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Stone Harbor

by Liza Daly profile


Web Site

(based on 37 ratings)
6 reviews

About the Story

You're good at what you do: tell tourists pretty lies about love, money, and life after death. That's what people want from a boardwalk psychic, and you deliver. It's not the future you imagined for yourself, though, and sometimes you think you're waiting for your real life to start. That wait ends today.

The curtain is opening, and it's got something it needs you to see.

Game Details


Nominee, Best Writing; Nominee, Best Story; Nominee, Best Individual PC - 2016 XYZZY Awards

4th Place - 22nd Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2016)

Editorial Reviews

Rock Paper Shotgun
"Stone Harbor tells the story of a sidewalk for-entertainment-purposes-only psychic who finds himself dragged into a police investigation requiring genuine powers. Stone Harbor uses its interactive aspects sparingly, more to direct attention and focus than to give the player control over narrative direction. The story is fairly linear, with long passages of uninteractive text, but I found that the pace worked well for me, and the interactions focused on critical beats of the story."
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The Breakfast Review
The mix-and-match nature of the reading is fun, sure, but I doubt if the following story is affected by it. So, really, this is a well-told story with a smattering of text effects. The hypertext links offer only immediate cosmetic changes to the text and/or story progress along a single predetermined line. It may be fiction that's interactive, but I don't feel that it's properly Interactive Fiction without some sort of agency or sense of accomplishment.
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Number of Reviews: 6
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Most Helpful Member Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Amazing premise in an amazing custom hypertext system, August 3, 2017
by Ruber Eaglenest
Related reviews: IF Comp 2016

Disclaimer: (Spoiler - click to show)Hi, this are the reviews I did in the the IFComp 2016. Iím Ruber Eaglenest. Co-author of The skyscraper and the scar, and entry of that year. The review is posted without edition, and need some context about how I reviewed and rated the games. So, apart of my bad English I hope to be constructive. I will point to the things I don't like of the game, but I hope to be helpful. The structure I follow is this: Title, one line review, two to five word; Mobile friendliness, overall, score phrased based on IF comp guidelines. I had back ache and so thatís why I played most games in Android mobile, I looked closely at how games behave on mobile and review and vote based on that.

Mobile friendly: Completely! Very well done! It is custom system that just nails it. it is comfortable to play. It has even a link to switch between day mode and night reading mode. It autosaves. The system fills the scroll with text with no end, and when you resume the game you must go down all the way. It could benefit of separate chapters that clean the scroll. And maybe a dynamic link to the actual reading point (that is, all the way down) could be great. But Iím just nit-picking.

General: Great start for a game about spiritualism. The initial scene is really really great creating the mood, presenting the main characters and the main mechanic of interaction. I just loved it. However it is just not real interactive (insert my subjectivity on the matter here). If you drop the game in a book, it would work the same. It is a pity, because the story, the writing, the custom hypertext system, all have a LOT of potential.

There are some problems in the perspective of PC and the narrator in some scenes. Mainly in the scene of the doll. We donít know who we are, if the doll, the girl, the player. Maybe it is on purpose but it just donít work. The point of view should be more homogenise, but in this concrete scene it seems it is jumping from one view to another.

The writing is superb, however I find one lacking in the interpretation of the PC. At the beginning, when he just get out of the trance, he is quite cold about it

This was the first actual psychic experience of your life.

Come on! it should be as this, for example:


It should "I feel my skin like crawl" to the PC, or to the reader.

I missed a LOT of interaction, I miss free exploration, free interaction, I miss agency. It is a pity. However, I take a lot of joy of what I were reading, it is just, it wasn't interactive.

Score: Recommended with reservations. And it is a pity, this could be better just adding more interactivity in EVERY scene, for example, even in dialogues with traditional branching dialogues a-la graphic adventure or modern CYOAs.

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Perfect use of the form in this compelling mystery, January 11, 2017
by streever (America)

I was ready to be disappointed. My expectations were so high that I wasn't sure they could be upheld. I hadn't seen much buzz about this piece, which was surprising; the author, Liza Daly, has an impressive background in ebooks and an incredible collaboration with Emily Short.

I was so impressed by this work that I'm writing my review after finishing the opening. The design is minimalist but extremely thorough: the typography is beautifully readable, and this work has clearly been laid out by someone who has thought about how people read online.

The prose is as clear and clean as the design, and immediately creates a sense of place. New Jersey comes through. The tent comes through.

Game mechanics are shockingly effective. The opening is linear, but choices feel meaningful. The protagonist is a charlatan who performs psychomancy readings for gullible tourists, and it feels meaningful when you ask your latest mark--or customer--for his hat.

Despite the attractive design, clean prose, and sense of place, I wasn't excited about the work for the first few minutes. This is my fault! I don't love reading online, and something of this length, I'd normally skip over. The design is so thoughtful though, and the writing so good, that I kept going--and then was completely and utterly hooked at the opening twist. I won't spoil it, but near the end of the opening, the story shifts from what feels like a slice of life tale to an engaging, compelling mystery story. This moment completely hooked me, and the following story keeps the pacing and tension building as it weaves an even more complex tale.

Some might complain that there isn't much 'game' here: you have a clearly defined character you inhabit, the story is largely linear. Whatever limitations may exist in that area, the story and the mechanics that do exist more than compensate, creating a strong, well-told tale.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A largely linear but powerful story about a psychic-turned-detective, May 10, 2017
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This was my favorite game of the comp, on the strength of its writing and its use of kinetic links.

In this game, you play a fake psychic who discovers their true powers after being roped into a murder investigation.

The gameplay resolves around big chunks of text with little choices that change some flavor text. I usually don't like this style, but the concept of a psychic\detective trying to prove himself is great for this style; it makes you hunt the text for clues, trying to figure out what angle to approach a person, to guess what item to use next. It reminds me of Arthur Conan Doyle's stories, with a strong attention to gathering clues from clothing, appearance, and clues.

The styling is gorgeous, the machinery runs smooth, the graphics are good. Does this mean Parser is dead? No, it just means that there's twice as many games to enjoy.

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See All 6 Member Reviews

Stone Harbor on IFDB

Recommended Lists

Stone Harbor appears in the following Recommended Lists:

Detective and mystery games by MathBrush
These are games where you play a detective or someone else investigating a mystery. Most of them are realistic games which I am splitting off of my realistic list. Some are more magical or science fi-ish.


The following polls include votes for Stone Harbor:

For your consideration: XYZZY-eligible stories of 2016 by MathBrush
This is for suggesting games released in 2016 which you think might be worth considering for Best Story in the XYZZY awards. This is not a zeroth-round nomination. The category will still be text-entry, and games not mentioned here will...

For your consideration: XYZZY-eligible individual PCs of 2016 by MathBrush
This is for suggesting games released in 2016 which you think might be worth considering for Best Individual PC in the XYZZY awards. This is not a zeroth-round nomination. The category will still be text-entry, and games not mentioned...

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