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The Moonlit Tower

by Yoon Ha Lee

Eastern
2002

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Reviews and Ratings

5 star:
(15)
4 star:
(28)
3 star:
(8)
2 star:
(6)
1 star:
(0)
Average Rating:
Number of Ratings: 57
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Exploration in a lush, beautiful East Asian-influenced setting, July 16, 2017
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: phlegmatic
The Moonlit Tower is a small, self-contained game, set in a lush, unusual setting. Who you are is not immediately clear; finding out is its own experience.

Again, the player's goal is not clear at first. While this would usually be considered less than desirable, in this case this encourages exploration, and what a world there is to explore! The setting here draws on East Asian influences, and various features give the impression of gilt and intricate detail, such as you might find in a palace in ancient China or during the Joseon dynasty, and it is this detail in the crevices of the text which encourages replay.

This is a small game whose sparse puzzles are enriched by the enjoyable writing. The game boasts gentle, evocative, lush descriptions galore, rich with odd turns of phrase. Story is revealed in vignettes, flashes of memory; nothing is concrete.

- Audiart (Davis, CA), February 14, 2017

- mousetail (India), August 28, 2016

- eyeballkidable, July 18, 2016

- Ryan Veeder (Iowa), May 4, 2016

- leanbh, March 15, 2016

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A short Asian-themed "atmosphere" game like Dreamhold, February 3, 2016
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
In the Moonlit Tower, you explore a small 3-story tower to help remember who you are and your past. Like Dreamhold, the key to your memory seems to be masks, but much of the game, you don't know what to do with the mask.

The setting is dreamlike and very poetic. It is the game most likely to find its way into a book of poems or an art gallery. The author borrowed its imagery and story from several cultures, including Mongolia and China.

The puzzles are mostly the examine/pick-up-object type until you progress very far, and then they get a bit more difficult. There are multiple endings, some of which are hard to find.

- Aryore, December 13, 2015

- paranormal-potato, June 5, 2015

- Thrax, March 11, 2015

- hoopla, March 8, 2015

- Christina Nordlander, February 18, 2015

- CMG (NYC), November 7, 2014

- blue/green, July 16, 2014

- Lorxus, March 8, 2014

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
A touch of moonlit magic, July 4, 2013
by Jim Kaplan (Jim Kaplan has a room called the location. The location of Jim Kaplan is variable.)
Related reviews: yoon ha lee, fantasy, atmospheric, mid-length
Play it if: you want a game rich in atmosphere and abstraction.

Don't play it if: you prefer something more like a literal story or intellectual challenge.

This is a very striking first publication. I think most of us would give an arm and a leg to put out something this good on the first try, and Yoon Ha Lee is to be commended on the thought and imagination she's put into this work.

In the basic technical respects, it's not all that remarkable. A short-to-mid-length game which isn't very puzzle-dense. Not much is going on here that's particularly revolutionary to the medium.

What makes it special is the setting and atmosphere. Here, the work comes alive in the imagination, and not just in the vivid, spellbinding language of description.

The Moonlit Tower reminds me the most of Emily Short's Metamorphoses; although the latter is a more puzzle-heavy exercise, the general feel of the two works is rather similar. Yes, there's a distinctive Eastern aesthetic influence (Korean and Mongolian, apparently), but the more overt impression to me is a pervading sense of toying with abstractions.

In Metamorphoses, it's the essence of things: their shapes, their sizes, their substances. In The Moonlit Tower, it's more about symbols: masks, lanterns, seasons. A sense of symmetry pervades the piece, with asymmetry being a puzzle to solve. A porcelain half-mask. A feast of bones just barely out of place. A compass dividing the four seasons. A symphony with a missing player. These otherwise disparate elements congregate to give an inescapable feeling of some greater whole.

The "story" itself is limited mainly to flashback and suggestion. In a way, it's almost a nudge - a small device intended to clarify one or two things, to quietly lay the framework for the final sequence. It's a testament to this story's belief in letting the player's imagination blossom that you can experience a profound sense of completion upon finishing The Moonlit Tower, even if you feel you never really knew the protagonist.

It's difficult to really say much more about this work. It's a bona fide tone poem - almost a more intimate, intricate IF successor to Strauss's Also Sprach Zarathustra - and as such is something more to be experienced and reveled in than dissected. I strongly recommend it.

>VERBOSE -- Paul O'Brian's Interactive Fiction Page

The Moonlit Tower is a rich and gorgeous piece of work, and a very strong debut from an excellent new author. Easily the most striking thing about this game is its writing, burnished and evocative prose that sets a very elevated tone.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Would recommend, June 11, 2013
Personally, this is the type of narrative that I prefer from an IF. A narrative that reveals itself gradually with each item and room you explore. For me, it promotes the interactivity aspect to have the story only told if you take the time to look around and interact with your surroundings, rather than having large chunks of exposition thrown at you. It also helps that the writing of Moonlit Tower has a poetic simplicity about it. The details of the narrative aren't necessarily explained to you outright. Rather hints are scattered here and there and tidbits are provided for the player to piece together.

As for the gameplay, it requires you to make sure you pore over each little detail in the rooms you occupy. Certain interactions will give you a response that hints at what move to make next. I'll mention that in order to move certain items, you would have to say "take items" or "take item with ___" rather than the usual "move" items. Also, in the HELP menu it will tell you some of the game-specific verbs you will want to know. If necessary, there is a hint system that will give you a lead as to where to go but won't tell you precisely what to do. However, if you are patient and meticulous enough, you should not need the hints too often (in my first playthrough I think I only needed them to figure out (Spoiler - click to show)how to find the thing that got dislodged by the kite). A cute feature after the game ends is the option to see a list of amusing things to try in the game for your next playthrough. Also I should mention it's fairly short. A little over one hour for my first playthrough, and I think I got most of the puzzles.

Overall a sort of melancholic atmosphere, and an emphasis on exploring and interacting with every detail in order to both piece together the narrative, and to continue further through the game.

(On a personal note: I was only able to find two endings to the game. If anyone knows of more endings maybe you could message me? I read through the ClubFloyd transcript but they only found the same two endings I'd already discovered.)


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