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Finnegan's Wake meets Antony and Cleopatra, April 3, 2021
This game is a 22-chapter work relating the story of Cleopatra in Egypt told with a dense, symbolic word style.
I am a fan of the play Antony and Cleopatra and interested in the history around that time period, and I also have at times enjoyed dense symbolic text.
That enjoyment didn't crystallize this time. The game describes its own writing very well:
"Pour pen terrene this dysnomia volta syschronicity to formendulate paragraphs smashed into spare fragments of evocative semiimagery, mimetic shards that don't quite cohere to any generative idea."
They really don't cohere to any generative idea.
When the portmanteaus include French and Latin it gets even less 'generative':
"drunken nothings fuzzed up to retend in the mode prior to resolution beatified immolution densigravitas of the decolor demolition, wickedness we entrenched cheri in jouissanceunteurre catapulted in the cancers cant,"
(I prefer when the game's language is simpler, such as 'Slurp you up a jello mistake.').
I think there are times when this writing style works wonders: when it is used to tell an brilliant and exciting story, hiding the details behind a wall of words; or when it is used in a very short game, like B Minus does, allowing the player to have time to digest and process.
But this story seems largely hung on the traditional story of Caesar, Octavian, Antony, and Cleopatra, almost as if the author wished to write as much as possible, and used the old story as a framework to drape their own words around. The end result is a like a wedding cake made of a wooden frame with heavy fondant draped over, no cake inside.
I found specific moments fun: (Spoiler - click to show)Octavian hiding, the birth of the twins, the deathloop. There are hints of a larger trans narrative, but only in the middle and later parts and even then just vaguely alluded to.
The book itself is well aware of these faults, the author offering to be attacked for the content. In the end, the best description of the book is the one given by the characters in the primer:
"Unfortunately, the finished work appears to have become a bizarre mess of unreadable nonsense. The author appears to have been far more interested in playing obscure word games than telling our story in a way that people could actually understand."