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About the Story
A freelance QA specialist has started archiving an unusual project online that he has been working on. A mysterious company named BUCOLIC ehf, a "digital literature publisher", is developing an interactive version of Lord Dunsany's collection of essays about World War One, Unhappy, Far-Off Things. (Lord Dunsany is probably best known as the fantasist who was an early influence on Lovecraft.) Each essay in the collection is being tested as a "Session." But something is not quite right with the first one.
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Number of Reviews: 2
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This game contains excellent writing, but that is easy, because more than half of the text comes from the writings of Lord Dunsany, a fantasy writer predating Tolkien and Lovecraft. The writings chosen are about the world wars; it may have been picked as something "dry", but I was actually very interested in the text.
The material surrounding the text is somewhat less well written, relying on some stock ideas common in the 2010's. The visual format is very interesting, trying to mimic a folder of html files (well, I guess it really is a folder of html files; isn't everything?), and then incorporating more and more material.
There are some parts where it is difficult to read due to (Spoiler - click to show)every letter being turned around. It was a little frustrating.
The game incorporates twitter in a fun way; unfortunately, I did not want to use my twitter account (due to it being very public), and I did not want to start a new account, so I didn't get to try it out.
The reader experience of Feu de Joie is that of browsing an online archive, and the first passages are appropriately dry. The tester’s helpful notes become more confused and uncomfortable as the material gets weirder. To generate that weirdness, DeNiro inventively exploits Twine’s roots in web design. The artless presentation of the client’s work makes them seem incompetent (and non-threatening), so when text blurs, fades, and becomes unaccountably janky, it’s surprisingly disturbing.
I enjoyed the contrast between Dunsany's cultivated prose and the tester’s more conversational notes (the novel House of Leaves comes to mind). It’s amusing at first, but becomes unsettling when the text seems to return the tester's gaze. The tester’s a smart guy, but I worried for him, as I would for a horror movie character (“Don’t open that door!”), and I fear that something terrible is in store for him.
Do read the tester’s first letter to Martha before beginning Session 1. It establishes who he is and what’s at stake for him. This first episode is brief but involving, and teases at unsettling developments to come. An intriguing story, and imaginatively designed.
Disclaimer: I recently pledged to support Feu de Joie on Patreon.
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