I recently experienced a superbly executed visual novel by the name of Gone Home. I call it a visual novel because there's not much else to it, earning the ire of some gamers expecting something completely different. I was so engrossed with the story unfolding before me that I began to search for other similar games, and then I remembered a game I've had on my shelf for some time: Ceremony of Innocence...
Based on the Griffin and Sabine trilogy of illustrated novels by Nick Bantock it tells the story of a couple falling in love through self-made postcard correspondence. Sabine, a French artists keeps seeing images being created in her mind. When she stumbles on one of these pieces of art in the real world, she realises that they were not simply dreams, but visions of another man's life. This other man is Griffin, a London artist trying to make it in the competitive capitol.
In the game, before any letter can be read you first have to solve a puzzle based on the beautifully drawn art. These can be quite obscure, eschewing any sense of traditional logic. The first puzzle for example requires you to place your cursor in the right position so that a baby vulture (or whatever it is) can eat it. This will give you direct control over the beast itself. You can then push a giant feather to rip open part of the page, reverse a bit so that another tiny bird to climb up to this ripped area and then drop down a single seed. If you manipulate the vulture correctly, he can peck at the seed, completing the puzzle. And that's one of the least weird puzzles in the entire collection.
These stunning postcards can range from cut-and-paste artwork to photography or a variety of different paints and textures. They can be simple and humourous, complex and emotionally affecting or any range in between. If I was solely presented with a collection of these puzzles, I'd be satisfied enough but the included story is expertly written and acted elevating it no end. Overall there is nothing in the story that is any different to the books, but having Paul MacGann (Withnail & I, the eighth Doctor Who), Isabella Rossellini (Blue Velvet, Immortal Beloved) and Ben Kingsley (Ghandi, Iron Man 3) play the characters adds warmth and compassion to the short passages that can fit in the limited space on a postcard. You feel the initial confusion over the psychic connection and the true affection it slowly morphs into. There are a couple of twists along the way which I have to bite my literary tongue to prevent me from spoiling, but they will captivate, compound and compel you right up until the final moments.
It was quite successful upon its release in 1997, at least critically if not commercially. It won several prestigious awards including the Sound and Moving Image awards at the first ever BAFTA Interactive Entertainment Awards ceremony.
I have never been one for the 'Interactive Novel', at least in the digital format. They most often consist of large amounts of text broken up by random choices. There's nothing to solve or do compared to the text adventure so I find I'd rather read an actual book instead. Where Ceremony of Innocence shines is that the puzzle elements are both separate and connected to the actual story. You could separate each element and still have a rewarding experience with both but together, I feel like I've played through something truly special. The same feeling that I had when I reached the end of Gone Home.
To download the game, follow the link below. This exclusive installer uses the DOSBox Daum build of DOSBox 0.74 running Windows '95. Tested on Windows 7.
IMPORTANT - Remember to shut down the emulated version of Windows before exiting DOSBox. This could potentially result in errors, lost saves and corrupt data. Press Ctrl-F9 when it is safe to do so.
Ceremony of Innocence is © Real World MultiMedia LtdReview, Cover Design and Installer created by me