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Sense of Harmony

by Scenario World

Science Fiction
2020

(based on 5 ratings)
3 member reviews

About the Story

Cybernetically enhanced Elizabeth Boldan tries to find herself while working part-time at the Crown Diamond, an erotic massage parlor and brothel in the year 2029. On television and in the movies, cybernetics promise enhanced intelligence, strength, or speed. For Elizabeth, it's a cursed hyper-awareness of how everybody feels. Navigate an interaction with one of her regulars, get to know her coworkers, and meet a mysterious stranger. A prelude to future mysteries.

Game Details

Language: English (en)
First Publication Date: October 1, 2020
Current Version: Unknown
Development System: Custom
IFID: Unknown
TUID: c6wevflgpdlpwg6n

Awards

Entrant - 26th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2020)

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Member Reviews

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Number of Reviews: 3
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A humane cyberpunk-esque story, October 11, 2020
by autumnc (Quarantined)
I am a big fan of cyberpunk, and I feel like "Sense of Harmony" is an excellent example of the genre (or is it post-cyberpunk? I don't know). The writing was great, especially the characterization, and the choice structure serves the story well.

In terms of structure, this is a twine story with two types of links: "digression" and "advancement". Each in-text "digression" link is an invocation of the protagonist's cybernetic abilities: hyper-senses, memory lookup, and so on. These links are color-coded by ability. Sometimes these links will reveal new "advancement" links at the bottom of the page, as if the protagonist is changing her actions based on new information. I felt like this was a really cool mechanic; it's a way of showing how the protagonist's enhanced mind works. The interface was also visually really attractive, with nice icons and layouts.

One of my favorite things about the story is how down-to-earth and humane it is. It never sensationalizes sex work or cybernetic enhancements. Insofar that the cybernetic enhancements are bad, they are bad for the same reasons that cell phones are bad (fortunately there's no suggestion that implants are dehumanizing or anything like that, unlike so many other cyberpunk products). Similarly, sex work is treated here like any other job; the protagonist's main problem with it is that she can get emotionally attached to the clients (who are mostly ordinary people with ordinary problems). The protagonist is just someone who's trying to get by; there's not much about her that is actually "punk".

The only reason I'm taking a star off is because the story is unfinished. It stops at what seems like the Act 1 climax. The protagonist makes some potentially major choices in the story, but the consequences are never shown. Nevertheless, "Sense of Harmony" is very worth reading.

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Exciting start to what I hope to be more Elizabeth Boldan stories, October 2, 2020
by RadioactiveCrow (Irving, TX)
Related reviews: About 1 hour
This is a primarily a straightforward choice-based piece, but there are lots of visual bells and whistles to accompany the text. Pop-up panels (not pop-up windows, don't worry) to add details, changing choices depending on which details you decide to examine, and other visual/text effects. And I've never seen them put to better use. Usually visual effects in text games don't add a lot to the story, they are mostly distractions or an author/programmer showing off. But in this story they are on point.

You play a cybernetically enhanced woman, making her living in a high-tech brothel. But your enhancements are not for use in your sex work, as you might expect in a story like this, but rather the result of experiments on you as a child, and you prefer to keep them hidden from the world. One of the benefits to this tech is a hyper-awareness of the world around you, implemented by flashing or stylized words in the text that you can click on to examine that aspect of the story in superb detail. At times these additional observations will alter the choices available to you, with new choices delivered in a corresponding color and typed out quickly, one letter at a time, the perfect choice to strengthen the mood. To me, it felt like some of the opening scenes of Terminator 2, with your electronic components giving you micro-reports on the environment and people around you, directly to your HUD/consciousness. It really helped me embody the character.

I'm looking forward to playing through it again when I have time, hopefully when the next installment comes out, as this is meant to be the first in a series of stories.

My only compliant would be that the pivotal scene, at least in my playthrough, when you are (Spoiler - click to show)fighting with the mysterious woman in your massage room, drags a little bit for what should be a fast-paced and tense scene, and that some parts of it are vague/confusing as to what Elizabeth is perceiving to be happening (I'm sure more will be explained in future installments though). A very minor downside to an otherwise entertaining experience.

This game is part of IFComp 2020, so if you are reading this in October or November of 2020 head over to ifcomp.org and sign up to be a judge. You can play this and other wonderful games and vote on which authors should win cash prizes!

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A study of an android-like character who has sharply attuned senses, October 20, 2020
by Enrique Henestroza Anguiano (Oakland, California)
Sense of Harmony tells the story of a woman who may be an android, but more importantly seeks to balance emotional labor with her own needs, all while she seems to get closer to an understanding of her past.

I enjoyed the”sense system” idea, with data storage blocks color coded by sense that pop up to highlight or expand on different experiences for the character. There’s also some very solid world building, and polish in the setting and design.

While I like that senses play a key role, the boxes that pop up repeatedly create a lot of cognitive load and perhaps could be used more sparingly (at one point, the descriptive link “you’re alone” triggers a sense box for Hearing that reads: “Confirmed”). Also, the main narrative doesn’t have as much momentum as I had hoped for between the sense boxes, backstory boxes, and scenes whose dialogue and choice points are slow-moving and sometimes feel too low-stakes given the rich setting.

If you enjoyed Sense of Harmony...

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This is version 3 of this page, edited by Zape on 10 October 2020 at 1:06am. - View Update History - Edit This Page - Add a News Item