Stone Harbor by Liza Daly, review by Ruber Eaglenest

Another of those weird reviews because this game is so high in the rank of the comp.

Summary: Amazing premise in an amazing custom hypertext system that doesn’t live to the expectations.

Mobile friendly: Completely! Very well done! It is custom system that just nails it. it is comfortable to play. It has even a link to switch between day mode and night reading mode. It autosaves. The system fills the scroll with text with no end, and when you resume the game you must go down all the way. It could benefit of separate chapters that clean the scroll. And maybe a dynamic link to the actual reading point (that is, all the way down) could be great. But I’m just nit-picking.

General: Great start for a game about spiritualism. The initial scene is really really great creating the mood, presenting the main characters and the main mechanic of interaction. I just loved it. However it is just not real interactive (insert my subjectivity on the matter here). If you drop the game in a book, it would work the same. It is a pity, because the story, the writing, the custom hypertext system, all have a LOT of potential.

There are some problems in the perspective of PC and the narrator in some scenes. Mainly in the scene of the doll. We don’t know who we are, if the doll, the girl, the player. Maybe it is on purpose but it just don’t work. The point of view should be more homogenise, but in this concrete scene it seems it is jumping from one view to another.

The writing is superb, however I find one lacking in the interpretation of the PC. At the beginning, when he just get out of the trance, he is quite cold about it

Come on! it should be as this, for example:

It should “I feel my skin like crawl” to the PC, or to the reader.

I missed a LOT of interaction, I miss free exploration, free interaction, I miss agency. It is a pity. However, I take a lot of joy of what I were reading, it is just, it wasn’t interactive.

Score: Recommended with reservations. And it is a pity, this could be better just adding more interactivity in EVERY scene, for example, even in dialogues with traditional branching dialogues a-la graphic adventure or modern CYOAs.

Corollary: it seems judges in the comp are getting accustomed to games with little interaction. Although there are till judges who punish heavily game like this, or high concepts like 500 apocalypses, overall players doesn’t feel so. And that is, Stone Harbor is superbly written, it’s cool and it deserves. So I’m not complaining that people judge different than me, it is just I’m trying to state something that I think is shifting in that hive mind that is interactive fiction community.

This is weird, because other games has been punished for not having proper branching or interaction, like Snake’s Game. So… I don’t know what to think.

Thank you for the review! I appreciate the thoughtful critique.