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The Rhyme of the Byzantine Mariner, November 21, 2022
by Draconis
Related reviews: Ectocomp 2022

This is a ChoiceScript game set in Imperial Constantinople, which I think means it’s somewhere between ~400 and ~1400 CE—my knowledge of history is unfortunately much weaker than my knowledge of historical languages! You’re a sea captain named Peter, a guest at a high-society party thrown by your friend Demetrios, entertaining “merchants draped in cloth and woman with intricate veils, scholars sitting straight, Imperial administrators proudly sporting their badges of office”.

All of them speak exclusively in rhyme, and look down on you for not being able to do the same. Your goal is to tell them a story that will satisfy them. (The rhyming seems to represent some sort of linguistic difference: at one point a friend of yours abandons rhyme and “shift[s] down into the common register”. It’s a neat touch, because it makes the high-prestige register sound both difficult to execute and faintly absurd, which is presumably how Peter sees it.)

The story you tell them is, unfortunately, very short. You get one real choice to make during it—which is an interesting one! And the writing is certainly engaging.

But even after a couple different playthroughs, I was left wanting more. The four-hour deadline puts tight limits on how much writing can be in a Petite Mort game, but I wish a little more of it had been dedicated to the story itself, and a little less to the frame narrative. Both the high society of Constantinople and the strange affairs happening out at sea are fun and engaging, yet the overall impression I’m left with is that I want a proper serving of either one, rather than just a little taste of both.

P.S. I was tempted to write this in rhyme, but decided it’d take too much time. I might have to try again later, when I’m done with my duties as rater.