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Requires a Z-Code interpreter. Visit IFWiki for download links.
original competition entry
Requires a Z-Code interpreter. Visit IFWiki for download links.
Author's drawing of a character in the game

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Muse: An Autumn Romance

by Christopher Huang

Religious, Romance, Historical

(based on 31 ratings)
4 reviews

About the Story

Early September, 1886. Autumn. The Victorian Era. The Rev. Dawson, 59, is off to the Continent and an unexpected Romance...
[--blurb from The Z-Files Catalogue]

Game Details


Nominee, Best Writing; Nominee, Best Setting; Nominee, Best NPCs; Nominee, Best Individual PC - 1998 XYZZY Awards

2nd Place overall; 3rd Place, Miss Congeniality Awards - 4th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (1998)

Editorial Reviews

Baf's Guide

The year is 1886. The protagonist, an aging clergyman, unexpectedly falls in love at first sight with a younger woman while abroad. A brief human drama ensues, sprinkled with Lewis Carroll quotations. Superb prose that evokes the literary style of the period, written in the first person past tense - a controversial choice, but I thought it worked. The ideal ending is poignant and refreshing, and even the less-than-ideal endings provide a sense of closure. Features puzzles based on human behavior, timed events that flow on without you, and a hint menu.

-- Carl Muckenhoupt


In virtually all respects, it's a thorough, well-thought-out, effective story. The inherent limitations of IF puzzles put a crimp in the NPC interaction and make you less a character than a player pushing through to the end of the story, which is unfortunate because you really do inhabit much of the story as a character.
-- Duncan Stevens a.k.a. Second April
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The Calliope effect
I'm used to getting frustrated struggling with the parser; in Muse, I found myself in a similar struggle, not with the parser, but with Victorian protocol. That seemed to me to be an evocative association: I wondered how not being able to act naturally even to the extent we can today, having to fit everything you did or said into the strict bounds of a rigid code of propriety, resembled struggling with a sort of "parser" every waking moment of your life.
-- Adam Cadre
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The game is written in the first-person past tense - a risky decision, but in this case it is extremely effective. The emotions 'felt' by the central character would simply not work in the traditional second-person perspective. It also makes the considerable restrictions placed on your actions seem natural and convincing.
-- Brian Blackwell
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>INVENTORY - Paul O'Brian writes about interactive fiction

Muse is the most gorgeously written piece of IF in the competition -- I've still got several games left to play, but I would be very surprised if any of them even equaled Muse's marvelous skill with words, let alone surpassed it. The game is like the IF version of a Merchant-Ivory movie: quiet setting, stellar production values, highly character-oriented, and deeply, deeply felt. It's been a long time since I've been as moved by a piece of IF as I was by the "optimal" ending of Muse -- even some of the less satisfying endings are crafted so well that in themselves they can be quite emotional.
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Number of Reviews: 4
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Most Helpful Member Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful:
Unique, November 3, 2008
by Pavel Soukenik (Kirkland, WA)

Muse is taking place in a French coastal village in 1886 and it tells a story (in the first person, past tense) of a 59-year-old English clergyman encountering a beautiful young German lady. As such, it is a unique title in the world of IF, and the superbly written introductory paragraphs make you feel you are in for a great time.

The protagonist's character permeates the writing so we get his perspective, ideas and feelings. Occasionally though, these do not go deep enough or fail to feel authentic given his age and experience. The writing also captures the Victorian period well (as does the insistence on greetings and introductions). The past tense in the first person fits the story but the author could have adapted the 'library' even more ("My trusty old steamer trunk lay here," you read before the first prompt, where "lay there" would be seamless). The feel is rounded off by well-selected quotations (mostly by Lewis Carroll), although these border on a recommendation for "less is more".

The game is well hinted (although you might feel a bit lost if you are not on the optimal track) but could have used more testing. Specific problems (tiny spoilers ahead) are as follows: (Spoiler - click to show)After two turns when you were unable to do anything but look at her, the main character must not say "I wasn't sure what 'her' referred to." After the boatman tells you "We must go," the response to BOATMAN, WAIT could also have been anticipated and tailored. You can get nonsensical ending if your first two commands happen to be PUSH TRUNK TO BOAT, GET IN BOAT. And in my play-through, Mr Von Goethe did not "recognize" my referring to his daughter by her name even after he told me what her name was.

Since several appear at the very start of the story, this is distracting. Similarly distracting is the choice of the names (John Austin, Von Goethe). The otherwise very nice prose suffers somewhat by the need to include directions; to alleviate this, the direction to the "previous area" is sometimes not repeated in the "current" location. (Spoiler - click to show)(I was once "trapped" in my room: with no exit direction in the description, my short-term memory, the door object missing from inside, and the "out" and "exit" not implemented, I had to try the directions one by one.)

Despite these problems, this is a nice and emotional short story featuring several endings, and it has a unique voice which recreates a specific atmosphere and period. Its only significant flaws are that it should have more depth and breadth so that the ride would last longer.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A mid-length conversation-based Victorian game about romance, February 3, 2016

Muse is a bit on the long side for an IFComp game. In this game, you play an English clergyman who becomes interested in a young woman.

The game is focused on conversation and a few keyed actions. This is a game with good writing, but underclued puzzles, and so I took my standard tack for such games of just using a walkthrough after muddling about for a bit. (As an example of an underclued puzzle, (Spoiler - click to show)It says your room is stuffy. If you don't open your window, you can go around and do things for hours, but you will never solve the puzzle.).

There were also other word issues. You have to say "daughter" instead of the daughters name sometimes when speaking to the father.

All in all, I think that everyone would enjoy this game more with a walkthrough than just playing through. The puzzles are not compelling.

But I strongly recommend the text.

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8 of 15 people found the following review helpful:
Immune to the Charm, April 5, 2010
by AmberShards (The Gothic South)

This is another game where I must be immune to the charm, as Muse didn't strike me as either particularly emotional or Victorian. Although bugs threatened mimesis (you can carry around your trunk even though the game tells you it's too heavy, you can talk to the minister without introducing yourself), it was the lack of direction that really confused me.

There are no points that I could discover, and I had no idea whether what I said was leading anywhere or whether it was more idle conversation. Muse doesn't clue in the player when the PC makes progress and the PC doesn't often think about his conversations; it's very frustrating and left me just guessing topics and trying them out with every NPC.

The story cries out for a immersive world (say that you and the painter get angry; why can't you buy him an ale?), but instead it's bare-bones implementation time. I'm sure that there are certain paths that you should take, but I'm left mystified as to what they are.

I guess I could fight my way through to some ending, but I've got better things to do than spend an hour or more guessing the conversation topic. Muse aims high (Victorian romance) and sadly, falls short.

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Muse: An Autumn Romance on IFDB

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The following polls include votes for Muse: An Autumn Romance:

Parser games (any system, any age) with English rural setting/atmosphere by Marco Innocenti
I'm looking for any parser game (modern or vintage) that is set in an English, rural, Victorian overall ambient, both indoor and outdoor. As an example, something in the mood of The Hound of the Baskervilles, with moors, villages,...

IF about human beings by namekuseijin
I'm looking for IF about human beings and human struggles in a more or less common setting. No zombies, vampires, orcs, demons, robots, slimy aliens, gods or monsters of any kind; just plain human beings please. Yes, I know many works...

Romance Games by Molly
In honor of Valentine's Day, I'm looking for games that deal with romance and relationships.

See all polls with votes for this game

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