Harmonia

by Liza Daly profile

Mystery
2017

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- thesacredbagel, July 25, 2022

- Inarcadia Jones (NYC), July 21, 2022

Disappointing, having played this after Stone Harbor, July 11, 2022

Immersive presentation - unique in that aspect, as far as IF goes. Journals, excerpts, newspaper clippings, and handwritten notes are presented realistically. The protagonist's scribbles are charming at first, but they soon become annoying. Eventually I stopped clicking through them as I just didn't care.

Storywise - not very compelling. Quite boring and predictable. Disappointingly so, having read Liza Daly's Stone Harbor - a compelling psychic mystery, and one of my favorite IFs.


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Utopian Literature, June 8, 2022
by Rovarsson (Belgium)
Related reviews: History, SF

"You can't judge a book by its cover."

Yes, you can. I judge books by their covers all the time. And by the size and type of font, the colour of the ink, the amount of whitespace on the page, the texture and smell of the paper, the illustrations if there are any, and any number of sensory details that influence my feeling about a book.

I wasn't able to ascertain the smell nor the texture of Harmonia's pages, but I found it an aesthetically pleasing work in all the other areas.

It has few but beautiful graphics that look like charcoal or leadpen drawings which complement the "old" feeling of the game perfectly.

Specific to the beauty of a mouseclick-driven text, the new paragraphs fade fluently into view, giving the eye half a blink's time to adjust and expect the coming words just before being able to legibly pick them out.
Perhaps my faux-tactile experience would have been even better if my cursor arrow were the nib of a quill pen, or the relaxed finger of a hand following the lines. Small nitpick, to be sure.

But of course, the saying has a point. No matter how prettily clothed and wrapped, the story must stand on its own when abstracted from all these adornments.

Harmonia surely can stand on its own. It is a SF steampunk time travel story looking back to the past. It makes excellent use of foreshadowing to heighten the suspense throughout, and adds a small twist in the end. The main character is a clearly drawn young woman with a strong voice. To talk more about the content of Harmonia would be to tell too much. Let the reader do the reading.

I do want to speak of the craft the author shows. It is considerable, especially in its pacing. As I was reading the first paragraph, I pressed "restart" after only a short while, having been tickled by the text. I sat down properly, took a deep breath and settled into a slow and focused mode of reading.
It's a treat to let the languid, comfortable sentences come over you at their own tempo; they have a musical rhythm that invites mumbling along or even reading aloud.

I should also like to dwell a short while on the form the author adopts in writing this story. In keeping with its inspirations, the late 19th century Utopians, Harmonia reads as a first person account of supposedly real events. In the principal narrative line, several other sources are found, read and discussed. Each of these in turn takes the form of an eyewitness account or a journal entry. Again, first person singular. These accounts are commented upon and annotated by other characters, or in the case of the main line, by the main character herself. The effect is that of a nesting or layering of first persons in dialogue, creating an intricate web of story threads.

Now, all of the above could as easily have been said about an ordinary, "static", work of fiction. Wherein then lies Harmonia' interactivity?

For one, it has choices. At my leisurely but concentrated pace, it took about two hours to complete one reading. In this time, I encountered but a handful of defining choices. (Beware, reader, for these are not accompanied by bells and whistles. Pause before you press.) As is my habit with these choice-based games, I only played it once through. I therefore cannot tell how far the other paths may diverge from the one I travelled.

Far more importantly in my impression were the annotations in the main text that come into view as mere scribbles in the margin upon a press of salient words. Because they are not present at the first viewing of the page before the reader, but only become apparent as one actively presses, it feels as though the character scribbling the annotation is reading along, and, at the click of a word, whispers side-thoughts and elaborations as one moves a finger along the lines.

This technique invites a deep engagement with the text, where the interactivity takes the form of discovering more profound meaning in a joint reading of the story with the characters that feature in said story. A vivid reading experience indeed...

This game written as a first person account contains excerpts of eyewitness novels and scraps of personal journals and annotations in the voices of the characters and whirls around and around... until the game recedes from view and one is truly immersed in the experience.

A superb piece of interactive writing.


- Vulturous, April 27, 2022

- lilyxy, March 10, 2022

- thiefnessman (Massachusetts), November 30, 2021

- sunmono, August 25, 2021

- nosferatu, June 2, 2021

- Austin Auclair, March 1, 2021

- Dawn Sueoka, December 19, 2020

- ellsbelles, September 14, 2020

- ppoulsen, August 9, 2020

- okcockatoo, June 12, 2020

- Arrowhead12 (Edmonton, Alberta), June 11, 2020

- Marc-André Goyette, May 28, 2020

- Ry (Philippines), September 30, 2019

- Whom (Wisconsin, United States), August 21, 2019

- wohanley, August 16, 2019

- Kwills (UK), August 7, 2019

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
ENG204 - 21st Century Criticism of Interactive Fiction, June 17, 2019

Harmonia's beautiful presentation and fascinating premise is what drew me in and kept me reading, and the experience as a whole was a good one. 19th Century Utopian literature and the movements that grew out of it are an interesting subject, particularly due to the social commentary that we can draw out of it in hindsight. Harmonia reads and feels like a true academic's journal with its footnotes, asides and even comments on comments, each part and story beat quite literally unfolding one after another.

However, it must be said that despite being a work of interactive fiction it is a thoroughly on-rails experience, with only one significant choice: the ending. Don't get me wrong, I was interested in the story and its characters, and even though a couple of reveals were a little predictable, I felt that it made narrative sense and was overall an enjoyable read.

All in all, Harmonia has a lot going for it and I recommend you give it a try. If you're anything like me, by the time you're done you will have picked up not only a respect for the design and the writing but a healthy interest in the history of Utopian communes as well. Four astroliths.


- Wei Yuan Lee, March 7, 2019

- JoQsh, January 31, 2019

- mrfrobozzo, November 21, 2018

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
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.



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