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About the Story
When the miller died, he left his garden. And when the mill was torn down, the river changed its course.
59th place - 27th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2021)
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Number of Reviews: 6
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Curious, impressionistic piece about time, impermanence, and ‘net channel incision’ (to use a technical term concerning the effect of water mill construction and demolition on the topography of river beds of which I was previously unaware; one learns something new every day).
You play a visitor to the garden of the title, the mill itself having long been demolished, where you can wander through a small number of locations and spend time pruning, tidying, shoring-up and generally fighting entropy while, hard on your heels, time stalks you like a jealous ex-lover and unravels all of your good work as fast as you accomplish it so that you have to continually loop back and start all over again. And all this to the soothing (if bathroom-visit inducing) accompaniment of running water and some pleasing poly art graphics.
As both a game and a story, it’s rather slight, if not unpleasing. One could spend more time than the 20 minutes or so that I spent with it contemplating what it shows us about the futility of existence and suchlike, but it doesn’t really justify the effort (or at least it didn't, for me). “Is this really how you wish to spend your days?” the game asks pointedly, after a few cycles of building up and knocking down, and the answer has to be: no, not really. But as something to while away a quick tea break, it will do just fine.
This game looks nice and is easy to navigate, but it wasn't much fun. It's very repetitive. It makes a heavy-handed point if you play through to the end, but some of the subtle changes that happen during the game are easy to misinterpret. I believe that the purpose of the game is to demonstrate what effects water mills had on river-floodplain systems. It sounds like it probably was bad, but I'm not 100% because I don't understand anything I read when I did a search on it. I also don't know what a river-floodplain consists of, or how many there are, but I guess we can be thankful that cheap electricity means we don't have as many water mills around anymore.
I took a lot of ballroom dance classes in college, and I remember one of the biggest problems a pair could have is noodle arms. If the arms are rigid, the two dancers can communicate effectively, but if they're lose, dancers tend to step on and run into each other.
This game has some good ideas but has so little feedback. I had no idea what was going on until I peaked at the code.
Gameplay-wise, you wake up and have 3-4 areas you can take care of by watering, removing trash, etc. (Spoilers for ending and mechanic)(Spoiler - click to show)This lasts for 7 days, and, each day, the river grows bigger, removing gameplay areas unless you shore it up enough the day before.
For me, it was difficult to see any effect of my actions, besides the immediate ones of watering and such. (Spoiler - click to show)The effect of the river was indicated by the absence of old text, not the presence of new, and as I was shoring up a lot from the beginning, I saw few changes. This, for me, made the game more or less a tedium simulator. Even once I knew what was going on, I had no real reason to care for either out come, because I was nobody in a nobody land. I can see the thought experiment, but it just didn't pan out for me.
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