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The Moonlit Tower

by Yoon Ha Lee

Eastern
2002

(based on 52 ratings)
10 member reviews

Game Details

Language: English (en)
Current Version: 1
License: Freeware
Development System: Inform 6
Baf's Guide ID: 1925
IFID: ZCODE-1-020927-18FC
TUID: 10387w68qlwehbyq

Awards

Winner, Best Writing; Nominee, Best Story; Nominee, Best Setting - 2002 XYZZY Awards

4th Place - 8th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2002)

Editorial Reviews

Baf's Guide


A beautifully-written game based on Asian mythology. To explain the premise would be difficult, but that's not really an issue -- the best thing about this game is simply enjoying the setting, which is full of rare and lovely imagery. The puzzles are occasionally a bit elusive, but the built-in hint system helps somewhat with that problem. There are also multiple endings and an extensive set of notes describing the game's background -- quite a lot of polish for a (relatively) brief piece.

-- Emily Short

SPAG
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
See the full review

>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.
See the full review

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Member Reviews

5 star:
(14)
4 star:
(26)
3 star:
(8)
2 star:
(4)
1 star:
(0)
Average Rating:
Number of Reviews: 10
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Most Helpful Member Reviews


11 of 11 people found the following review helpful:
Haunting and Unique, August 12, 2008
by C.E.J. Pacian (England)
A beautifully written, evocative, almost poetic game, The Moonlit Tower is a short tale of strange myth and melancholy longing that, in its final moments, gave me goosebumps in the best possible way. Best of all, though, contrary to what you may expect from a game praised for its writing, The Moonlit Tower is far from florid or long-winded, its tightly written imagery packing a lot of content into a few sentences per action.

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.

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
Beautiful writing, July 26, 2010
The Moonlit Tower gets an enthusiastic 5/5 from me on writing, setting, and character, but only a 3/5 on puzzle implementation.

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.

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Exploration in a lush, beautiful East Asian-influenced setting, July 16, 2017
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: phlegmatic
The Moonlit Tower is a small, self-contained game, set in a lush, unusual setting. Who you are is not immediately clear; finding out is its own experience.

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.

See All 10 Member Reviews

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Recommended Lists

The Moonlit Tower appears in the following Recommended Lists:

Best fantasy games by MathBrush
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Polls

The following polls include votes for The Moonlit Tower:

I'm looking for a great surreal game. by Bishopofbasic
It's pretty hot up here in Canada and I was wondering if anyone knew of any great surreal type games. Something I can spend my time in front of the AC or in my office hiding from the world. Thanks you guys.

NPCs Made Easy by Sam Kabo Ashwell
A list of games which notably use elision, sleight-of-hand, cleverly framed premises, or other fiendish implementor tricks in order to include significant NPCs in the story without having to implement them in deep, complicated detail....

Diversity in IF by The Xenographer
Most English-language IF that's set in something resembling the real world seems to deal with vaguely WASP-y types in the US, the UK, Australia, or Canada. What are some works that explore different settings from these and/or characters...

See all polls with votes for this game

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This is version 4 of this page, edited by Edward Lacey on 22 June 2013 at 5:44am. - View Update History - Edit This Page - Add a News Item