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Winner, Best Writing; Nominee, Best Story; Nominee, Best Setting - 2002 XYZZY Awards
-- Emily Short
This is a game of phantom scent and overheard whispers; it all takes place in averted vision, full of longing and grace. It is like haiku, or that poem of Ezra Pound's with the jeweled stairs and the dew on the stockings, where all the sense lies in the interstices of what is said.
-- Emily Short
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>VERBOSE -- Paul O'Brian's Interactive Fiction Page
The Moonlit Tower is a rich and gorgeous piece of work, and a very strong debut from an excellent new author. Easily the most striking thing about this game is its writing, burnished and evocative prose that sets a very elevated tone.
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Number of Reviews: 10
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Most Helpful Member Reviews
My one complaint is that such a stunning story, more than capable of carrying itself entirely on the strength of its surreal and deeply implemented setting, is at heart a puzzle game. The mid-part, where you must figure out how to use the sundry gorgeously described items you find, was for me the weakest, the flow of the prose being constantly interrupted by the need to wonder what on Earth (or elsewhere) I actually had to do to make the story continue, or by trips to the terse and occasionally frustrating hint menu.
But even if you are, like me, puzzle-averse, this is some of the most affecting writing I can call to mind, and the chance to explore this exquisite world should not be turned down.
The writing, as other reviews have said, is stunning. Even the error messages ("you can't go that way", etc.) are beautifully in-world and you have to examine every element of the setting to piece together the back story. I really wish this had been the final chapter of a longer game -- it felt like getting a glimpse into a wonderful elaborate world that I desperately wanted to see more of.
The puzzles are where this game breaks down a little. It's possible to win without solving one of the central challenges, yet the end-text assumes the puzzle was completed, making me wonder if I did something in an order that the game hadn't expected. The puzzles themselves vary from interesting but not at all challenging to combining elements in ways that I never would have figured out without the hint system. This would have been a more effective game in my opinion if the writer had played more to her strength in writing and left the more complicated puzzles for a second run.
Again, the player's goal is not clear at first. While this would usually be considered less than desirable, in this case this encourages exploration, and what a world there is to explore! The setting here draws on East Asian influences, and various features give the impression of gilt and intricate detail, such as you might find in a palace in ancient China or during the Joseon dynasty, and it is this detail in the crevices of the text which encourages replay.
This is a small game whose sparse puzzles are enriched by the enjoyable writing. The game boasts gentle, evocative, lush descriptions galore, rich with odd turns of phrase. Story is revealed in vignettes, flashes of memory; nothing is concrete.
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