Reviews by MathBrush

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Captain Cutter's Treasure, by Garry Francis

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A compact pirate puzzle game, May 9, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game is part of the PunyInform competition. It's fairly polished, and features an quest to go looking for pirate treasure.

In the tradition of classic adventure games, the puzzles don't really make much sense, but they're fun. One involves a 2d block pushing puzzle (easier than the infamous Royal Puzzle from Zork III, but generally similar), and there are some math and logic puzzles.

The game has two endings, one easy to achieve and another harder. The game eschews walkthroughs and hints, but I decompiled the game to find the 'good' ending, which is significantly harder.

The largest negative in the game is the pedantry. Very frequently the game knows exactly what you want to do but forces you to phrase yourself a different way.

Examples include:

">UNLOCK BOX

I think you wanted to say “unlock wooden box with something”. Please try again."

and

">ROW
I think you wanted to say “row something”. Please try again."

A particularly egregious example (spoilers for the 'good ending'):

(Spoiler - click to show)
> lock chest
I think you wanted to say “lock treasure chest with something”. Please try again

> lock chest with golden key
Sorry, I don’t understand what “golden” means.

> lock chest with gold key
First you’d have to close the treasure chest.

> close chest
You close the treasure chest.


This is the equivalent of eating at a restaurant but the chef occasionally grabs your hands to make you move your knife to the other side or to drop your salad fork and take your regular one, to ensure that you are eating the meal in the proper way.

Overall, I think this will please people who primarily look for IF to have fun scenarios and puzzles that aren't immediately solvable but are fair.


A Mummy is Not an Antique, by Randy Cordon

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A humorous mummy game with some repetitiveness, May 9, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

I purchased this game on my own recently because I wanted to explore the less-played games on the Hosted Games app on my iPhone. This game was the least-rated one on there, with 3 ratings since 2018.

I was expecting something much worse, to be honest, but it looks like Hosted Games' requirement for a public beta test ironed out a lot of problems that you might see in, for instance, the least-played IFComp games. I found no bugs and only one grammatical error ('would of' instead of 'would have').

Storywise, you are a host for an antique appraisal show when someone comes in with a mummy to get appraised. A horde of people come in chasing the mummy, including someone with a scroll that brings it to life. The majority of the game involves trying to stop the mummy with the scroll.

+Polish: No problems with the game.
-Descriptiveness: A lot of it feels bland. I have trouble picturing any of the characters.
-Interactivity: A lot of the choices are the same.
-Emotional impact: The jokes mostly didn't land for me.
+Would I play again? Honestly, yes, it was a pleasant way to pass a short amount of time.

For me, the game felt pretty flat. Characters are generally indistinguishable, with everyone's personality being 'kind of selfish and likes to make witty remarks'. Most scenes are the same: you try to take the scroll and someone stops you. Most of your choices are the same throughout the game, either 'pick one of these punchlines for the author's jokes' or 'keep filming/help someone off-camera'. I think this kind of general ambiguity is the main thing that decreased my overall enjoyment.

I still finished and it definitely wasn't terrible, and took me around an hour (would have been 30 minutes if I read quicker). Overall, I'm definitely pleased by the quality of the least-played Hosted Games, especially since my own game is one of the least-played Choice of Games.


Dungeons of Antur, by Ricardo Oyon Rodriguez

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A dungeon crawl with randomized loot and monsters, May 2, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game was pretty fun, although I think it could use a bit more hints or subtle nudges for incorrect actions.

It's made using pre-existing 3d RPG assets, including chests, goblins, skeletons and spiders. These form static background images for an adventuron game.

This is like a little AD&D 1st edition dungeon as a warrior, with randomized loot. You explore different areas, find hidden traps, etc.

I thought this game was too hard for me, but I found that carefully noting all items and examining things helped quite a bit.

The game suggests there are non-violent solutions to some encounters, but I fought through most of them, including the werewolf, where I had to restart the game a few times until I found both helmet and armor. Apparently I missed one secret room (probably the one hinted in the note), but otherwise did okay.

I would have been a bit less frustrated if the game had hinted more when I was doing things the wrong way. Otherwise, pretty fun if you like TTRPG fantasy modules.


Sunny's Summer Vacation, by Lucas C. Wheeler

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A prototype for a summer fun game about dogs and divorce, April 17, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

In this game, you play as a corgi who comforts a girl on a summer vacation with one parent soon after a divorce.

There are many minigames you play over 8 days, building up seashells to upgrade your shanty.

Each day you sleep you get more story, with one interaction per story segment.

There are a lot of games implemented, but most of them are somewhat confusing for now or simple, and I think that's what's going to be tweaked later on.

The story is sweet but doesn't have real emotional stakes, in a way. Tension only builds during the 'sleep' scenes but could benefit more from significant changes in the game world over time. As a reader, we know the girl will be sad, then come to accept the divorce, so it would be interesting to have some extra tension as well through a side story, maybe one the parallels the main story.


Some Space, by rittermi

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
An alien puzzle game with codes and racial dynamics, April 16, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game is about you, recently immigrated to an alien planet, learning to handle the customs since everyone speaks in 'puzzlespeak'.

In reality, this means the game has three different threads: one about your emotional life, one about the political and racial situation on the world, and one where you solve puzzles.

I like puzzles, crosswords, cryptograms, etc. but I wasn't feeling some of these puzzles. Like a beta tester recently said about a game of mine, some of the puzzles are obviously telegraphed and some aren't communicated very much at all. I left 3 or 4 of the puzzles unsolved, such as the ascii one and one that seemed cryptographic but had some kind of twist that I couldn't figure out. Others may have more success than I did!

Storywise, I liked the friends subplot. I thought the racism subplot was a mystery story, not realizing it was just straight-up racism. And the mom plot seemed kind of disconnected from everything.

The game has a couple of built-in failures, which I think is tricky in a game like this. Specifically, there are times when solving the puzzles prevents social embarassment, but there are times when you experience it no matter what due to your character's (not the player's) failures, and I think that's not a good design strategy. That only occurs rarely, though.


Wintervale, by Ethan Erh

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Fantasy worldbuilding and surreal occurrences, April 15, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game has some great ideas but needs some polish.

In it, you play a tavernkeep in an inn inside a city built inside of a giant hill of ice that is the lair of a now-dead ice dragon. The game opens with a big chunk of encyclopedia-style worldbuilding that is optional. Amusingly, the links you click comment on how exciting and cool the worldbuilding is.

In the game itself, you repeatedly explore a tavern and talk to NPCs with varying results every time. As you do so, you uncover more and more of a mystery.

I love mysteries, fantasy, and surreal things, so this game has a lot going for it. But there are quite a few typos, occasionally raw twine code (I saw 'if(0>0' somewhere), and there was never a real payoff for all the random things. Some of it paid off, but most of the interesting parts of the game seemed to just have no meaning by the end. I wonder if multiple endings could have been better.

Overall, though, I love the concepts, but I think the execution needs work.


[PYG]MALION*, by C.J.

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
A murder mystery in a fantasy dimension, April 12, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game seems to have been completed as part of a university program, possibly at University of Central Florida. The game list mentors but not beta testers, which would make sense.

If this game was made for a university program, it would probably be at the senior project or thesis/part-of-thesis level. It is a large game, with custom art and a UI designed from the ground up.

There is a lengthy, mostly-linear opening sequence that allows you to customize yourself. This part is an interesting story about how you, a deceased god, have been temporarily reanimated as a statue (a nod to Galatea, which is referenced in both the credits and in the name of the game itself). You go to a house occupied by the president of the 4th dimension in order to investigate your murder.

There is then a much longer segment where you can explore several different locations, some of which have worldbuilding and some have suspects. Some state is tracked in interesting ways.

The game ends with an accusation. You can accuse anyone; the game calls these 'fake endings' but doesn't list any 'true' ending. That, with some other comments in code, leads me to believe that this game doesn't have the full scope the author intended, and it may possibly be expanded in the future.

Overall, I had a very positive experiment. There were only a few flies in the ointment. Perhaps the most obtrusive one was the the '>' symbol used as a 'next' prompt. While keyboard presses can be used to move the game forward, you can also click that symbol, which is pretty small and hard to hit. Then, when you have choices, that symbol appears in front of each choice, but it is no longer clickable; instead, you must click the choice next to it. This led to me 'misclicking' a lot, and could probably be solved by just adding the word 'next' after the clickable '>' symbols and then making that the thing you click instead of the '>'.

The other issues were a missing image (studying the portraits led to a missing link) and maybe some scattered typos (I had the impression, but would have to go back again to check). I think this is a good game, the author seems talented, and whatever program is assisting the production of games like these seems to be doing great.


Journey to Ultimate Fightdown!, by Havilah "mwahahavilah" McGinnis

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A graphical game packed with tons of endings, April 11, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game is an unusual format for IF, so it makes sense it was put in Spring Thing, a competition known for its interesting experiments.

In this game you control a 2d sprite walking around a game that has been unexpectedly paused right before the big fight. You can talk to people, asking them about each other, and swap items with them.

Then, you can unpause the game through various means (the easiest being (Spoiler - click to show)giving the Crown of Agency to someone). This gives you a 'what happened to everyone'? ending.

Overall, I found the game charming and some of the interactions pretty funny.

Where I had a bit of trouble is the 'flatness' of the game. Essentially every important choice is available all at once right from the beginning, so if you want to see everything, you have to click through 8 or so people to ask each of the 8 about themselves and each other. If you just want to focus on the other mechanic (swapping things), every swap is available from the beginning, and only 1 or 2 swaps are important in the game itself (not counting the ending).

So for me, there was a very, very long period of just trying everything and not getting any plot advancement or mechanical changes. It was almost like browsing a 'behind the scenes' book for an MMORPG.

There are an enormous number of endings. I found 5 or 6, then got help to find a couple more, but the state space is so big that I felt too exhausted to find every ending. I did enjoy the ones I found, though.

I guess one thing is that, even though all the characters have very different backgrounds and personalities to me, all the text started to kind of run together eventually. I think that's because, like I mentioned earlier, everything's open at once so there's not really a narrative arc to the overall game (except for the one thread involving (Spoiler - click to show)Jimmy). That's okay and it seems intentional, but I was less engaged than I otherwise would have been.

I'm glad this game exists and think this kind of experimentation and fun is great.


Bee, by Emily Short

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A long choice game about life as a home-schooled child, April 4, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

I had mixed reactions to Bee by Emily Short, most of which were favorable. I compared this game in my mind to Bigger Than You Think by Plotkin, which is another choice game by a famous parser author.

The game is in a completely real-life setting. You play a homeschooled child over three years or more as they prepare for the national spelling bee. Time is organized in months. Each month, you can choose from a variety of activities usually three), and within each activity, you can control your reactions to events and sometimes some big choices.

The game allows quite a variety of choices; the first time I played, I practiced my butt off for the finals. The second time I played, I goofed off as much as possible.

The game was enjoyable; as someone who entered competitions like this as a kid, it was fun to study for the test and get competitive. The interactions with neighbors were fun, too.

But the game got pretty monotonous, perhaps because I tried to be so focused each time. 36 months, with multiple actions a month, makes for a long game, and there was not enough material to fill it all up. Instead, many scenarios were repeated five times or more.


Choice of the Pirate, by Alana Joli Abbott

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
The simple pleasures of pirating, March 19, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

Alana Joli Abbott is a prolific Choice of Games author, having written Choice of Kung Fu (a very good game), Showdown at Willow Creek (very short but fun), and Blackstone Academy for the Magical Arts, which I felt had good ideas but less exciting execution.

Also, I had previously played another pirate game (by a different author) from choice of games, "7th Sea: A Pirate's Pact", which I thought was fun but that didn't highlight the exciting parts.

This game, for me, improves on Abbott's other games and on the other pirate game, because it's fun. It highlights all the best parts about the pirate life. We get ghost ships, flamboyant and treacherous captains, refined but insidious Crown operatives, sea monsters, owning a fleet, getting a hook for a hand, etc. Very little time is spent on the trivial or boring.

The stats are great, too. They're clear to understand, you have many opportunities to increase them, and they're clearly differentiated early on.

There are some things I didn't like too much. I tried to get a haunted ship at the beginning, but failed too many checks in a row and lost miserably. But the game handled it with optimism and reassured me as the player that things would be okay despite my setback, and that gave me the confidence to keep playing without retrying.

I'm not sure exactly how much branching there is; the way it's written and the wordcount given makes me think you largely experience the same set of events each playthrough, but the game offers you a lot of freedom in your intent. And there is definitely some branching; I completed the entire game without finding the identity of one of the people in the relationship bars (probably because I refused to work with the Crown at all).

Overall, lots of fun, can recommend.



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