Review of "The Moonlit Tower"

The Moonlit Tower is a Z-code 5 interactive fiction game written with Inform 6 and is © 2002 by Yoon Ha Lee. At the 2002 XYZZY Awards, it won the Best Writing award; it was also a finalist in both the Best Setting and Best Story categories.

Review by David Welbourn

Atmosphere. The Moonlit Tower is fairly drenched in atmosphere. Here is a game that invites you to examine, touch, listen, smell, sing, and play until you are sated. Light and shadow both are interesting to you, as are the four seasons. The motifs are Eastern ones, mostly Japanese, I think.

Even with all this detail, much of it is symbolic or atmospheric without substance. There is really very little hard information on why you're in this strange tower or what you're supposed to do here, and so you wander aimlessly, swimming through the lyrical descriptions like so much gauze and incense.

The PC isn't amnesiac, or at least not fully so. You remember you and your brother attending a female justiciar, and considering how many of the objects refer to her, perhaps this tower was hers. And you remember the Emperor, who stripped her of her rank. And you're male, no matter how utterly female the game seems. But you don't learn much else.

So, anyway, you play around with things, and find some new things, and manipulate them, until you finally reach your destiny. There is more than one possible ending. I left the game thinking, Gosh, that was nice. That was really nice. I wonder what it was about.

Rating: 8.

✍️🏻 See my handwritten notes.