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Coloratura

by Lynnea Glasser profile

Horror
2013

Web Site

(based on 112 ratings)
8 reviews

About the Story

Stolen away by apathetic Blind Ones, your only desire is to return to your Cellarium and the Song of the Universe. They should understand. You shall make them to understand.


Game Details


Awards

1st Place overall; 1st Place, Miss Congeniality Award - 19th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2013)

Winner, Best Game; Nominee, Best Writing; Nominee, Best Story; Nominee, Best Setting; Winner, Best Puzzles; Winner, Best Individual Puzzle; Nominee, Best Individual NPC; Winner, Best Individual PC; Nominee, Best Implementation; Nominee, Best Supplemental Materials - 2013 XYZZY Awards

6th Place - Interactive Fiction Top 50 of All Time (2015 edition)

36th Place - Interactive Fiction Top 50 of All Time (2019 edition)

21st Place - Interactive Fiction Top 50 of All Time (2023 edition)

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Member Reviews

5 star:
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4 star:
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3 star:
(9)
2 star:
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Number of Reviews: 8
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Most Helpful Member Reviews


11 of 11 people found the following review helpful:
A mid-length sci-fi game from an alien perspective, February 3, 2016
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours

Coloratura is one of the greatest sci-fi IF of all time. In this game, you play as a being utterly different from us that encounters a situation it has never experienced before.

The game has all of the usual commands, plus some new commands, the most interesting of which are color-based commands. Different colors signify different moods or ideas.

The puzzles are extremely rewarding, and fit into the plot exactly. The NPC's are well-implemented, and the nature of the game makes you feel as if the parser is not limiting conversation at all, only the world itself is.

I didn't really need a map for this game. It took a couple of hours to play. The game's biggest strength is its ability to put you in the shoes of someone completely different from you, to make you really feel like you are them.

I only wish the game had lasted a bit longer. But this may have made the puzzles less cohesive.

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
An excellent science fiction game, September 22, 2020

Coloratura is an excellent science fiction game.

In a sense, the game gives you two stories in one. Foregrounded is the story of the alien PC, who drives most of the events in Coloratura. But the humans on board the ship experience the alien's actions very differently, and therein lies the second story. The way that Coloratura allows you to experience these two stories simultaneously is, well, brilliant.

I have mixed feelings about the puzzles in Coloratura, though. The puzzles are fairly easy, but that's not because the solutions to the problems you face are naturally apparent. In fact, these solutions are generally not actions that would easily come to mind at all. However, the puzzles are made easy by the game repeatedly hinting at what you should do next. I find that off-putting with puzzles, and it affected my enjoyment of the game.

To be fair, though, there's a quite difficult design problem to be solved here: A game with an alien PC is going to be played by humans who have no good intuitive sense of the actions that alien PC is easily capable of taking. To avoid a game with an "other" PC being unfairly difficult, then, such a game has to slowly teach the PC's abilities to the player. Coloratura does this some - but, in my opinion, not enough.

Still, this is a relatively minor point. Coloratura is a great game, and its greatness lies in the tension it creates between the story of the alien - who wants something basic, understandable, and just - and the story of the humans who experience the consequences of the alien's actions as horrific.

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Great sci-fi from the POV of an aqueous alien entity, November 12, 2021
by Wade Clarke (Sydney, Australia)
Related reviews: Inform, science fiction, horror, IFComp 2013

(This review originally appeared as a blog post of mine during IFComp 2013.)

Coloratura is an outstanding parser-driven adventure in which you play an aqueous alien entity (or more gauchely, a blob) capable of interacting with the universe on a rich metaphysical level; part psionic, part molecular, part empathic. Unfortunately you've been dragged up from your seabed home by a crew of humans not unlike those in The Abyss and placed on a table in their ship for research purposes. Your goal is to escape and find a way to return to your home, and it is in your nature to seek to do so without inducing unnecessary violence or discordance in the universe.

The primary aesthetic is the viewpoint of the alien, rendered in a grammatically strange style and with invented words and unusual uses of tense and person. Your character is preoccupied both with the atomic joys of the universe, its magnetic fields, temperatures and viscosities, and with the emotions and empathies of other beings, which it perceives as coloured auras. You also have the power to try to affect others' emotions by instilling them with the corresponding colour, and many of the game's puzzles involve interpreting the panicking humans' emotional states, which the blob is very good at, and nudging them to alter the situation aboard the ship in your favour.

This is an excellent game with many levels of engagement and innovation, plus puzzles and suspense, and which exploits a lot of possibilities unique to text gaming. This is Lynnea's third time in IFComp and I think it's her best game yet. Spoilers ahead.

There is a delight in sharing the blob's way of seeing and feeling things, in mingling your particles with those of a column of hot air or slipping through vents and pipes. Your ability to keep these sensations separate from your apprehension of the drama of the human crew, who are freaking out about your escape, conveys your alien character's holistic view of existence. While you're always aware of the urgency of the different tasks which must be completed to aid your escape, you're incapable of feeling the panic yourself. These tasks include sabotaging elements of the ship so it doesn't stray too far from your home or persuading crew members to help each other. And viewed from your outsider perspective, the humans are extremely panicky. You almost feel as if you're trying to placate bickering children at times.

The game's modelling is strong, with the different crew members (sometimes named by you for their emotional qualities - E.G. 'Mercy' is the nurse) moving around the ship independently in response to your various transgressions. It's not always necessary to follow them on their errands but in most cases you can do so if you wish. At times when they come to blows and you need to calm them down, the actions to take are well clued by both the situation and the prose. Another achievement of the game is that the human drama is so dense. There is a suspenseful development of different crises aboard the ship over the course of the game and you're usually aware of each human's motives and movements in relation to them. I was reminded a little of Infocom's Suspended here by the way you have to negotiate burgeoning disasters remotely.

In the way of nitpicks, there are a decent number of bugs in the game, but almost all of them are down at a level of fine detail which doesn't obstruct core play. For instance, some commands produce responses worded for the blob at times when you're controlling a human. I hit one runtime error which didn't stop play, though in retrospect I wonder if it corrupted the next game I saved, which would not reload. Something which isn't necessarily a bug but which I would like to see changed is that the command LOOK takes a move. There are several occasions where timing of actions is critical, especially during the climactic fight involving the ship's captain, and at such times you'll instinctively LOOK to remind yourself of any features in the immediate environment which could help you, and probably die as a result. Having to remember not to do that and to scroll back through the history was annoying.

As an Inform author, I was interested to see that this game uses only one extension (a small code library which adds a particular piece of functionality to your game). I usually break out about ten extensions before I've gone anywhere, but I didn't notice any inconveniences here. If anything, the game is pro-convenience. Occasionally it reaches into that territory where it makes the taking of a particular abstract action so easy that grizzled parser veterans like myself will get stuck as they try to achieve the action by performing unnecessary constituent actions, even though the master phrase to use is right there in the last piece of prose the game spat out. Apart from the fact of the traditional player base not being used to such helpfulness and therefore often missing it, this is a direction I'd personally like more parser games to go in where it's appropriate.

I confess that I didn't really get the implications of the epilogue, which is playable, but that's my only beef with the game's content. Coloratura is a top-notch sci-fi adventure with an engaging story, vividly realised character viewpoint and a concept which is likely to refresh your batteries on the subject of empathy.

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