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About the Story"This game may, as they say, contain scenes of a sexual nature and language unsuitable for the young and/or easily offended." [--blurb from Competition Aught-One]
31st Place - 7th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2001)
-- Emily Short
>VERBOSE -- Paul O'Brian's Interactive Fiction Page
I don't like the character, I don't care about the story, so what's keeping me here? Sometimes, really well-done writing, puzzles, or programming will do it. This game, unfortunately, had a number of bugs (though they weren't of the catastrophic variety -- mostly just input that the game failed to process in any way, even to give an error message), and I found myself unable to connect with its prose most of the time. There were some fine images (I particularly liked the moment when Katie's smile is described as "brittle as leaves"), but too much of it felt self-consciously poetic, reaching for profundity it didn't quite grasp. What kept me in the game instead were glimpses. At times during the conversation scene, I felt a flash of really deep immersion, that feeling that the game will understand anything I type, where the interface melted away and it felt like a conversation. Even during the sex scene, there were a couple of points where the implementation was deep enough that even though I never lost awareness that I was just typing commands into a keyboard, I felt like the PC would understand most any instruction I gave him. The feelings never lasted long, always shattering at the next error message (or even worse, absence of any message at all), but they were thrilling when they happened. There's been a good start towards something here, and I hope to see it built upon in the future.
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Related reviews: aif, pornography, how not to do it, discordian, sex, eris
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.
Kallisti on IFDB
PollsThe following polls include votes for Kallisti:
Hilariously Bad IF games by american00b
Earlier today, I felt like playing an Interactive Fiction game that is the literary and stylistic equivalent of such masterpieces as Birdemic and The Room. I still have that feeling, so if you find anything like Plan 9 from Outer Space...
"Ed Wood" Games by murphy_slaw
I'm looking exquisitely bad games. Games with warped aesthetics and worldviews far removed from consensus reality. Games that are, in the words of Michael Martin, "exactly good enough that I had to keep going to see what it did next"....
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