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About the Story
You wake to stillness. The hammering, banging, and shouting that kept you awake half the night are gone. The air is cold, and something smells burnt. Your master's experiments must be finished, but with what result?
Winner, Best Writing; Nominee, Best Setting; Nominee, Best Puzzles; Nominee, Best Use of Medium - 2000 XYZZY Awards
2nd Place overall; 3rd Place, Miss Congeniality Awards - 6th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2000)
You're a slave girl on a mission of sorts for your master, though it's difficult to say what the mission is. The game's world is split between the literal and the figurative, and most of what you accomplish is significant more on the symbolic than on the concrete level. Idealized forms are a key thematic element, and most of the puzzles revolve around the transformation of those forms. The game provides two devices that can transform various objects, and the range and complexity of the transformations handled is impressive--the objects, by and large, behave sensibly in all their various forms. There are lots of puzzle solutions and a wide variety of endings, and the game manages to both tell a story and allow ample freedom in exploration. Beautifully described and impressively thoughtful.
-- Duncan Stevens
The world where all this takes place is only indirectly related to the ordinary physical world, and the relationship parallels other elements in the plot. Idealized forms play an important part: two statues of a man and a woman are described in ways that suggest Greek sculpture, and perfect solids are central to the story. Essences are important as well: virtually every object is made of a single elemental substance (wood, glass, metal, etc.), and you have the power to alter those substances in certain ways. Symmetry is everywhere (in the game's map, and elsewhere as well), and the multiplicity of mirrors suggests the reflection and introspection that are central to the plot. (Likewise, the idealized forms suggest the absolutes that make up the plot.)
-- Duncan Stevens
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It has great atmosphere and is very well written. Metamorphoses takes place in an otherworldly realm, a plane obliquely linked with the physical world, to which you have been sent on an errand. [...] The game abounds with breathtaking imagery and there are many nooks and crannies to explore.
-- Dorothy Millard
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>INVENTORY - Paul O'Brian writes about interactive fiction
There are puzzles, yes, but almost every puzzle seems to have alternate solutions, and even better, these alternate solutions make perfect sense within the game's magical logic. Moreover, Metamorphoses provides much space for play and experimentation, especially through the use of a couple of devices that can effect startling and fascinating transformations on most of the objects in the game. The potential of these devices is so vast, and their effects implemented so thoroughly, that I could easily have spent the two hour judging period just playing with them and experimenting with the results.
In fact, the game is coded so well that for a moment it gave me a flash of that wonderful sense I used to get when I first started playing interactive fiction, the sense that here is a world where anything can happen, and anything I try can elicit a magical, transformative response. Of course, that feeling breaks down quickly and inevitably when something I attempt isn't accounted for, but just for that moment of wonder it gave me, I won't forget Metamorphoses for a very long time.
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Number of Reviews: 9
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Imagine a puzzle game making strong use of a set of simulationist rules about materials and sizes. Imagine a game set in the only partly material laboratory of a Renaissance magus. And imagine a game where the player character attempts to escape from bondage through spiritual purification.
If you can imagine all of those together, you have imagined Metamorphoses.
It is not just a strange game, it is also a very good game. The writing is impeccable and Short effectively weaves together the PCs current exploits with a more emotionally gripping backstory. The puzzles mostly aren't too hard, and all seem to have multiple solutions. The atmosphere is simply great. And there is also true progression in the story, as the PC purifies herself and finally chooses her own fate.
It is also a short game, and you'll probably play through it in two hours. That does mean that the backstory remains very sketchy, and the story doesn't get the emotional resonance that it might have gotten in a longer game. (I would have liked to see the Master in-game, for instance.) The multiple endings don't really work, since you choose between in your last move and that means that everyone is going to Undo and try out the other ones immediately (right?). And there were one or two details in the setting which I felt didn't really fit into the Universe of Renaissance Platonism.
But all in all, these are insignificant complaints compared to the virtues of the game. If you like puzzles, Plato and purification, you should not give this piece a miss.
First off, some tech-stuff: This game is, hands-down, the most deeply implemented piece of Interactive Fiction I have ever played or heard of. Along with that, it also provides an amazing freedom of experimentation. This is no sandbox, this is dune after dune.
The puzzles are,partly because of the aforementioned freedom, not hard. They are sensible and great fun. Choose your own logical approach and try it. Many different solutions will work, and those that don't will not work for a reason. Very rewarding.
The story is very much for the player to fill in. Lady Short gives you the backbone elements of a story of personal growth and inner realization, up to you to interpret it. The many different endings also give you many possible interpretations.
The writing is crisp and clear, giving Metamorphoses that dreamlike quality. The descriptions are detailed enough to be practical, without excess decoration. Exactly because of the sparse descriptions, the imagination has ample room to dream up it's own version of your surroundings.
Maybe the biggest puzzle here is the quest for completeness.A reverse read-the-author's-mind problem. When playing (and replaying) ask yourself, "What has Emily Short NOT thought of?"
Very, very good game.
Not only is this one of Emily Short's best works ( along with bronze, check it out), but this is a sure candidate for one of the best adventures ever. The story was bleak to say the least, with just a few hints here and there, but it works wonders for the mysterious story. You know that you're a slave sent by your master for some mission, but you slowly accumulate the story as you go along. And yes, it's one heck of a story too. Brilliant characters, brilliant story, great puzzles and the philosophy was top.
The main character, a slave is relatively unknown except for the flashbacks we have in the game. The game though focuses more on the puzzles and the philosophy though than the character, but the little we do know bought the protagonist really strengthens the plot.
The puzzles are really neat in many ways. They fit the magic that you feel in the story, in the sense that none of the puzzles feel forced, but feel like they should be there. Also unlike many adventures, the puzzles are solvable in many different ways, so the game is repeatable. These puzzles are genius. However even with the 5 star rating, not everything was perfect. I found that two puzzles in particular (Spoiler - click to show)the oven and the ball were impossible if you did a small bit wrong. Ah well, I saved. In short though, the puzzles were fair.
On a side note, I loved the Plato mixed in with the story, well actually the main part of the story, aka. The 5th element. Makes me want to read Plato again.
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