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.tws file
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Solarium

by Anya Johanna DeNiro profile

2013

(based on 50 ratings)
5 reviews

About the Story

The year is 1954. One year after mutually assured destruction. And I am trying to find you, through memory and alchemy. Not many people know how the nuclear devastation really happened. But we do.

We were part of Solarium.


Game Details


Awards

6th Place - 19th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2013)

Winner, Best Story - 2013 XYZZY Awards


News

I've uploaded the .tws source file for Solarium here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/tjuiha0umnx1akd/alchemystory.tws?dl=0

A couple of notes: because this used an earlier version of Twine that doesn't embed images, building the story within Twine won't give the full game. This also has some dead ends and some earlier drafts of the ending in their own text boxes separate from the main story. Stuff that didn't make the final cut, notes, etc. Hope this is useful or interesting.
Reported by Anya Johanna DeNiro | History | Edit | Delete
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Editorial Reviews

Indie Statik
Itís a fascinating alternate fiction with bleak, existential themes.
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Rock Paper Shotgun
"Solarium...is one of the creepiest pieces of speculative fiction Iíve read, because within its framework of fantasy, alchemy, and interference from immortal spirits, it contains an element that is horrific-but-true: the story of Cold War hysteria and of how close we came to blowing ourselves up in the mid-20th century" -Emily Short
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Member Reviews

5 star:
(20)
4 star:
(15)
3 star:
(11)
2 star:
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Average Rating:
Number of Reviews: 5
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Most Helpful Member Reviews


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Just an amazing work, December 13, 2020
by autumnc
Related reviews: favs

Solarium is one of my favorite pieces of interactive fiction, or any fiction really. It's another of those stories that I find myself returning to over and over. Every time I read it, I feel like I discover something new, another layer to the story or a reference I didn't understand. If anyone hasn't yet, you might want to play it for yourself without reading this review; my description won't do it justice.

Insofar that Solarium is primarily about any one thing, it's about the horrors of the Cold War. In their quest for supremacy over the Soviet Union, Americans turned to esotericism, with a magical archaeological discovery that promises to protect them from nuclear retaliation, thus breaking the game theory of Mutually Assured Destruction and allowing a first strike. Of course it doesn't work that way; actually they awakened an ancient evil that wanted to destroy the world. And it did. But that's just the surface; there's a lot more to the story.

Solarium is a hypertext story told nonlinearly and nonchronologically. It is a mystery story where the mystery is from the perspective of the reader, to find out what happened and why. There is a root node taking place "after mutually assured destruction" and many flashback segments (can I call them storylets?), each associated with a substance, unlocked by going through other flashbacks (which are treated as alchemical rituals). Through these flashbacks, the player discovers the history of the protagonist and their relation with the events that lead up to the nuclear apocalypse.

There are two endings decided by a final choice at the end. It makes sense; everything that comes before is flashback to prepare the player for this final decision. Spoiler description of the plot and ending: (Spoiler - click to show)The plot takes the cold war and moves it to cosmic dimensions. The protagonist is the reincarnation of an ancient godlike figure, and both his lover(?) Annalise and the Archon (the spirit contained inside the magical amulet) are also reincarnations, playing out an ancient cosmic drama between good and evil. Their bodies are no matter; the Archon takes over the president's body, and the protagonist is reincarnated as men and women, including a priest and a soldier. All of them are endlessly lonely through reincarnation, and the Archon tries to attract the attention of the Creator by acting up, by causing so much mayhem and evil that God is forced to notice him. Meanwhile Annalise is as pure good as possible; it's implied that she is the reincarnation of Jesus. The ending is with Annalise dying permanently, and the protagonist can either join her in death or keep on living. In the latter ending, eventually the protagonist finds the Archon's amulet again, because they're so lonely and need a companion.

The game is littered with a complex array of references, from literature to religion to real-life Cold War history complete with actual documents. Maybe it's only impressive to a relatively uncultured person like myself, but I thought it was incredible, and made me look up a lot of things on Wikipedia, like the real life Project Solarium, the use of LSD by the CIA, Gnostic religions, and the history of alchemy.

More generally, the writing is incredible (in my opinion). Every sentence just feels perfect. I don't know how to talk about it without gushing. The nonlinearity and gating are usually well thought out, and work to pace the story and control how and when the player accesses certain content. Most of it is pretty easy to navigate, but there were a few moments where I wasn't sure how to proceed. But it turns out that some storylets can or have to be repeated multiple times after getting new substances.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Great supernatural, thoughtful fiction. Twine with haunting graphics., February 3, 2016
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

Solarium gives Twine a good name. This well-crafted game is adult ficion, not as in sexuality, but as in dealing with thoughtful and meaningful concepts. It involves alchemy and an alternative ending to the cold war, decades ago.

The narrative has a branching structure, with each branch requiring a key in the form of an alchemical substance. By obtaining more substances, you unlock more areas.

The game includes several striking images, including scans of real government documents.

I strongly recommend this game.

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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Solid text, November 18, 2013
by streever (America)

This is well-written and engrossing. A clickable twine text game, Solarium has an interesting alchemical system which is quickly grasped through exploration of the narrative. As you progress through different memories, you obtain new story paths, and part of the fun is in speculating which will lead you to which.

There was only one moment where I worried that the game may have a dead end, early on, when I had gone through what I thought were all my options in remembering the story through alchemical reagents. I quickly realized that I simply was missing one of the options, and hadn't realized it was clickable.

Well-written, engrossing, and with an interesting ambience, this game is a mystical take on the idea of a nuclear apocalypse. The action mostly takes place in one room, as your character relieves past experiences that contribute to your understanding of what led to the apocalypse, and the limited role you played. The denouement is satisfying, and leaves you with a real choice, shaped by your perception of the text you'd just read, instead of by your collection of macguffins and plot points.

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Recommended Lists

Solarium appears in the following Recommended Lists:

Annotated list of best sci-fi games by MathBrush
A few months ago, I thought, "There really aren't that many sci-fi IF games". Then I started going through old games I had played, and downlaoded TADS, and was shocked at how many great sci-fi games there are. This is a list of my...

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Polls

The following polls include votes for Solarium:

For Your Consideration - XYZZY-eligible NPCs of 2013 by Sam Kabo Ashwell
This poll is a place to suggest non-player characters from games released in 2013, who you think might be worth considering for Best Individual NPC in the XYZZY Awards. Leave the name (or namelessness) of the NPC (or NPCs) in the comment...

Games with the best writing by A. I. Wulf
Games are a new medium of art. It's still a maturing medium. But still some works May have succeeded in being truly classic in their writing. As an enthusiastic writer I need to know about the growth of IF in this field.

Sublime Moments by Sam Kabo Ashwell
I've been thinking about games that provide really brilliant moments. This is not about the overall quality of the game: there are plenty of excellent games that never deliver a clear, standout moment of unalloyed excellence. And surely...

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This is version 6 of this page, edited by Anya Johanna DeNiro on 22 September 2017 at 12:41pm. - View Update History - Edit This Page - Add a News Item - Delete This Page