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Kallisti, by James Mitchelhill

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful:
Crimes Against Eros/is, July 24, 2011
Kallisti is the game I most love to hate. There are few pleasures in IF more deliciously guilty than introducing Kallisti to someone and watching their jaw drop. Most bad IF is just boring; it's rare to find one where every piece of text makes you flinch.

Synopsis: sophisticated-yet-rugged Gustav seduces sophisticated-yet-virginal Katie in a stilted and stalkerish conversation. In the second scene, they have pretentious, mildly kinky sex. The third scene, the strongest, shortest and least interactive, descends into the surreal.

It wants to be darkly significance-laden, cosmopolitan and erotic, something in a European arthouse idiom. To put things mildly, it doesn't work. In part this is because it's trying to do a lot of things that are quite difficult: nobody has succeeded, for instance, at making IF that works as both literature and porn (and most are too sensible to try). But it can't really be credited even as a heroic failure.

It tries to be dark and smouldering, and comes across as creepy and pathetic. It tries to be elegant, stylish and sophisticated, but feels flowery and sophomoric. When it tries to be deep it's laughable and when it tries to be funny it's flat. It routinely presents weary cliches as dazzling insights. The writing transcends the merely awful: there is something painfully wrong with almost every sentence. Here and there, as is usually the case when someone overwrites at length, there's a phrase that would be quite good in another context. But it's far more fruitful as a source for entertainingly awful quotations. ("I am called Katie, I work here, as you know.")

It's unlikely to function as pornography, either, even to people unbesquicked by the predator-and-virgin premise; the overwriting and the pseudo-intellectualism get in the way. Elements that could be handwaved in conventional AIF, like the unnatural-feeling seduction, look a lot worse when you're invited to consider them as literature. It's possible that it might appeal to someone who liked intellectualism as an aesthetic fantasy element but was utterly indifferent to its substance. But I'd guess that "pondering socio-sexuality as he grazed his teeth over her pert mounds" is a bonerkill for most people. And it lingers too long over physical details and uses too many AIF conventions to make it plausible that it's not meant to be porny.

It's technically competent and player-friendly, for the most part, although the pacing is far too ponderous in the first scene. (Long, awkward pauses make sense in conversation games like Galatea or Shadows on the Mirror; in a scene that's meant to be spontaneously witty and intense, they're a much bigger problem.) I've never made it past the first scene without exploiting one of the rare bugs. (You can repeatedly pat Katie on the ass, presumably raising her Seducedness score every time, until after a few dozen iterations she stops slapping you and falls into your arms.) The broader implied setting is evoked fairly well, even if the actual prose used to describe it is cringe-inducing. It does some sensible things to distinguish story text from parser responses, but manages to make this come across as a lazy affectation.

It frames itself as a Discordian work, but takes itself much too seriously to be credible as one. It's worth contrasting against Mentula Macanus: Apocolocyntosis, another sex-driven Discordian piece which tries to do rather less and accomplishes a great deal more.


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