Like everyone else who got into post-Infocom text adventures in the late 90s, I’m a mathematician in my professional, non-IF life. I had a great time with Mike Spivey’s entry in last year’s competition, “A Beauty Cold and Austere,” and I thoroughly enjoyed this one as well.
Gameplay: This game focuses on the number line environment from the previous game. Rather than solving an Infocom-style series of puzzles, you’re asked to recreate certain number sequences via a small list of magic spells: duplicate a number (e.g., 22 -> 2222), multiply a number by the previous number visited, etc. Those sequences correspond to the decimal expansions certain important constants, but they’re just there for flavor or even as nothing-up-my-sleeve numbers; they’re otherwise arbitrary. The goal of the game is to understand how the spells work and use them as efficiently or cleverly as possible. The game is entirely based on that one mechanic, but it’s deep enough to sustain interest through both the main game and the bonus tasks. 9/10.
Mechanics: The spells are complicated enough to be interesting to play around with but not complex enough to be frustrating. The required tasks are straightforward and can be brute-forced, but the optional bonus tasks require a bit of cleverness and planning. The game is really about abstract number puzzles, or even a computer science and programming puzzles, rather than mathematics per se. Despite its similarities to ABCA, it reminds me of programming games like “Robot Odyssey.” It’s also one that rewards creativity in thinking about and exploiting its mechanics, which is a great feature in a puzzle game. 9/10.
Presentation: Even though the game is ultimately a series of abstract puzzles to solve, the author put considerable effort into embellishing it. The professors have their own personalities and even sideplots, and the administration even has its own ongoing plot that’s revealed over the course of the game. The professors also provide commentary to some of the protagonist’s own actions, particularly when doing ostensibly unexpected things (e.g., overflowing the numeric state). Beyond the main exam, there’s a considerable number of optional points for achieving particular tasks: completing the tasks in a certain small number of moves, understanding the color scheme for the numbers, reaching certain non-integral states, etc.
The gameplay is smooth throughout; I didn’t run across any bugs in my playthrough. I’m glad the author thought to make other reasonable names for certain spells, like MUL[tiply] for TIM[es], automatically recognized and handled accordingly. 8/10.
Tilt: Math! +1.
You might be interested in this game if: You like math.