Reviews by MathBrush

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The Cross of Fire, by Matthew Carey

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Sherlock Holmes becomes an action hero, July 13, 2024
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game has been on my 'to play' list for several years. It was one of the earliest Spring Thing games, in fact one of 4 games in the first year that Spring Thing had more than one entrant.

I've made a Sherlock Holmes parser game before and for me it was really hard to keep it from being 'type exactly what sherlock did in the story to progress'. I don't think I really succeeded.

And I don't think this game does either, although it had different goals than mine. It begins with an extended sequence of giving yourself cocaine, and then becomes a 'guess the next part of the book' sequence, with large chunks of text directly from the book (just like I did).

But after some point, it becomes very different. Sherlock burns with anger; an assassin is sent after him. And Sherlock decides to (Spoiler - click to show)blow up a ship.

I don't think this game is really possible without a walkthrough. The help menu gives many detailed ways to talk to people but you actually have to do very different things (like (Spoiler - click to show)hire willis instead of using ASK ABOUT or TALK TO or TELL.

It was a wild story in the end, but it makes a lot more sense than the original story, which was one of the duller Sherlock Holmes stories.

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Yurf, by spaceflounder
Fun fantasy and a single-word parser, July 5, 2024
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game uses a similar engine to the authorís last game, Steal 10 Treasures to Win This Game, with some differences. Both only allow a set collection of inputs; nothing else can even be entered. So, error messages are replaced by just not allowing you to type things. However, the older game only uses single letters for inputs. This game lets you type longer words, and does have little responses explaining why you canít do some things.

The game is set in the fictional land of Yurf, where a royal conflict has divided the world and four gems have been lost. You need to explore the world, which has a surreal Alice in Wonderland/Phantom Tollbooth feel.

The parser is one-word only. This makes the game simpler but also harder. I appreciated the reduced number of actions I had to try. On the other hand, I was frustrated by simple things like trying to look at one person in a group of three, checking my inventory or interacting with individual background items.

The one-word parser has been stretched to its limits here, and that means one thing: riddles. Around half or more of the games puzzles are intuition-based or Ďahaí type riddles, where instead of manipulating physical objects or learning a system you have to sit and puzzle it out. I ended up having to use hints twice. While I typically enjoy riddles less than other styles of gameplay, they made sense both storywise and given the input constraints.

Overall, a polished and good-looking game, well-written and mostly bug-free (I passed on a typo and a sequence-breaking bug to the author).

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Moon-House Technician, by Outgrabe

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Hang out on the moon, make money, buy cards, July 3, 2024
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game was written in the mainframe language Rexx, designed to be played on an emulator.

It features ASCII art, used to make 12 playing cards. The point of the game is to collect the cards. Itís based on the story The Garden Behind the Moon by Howard Pyle, with a Moon House and a Moon Man and Moon Angel.

Gameplay is primarily menu based, with some menu options giving you a word you can type out.

There are only 6 things you can do:
-Buy cards from the moon man (from $5 to $120)
-Sleep
-Visit the moon angel (in the code, this is supposed to make him more friendly, but the code that does that never actually runs, locking you out of part of the game)
-Look out the window
-polish stars (this gives you $5_
-visit the garden (only open once a week, gives random text).

So, the only way to make money is $5 at a time, with sleep in between each money-making event, and a little animation that plays when you polish the stars, and you have to do that 64 times to get all cards. Furthermore, you have to wait another 20 days or so to actually beat the game.

I didnít finish the game all the way through, opting to read the code instead. The ascii art is lovely, but I donít want to just repeat the same text over and over again for the cards; the gameplay is just too simple, I think.

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The Case of the Solitary Resident, by thesleuthacademy

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A technical detective mystery game with focus on forensics, June 30, 2024
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This Twine game is intended to simulate a forensics-focused whodunnit.

You play as a detective investigating a woman who has been found dead in her apartment after several days. You have the opportunity to take hair, blood, and print samples, analyse medication, interview others, retrieve info from a smartphone, etc.

You yourself are nobody, a cipher, while the suspects are primarily interesting in the information they give rather than their unique characteristics.

There is a lot of technical info in this game, and a ton of links to methodically click through. It has the same kind of puzzle structure as in Toby's Nose, where you read all the info, come to the conclusion, and guess the suspect off a list.

I guessed the suspect wrong but had the cause of death right. It was a fun cerebral exercise, and I would play another game like this. If there were any room for improvement, it might be in making the characters have more unique and interesting features and personalities.

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Rescue at Quickenheath, by Mo Farr

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A cute fairy-based swashbuckling story, June 29, 2024
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

I've really enjoyed fairy-based stories in recent years, probably starting from reading SCP-4000.

This is a cute and well-written adventure about two swashbucklers who have been separated by the law. An execution is at hand, but faeries have gotten involved, and that throws everything into the mix.

This story works well in that it leans into the swashbuckling and fairy aspects with full sincerity, allowing their natural humor and adventure to show out. I could see Errol Flynn playing one of the characters (depending on your choices).

There's not a huge amount of branching, but there are enough places where it feels like you can really mess up or do great that I was pleased with the interactivity. There is an inventory system and some text-entry riddles.

Very fun overall.

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Dragon of Steelthorne, by Vance Chance
A fantasy city building simulator with many different paths, June 21, 2024
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

I played the Spring Thing version of this game.

In this choicescript game, you are appointed head of a 'landship' (basically a medieval steampunk tank) as well as of an abandoned city.

Gameplay consists of combat, city building, relationship management and negotiations with surrounding powers.

I had some trouble with the tutorial combat, with the vast majority of my troops dying. Because of that, I played the rest of the game as an ultra-pacifist, doing everything I could do avoid war and to negotiate. I was able to avoid all fighting entirely and even get an achievement for it!

The city management wasn't very in-depth but I still found it satisfying. The characters were interesting (I spent most of my time with Rosie, eventually running out of new material for her).

I think the only thing really holding this game back is that it is doing many things and each thing could use more content. But making that content is hard! However, I liked each individual part, which is why I wanted more of it.

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A Dream of Silence, by Abigail Corfman
An incomplete but polished fangame for Baldur's Gate III., June 18, 2024
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

I'm giving this game a lower rating for now as it is unfinished.

This is a fangame for Baldur's Gate III with a very lovely UI. In it, a nightmare has plagued you and all your companions, and a horrible creature tries to feast on you.

One of your companions, Astarion, doesn't fare as well as the others, and your are plunged deep into his mindscape.

The game has two major goals: interacting with Astarion (who is much like a grumpy/shy cat) and building up your 3 major attributes: touch, speech, and sight.

There are several obvious goals in the game (like opening a door), and I was working towards those goals but kept dying (every day Astarion loses more health). I didn't realize until later that (Spoiler - click to show)interacting with Astarion makes him lose health more slowly. I had only just started making real progress when the game ended before I had reached any of those goals. I had thought the three 'acts' that have been laid out would all be in different areas, but I guess that at least two of them take place in the same room.

Overall, the mechanics were neat, and took a while for me to Understand. Astarion is pretty moody, but his terseness really does make sense when the goal of the game is to level up both his trust and your ability to converse.

Very fun overall.

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One King to Loot them All, by Onno Brouwer

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Unique game with single correct choices and clever mechanics, May 26, 2024
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

Review for Twine version:

In this updated review, I'll mainly focus on the differences between the two versions, while a summary of the content can be found in my original review below.

Transitioning to Twine altered the feel mechanics of the game in an interesting way. The original setup was more or less 'one correct action at a time', leading to the next possible action. Due to the nature of parser games, the main interaction with the game was trying to guess the correct command to proceed.

By limiting the set of possible commands through Twine links, this revision on one hand eases the pain of 'guess the verb', but on the other hand limits the feel of exploration. I think it's a net positive, though, as the interface with its inventory and 'nested' sub-links still allows for a feeling of achievement.

My expectations for parser games and twine games are different, so seeing this game in Twine gave me a new viewpoint on the storyline. It's not unusual for parser games to flimsy plots and bizarre settings, as many classic games like Adventure and Zork focused more on interesting set-pieces rather than cohesive storytelling. But Twine has a history of attracting expert storytellers, so the bar is set higher.

There's a lot that doesn't make sense in this game. Why is there an entire chest, locked, containing (Spoiler - click to show)a single gold ring? Why is there (Spoiler - click to show)an altar that requires sacrifice, but that sacrifice isn't killed, just trapped inside? Later on, most of these concerns are addressed, because it sets up (Spoiler - click to show)the second playthrough(Spoiler - click to show) as a resolution for many of these questions, but it's a bit bewildering on the first go through. On the other hand, the game is influenced by the Conan series of books, movies, comics, etc. and there is perhaps no better way to show tribute to the original writing style than to have a flamboyant, bigger-than-life story that doesn't quite make sense but allows Conan to hit a lot of things really hard.

Overall, I felt like this was a satisfying play. It has different strengths and weaknesses than the original, and I think I ended up liking both version about the same. I did laugh at the jokes the second time and enjoyed the details in the writing, and I feel like overall the 'Conan-style' writing is my favorite feature of the game.

Original review:

This game is one whose development I have followed for some time.

This is a parser game set in a Conan The Barbarian-like world, with a muscular barbarian king who travels about fighting monsters and wizards and generally destroying things.

There is a cast of memorable NPCs and the writing has a strong voice, with complete customization of almost all messages and a rich setting.

This was originally developed in conjunction with the single choice jam; this game, instead of having exactly one action in the whole game, like most other entries, has exactly one correct action in each location (or, more appropriately, only one allowed action in each point in the game, since some rooms require consecutive correct actions).

There is also a limit on available verbs (customized to have clever names), so that means that at any point, to progress, you need to figure out which of the available verbs to use. Theoretically, this means that you could progress at any point just by trying all of the verbs on all of the nouns. The author works around this by frequently requiring unusual or surprising combinations.

Overall, it took me around 1.5 hours, and I found it clever and richly descriptive.

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Who Kidnapped Mother Goose?, by Garry Francis

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A fairytale game about rescusing a kidnapped mother goose, May 16, 2024
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This is a polished parser game entered in the Text Adventure Literacy Jam.

In it, you find that Mother Goose was kidnapped, and you have to save her! On the way, you'll encounter many of the characters from Mother Goose's fairy tales.

Gameplay is classic parser style, with most of gameplay revolving around taking and dropping objects, using objects with clearly-defined uses, and talking with NPCs.

There is an odd feature of the game, where most of the time the use of an object is directly told you ('you should search this', 'you can open it', 'you can PUT IT ON something'), but other times you're merely told what you can not do, often with objects where some use would make sense. For instance, I was stymied when (Spoiler - click to show)the game told me that I needed to hide my smell, and I had (Spoiler - click to show)perfume, but the game only said (Spoiler - click to show)you don't feel like putting on the perfume. I felt like that was pretty frustrating. I found a different item later, but I thought it odd that the game had a clear solution which was just ruled out as a preference. A similar thing happened with (Spoiler - click to show)the need to make a loud sound and (Spoiler - click to show)the gunpowder. While I've spent a long time on this, these frustrations were only a part of the game and the rest was overall smooth.

I enjoyed the writing in general. The characters, while true to the stories, were also more flirtatious and/or violent than many modern adaptations of nursery rhymes, holding more true to the original versions.

Overall, a well-made game.

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Camelot Jack, by David Turner

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Impressive but flawed hand-made C# system for short fantasy game, May 13, 2024
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

The trouble with parser games is that players can type in literally anything and hope to get a reasonable response out. This causes problems when the player enters something that seems logical to them which the game rejects.

There are two ways of addressing this: training players on a standardized set of verbs, so they enter a narrower range of commands, and programming more responses into your engine/game.

This game is a custom C# engine. Unfortunately, it doesn't recognize as wide a range of commands as most of the popular parser engines do, and it doesn't use common player-recognized commands and shortcuts like I and L, so it's missing both ways to keep player frustration at bay. I ended up frustrated a lot. I couldn't even read the initial text, as it scrolled off screen and mouse and arrow keys didn't move it (althought pg dn eventually did).

There are buttons and an extra text field, designed to make the task easier, which helped. But overall I think that the author vastly underestimated the ability of players (including me) to type exactly the wrong thing, over and over.

Combined with this, the game does not save or undo (and I had to manually exit to restart), and it has several instant deaths and other ways to lock yourself out of victory (I had to restart on two different occasions because I GAVE something TO someone, which the game accepted, but they didn't give it back).

The storyline is that you are in a dungeon cell where Excalibur has appeared, in the stone, and you have to escape. There are a few segments with fairies, but that's the end of this preview.

As a C# project made in a month this is very impressive, so much so that I would be impressed by this if I were on a hiring committee. As a parser game among many other parser games, it falls a bit flat. I don't know if the author reads IFDB reviews, but I'd suggest looking at some other current parser games to see what's possible in terms of responsiveness, and/or running more cycles of feedback with having people test the game and see what commands could be implemented to smooth gameplay.

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