The Eleusinian Miseries

by Mike Russo profile


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Number of Reviews: 8
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
A Russovian Triumph, March 19, 2022
by Rovarsson (Belgium)
Related reviews: History

Uncle Alky has invited you along for an initiation to some religious mystery stuff. There's supposed to be free food and drink at the party after, so why not?

The longer I was playing Eleusinian Miseries, the more I got the impression that a theatrical comedic play was unfolding before me, where I got to guide the unwitting protagonist through the unexpected ordeals and shenanigans of the story. Each act has its own storylet-arc, with its own obstacles and tasks for our hero. Once these are completed, the story is moved to a new stage with new scenery for the continuation. The geography of the game fits this interpretation nicely: each act plays in a very limited number of locations (where there is lots and lots to see and do).

Right from the get-go, the game hits the tickle note. Not laughing outright, I felt that readiness to laugh in my cheek muscles, an amused and expectant smile under the surface.
The room descriptions are delightfully elaborate and detailed. Their poshly cultured and high-brow tone is finely offset by the player character's self-admitted ignorance and casual disinterest.

The tickle note, once strung, reverberates throughout. The mood of giddy curiosity is sustained by the author's obvious joy (and sweat and tears, I presume...) in spit-and-polishing the details of the game. Practically all default responses have been customized to fit with the overall tone and the specifics of the game-state. Depending on the situation the protagonist is in at the time, the same command may have different responses, , regardless of the actual importance of the command.

The room descriptions remain funny in a restrained, understated way, delighting the player with a glimmering detail here or a surprising turn of phrase there.
The frequent intermezzoes turn it up a notch or two. In between the acts, when all present objectives have been met, the results of the hero's actions are shown in topsy turvy action-comedy scenes, not infrequently involving a mob of toga-clad ancient greeks toppling over and under each other or the accidental or voluntary dismembering of holy statues.
Finally, there are the instances where author and player work together to deliver the joke. Because of the involvement of the player, these are the funniest and most satisfying moments of the game. The author sets the stage and makes sure all the props are in their rightful place. The player goes about the preparation of the audience (herself) by exploring the setting and gathering the necessary resources, all the while increasing the tension. Then, at last, comes the release, where through careful experimentation and restoring or through a sudden flash of insight, the player puts it all together and delivers the punch line... to herself.

Many puzzles in Eleusinian Miseries are quite straightforward adventure-fare. Good, engaging, sometimes surprising. And some are of the variety described above. Very, very satisfying.

To cap it off, the finale is a hilarious (and impossibly hard) optimization game. (Be sure to SAVE the moment you arrive in the Bedroom). I spent about thirty restores and I still couldn't get rid of that one last thingy! Fortunately there's a very good gradual hint-system included. (And then I palmed my forehead...)

Wodehouse in Ancient Greece. Lovingly crafted, great atmosphere, immensely funny.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Alcibiades, you old rogue ... , December 8, 2020
by DoctorFury (Ohio)

Isn't it funny how the AAA Assassin's Creed: Odyssey brought Alcibiades back to the minds of modern players, and now he appears deliciously in this game as the instigator of all the protagonist's mayhem? I LOVED this game: erudite, camp, a wicked mix of actual proposed Greek historical events with lingo from a cliched Eton. The plot traipsed along, chaos was merry and perpetual, and the author never let a line drop--the voice was consistently hilarious. I only found one gamebreaking code error (Spoiler - click to show)(don't drop the amphora in the garden and try to pick it up again), and there were no guess-the-verbs that I could find, despite what another reviewer suggested. A quick Google cleared up any unknown Greek, which I think is acceptable in modern gaming.

An evening well spent. If I have any criticism, it is that the puzzles were fairly one note, simple steps, with no real deductive pressure on the player. Look forward to more games from this author in future!

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Delectable and farcical, December 6, 2020
by AKheon (Finland)
Related reviews: comedy, IF Comp 2020, parser-based, Inform

The Eleusinian Miseries is a parser-based comedy game by Mike Russo, published in 2020. The game is about partaking in secret religious rites in Eleusis, (Spoiler - click to show)although in practice it’s close to just being an excuse to gorge on food and drink, at least as far as the main character is concerned.

The game is, above all else, a puzzler. It consists of several mostly self-contained scenes with clear goals on what to do. The design is streamlined enough that it’s usually not hard to figure out what to do, although sometimes locating needed items or understanding how to complete the various objectives might be a problem. I personally got stumped at a few parts, but I wouldn’t say the design here is unfair in any respect.

The writing is rather verbose but polished. The game presents itself as a farce, and it definitely has some comical, unfortunate situations in store for the hero. The narrator voice has a lot of personality, being jovial yet a bit dainty and spoiled - it really fits the character of a cultured wastrel with a short attention span.

A part of me was expecting the game to go even further in some respects. The tone of the comedy strives to stay rather clean and prim at all times, which might clash a little bit with the hedonism- and debauchery-laden setting. Then again, I’m not too familiar with the major inspirations behind the story, or historical farce in general. Maybe this is the most authentic approach for this style? I couldn’t say.

With around 2 hours playtime and a detailed implementation that is fun to mess around with, there’s a good amount of content to be found in The Eleusinian Miseries. It’s worth checking out for a solid puzzler, especially if you’re interested in anything pertaining to ancient Greece.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A Real Knee-Slapper, December 6, 2020
by Joey Acrimonious
Related reviews: IFComp 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.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Fun farce, November 30, 2020
by Stian
Related reviews: ifcomp 2020

For being the first game of the author, The Eleusinian Miseries is remarkably well done. The implementation is more or less as flawless as they come (at least in the face of a deadline), and I found nothing here to remark on.

Being first and foremost a historical-farcical puzzle game, it seems to be heavily inspired by the excellent Lost Pig and The Wizard Sniffer (this one also features a pig!) and provides them with good company. The approach to humor is similar, although here it feels at times a bit too verbose. Most of the 90 minutes I spent playing The Eleusinian Miseries were spent reading, rather than thinking how to solve puzzles. While the puzzles do a good job of retaining the humoristic style, they are not particularly challenging.

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Ancient greek hijinks in the Wodehousian style, October 17, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours

Well, my personal shuffle lined up for me three pretty hefty games that I beta tested all in a row. But fortunately they’re all fun to play.

This is a big game, longer than 2 hours for me (I only replayed the first 2 ‘acts’ for this review). It’s basically the ancient rituals of the Eleusinian Mysteries (as far as we’ve recreated them) retold in the style of P.G. Wodehouse.

The game is split up into 4 or 5 acts. Each is large enough to be an IFComp game in its own right, especially the first act (which involves searching for items in an expansive map) and the last act (which is a madcap action scene set in a single room and involving a form of optimization).

The game provides a ton of jokes and just text in general, with full-screen text printouts being a regular occurrence. Overall, it’s a masterpiece in terms of total content and polish.

Structure-wise, I found the open-world segments more effective than the narrowly constrained 2nd act. Quite a few of the puzzles were more difficult than I could handle, as well, with my typical loose and easy playstyle. For the thoughtful and methodical player that examines every item, carefully checks exits and works through every takable object, this game will exciting and rewarding. For everyone else, like me, the hints are quite good and let you see the witty writing more easily.

+Polish: For a game this large and complex, it is very polished.
+Descriptiveness: The witty writing is a plus.
-Interacivity: For me, the puzzles were too hard to figure out easily.
+Emotional impact: This game is funny, for sure.
+Would I play again? After the comp is over, I'd like to revisit this.

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
One of the funniest parser games I've played, October 15, 2020
by RadioactiveCrow (Irving, TX)
Related reviews: 2-3 hours

"The Eleusinian Miseries" is a puzzle-filled parser-based game set during the annual Eleusinian Mysteries, the initiation rites into the cult of Demeter and Persephone. Most of that last sentence I had to google to make sure I was getting it right, I know very little about Ancient Greek cultural history, and if you are like me then don't let that deter you. Just think of it all as taking place during your final initiation into a fraternity that is very dedicated to authenticity. You play one of the current pledges with only a few tasks left to complete before you can be fully accepted into the group.

The game is a series of puzzles incorporated into a small map played out over several acts. If you aren't familiar with Greek terminology then keep a dictionary handy to look up some words. The game does a pretty good job of kind of cluing you in on what some objects are in modern English, but I still had to look up several and knowing the function of many of the objects is key to solving some of the puzzles. For the most part the puzzles are fun and fair. With a limited number of locations and objects you can usually brute force your way to a lot of the solutions. Most of them just needed a bit of common sense applied, and the parser seemed pretty forgiving with phrasing. That said, there were a few puzzles that I had to look at the walkthrough to get past. After seeing some of the solutions I'm glad I didn't wait longer as I don't think I would have ever figured it out. On a couple of the puzzles though, the way I solved it is not the way listed in the walkthrough, so I think many of the puzzles have multiple solutions.

While many of the puzzles were very enjoyable, it is really the humor that makes this game great. Don't forgot to stop and read the prose in between completing tasks as there are more than just funny lines, but hilarious whole scenes. It is unusual to me to see humor mixed into a parser game this well and at this level. My compliments to the author.

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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
Flippant, October 11, 2020

The "Eleusinian Miseries" follows a vacuous, self-absorbed player-character as he is introduced into an ancient Greek mystery cult. Amusingly, the cult resembles American universities' fraternities, and their mild hazing rituals and toga parties, except its members speak with British idioms and have names like Alky and Puffy.

While "Miseries" characters are well-acquainted with ancient Greek clothing, foods, vases, and architecture, they are also flippantly vague on other Greek folkways. The PC's unrequited adoration of his friend, his ineptitude at practical tasks, and his surprising aptitude at accidentally emasculating statues of Hermes appears to be a joke about the virility of either the ancient Greeks, American fraternity brothers, or British trust-fund kids. Regardless of the way you read it, it's pretty funny.

The game is structured by five distinct scenes. The first scene is a well-designed and implemented set of find and fetch tasks. The second scene is a little under-clued and linear, with a brute-force puzzle (Spoiler - click to show)(you'll need to try a lot of clothing combinations until you find out what amuses your cult-mates) and a guess-the-verb puzzle (Spoiler - click to show)(if you want to splash or spatter something on yourself, try "wash" instead). The third scene is more open and involves some lateral-thinking repair puzzles. The fourth scene has little interaction, but carries some thematic weight for the game. And the final scene is a clever optimization puzzle which points to several alternate game endings.

"Eleusinian Miseries" is a funny, engaging, well-structured game, with only a few implementation problems.

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