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Orpheus revisited., April 27, 2021
Your love is gone. Dead. You wish to see her once more. Maybe even stay with her in the dark... Or say your goodbyes and live...
Eleanor is a very deep atmospheric game-experience. The sound effects immediately drew me into the dark immaterial realm where you are searching for Eleanor. Examining parts of your surroundings often brings up a pop-up window with an evocative drawing or a few paragraphs of text. These are meant to be associative asides, no background story will be spelled out in concrete flashbacks.
The setting is extremely sparse. I pictured myself/the protagonist floating in some intangible black void, with only a few recognizable props. Interacting with your surroundings happens on a dreamlike symbolic level. You trigger memories and sensations within you which make obstacles dissolve and doors open.
The Spring Thing competition version is sadly riddled with misspellings and linguistic errors. I trust most of these will have been corrected in an upcoming postcomp update.
Apart from that, it is clear that English is not the author's native tongue. This is not necessarily a bad thing. It often makes for an unfamiliar turn of phrase that emphasizes the distanced and estranged impression the game makes.
Eleanor is made harder than it has to be by its very idiosyncratic parser messages. The responses to certain commands often do not make clear whether an action is not appropriate in the current circumstances, or is simply not implemented.
That being said, Eleanor is also made hard (and rightly so) by being exactly what it wants to be: a dreamlike journey through an intangible underworld where touching and looking are actions of the mind or even of the soul; where normal physical interaction cannot take place.
It is up to the player to enter into this state of mind. Snippets of text and song lyrics that I had dismissed as atmospheric background are indispensable clues here. You must react to the voices you hear, the images that are formed in your mind's eye. They are not mere spooky mood-setters.
It is also very important that the player use the HELP-command as a real in-game command. It does not call up help from a distinct impersonal help-file, rather it implores Eleanor or an unseen narrator to aid the searching player/protagonist. The responses to HELP are often as evocative as those to LOOK or TOUCH.
I really hope the post-comp version does away with the unintended impenetrability, and leaves the intended opaqueness as an eerie, disconcerting puzzle for the player.