted, dangerous, and sentimental. Gameplay mostly consists of navigating through the house, inspecting everything once, and then finding the one thing to return to to make things better. The pacing is excellent, as it does take some effort to finish each act but it never took long enough for me to feel frustrated.

The game does have some twists in it which, even though I saw it coming from some vibes in other reviews and though I've seen it done several times before, I did feel chills/lots of sentiment at the end, which to me means the author(s) executed the overall story with a lot of skill.

Overall, the best feature is the skill in plot and characterization.

The Enigma of the Old Manor House, by Daniel M. Stelzer

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A pleasant, methodical ghost-hunting parser game, November 12, 2022
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game was made in 4 hours, but has about a dozen beta testers, and it makes sense, as it is very polished.

This is a game where you explore a dark mansion with a lightsource and a helpful notebook. You are trying to find a ghost, and have to navigate around, dealing with blocked passages and places your light can't get through.

The atmosphere is generally creepy, especially since someone died there in the past. The descriptions of the dark areas are especially evocative.

Overall, it's a clever game and has some heartwarming parts.

I think it could still do with a little more polish, even with the cadre of testers. That's to be expected for most speed-IF, but it would make sense for the author to add on to it, since I could see people liking it in the future. The commands I think would be useful to have responses to include(Spoiler - click to show)POINT POINTER or STACK BOOKS, or X ROD.

I liked this one quite a bit. I used hints 2 or 3 times.

Nowheresville, by Morpheus Kitami and Cody Gaisser

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
An expansive city with sparse puzzles and creepy atmosphere, November 10, 2022
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This is an interesting game; there is a large city that is literally part of hell, with tons of streets and cross streets.

Each area either just connects to others or has 2 buildings in it, with each building usually having a single person in it and a sparse description.

Wandering around, your goal is to leave the city. There is a vague air of menace, with hints of a threatening Candy Man and a creepy emptiness around and uncanny valley of NPC interaction.

You can progress pretty far by grabbing everything and combining them. I ran into some difficulty because I didn't realize that some of the random scenery in each room was useful. I've found in the past that it's generally pretty frustrating for players to have a large group of similar rooms and hiding important objects in a small number of them with no special indications; the worst case of this I've seen is the Horror of Rylvania, where there are baseboards in every room and in exactly one room you have to exam them to find a mousehole. This game is much more generous than that, but still it was hard to find the needles in the haystack.

Overall, the big city was cool. It had a similar feel to Winchester's Nightmare, which is also a giant hellscape city with sparse rooms. But this game has it's own character and style and is, I think, worth playing, especially using the source code, which accompanies it and which is organized very neatly.

Civil Seeming Drivel Dreaming, by Andrew Schultz

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Rhyming pairs in a strange parser dream, November 5, 2022
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

Andrew Schultz has made many wordplay and chess games which are a lot of fun. There is a series of games now (I think the first was Very Vile Fairy File), where you have to find rhyming pairs of words. This game is the 4th in the series, which is called the "Prime Pro-Rhyme Row".

For me, the quality of these wordplay games specifically (not all games) depends on a couple of things.
1. Is it fair?
2. Is it challenging?
3. Is it coherent?

My favorites in this category are probably Shuffling Around and Threediopolis. In this series of rhyming words, I like Low-Key Learny Jokey Journey in the current IFComp. They do a good job of tying everything together and offering several paths forward.

This one does #2 well but feels a bit weaker with #s 1 and 3. There are less options for progress, both in terms of the map and in terms of words. At least one required solution used a word I hadn't heard marked as 'archaic' by online dictionaries, and a few combos used a feature the game had actively hinted against previously (specifically (Spoiler - click to show) 1-word answers, where the game says that usually those won't be needed).

There are things to help you, like the machine that says if your rhymes are close, and the Jumping Jerk, which tells you the answer once you've tried enough. I used it 5 times in this game. And, of course, there is always the walkthrough.

The other thing I think I miss from the other games is a bigger tying-together of the story.

Overall, I enjoyed this game, but I would only recommend it to people who liked the other rhyming pair games and want to get more of that experience.

Tratamiento Mortal, by ivsaez

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Horrific uncanny valley 3d-models with humorously extravagant characters, November 2, 2022
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This is the second entry in one of the weirdest series of IF games I've ever played.

Last year I played the first game, Fiesta Mortal, which was a bizarre kind of visual novel that used Sims-like 3d models with pre-Toy Story quality and a horrifying uncanny-valley look. There was a bunch of navigation and inventory trying to stop Steisy, the popular girl, from murdering everyone and you.

This game takes everything from the first game and amps it up. Steisy, now a psychiatric ward patient, looks horrifying with an immense grin and shaved head to support the Free Brittney moment (which she later finds out has already succeeded before she shaved her head).

Her brother, Marlon (I think, I can't remember), when he isn't busy spying on his 50-year old female neighbor with a telescope, wants to visit her to triumph over her. In the meantime, Steisy has to put up with rectal inspections by angry nurse Latoya and meetings with her cellmate and doctor.

Every Spanish swear word I ever learned is used a lot, as well as a few more I had to look up. The characters are oversized stereotypes and parodies, like the flat-earther who derails the game for an intense argument about how Nazis are building bases under the earth and made the south pole as a giant wall around the earth to hide the true mega-continent that lies on the edges.

Overall, the game is inappropriate or crass or over-stylized in many ways, but that is its style, and it kind of works, to be honest. It's like watching Trolls 2 or other B-movies. I think I would have backed out if it were in English due to weird content like severed PS1-style heads, but the language barrier helped provide a buffer between me and content. Wild experience.

The Archivist and the Revolution, by Autumn Chen

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Struggle to live in a future where you extract text from bacteria for cash, October 29, 2022
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game was played at the Seattle IF Meet-up with the author narrating the game and adding her thoughts, and then I played again on my own.

You play as a future trans woman (now known as Lavernean) who has been let go and now has to do basically gig-work to make money. You also have a longterm fatigue-related illness and there's 'nanoplague' going around.

Each day you can decode more dna to make money. You also need to deal with your illness, find food, and deal with your impending eviction.

This game was hard to play because it is very realistic. I've had to do day jobs and night gig work to make food money and/or rent in the last few years, and it's pretty stressful. Three of my closest family members have fatigue-related illnesses, too, so there's a lot that hits home.

Things are pretty rough for our protagonist. It's sad but also accurate for some people I know that (Spoiler - click to show)hitting up and/or sleeping with your married ex-flame is the best way to make money.

There are a ton of endings; the writing is on-point and well-done, the characters distinct and vivid. I did find that the difficulty was (realistically) pretty high, and I kind of felt like I was slowly drowning. It takes a lot of work to be able to impart that feeling, but it was also stressful. The level of craft evident is very high, and I'm glad I played.

The Grown-Up Detective Agency, by Brendan Patrick Hennessy

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
A comedic but heartfelt game about growing up and finding yourself, October 27, 2022
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

It's hard to review this game objectively. I got into IF for parser games, and it wasn't until I tried You Are Standing at a Crossroads by Cat Manning that I realized I could like Twine games.

Once I got started into Twine games, the funniest games I found were by Brendan Hennessy. I was very excited when, in my first IFComp, he entered a game, Birdland, which is the most-rated game on IFDB since 2013 and the most-rated Twine game ever. I thought it was brilliant and have shared it with many students since. The couple of mini-sequels that came out since then were enjoyable.

So when I think of 'what should a good twine game be like', or, I guess, 'what do I like in a Twine game?', it's basically 'whatever Astrid Dalmady or Brendan Hennessy write'. Which is why this isn't an objective review.

Anyway, as for the game itself, you plays as Bell Park, one of the longest-recurring characters in his games. While in past games you were a teenager full of promise, you are now an adult with history. Unfortunately for you, your younger, 12-year old self has travelled to your present and wants to know all that history.

Meanwhile, the two of you team up to find the fiance of your old crush Cassidy. In the meantime, you encounter a wide cast of characters and use a nifty map screen to choose how to navigate around town.

This game is different from Birdland. Birdland had a very consistent day/night mechanic over a week, making it clear how the game was progressing and allowing for a sense of excitement and overall motion. While the mechanics in this game are also interesting, it lacks that overall drive. Instead, though, it has a lot of real poignancy and emotional depth. How would your teenage self view you now, with all of your hopes and dreams having been tested by time? (or, if you are a teen, what's your older self going to be like?) It's a mechanic seen before in other stories, but I like all those stories (thinking of 13 Going on 30 here). It is a less substantial story physically, but has more to say, I think.

The game has excellent artwork (I went through a phase where I wanted to copy Hennessy's design for my Twine works but it was too hard and didn't really go anywhere, but I ended up commissioning art more often and he does that so maybe it did go somewhere?). The backgrounds and fonts and colors are easily readable and unobtrusive.

This game does a lot good that is unnoticeable because it's just not doing what bad games do. It gives you a sense of agency without pushing but also lets you feel like you didn't miss out on branches you didn't click on.

To me the highlight is the humor, subtly leading your expectations and then defying them. I enjoyed (minor spoilers (Spoiler - click to show)the part with with the two crowns, as well as the taurine chewing gum, just the fact that it exists). The many bizarre worldwide events over the last decade made for a lot of potential jokes at the time traveller's expense, but were selected with good sense and care (could have made a lot of darker jokes, which I'm glad didn't happen).

I really like this game, glad it was made.

Lucid, by Caliban's Revenge

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Surreal imagery, time loops, and visceral images, October 25, 2022
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This is an interesting game, and kind of intimidating at first.

Basically, you are in a surreal landscape, perhaps a dream. There are many, many options at first in this Twine game, so many I felt a bit overwhelmed. They are all bizarre, like someone with a singularly non-descript face or a host of voices telling you to avoid a specific thing.

As you explore, it becomes more clear how to navigate around the map. You will also die, or end, many times, resetting in a loop. Sometimes things can carry over.

I peeked at the walkthrough a bit at first to gain confidence. I really like how this played out; the surreal imagery was cohesive and coherent to me, and it really felt sinister.

I think I would have appreciated some way to have more guidance at first without using the walkthrough, and I was a little frustrated with the very last choice (Spoiler - click to show)going into the light resets the whole game so you can't try the other option without replaying everything. Great writing overall, fun game.

Into The Sun, by Dark Star

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
An optimization puzzle set on a derelict spacecraft, October 23, 2022
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

I played this game during the testing period.

In this game, you run into an old, abandoned spacecraft. It's a large and confusing ship, but fortunately a clear map is provided. Your goal is to grab as much of the loot on the ship as you can before it is pulled into the black hole.

This game is similar to other optimization games like Captain Verdeterre's Plunder and Sugarlawn. The main differences are that this one has an adversary, and that there is much less 'easy money' in this game than those. You can wander for quite a while before getting anything really worth something; the good stuff is all locked behind puzzles.

The adversary is interesting, strategically. You both have to prepare weapons and also deal with the effects its acid has on the terrain; it can both destroy useful items and open areas or containers that were locked.

In my best run, I made 1,755 dollars, including (Spoiler - click to show)taking the ship AI and a gold drone.

As others have noticed, the game is heavily influenced by the hit movie (Spoiler - click to show)Alien, featuring characters and the same setting as that movie.

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