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About the StoryA short game about grief, with occasional snakes.
Nominee, Best Writing; Nominee, Best Story - 2012 XYZZY Awards
Rock Paper Shotgun
Interacting With Fictions: Eurydice
It’s poignant, beautiful misery, and yet there are dry aches of wit everywhere: We are, we divine, in the home we shared with Celine and our housemates, where a collection of well-meaning mourners has gathered in the living room (“you could always just retreat,” the game promises). We do not want to have to talk to them, but should the player engage their conversation, the result is a brilliant illustration: Social obligation wars with private grief, discomfort and awkwardness hangs like a pall. We can’t intrude on what they’re feeling, but privately we feel they have no right to invade on our mourning.
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Emily Short's Interactive Storytelling
Happily, Eurydice manages better than many other pieces in the same general genre of “slice of life when life totally sucks”, and this is largely down to the writing... the writing mostly bears up under the considerable weight put on it. It’s not easy to capture the cold formal feeling of having just lost someone, or to expose the yowling misery underneath without becoming unendurably cheesy.
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Number of Reviews: 6
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Most Helpful Member Reviews
The setting, here, is both used to elicit the PC's memories and to create a sense of claustrophobia. Despite the social nature of funerals, the PC's grief is so intensely private, that to share it with others would be an invasion, almost. The tone is bleak - actions are sometimes rebuffed with terse messages: "You've been better"; "You can't remember anything important now".
Unusual turns of phrase - the curve like that of a human spine; the baboonish chatter - make everyday settings seem strange, something highlighted with the reality-bending lyre, one of the most obvious elements borrowed from the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice.
The game allows for exploration and is generally forgiving, except for the endgame, in which the player's sequence of actions is crucial.
When I was in high school, the music students (not me) put on a production of Orpheus in the Underworld. I found this embarrassing because the cool school where my dad taught would put on normal shows like Grease and Dracula Spectacular. Anyway, I didn't go to see Orpheus then and I didn't read his story at any time in the intervening period, leaving me in a theoretically weaker than ideal position for playing Eurydice, an adventure about bereavement named for Orpheus's wife. The game is initially character focused and entirely realistic, showing some very strong writing in this area. It then takes an unexpected turn into more fable-like territory. My preference that the game had stayed entirely in the first mode is irrelevant; it has many fine qualities.
Before the game opens, the male PC's dear friend, maybe love, Celine, has died. The circumstances of her death are sketched in over the length of the game. The PC and his flatmates are having a wake-like gathering of some friends and acquaintances when play begins. This first part of the game is essentially puzzle free, and sees you wandering around the house reminiscing, feeling strange and self-conscious and finding it agonising to interact socially. The quick elucidation of the PC's relationship with each of the friends is superb. Talking to each person for the first time produces at least one paragraph of sentiment free appraisal of their role in your life and in Celine's life. The sharp observations make the cast and situation feel real.
I've been keen and am keen to play a game that works well in this fashion for its duration, and which is also not just a short story on rails. I thought this game might be it, so I had to admit my disappointment to myself when, after strolling out of the game house, I came across a character who was clearly a Charon the Ferryman type ready to paddle me to some fantasyland. Perhaps the prevalence of afterlife games in IF in general weighed into my reaction here.
Transported to the underworld, the player's goal is now to (Spoiler - click to show)find and retrieve Celine from a mental hospital staffed by incarnations of the characters from Virgil's Eurydice tale. This is nowhere near as Ingmar Bergmanesque as it sounds. It's not like you walk in and meet a chap who says, "I am Hades." That chap is a doctor in this game, and some of the parser's responses to your actions describe him as Hades, but he never mentions that name himself that I noticed, nor do any of the characters mention any of the Greek names. I didn't study the tale of Eurydice until after I had played, and the technically subtle approach of the game to the twinning of the hospital residents and the Greek characters is clever.
Eurydice the game may become more traditionally puzzley in style in this section, but it was a bit disingenuous of me to draw a blunt line through the midpoint of the game, as the PC's recollections of events and time spent in Celine's room maintain the realistic and sometimes poignant outlook established in the early scenes. It's just that now additional ways to move forward may include (Spoiler - click to show)playing the lyre.
There are minor proofreading issues and implementation gaps scattered consistently across the game. The only ones which actually disrupted my play were the fact that the hospital doorbell was not described as a button, making me wonder why I couldn't pull or ring it, and that the hospital ground descriptions gave the impression that there were many more enterable buildings than there were. These are typical minor mistakes for what appears to be a first game, and all of the game's important elements are solid: its clear setup and (unexpected) trajectory, some well considered endings and brief but very good character writing. The overall combination of elements is novel and there are human truths in here.
The game is a modern retelling of Orpheus and Eurydice. It has a beautiful and haunting atmosphere, and excellent writing.
I won't spoil the plot too much, but this short game has 4 possible endings. The main NPC is painted vividly, while you yourself are left vague and nebulous. The whole feeling is that of a dark afternoon on a November day when the snow hasn't fallen but the world is already dead and gray.
Recommended for everyone. Incredible game.
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