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Harmonia

by Liza Daly profile

Mystery
2017

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Reviews and Ratings

5 star:
(17)
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3 star:
(6)
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Number of Ratings: 42
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- mrfrobozzo, November 21, 2018

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Beautiful, important, but quite linear, November 19, 2018
(Sorry for English mistakes in this review; not my native tongue).

When I decided to register at IFDB and start playing IF again (I played many of the classics partly or complete years ago), I was first looking for newer stories or games, published in recent years, although I also plan to re-play older games.

Anyway, Harmonia by Liza Daly (2017) was one of the first games I added to my mental "need to play" list. For sure it was due to the great first impression -- as other reviewers have stated, the quality of the presentation (typography, illustrations, marginalia) is just awesome, which you'll notice once you've clicked the title screen and are presented with the first chapter.

It's really a joy to click the links while reading the well-written narrative, thereby revealing marginalia seemingly added by the protagonist (and sometimes other characters). This nearly evokes a haptic feel, as if you're browsing through books, letters, and piles of old newspapers. At the same time, the design is not "over the top", it is very clear and perfectly serves the purpose of the narrative.

In fact I think if the story was not about an academic, the design may not have worked that well. I, too, worked in academia for several years, so I remember the feelings one has as a young teacher and which are conveyed plausibly in the story. I also remember how a few of the more eccentric and egocentric personalities in academia coped with each other and their subordinates; I found parts of that in this story.

The author explores this topic focused on the role of women in research and society, which has often been neglected over decades. One example in the story was esp. well done: (Spoiler - click to show)Prof. Lynn's ridiculous (but oh-so typical) idea to reward his female assistant (who has done most of the actual research) with just a bunch of flowers is presented as a marginalia next to the main text -- the story's presentation serves as very effective symbol here.

The plot itself (Spoiler - click to show)(about discovering a time machine, built by a member of an historic utopian community that once lived on the college's land) was not exactly surprising, but still decent and I enjoyed observing the protagonist, as she uncovered the secrets.

So while I really enjoyed reading the story, I sometimes wished for more meaningful decisions. I think besides the big main decision at the end of the story, there were only one or two occasions where I felt that I can influence the plot in a meaningful way. The main experience felt very linear and would have also worked in a printed book (Doug Dorst's and J.J. Abram's "Ship of Theseus" came to my mind). Nevertheless, I highly recommend this story.

- Molly (USA), September 30, 2018

- fooberticus, August 15, 2018

- comfortcastle (Sheffield, UK), July 4, 2018

- DustyCypress (Hong Kong), May 19, 2018

- Obter9 (New Zealand), May 14, 2018

- dgtziea, May 8, 2018

- IFforL2 (East Asia), April 9, 2018

Very good, April 1, 2018

by f-a
Exquisite art, captivating story, recommended!

After replaying it, yes, I agree with other reviewers that some characters are a bit flat and some interactions may feel unrealistic, but still a very good production and presentation. Congratulations to the artist and the typesetter, excellent excellent work!)

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Beautiful, March 31, 2018
(note: this was previously a private review, written prior to creating this account - it has been edited for clarity)

I loved Harmonia. The annotations were genius, breaking the boundaries of interactive fiction and indeed, digital games in general. The contrast between the messy scrawls and the neatness of the rest of the text helped emphasise the game's authenticity, a feature that was further reinforced by the references to 19th century utopian texts. There was just one instance in Chapter Eight in which the annotations for the ceiling and the floor overlapped, but even then it was possible to read the topmost layer by highlighting the chunk of words, and in any case it wasn't a major obstruction to the story. An issue raised in the post-mortem was the dilemma in deciding whether or not to choose a different style for hyperlinks that advanced the story as opposed to those that simply provided extra information. While the decision to keep things simple did achieve its effect, I was sometimes bothered by the possibility that a hyperlink I clicked on would cause the others to disappear. The result of this was me having to make a decision between two choices that might have been equally tempting, and to do so with choices that might not even have been mutually exclusive in the first place. Besides this minor complaint, however, I have nothing to say about the annotations besides that they were exceedingly creative.

On the topic of design, one review commended the texture of the game, and I cannot agree more, what with the breathtaking pictures, and the different fonts for the readings, articles, and posters. I was honestly left shaking my head in admiration upon returning to the synopsis after completing the game and realising that it is supposed to be "edited by E. Merchant", a detail which explains the scrapbook style of the game as a whole. That these themes run so coherently throughout the game is no surprise, considering how polished it is.

The plot of Harmonia was just as good. One review mentioned predictability, but the clues left leading to the uncovering of Alice's identity didn't seem especially obvious, at least from my point of view. Harmonia was written as a mystery and I thought it worked well as one. The only issue I had was with the most significant choice at the end, where the player decides whether Abby or Lynn goes into the machine. Apart from the fact that Lynn had been deprived of water for a period of time, which might have affected his state of mind, I didn't think it entirely plausible that he would fall for the trap of going into the machine, judging by his writing and especially his annotations which suggested a much more intelligent character. It might have been more effective if Abby instead wrote like an unreliable narrator, not disclosing the fact that she was operating under a plan, such that the impact on the readers would have been similar to that on Lynn, whose reaction would then have driven the story forward. Nevertheless I liked the choice itself and the opportunities it presented.

- Laney Berry, March 8, 2018

- The Xenographer, January 7, 2018

- besmaller (Portland, OR), January 6, 2018

- Squidi, January 1, 2018

- Helena Vernon, January 1, 2018

- airylef, December 23, 2017

- Yaktaur, December 22, 2017

- Rockincook, December 9, 2017

- mapped, December 4, 2017

- Viko (Canada), December 1, 2017

- Doug Orleans (Somerville, MA, USA), November 20, 2017

- Shchekotiki, November 20, 2017

- dream, November 18, 2017

- Edward Lacey (Oxford, England), November 17, 2017


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