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10 Stars IFReview Rating The Moonlit Tower

IFReviewed by Emily Short on 2006-08-01 04:37 

Game Profile

Yoon Ha Lee


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IFR Overall Rating
9 Stars IFR Overall Rating
House or Office: Not even remotely
Played to completion?: Yes
Rating: 10

Prose compels a certain pace. This is a game to be read slowly, as though dreaming. I tend to be wary of poetic diction in IF, because it can confuse and clutter the imagery, make interaction difficult, and stop immersion with its excesses of pretense. There's some danger of that here, too. It takes discipline not to let the eye skim for nouns to interact with.

There is much that is lyrical and strange and compelling here, all the same. 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 jewelled stairs and the dew on the stockings, where all the sense lies in the interstices of what is said.

Now, you may call me inconsistent for liking this game when I decried the Granite Book for being mood-driven and obscure. The central story is a bit hard to be certain of here, too, but I felt I had a better guess. I don't deny Moonlit Tower has some flaws. The puzzle design is not its strong suit. I would not have guessed how to use the maple leaf; I never did figure out how to acquire the lanterns; I only saw what one can do with the comb when I read the AMUSING.

Even leaving that aside, the structure of the game was a bit vague: it seemed as though parts were a little uncertain, a little less organized than they might have been, the symbolism chosen but its full meaning unexplored. The excellence of this game is in the language, and even more in the textures, the lighting, the play of senses. I was content to see and be amazed.

The only thing that threw me was the amalgamation of material from distinct Asian traditions; I kept trying to place the story, and failing. But that's just as well, perhaps. I was grateful for the endnotes.

This was my favorite game of the competition.

Emily Short Profile

IFReviewer Rating
10 Stars IFReviewer Overall Rating

Name Emily Short
Gender Female