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About the Story
A dream-like journey through a drifting life.
Nominee, Best Setting; Nominee, Best Use of Multimedia - 2015 XYZZY Awards
18th Place overall; 3rd Place, Miss Congeniality Award - 21st Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2015)
Meg Jayanth's Top 10 Games of 2015
"There is beauty and purpose to be found in each fantastical place in the game, but also an underlying desolation, a bittersweetness that comes through Phantom Williams' prose in combination with Ben Wasserman's music. (You must play it with the sound up.) But the most telling choice in Summit is to linger in these places--learning arts, making connections--or to leave, and continue on your quest to reach the elusive, ever-distant Summit. Both choices feel equally valid, equally terrible--stay and actually live life at the cost of giving up your dream, or go on with your journey but give up the people, places, magics that you are starting to know?"
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IF Only: Strangely Thought - by Emily Short
"Summit tells the story of a journey through a strange land. The eponymous summit is your goal, but it doesnít matter if you donít get there: there are many other places you can end up, and many ways you can read the experience. Perhaps youíll stop and live in a city for a while, or join a university, or take part in an archaeological study. And periodically you will need to open up your fishstomach and consume one of the many symbiotic fish that swim within. Consuming fish is a sign, and probably even a cause, of mortality, but you also canít really live without fish. Everyone has a fishstomach. There are stories of a time when people didnít have fishstomachs, but nowadays, everyone does.....Summit looks at the brighter side of death. Our lives are finite, but it is that boundedness that gives our choices meaning. We canít go everywhere and do everything."
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Number of Reviews: 6
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Fishstomachs. For this concept alone, Summit would have my praise.
The story here is universal. You play as a character dissatisfied with many things. You can see in the distance, both metaphorically and physically, a summit. Climbing this summit might erase your problems. Therefore you set out to climb it.
The game is episodic. You're waylaid beside the road, in cities, in towns, you meet people, you part from them, years pass, and still you are trying to reach the summit. The world is unusual and alien, yet familiar. One sequence involves attending a pseudo-religious function where the participants convulse on the floor after ingesting nano-machines. This echoes our world directly. Just remove the nano-machines.
Fishstomachs are extra stomachs that everyone in this game has, and that are filled with living fish. The fishstomachs eject the fish, the characters eat the fish, and then the fish eat through the characters' normal stomachs to nibble at their internal organs before the fish die and decompose. Eating a fish and having your organs nibbled is an ecstatic experience like taking a potent drug. Everyone is dependent on eating fish, but not like drug addicts are dependent on drugs. You need to eat the fish to stay alive. There's no rehabilitation possible. If you don't tend your fish, your fishstomach will erupt and kill you. If you do keep eating fish, eventually that will kill you too, once they nibble your organs enough and their fishrot infuses your body.
This is a thoroughly nightmarish concept to me. I'm averse to most seafood anyway, but having fish swimming in your body, nibbling your organs, rotting away into toxic slime? Phantom Williams has created a potent metaphor with this fishstomach business. It's not a metaphor for anything in particular. Like the game's summit, it's universal. It resonates on many different levels.
And you totally understand why the protagonist would want to reach the summit and have all their problems wiped away, including their fishstomach.
One curious feature of this game is that "you" is not really "you." Sometimes "I" takes over when "you" gets too tired, and the game addresses this, proclaiming that the "you" in most text games is actually narcissism masked as empathy.
It's interesting, but I don't entirely agree. Although there's some truth here, the "you" in a text game is no more narcissistic than the "she" or "he" in a novel. No matter the narrative viewpoint, the player/reader is always consuming the material, absorbing it to change or reinforce their own perspectives about the world. Whatever pronouns are being used, everything is another fish going down the gullet.
Comparisons to Porpentine will be made, with reason. Summit seems to have studied Porpentine's work for inspiration. But this game stands on its own.
It has a soundtrack that you shouldn't miss.
Far too many reviews have compared Summit to Porpentine's work. I don't see it. I see the intertextuality - the progression of the art form via Porpentine's experimentation - but there is where it ends for me. Summit stands on its own elegant and wistful feet as a considerable work of art.
Summit is a meditative, beautiful and extraordinarily imaginative text. The player is journeying toward an elusive mountain that seems ever unattainable - passing through cities and villages and crumbling ancient libraries. I played it to many endings, and I still don't think I have seen everything there is to see.
It was one of my favorite games of IF comp 2015.
Of all the astonishing imagery Summit has to offer, it is the concept of the fish-stomach that is most compelling. The people in the world of Summit have a stomach in which swim fish that must be eaten from time to time. If the fish are not eaten, it causes death, if they are, they nibble away at internal organs and will cause death. At the Summit is the myth of freedom from the tyranny of the fish-stomachs.
As an extended metaphor, I struggled with this. It is hard to assign a concrete meaning. As in any quest, it is the journey that matters. The fish-stomach, a crushing addiction/obligation - can you live with it even if the life you have isn't everything you had hoped? Or do you journey ever on, knowing that just around the corner might be your cure.
This beautifully presented multi-media dreamscape. Very very highly recommended.
What a strange and beautiful piece of interactive fiction!
Summit is based on a startling idea: that human beings must periodically expel living fish from their fishstomachs, and then swallow them, ultimately choosing a more gradual death over a prompt one. Somehow Phantom Williams manages to make this idea sound completely convincing within a few minutes.
The story is based on the desire for the far-off summit of the mountain, and the long journey that must be taken in order to reach it. I would have liked more time to have been spent expressing why the character desires to reach the mountain.
Your journey takes you through a number of different places, in each of which the people find a different way to deal with issues of death, fish, and ecstasy. Having played it through twice, I think the path taken by the character is roughly the same in different playings, but it's possible to skip parts and include or exclude other characters, and to make decisions about how to spend your time in each place, and how much time.
The style of frequent link-clicking, based on symbols which may or may not have significance, slows the story down and gives it an almost meditative feel. The descriptions of the places you visit are mysterious and beautiful, creating an excellent sense of atmosphere.
One question: it promises music, yet I couldn't see any way of turning it on (yes, I had sound switched on). Given the atmospheric nature of the piece, I would have loved to have heard that.
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