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About the Story
A musician's manic episode binds fiction and reality into a joyful union.
Entrant, Main Festival - Spring Thing 2016
I think there’s actually a pretty good story under all this. There are a couple of decent puzzles too: the bit with the remote lens comes to mind. However, there’s this sense of the whole thing having been designed on a “throw it in” principle. There are a lot of plot elements, many of them barely related, and they seem pretty random. It felt like an explosion of incoherence; there was so much that a lot of the plot seemed arbitrary and illogical. That sort of thing makes it difficult for my mind to engage with the world, which in turn makes it difficult for me to care.
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Emily Short's Interactive Storytelling
I found Harmonic surprisingly successful, coherent, and enjoyable. At some level I’m aware that this is a story about a guy who wanders around town hassling baristas with stories about the Cosmic Wheel, but it’s also a story about someone who wants to share his vision of a harmonious universe inhabited by tremendous beauty, purpose, and love. If this is expressed through the figure of time-traveling aliens delivering space pancakes to farmers in the 1950s, so be it.
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Wade's Important Astrolab
I think Harmonic itself is an amazing game. The crucial thing is that its manic astral mysticism and free-associating subject matter are the province of its prose, world and characters, but not of the underlying structure. The game design is well-considered and has many addictive mechanics recognisable from both old and recent gaming. Harmonic's core gameplay carrots reminded me of a bizarrely disparate group of life simulation games, from Animal Crossing on the Nintendo GameCube to Shenmue on the Sega Dreamcast.
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This game feels like what I would imagine the 70's would feel like during summer-long drug trip. However, it is set in 2013 and based on a real manic episode one of the authors experienced, during which he thought he was in an interactive fiction game (according to the blurb).
This game belongs to the relatively rare genre of games where you explore a big city and story events have to be searched for one at a time, while the rest of the city serves as decoration. Nick Montfort has done this multiple times (Book and Volume, Winchester's Nightmare) and Adam Cadre did this 3 times over in the branches of his game Narcolepsy. But the authors of this game have managed to avoid the crushing loneliness of Montfort's world as well as the frustration of Cadre's. They do this by filling the world with wonderful, descriptive things, packing in long text sequences and even song numbers downloadable from the author's website. They also do it by keeping the game simple. The first half of the game is just following instructions on where to go, and the second half has a great hint system. Both of these facets keep the game fast-paced and interesting.
The writing is trippy. Crystals, music, sex, co-ops, all give the feel of a hippie documentary. The main idea of the game is that the character has managed to bind reality and fiction together, so that he realizes he is in a game and the two start bleeding together.
The game doesn't have actual explicit sex, but it has several very sensual metaphors of sex, and implies sex at various times. Because I don't enjoy these types of scenes, I am unlikely to replay it.
The game took me about 1500 moves to get about 819/999 points (there are many optional points). It is the longest game of 2016 that I am aware of, and most likely longer than anything in 2015 (it has more text than Scroll Thief, I believe).
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For your consideration: XYZZY-eligible Writing of 2016 by MathBrush
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