Junior Arithmancer

by Mike Spivey profile


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Super fun math puzzler, January 3, 2023
by Scrooge200 (Backwater, Vermont)

(Adapted from an intfiction.org review)

You are the first ever candidate in Arithmancy – a field of magic involving manipulating numbers. You are judged by the fair and impartial Morkan, the more emotive and reactive Berzia, and, most importantly, the rude and irritable Teraboz. Armed with your spell book, sheet of numbers, and list of tasks, it's up to you to win over your superiors by scoring as many points as you can.

While traditional IF can be fun, I really enjoy more experimental games as well: there's an unusual core mechanic that you have to work with, and its execution can make or break the game. Junior Arithmancer in particular reminded me of another game I really liked, Threediopolis.

The main appeal of Junior Arithmancer is that it's about manipulating numbers in surprisingly fun ways. You are given the digits of various well-known functions, such as pi, e, and gamma, and you need to reach these numbers in sequence with your spells. You can't use a spell more than once, but you can attach prefixes to certain spells to make things easier. Your accomplishments will earn you tokens that you can trade in for more spells, unlocked linearly. Once you have all the skills at your disposal, it's up to you to finish as many tasks as you can before you submit your final score.

Junior Arithmancer is a game where it's satisfying to get something right. I was intrigued by knowing what my next spell could be, and how it could help solve my problems. By the time I got them all, I just wanted to keep optimizing my techniques and returning to old sequences with new tools. Everything feels fair; the spells work consistently, the game logic is easy to follow, and you don't have to memorize any number sequences because they're all included on the sidebar. I never felt like I was lost with how the game worked.

Besides the framing device, there's a little story running through the game. Whenever you return to your exam room to trade in tokens, you'll overhear Morkan, Berzia, and Teraboz talking about the academy. Most of the story is carried by Teraboz; she feels that the test has become too easily accommodating for new people, she starts a debate over whether the word “witch” is offensive, she gets in trouble with the fearsome vice dean Merlena. Outside the story, Teraboz reacts in exasperation at your mistakes, which I thought was a fun way to tell me when I was doing something wrong. She even (Spoiler - click to show)delivers the final line of the game, quitting the academy now that you're a part of it.. Teraboz gets way more dialogue and action than the other two characters, which is a shame, because I'd have liked for Morkan and especially Berzia to have some spotlight moments.

Despite the unbalanced character focus, I'd say I liked this story more than I didn't. It's secondary to the puzzles, and even developed in an interesting direction I didn't expect. And with that said, I'd recommend Junior Arithmancer. It's a light, fun game that's easy to grasp, but hard to perfect.