Reviews by MathBrush

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Deep in the Spooky Scary Woods, by Healy

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A short, classic-style Halloween CYOA set in the woods, November 14, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes

This is just a choose-your-own adventure story with a Halloween theme. You are alone in the woods with various options, and have two encounters with strange creatures. Your reactions to the strange creatures (at least the second one) determines your ending.

It's pretty short and the interaction isn't too strong. I found it relatively funny and played through it a couple of times. It feels very 'halloween'-y, so if you're in the mood for a shoot spooky treat, this is a good option.

This Person Is Not My Father, by N. Cormier

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A short, linear twine tale about a true-life parental tragedy, November 14, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes

This is a short Twine entry in Ectocomp 2021 and is, I believe from comments on intfiction, based on a true story.

You are a young girl with a generally kind and loving father. He begins acting strangely, though, and you try to come up with a hypothesis to explain his behavior. But nothing you do helps...

The game has some options, but is generally structured linearly. The game has custom styling, but the majority of the game's strength resides in its matter-of-fact storytelling of an emotional and complex issue. I found it polished, descriptive, emotionally compelling, and with just enough dynamic energy to push the story forward; however, I don't see much replay value. That would make it a 4-star game under my rubric.

The Fable of the Kabu, by Jorge García Colmenar

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A short graphical game with text narrative about a baby nightmare, November 14, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes

This game is written in Mosi, which apparently is like Bitsy but for mobile. Both platforms are used to do basic pixel art and to have little 'interaction spots' that bring up text and change the environment somewhat.

This game has you wandering around as an egg in the world of nightmares, eventually encountering others of your kind and humans. I explored a lot but saw some parts I couldn't reach. One part of the game was still in spanish, but the rest was translated well.

There was some freedom as to what to do, but overall the game left me wondering a lot about the main character and didn't really fill in very much, so I didn't feel a strong emotional connection to the game, nor did I find it very descriptive or have a strong desire to replay.

Sommelier Nuit, by GusFuss

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
An unfinished game about guessing types of blood, November 14, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes

This is a game with a lot of good ideas that get kind of lost in execution.

It was written in 4 hours, and not finished. It uses interesting color styling for the background, links and plain text that generally works well (although some inline links are hard to see, being merely bolded).

It sets up an interesting competition where you sample a blood's color, odor and taste and use that to guess its original owner's age, last thoughts, etc.

Only one scenario is programmed. I guessed wrong, but an error in the game let me go on; however, it merely went to a page that said 'this is how far I could get in four hours'.

The text that is here is detailed and interesting, but in most ways it is unfinished and not ready for play.

LIDO, by Elizabeth Smyth

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A creepy short Ectocomp game, November 13, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes

This is an excellent creepy short Twine game made for Ectocomp in less than 4 hours.

It features custom CSS styling that nicely represents multiple worlds. You play as someone swimming in a pool that serves as a sort of portal to a darker (or lighter?) world.

There are 3 endings, one of which took me a while to find. The writing is nice and tight, the pacing is good for a short game, and it's visually appealing.

I had to look up the name, as a US resident. Apparently a Lido refers to a public outdoor swimming area, which makes sense since that's what this game is all about.

My Flat, by ZipLockBagMan

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A short story about an evil apartment, November 12, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes

This is a fairly short twine game made in 4 hours for Ectocomp 2021 (Petite Morte division).

In it, there is an interesting take on viewpoint as the main text is from the point of view of your (evil) apartment, while your choices are your own.

There is a short part introducing the setup, followed by a puzzle part with limited moves.

I found two endings, but both were pretty depressing, so I'm not sure if I 'won' or not.

-Polish: The game seemed bug free, but had little in the way of styling (which makes sense for a speed-IF!)
+Descriptiveness: The gam isn't heavy on environmental details but has a distinct voice.
+Interactivity: I enjoyed the main puzzle
-Emotional impact: I felt like I didn't have time to really absorb the chillingness, and the two endings weren't strongly differentiated
-Would I play again? I feel like I got the whole message in the first go.

All the Colors of the Rainbow, by Akinis

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Multi-colored horror personality quiz?, November 12, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes

This is a Twine game about a book. The book is said to drive people to madness.

The book is associated with 7 colors, and each of those colors with different (dark) facets of life. You first read about others who took on those colors, then read the book itself, and choose a future, associating yourself with a color/facet.

There's a weird fact in writing that if you use too much darkness, gore, or sexual references, it goes right past being powerful and/or disturbing and goes straight to silliness/camp, and I think that's what's happened here. For instance: (Spoiler - click to show)YoU doN’t knoW True JoY. StiCk youR FiNger in your eYe, put a KniFe throUgh youR TonGue. The writing is so extreme, ranging from insanity to guts to strong profanity to bizarre sexual references, that it loses a lot of its effectiveness. I think it could have benefited from being contrasted with something else, like more specific, concrete details or reactions from the PC that show how a human would feel about this, etc. What we don't see in fiction is often far more effective than what we do.

Of course, reading is completely subjective, and I could easily imagine a review saying 'This was amazing! The variety of voices, the visceral details, I loved it!', so I encourage people to try it for themselves.

Crumbs 3: The Last Crumb, by Katie Benson

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Deal with a struggling food bank and personal decisions, November 11, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes

This is the third game in the Crumbs series by Katie Benson, all of which deal with a struggling foodbank and the effects of Brexit. All games in the series are speed-IFs.

In this one, your foodbank is one of many across the UK which are being pressured into closing by HappyHealth, a government-backed private company taking over health care in the nation.

You can call three people to discuss the foodbank, deciding what to share with them, what to ask them about. Then you make the final decision.

Each person seemed real, and the text was interesting. I felt like I had some interesting choices. However, there was a bug where I talked to Trudka and then Mom, but the game thought I had talked to Mika instead, so it looped me in talking to Mom over and over. I solved it by talking to Trudka, then Mika, then mom.

(Edit: In the latest version, this bug has been fixed).

Fat Ass, by Naomi Norbez (call me Bez)

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Kinetic fiction about demons and obesity, November 11, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes

I played both versions of this game: the 'basic' 0.5 mb strippd-down version and the full 800 mb version with multimedia. The latter is definitely better, since the contrast of blocky white letters on black background makes the basic version hard to read.

This is a fairly short game, as typical for Ectocomp games, but maximizes its content by being choice-free. This style is sometimes known as Kinetic fiction, which draws its interaction potential from our own self-pacing and choosing to further the story. It doesn't always work for me, but when the writing is good, like here, I like it. Another good example is Polish the Glass.

The story is about a woman whose mother hates fat and pressures her to make a deal with a demon that would keep her skinny forever...until it didn't.

I've seen a lot of discussion of fatphobia online, with camps who are extremely upset with each other. The most extreme on one side get extremely upset at any online posts showing a person who's not skinny, while the most extreme on the other claim that obesity doesn't cause any health problems.

This game focuses on a gentler course than either of those extremes. Instead of telling us whether fatness is good or bad, it asks us to decouple our personal sense of worth from our body size; we can still make plans on decide what to do with our weight, but not to please others or out of shame.

I think that's an important message, since a guilt-fueled obsession with weight can lead to many bad habits that are worse than simply being overweight in the first place, such as eating disorders.

Return to Castle Veederstone ...for the first time ...for the last time, by Stewart C Baker

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A blend of game types in a spoof on Castle Balderstone, November 11, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes

For several years now, Ryan Veeder has entered a game with a variation on th name Tales from Castle Balderstone. Previously, these games were parser games that contained many 'mini games' with a framing story that you were being guided around a castle that was holding a contest or reading of short horror stories, with each story being one game. The narrator of the framing story speaks to you directly as a guest, and is usually Ryan Veeder himself.

This game spoofs that general idea, but instead of parser games, it uses Ink, Twine, and Choicescript (possibly more). In an interesting twist, this year's real Castle Balderstone game also blends platforms by using both Twine and parser.

This game uses the same framing device, except now there are more Ryan Veeders; in fact, everyone is a Ryan Veeder.

The overall switching between systems is impressive, but the game has numerous errors, such as doubled periods in the Twine system and a game-crashing mis-defined variable 'raven' in the Choicescript section. My game ended abruptly after the Choicescript section with a screen that I could only see when not in full screen but couldn't click on, so I assume that was the ending.

Overall, the game has funny elements (such as the stats screen of the Choicescript section). I feel, though, that it misses the mark a bit. Castle Balderstone is already a humor/parody series, so making a parody of it is like making a copy of a copy, kind of how Scary Movie made fun of Scream which made fun of earlier horror stories. Part of what makes Castle Balderstone games work so well is that, within the framing, the stories can be seen as completely earnest and actually work quite well as sincerely creepy or heartfelt stories; the games also serve as a combination dumping ground/testing ground for interesting game concepts, many of which are completely new or at least relatively uncommon in the parser scene. This game has a touch of that (with blending Ink, Twine, and Choicescript), but in the end I was left a bit disappointed.

-Polish: I found several bugs, including game-crashing
-Descriptiveness: The game is pretty vague
+Interactivity: I liked the switching systems and some of the mechanics
-Emotional impact: Like I said above, it didn't really grab me.
+Would I play again? Yes, especially if the bugs were fixed!

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