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A Real Knee-Slapper, December 6, 2020
Among theoreticians of humour, there are those who suppose that funniness is best explained by what they call the incongruous juxtaposition theory, which, when you get right down to it, holds basically that it is funny when incongruous things are juxtaposed, though perhaps the astute reader will have divined as much. By that measure, it is remarkable that this Russo chap has, with scant experience or prior renown in the venerable art of interactive fiction authorship, produced perhaps one of the more humourous – which is to say, incongruous – entries in IFComp 2020.
The Eleusinian Miseries ostensibly saddles one with a spot of work that needs doing. The activities soon devolve, however, into fast times of the particularly fuddled variety, as the main players get more-or-less sloshed, cut it across the Attican idyll, and commit mayhem upon stony unmentionables. As a rule, you see, one expects to encounter a – and not to imply any condescension, mind you, as we all stash it up once in a blue moon, and reasonably so, given the strictures and stressors of life being what they are – but, returning to the point, one expects to encounter a rather coarse register in association with this sort of blotto bacchanal (not to give the impression that this is in any way directly associated with rites pertaining directly to Bacchus, since it is clearly acknowledged that the initiations at Eleusis are in praise of an entirely different set of deities, but I digress). Yet many a satyr would be outmatched by the refined parlance, both of the revelers themselves, and of the narrator who details their debauchery. And therein lies (or is it lays?) the crux of this incongruity wheeze – in pairing a particular strain of elevated and idiosyncratic diction with what is, quite frankly, an evening of shenanigans befitting any sophomore. Quite amusing, that.
But, wait a tic, for what, upon first reflection, appears to be an incongruity, is, a second consideration informs me, actually a complete congruity as well. The revelries of the game, you see, are lush to the point of excess – extravagant to the point of criminality. The language employed in descriptions thereof is similarly turgid enough to test the strictures of good taste. Upon realizing just how apropos the style is to the substance in this respect, I was as surprised and delighted as one who, attempting to wrangle a mutt, catches a purebred Chow-Chow’s teeth to the face.
I say, astute reader, do you know what this means? This Russo chap, when planning this subtle work, inserted even more incongruity than could reasonably have been anticipated, for not only must we consider the incongruity as previously discussed, but also the incongruity of that incongruity with the aforementioned congruity. If the incongruity taken at face value is quite amusing, then this revelation, surely, is a real knee-slapper.
Having played The Eleusinian Miseries to three different conclusions – being a glutton for punishment – I am deeply impressed by its wit. This whole “Wodehouse” wheeze is a bit of a stumper to me, I never having gone in for it, but even I can see that the writing is impressive. And while the credits acknowledge five beta-testers, the technical ease-of-parser-use gives the impression of perhaps one and one-half times that number!
To conclude, with perhaps a lesser degree of fanfare than is warranted, because I really must be off to peruse recipes for kykeon, The Eleusinian Miseries is a fine achievement and well-deserving of a playthrough.