Friday, 18 September 2015

CEREMONY OF INNOCENCE


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 artist, 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 capital.

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 story that sits along side them 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 McGann (Withnail & I, the eighth Doctor Who), Isabella Rossellini (Blue Velvet, Immortal Beloved) and Ben Kingsley (Gandhi, 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. Manual included. 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. 

File Size: 643 Mb.  Install Size: 917 Mb.  Need help? Consult the Collection Chamber FAQ

Download


Ceremony of Innocence is © Real World MultiMedia Ltd
Review, Cover Design and Installer created by me  

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15 comments:

  1. Just wanted to say thanks for this. I own the CD ROM which I really wanted to play through again, but was having no success in getting it to work on modern systems. What great timing to find your review and download. Amazingly I got your downloaded version working perfectly in the most convoluted of ways using Wine/WineBottler on OSX.

    Now I'm really enjoying returning to this magical story, and the lovely narration. Whilst the interaction can be frustrating, it makes you examine the pictures in far greater detail than if you'd just read the book, I found. Then, having read the Griffin and Sabine book again after 'doing' the CD Rom, the postcards in the book feel like static representations of the ones I 'played'. I can see the parallels with Gone Home, and its story that emerges through letters. I wonder if I'll want to replay that game nearly two decades later too!

    Anyway, again, thanks.

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    1. Your very welcome uglifruit. I'm glad you managed to get it working on OSX. I don't have an Apple computer but have heard that the WINE emulator is pretty decent.

      I really enjoyed the picture puzzles. It forced you to really study the art and see details you may have missed in the books as well as giving you mind to think about what might happened next. I look at this and Gone Home as different takes on Interactive Fiction and, like a good book, I might return to these more often than other genres.

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  2. Thanks for all your great work!

    I am wondering - is there a way to Save the game? Save States don't seem to work and I can't find any in-game mechanism to try...

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    1. Hello Gavin. The DOSBox Daum save states won't work for Win95 emulation so you'll have to rely on the game's own save system. It should save automatically once you complete a 'card' and progress is linked to the name you input. Read the 'Getting Started' section of the included manual for more info.

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    2. I spent some time Googling for a manual and never once thought to look in the install directory :)

      All is working now. Thanks a lot! This blog is a treasure trove. Thanks again for all the work you have put into this stuff. I will be visiting regularly.

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    3. No probs. I usually mention if the manuals included in the info blurb. Looks like I forgot with this one :P - time for an edit.

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  3. Hello. Forgive me for what might be a stupid question but how exactly do I quit the game in order to return to the emulated Windows to shut it down? The game doesn't seem to even have a menu let alone a quitting option.
    Thanks in advance.

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  4. It's me again. From the screenshots, I now see that a menu and quitting option do exist, but how can I access them? The game goes directly from the name input screen to the postcard puzzles and, no matter what key I press, I can't seem to bring up the menu.
    Thanks again.

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    1. Hello, the keys are detailed in the included manual (look in the install folder). I believe you need to press M to get to the main menu.

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  5. I never knew this multimedia adaptation of the first Griffin & Sabine trilogy existed. It's been some years since I read the books, and playing through this brought back fond memories. The artwork is beautifully rendered. Some of the animation reminded me a bit of Terry Gilliam's work, but that didn't detract from the experience.

    I did experience a couple of minor technical issues. When I initially went to full screen mode, the top and bottom of the window were cut off on my wide screen display. (To correct this, under the Video menu, I selected Resolution, then Fullscreen and finally selected "Original" instead of "Desktop.") The other issue which I couldn't figure out a solution for had to do with the audio. Occasionally, when there was a great deal of animation, the narration would have some pops of static as the letters played. This seemed to get progressively worse as the game went on. The only work around for me was to exit the game properly (ctrl-Q and selecting Quit, then shutting down the Windows emulator and finally pressing ctrl-F9 when prompted), then restarting the game and resuming from the latest saved position. Considering the age of the game and the emulation setup, it wasn't too distracting.

    I was simply mesmerized seeing this artwork come to life. What a beautiful experience.

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    1. Thanks. It's a great game and you've made me want to revisit it. I bought the big box many years ago due to my affinity towards it.

      Regarding those issues, the fullscreen crop is down to your DPI settings. Info is found in the FAQ about how to change it, though my more recent installers have the issue solved. The sound distortion is due to game running slow, which may get worse as more of the game is played in one sitting. It takes a lot of resources to emulate win 95 but more often than not with win 10 that's the only way.

      Anyway, if you liked this, i fully recommend Legend of Lotus Spring or Amber, both available here.

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  6. Thanks for great work and archeology to keep game alive for posterity. Thank you

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  7. Oops, this is unfortunate. I downloaded the game file and extracted it. A minute later my Norton Lifelock tells me that the Install-COI.exe is not safe and has been removed.
    Is this something you need to check, or do I just need some reassurance!?! I'll be gutted if it won't play.

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    1. Hello. There is a note about false positives in the FAQ if you want to get a better idea of why this might happen.

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  8. Thanks, Biffman - I'll check it out.

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