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Requires a Glulx interpreter. Visit IFWiki for download links.
Release 1 Game File (for IFComp 2017)
Requires a Glulx interpreter. Visit IFWiki for download links.

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A Beauty Cold and Austere

by Mike Spivey profile


About the Story

That survey course in conceptual mathematics seemed like a good idea at the start of the term - no graded homework, no midterm exams - just an oral final at the end.

But now that final is tomorrow morning. After months of procrastination you've got one night left to learn enough to pass the course.

You might even be desperate enough to try one of your roommate's sketchy memory pills.

Game Details

Off-Site Reviews

Emily Short's Interactive Storytelling
A Beauty Cold and Austere is a parser-driven text adventure about the awe-inspiring loveliness of mathematics. Its set-piece puzzles range from basics of arithmetic and geometry, through combinatorics and probability, up to linear algebra, calculus, and a wonderful interactive toy that explores the concept of divergent vs convergent series. Along the way, you encounter a number of historical mathematicians, math-related poetry excerpts, and mathematically-relevant settings (Trinity College Cambridge puts in an appearance, as does the Library of Alexandria). There are also obligatory Zork and Adventure references.

Puzzle-driven exploration of a surreal, conceptual space is less common in IF than it was circa twenty years ago, and indeed this game feels like it would have been a smash hit in the IF community of the mid-90s. The implementation is meticulous, the puzzles ingenious and pleasingly crafted, the state space free of unwinnable situations, the hints neatly coordinated with your progress, and the sense of humor pretty much exactly on point for the rec.arts.int-fiction days. Though there are lots of NPCs, all of them are there for puzzle-related purposes, and none of them really disrupt the playerís sense of splendid solitude. The author credits Curses! with acquainting him with the genre, and that makes plenty of sense: ABCA has fairer puzzles and less cruelty than Curses!, but it shares in that gameís gleeful juxtaposition of modern, historical, fictional and surreal locations. I liked A Beauty Cold and Austere immensely: I still have a great fondness for that type of game, and this is a superb example. I am glad the IF world still produces this kind of game, and also glad it no longer produces only this type of game.

I donít want to suggest that ABCAís appeal is exclusively nostalgic. There are parser puzzle games written these days that exist mostly as a nod to bygone tropes, but A Beauty Cold and Austere has something of its own to say. Compared with the 2017 average, the game may be light on story and characters, but itís strongly and elegantly themed. This is a game about intellectual awe, about the attraction of abstract and intangible subject matter, about human response to more-than-human truth. The final imagery is moving, sublime, and all the more meaningful because it feels earned, both by the protagonist and by human intellectual progress overall.
See the full review

Page Update History

  v.20: 21-Feb-2022 05:58 - Spike (Current Version) - Edit Page - Normal View
Changed version number
v.19: 21-Feb-2022 05:57 - Spike
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v.18: 04-May-2021 22:34 - Zape
Changed license type
v.17: 29-Jan-2020 15:21 - Zape
v.16: 16-May-2019 16:38 - Spike
Changed version number
v.15: 16-May-2019 16:36 - Spike
v.14: 16-May-2019 16:30 - Spike
v.13: 16-May-2019 16:29 - Spike
v.12: 28-Sep-2018 12:34 - Spike
Changed version number, download links
v.11: 06-Jun-2018 16:33 - Spike
Changed external review links
v.10: 06-Jun-2018 16:30 - Spike
Changed external review links
v.9: 18-Dec-2017 15:03 - Spike
Changed download links
v.8: 18-Dec-2017 15:02 - Spike
Changed version number, download links
v.7: 18-Dec-2017 14:59 - Spike
Changed download links
v.6: 28-Nov-2017 02:06 - David Welbourn
Changed download links
v.5: 28-Nov-2017 02:04 - David Welbourn
Changed download links
v.4: 17-Nov-2017 11:46 - Spike
Changed IFIDs, version number, development system, forgiveness
v.3: 16-Nov-2017 11:06 - CMG
Changed download links
v.2: 07-Oct-2017 18:13 - Spike
Changed author
v.1: 01-Oct-2017 16:33 - CMG
Created page