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Solarium

by Anya Johanna DeNiro profile

2013

(based on 48 ratings)
6 member 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

Language: English (en)
First Publication Date: September 29, 2013
Current Version: Unknown
License: Freeware
Development System: Twine
IFID: Unknown
TUID: b6ljg2m07tmc2ffv

Awards

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

Winner, Best Story - 2013 XYZZY Awards


News

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Editorial Reviews

Indie Statik
Itís a fascinating alternate fiction with bleak, existential themes.
See the full review

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
See the full review

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Member Reviews

5 star:
(18)
4 star:
(15)
3 star:
(11)
2 star:
(1)
1 star:
(3)
Average Rating:
Number of Reviews: 4
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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.


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.


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.


See All 6 Member Reviews

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Recommended Lists

Solarium appears in the following Recommended Lists:

2013 XYZZY Awards Nominees by Molly
Here are the nominees for the 2013 XYZZY Awards, roughly by order of appearance on the finalist page. Note that this list does not cover the Best Technological Development Award.

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Some good games with a historical setting. Will be added to as I go along.

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Polls

The following polls include votes for Solarium:

Games with mysticism by Anya Johanna DeNiro
What I'm looking for are games that aren't "other-world" fantasy, but rather use one of the following as part of its thematic underpinnings: Renaissance magic, Neoplatonism, hermeticism, gnosticism, alchemy, or any other kind of...

For Your Consideration: Games from 2013 that should be nominated for the XYZZY Awards by Molly
There were a lot of great games released in 2013, and now that the XYZZYs are coming up, it seems like a very good idea to take a poll of all the games from last year people would like to see nominated. The management has asked that we...

The game(s) that changed your mind about Twine by MathBrush
I've seen many people discuss their feelings for Twine. Many of them say that they didn't think it was a 'real' platform at first, but then certain games changed them (see, for instance, the commentary in "IF is Dead. Long Live IF") For...

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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