Number of Reviews: 11
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Beautiful, important, but quite linear, November 19, 2018
(Sorry for English mistakes in this review; not my native tongue).
When I decided to register at IFDB and start playing IF again (I played many of the classics partly or complete years ago), I was first looking for newer stories or games, published in recent years, although I also plan to re-play older games.
Anyway, Harmonia by Liza Daly (2017) was one of the first games I added to my mental "need to play" list. For sure it was due to the great first impression -- as other reviewers have stated, the quality of the presentation (typography, illustrations, marginalia) is just awesome, which you'll notice once you've clicked the title screen and are presented with the first chapter.
It's really a joy to click the links while reading the well-written narrative, thereby revealing marginalia seemingly added by the protagonist (and sometimes other characters). This nearly evokes a haptic feel, as if you're browsing through books, letters, and piles of old newspapers. At the same time, the design is not "over the top", it is very clear and perfectly serves the purpose of the narrative.
In fact I think if the story was not about an academic, the design may not have worked that well. I, too, worked in academia for several years, so I remember the feelings one has as a young teacher and which are conveyed plausibly in the story. I also remember how a few of the more eccentric and egocentric personalities in academia coped with each other and their subordinates; I found parts of that in this story.
The author explores this topic focused on the role of women in research and society, which has often been neglected over decades. One example in the story was esp. well done: (Spoiler - click to show)Prof. Lynn's ridiculous (but oh-so typical) idea to reward his female assistant (who has done most of the actual research) with just a bunch of flowers is presented as a marginalia next to the main text -- the story's presentation serves as very effective symbol here.
The plot itself (Spoiler - click to show)(about discovering a time machine, built by a member of an historic utopian community that once lived on the college's land) was not exactly surprising, but still decent and I enjoyed observing the protagonist, as she uncovered the secrets.
So while I really enjoyed reading the story, I sometimes wished for more meaningful decisions. I think besides the big main decision at the end of the story, there were only one or two occasions where I felt that I can influence the plot in a meaningful way. The main experience felt very linear and would have also worked in a printed book (Doug Dorst's and J.J. Abram's "Ship of Theseus" came to my mind). Nevertheless, I highly recommend this story.