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Laterna Magica

by Jens Byriel


(based on 15 ratings)
4 reviews

About the Story

As you seat yourself and turn toward your inner light, you ask that one burning question.

"What is laterna magica?"

Game Details


42nd Place - 20th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2014)


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Number of Reviews: 4
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
A very playable last-place effort, January 9, 2015
by Andrew Schultz (Chicago)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2014, IFComp 2014

Laterna Magica got dumped on pretty harshly in the IFComp, but it's by far the best last-place game I've seen since I've paid attention (2010.) I'd go so far as to call it the best bottom-three game I've seen. This seems like faint praise, but when I paged through the comp results, I was shocked to find it dead last.

Its last place finish is probably more a result of a stronger field than anything else. Though I can see why people may've disliked it--it's about a journey to ultimate enlightenment, but with loops. A lot of them. There's one choice buried in one loop that breaks another loop, and the text is deliberately obscure, perhaps too obscure. Your choices are questions with no right answers, and while this is part of the shtick, there are almost no ways to get any right answers or clues you are on the right path. It seems philosophically correct that we don't notice that we're getting smarter, but there's no sense of progress or hinting we're doing it wrong besides "oh, this again." I got a semi-messy map out of it, and I stumbled through, but ultimately I didn't feel enlightened.

And three months later, I can't remember what I did, and I'm a bit worried about going back to find out. So I can't say this is a favorite.

Still, the game has a coherent start, a good premise, and a way through that's logical once you see it. It doesn't soar, but it works. It may give unpleasant flashbacks to those books people flog on you at the airport as "gifts," with different spiels whether you're reading a book or not (but could you please give a donation?) & some of the text rattles on. And while I love some so-bad-it's-good, and I've even had fun poking through underimplemented games and reassembling them to find out what's going on, this game feels more like it had good intentions and clear focus on its own but it never translated to the enlightenment it tries to give the player.

I generally try not to rate games I competed against in IFComp, but I feel sad this game has a flat one star. Doing math on the previous ratings, it even needed a three-star rating to bump it up. I can't quite give that in good conscience, but two stars--definitely.

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Like being tied to a chair and having an essay shouted at you, October 14, 2017


This appears to be about a self-help philosophy for reaching enlightenment. You have a conversation where each screen offers two options, and you click on a key word to explore one of the two concepts further.

It mentions awareness, meditation, communicating with a higher self, ‘letting go’ of unwanted thoughts and feelings, and exploring the nature of perception and existence.

This isn’t an adventure. It’s a barely interactive info-dump.

I found the writing drawn out. There is not a lot of explanation of the philosophy. Instead, there is a series of statements without much attempt to convince a reader of its truth:

It feels like the author has tied me to a chair and is reading me their unpublished philosophical treatise at me. I’m open to new age ideas about meditation and perception, and I still didn’t understand or enjoy this.

I also felt that the idea that one should simply ‘let go’ of worry and pain by communicating with one’s higher self was extremely patronising. Would that it were so simple!

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
This felt cultish., January 9, 2015
by Chai Hai (Kansas City KS)

I understand you were trying to go all philosophical with inner peace and everything, but not agreeing with the material you presented in game made it a not very enjoyable experience. It felt like I was having those views forced upon me, and I had to agree to proceed.

There also wasn't that much of a plot, just click philosophical links and wal-lah.

I don't know, some people might like this, but I wasn't a fan.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A philosophical twine game with two choices at each stage, February 3, 2016

In this game, you are repeatedly asked questions, and each questions has two answers you can click on.

The questions are philosophical (What does it mean for movement to be an illusion?, for instance). This is the whole game. The only ending I reached was one that told me I was asking the wrong questions, aftef I asked what enlightenment was.

This philosophical work works better as Twine than it would as static fiction, but it was not the type of thing I look for when finding games.

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