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5 Stars IFReview Rating Swanglass

IFReviewed by Emily Short on 2006-08-01 04:52 

Game Profile

Yoon Ha Lee


Authoring System

Release Year

IFR Overall Rating
5 Stars IFR Overall Rating
The author's previous work, "Moonlit Tower" (2002), was full of lyrical descriptions, some beautiful imagery, and references to a not-quite-explained backstory.

"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.

Swanglass Awards

    Best of Landscape on the 2004 IF Art Show.

Emily Short Profile

IFReviewer Rating
10 Stars IFReviewer Overall Rating

Name Emily Short
Gender Female