IFReviewed by Emily Short on 2006-08-01 04:52
The author's previous work, "Moonlit Tower" (2002), was full of lyrical
descriptions, some beautiful imagery, and references to a not-quite-explained
"Swanglass" is similar. It does a beautiful job with the sensory aspects
encouraged by the Art Show: almost everything has smell, flavor, and texture, as
well as appearance. (Some things have several appearances, depending on how you
look at them.) There's a lovely space to explore, and the descriptions allude to
some sad past. On the other hand, that backstory is never quite forthcoming. I
was left longing for an explanation. From the authorial notes I'm guessing that
I could read up on Swan Lake and get at least the general outline of that plot,
but it is not mostly to be found within "Swanglass" itself. Not as far as I
could find, anyway.
There's also not much statefulness in this piece: there's little you can do
(that I could find) that would change the appearance or behavior of things. Most
of the interaction that I could find was in the form of experiencing and
exploring the way objects look, feel, smell, and evoke memory. In "Flametop"
that sort of interactivity is provided by the switches, plugs, and dials; in
last year's "Friendly Foe" (Mike Sousa) you could do all sorts of interesting
things to the landscape that dramatically altered its layout and what you were
allowed to do there. (For that matter, "Moonlit Tower" does some quite neat
things along these lines.) Even in puzzleless or art show pieces, having a sense
that you're changing the state of the world can give some shape to the
exploration. It's possible that I missed something obvious, but if so, the help
menu didn't give me any sense of what it might be.
So I enjoyed the experience of "Swanglass" and was left with some neat mental
images, but I wasn't entirely satisfied.
Best of Landscape on the 2004 IF Art Show.