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About the Story
An entry in ShuffleComp: Disc 2. Inspired by "The Violet Hour" by Dolls Come to Life.
Commended - ShuffleComp: Disc 2
These Heterogenous Tasks
I’ve seen people compare it to Harry Potter, but to me it felt more (and this is a strong compliment) like Diana Wynne Jones. The doll is not a child, exactly, but it views the world from a child’s vantage; and there’s something here of DWJ’s approach to a secret adventure unexpectedly turning out to be a hazy window onto the mysterious world of adults, and that this sometimes reveals highly sympathetic characters to be deeply flawed. The garden, which forms the entire scope of the game, comprises only five locations; but for me it captured a sense of how, as a child, a garden could feel like a vast world of the imagination to be explored.
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Klara has fallen asleep in her parents' charmed garden - no, not asleep - but catatonic. This is surely the work of an enemy sorcerer! As one of the dolls enchanted to guard and protect Klara, it is your duty to find you what's wrong and reverse it.
Starry Seeksorrow is delightfully charming in its writing - the flora featured are given descriptive, sometimes whimsical names linked to their function (reminding me of Caelyn Sandel's Seeds and Solutions). Yet, there's a sinister overtone: a good number of the plants you encounter are harmful. I would have loved to explore the flowers' abilities further, and explored the different ways they could be used, but that is likely beyond the remit of this game.
The puzzles in Starry Seeksorrow are well-hinted, with the systems behind the puzzles behaving consistently. But the memories that the PC carries add a much greater emotional depth to the story, fleshing the story out to something that could be placed in a wider fictional world, as well as shaping the setting as a result of its creators' personalities and pasts, instead of being merely 'magical cute garden'.
Starry Seeksorrow doesn't play with the parser as much as in Wilson's other works (I'm thinking of The Northnorth Passage and Lime Ergot, specifically), but it's nonetheless a great piece of writing.
This mid-length, well-polished Inform game is dense with puzzles and background flavor. It was an entry in Shufflecomp 2.0.
The PC is an animate doll in a garden of magical plants (such as cherry trees with chimes in the fruit or a lawn that maintains itself). Your goal is to help your masters.
The number of puzzles was surprising for a Shufflecomp game. The puzzles were mostly very fair, where you know what you need to do even if you don't know how. The imagery is fun and beautiful, and everything seems well-implemented.
There was one area I felt could be done better; different areas of the gardens suggest memories, which I didn't know what to do with until I saw the walkthrough (after solving all other puzzles and getting the "bad" ending). Apparently, what you do with the memories is (Spoiler - click to show)examine them. I couldn't find one memory listed in the hints ((Spoiler - click to show) the ghost hunt.
Everything about this game is charming: the premise (you are a doll who has been enchanted to protect a child of a wealthy magician couple), the setting (the garden estate of said magician couple, populated by various whimsically magical plants), the writing ("The memory rattles like an impervious bumble bee trapped inside a closed book."), and the puzzles, which involve learning about the magical plants and figuring out how to tame them and use them to your advantage. The backstory told through found memories is rather more sinister, however: a ghost story that gives an extra dimension of moral ambiguity to the characters. It also feels a bit like a murder mystery, where you have to put together the clues to identify the villain and motive.
I had trouble with two of the puzzles: one I eventually managed to figure out after some wild guesses about how to use (Spoiler - click to show)the diamondbane-- it seemed like I needed to plant it near the glass wall of the greenhouse, or else use it to scratch the glass somehow, but in fact you had to THROW it at the glass to crack it; the other I had to consult the hints for, but in retrospect it was totally fair and clever to (Spoiler - click to show)reuse the clippers to cut out the cover of the book. Unfortunately the hints file is rather spoilery; it seems formatted so as to be implemented as a hint menu where you can choose to reveal one at a time, but it's just a text file so it's hard to avoid seeing more than you want. Hopefully a post-comp release will implement the hints properly in-game.
I managed to win the game on my first playthrough without having solved one of the puzzles; I'm not sure if this was intentional. If it were, I would have expected the endings to be different whether you (Spoiler - click to show)destroyed the statue or not, where solving this optional puzzle would give you a more satisfying and final epilogue. I was slightly spoiled about this puzzle from the hints file; otherwise I'm not sure I would have thought to (Spoiler - click to show)examine the mansion, since it's physically distant rather than being an object in the room.
I like how the game incorporates the band name as well as the song lyrics. Another nice touch is how (Spoiler - click to show)the child is either Klaus or Klara, determined randomly when you start; this led to a funny moment of confusion when I read Emily Short's review and she mentioned that the child was a girl when he was clearly a boy in my playthrough.
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