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Ratings and Reviews by juliaofbath

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View this member's reviews by tag: bird fiction braw comedy horror positive scots special effects used coffee filter
1-4 of 4

Japanese Rice, by Fionn Murray

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Tedious and verbose..., August 22, 2017
by juliaofbath (Edinburgh, Scotland)
Related reviews: used coffee filter
I was able to complete two read-throughs of 'Japanese Rice' in about 35 tedious minutes that consisted entirely of my engagement with pointless clicks through a mostly linear plot. The linearity of the narrative could be forgiven, but the actual text was pedestrian, arrhythmic, tonally inconsistent, and suffered from a severe lack of direction. I am no stranger to conceptual or Avante-Garde interactive storytelling, but this particular piece missed the mark on every level for me. The author's point of view and the protagonist's point of view were lost in a blur of meaningless hyperlinks and nonsensical word choices. This is the first time the word 'pedantic' has come to mind as an apt descriptor of interactive fiction.

The banal language favoured by the author appears only 30 seconds in, and continues in this manner throughout the entire text. (Spoiler - click to show)
‘The sky when I woke up this morning was like a used coffee filter hanging over us
a used coffee filter dripping dirty dregs on the back gardens of the world.'

To me, 'Japanese Rice' is the perfect example of a work that has been authored using Twine for absolutely no reason, and would make just as much sense as a solid block of text. The structure of the text and the placement of the links made no sense and often seemed to be a shallow attempt at free verse poetry imbued with the novelty of hypertext. That being said, I don't think this piece would have any merit as a work of prose fiction either.

Raik, by Harry Giles

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
It's braw tae be bonnie an' weel-likit, July 30, 2017
by juliaofbath (Edinburgh, Scotland)
Related reviews: braw, scots
My first encounter with 'Raik' was during its exhibition at the National Library of Scotland a few years back, where it was made openly available to the public in a historic setting in Edinburgh. Although I hesitate to display bias, in this rich and culturally relevant atmosphere 'Raik' was a solid five out of five for me. However, as I spend some time with it alone in my flat (which is normally how I encounter IF), my critical opinion wanes slightly, but my love of the story does not.

'Raik' switches as deftly between Scots and English as it does between its two contrasting/complementary plotlines, both of which are freely navigable by the reader. When reading the segments of the text in Scots, the main character navigates the challenges of modern living and a debilitating anxiety disorder, and when the text switches to English the narrative adopts a distinctly fantastical tone that would be at home among the work of Robert Jordan or Patrick Rothfuss. This constant movement between worlds and languages is pleasant, and creates a sort of meaningful dissonance. My advice to any readers unfamiliar with Scots would be to actually sound out each word aloud as you read. Scots is a phonetic dialect that can be bewildering on a page or a screen, so vocalising the text helps.

My only real criticism of ‘Raik’ is that it isn’t as interactive as it could be, and it never really feels as though the reader is surrounded by infinite textual possibilities. Harry Giles uses twine and hypertext with some skill, but does nothing to push the genre and assert the interactivity of the plot. The story is very short, which is a downside for me as well.

Birdland, by Brendan Patrick Hennessy

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Wet Hot American Summer + The Birds + Inception = Birdland, July 27, 2017
by juliaofbath (Edinburgh, Scotland)
Related reviews: bird fiction, comedy
‘Birdland’, simply put, is one of the most entertaining interactive fiction games I have ever played. Margaret, the protagonist, navigates a technology restrictive summer camp during the day, and at night she must enact parody-like rhetorical scenarios in her dreams for an audience of bird-people with a robotic understanding of the English language.

(Spoiler - click to show)A highlight for me was the pirate dream scenario. It’s not often I have actual laugh-out-loud moments while reading IF, so it really took me by surprise to find myself guffawing heartily at the mechanical remarks of Pirate-Margaret’s bird-person first mate.

The actual mechanics of the game were engaging and really helped build intrigue in the plot. As the two plots (the real world and the dream world) slowly became more closely intertwined, the mood-check meter began forcing me down interesting paths, and in fact took the plot in a different direction than I had intended. Although a bit unsettling, this feature proved to be both an effective method of incorporating interactivity, and of mediating the truth of consequence.

This story, to me, demonstrates what interactive fiction should be: entertaining, though-provoking, surreal at times, and re-playable. I truly felt as though my decisions had palpable influence on the progression of the story, and I look forward to re-playing ‘Birdland’ soon.

my father's long, long legs, by michael lutz

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Engaging and haunting..., July 27, 2017
by juliaofbath (Edinburgh, Scotland)
Related reviews: horror, positive, special effects
'My Father's Long, Long Legs' delivers a reasonable amount of fear and an even more significant amount of unease. The use of negative space and the minimal/dark aesthetic of the text supports the overall atmosphere very well, and effectively surrounds the reader with a murky, growing sense of dread. The story is slow and winding, and to me seems deeply reminiscent of classic short-fiction horror. Often, I found the text referring to the work of M.R. James and H.P. Lovecraft, and these references were not at all heavy handed, but instead demonstrated an intimate understanding of horror and the methods of building a sense of the uncanny within the mind of the reader. Additionally, I was very impressed with the use of special effects in the text, and I felt as though they added to the reading experience. Overall, as a piece of fiction, I found 'My Father's Long, Long Legs' very effective and engaging. The story will most certainly haunt me.

However, as an example of interactive fiction, I found this text to be lacking. Although the reader is presented with a few choices, the story is overwhelmingly linear, with minimal replay-ability, something intrinsic to interactive fiction/hypertext fiction. I am not sure how more interactivity could have been worked in, which leads me to believe that perhaps this would have functioned better as short fiction rather than IF. Despite these shortcomings, I still found the reading experience enjoyable.

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