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Conversation with a statue, January 25, 2015
Galatea is all about interaction. You talk to a statue. She tells you things. You don't go anywhere, you don't solve any puzzles. You talk. Well, sometimes things can happen to finish the games that aren't just talk.
The statue herself, Galatea, is still one of the most sophisticated NPCs in IF. It's possible to exhaust her responses to certain topics, but there are always more topics. At least, I think there are. I haven't tried every single word I can think of. Galatea gets somewhat irked if one types the same thing again and again; IF players will do that to try and exhaust all topics. Good for her.
While the game may sound limited, the whole goal (I would say) is to tease out the emotional states of the statue and of the player. It's possible to do this in a fairly natural way, and this is the core strength of the game. There are some hints about the impact of Galatea's responses on the player character, but they tend to be muted. The effect on the human player is really up to personal taste. I found some themes dull (Spoiler - click to show)(animate vs. non-animate) and some powerful (Spoiler - click to show)(the goddess Aphrodite). In the end, you have to play the game yourself to decide.
On balance, I think the game transcends its deliberate limitations (a static conversation) to achieve some kind of catharsis (appropriate given the ancient Greek context). Yes, it's an exercise of style, but one that I think is worthwhile. As in much IF (and traditional fiction), the effect bordered on the manipulative, but for me it succeeded. (Spoiler - click to show)(In few games does one try so hard to see if the NPC can die - you have to decide if that's a good thing.)
The game has aged well and hits home. I can't think of a very similar follow-up; maybe I need to play more games.