January 26, 2023

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If On A Winter’s Night, Four Travellers is a sumptuously grim little mystery

Starting a game like If On A Winter’s Night, Four Travellers I can’t help but feel as though I’m going to miss a few important references. The name, after all, is a reference to Italo Calvino’s novel If On A Winter’s Night, A Traveller – which I haven’t read, but know to be, apparently, a kind of reflexive post-modernist novel, in second-person, about you trying to read a novel called If On A Winter’s Night, A Traveller. A reference to a thing that self-references, which I have just discovered by Googling. I’m already struggling.

Anyway: do not worry about that. Four Travellers, a free, 1920s point-and-click mystery created by Laura Hunt and Thomas Möhring, is full of things that are probably references – recurring classical music, quoted novels, recited poetry – or maybe not! The point is it helps to be an ignoramus here. All the heady literary-ness of the Proust and Satie piling up and congealing into a kind of fog, the same kind that clouds the minds of its three-ish main characters. Just as it does – so I hear – in Calvino’s Traveller: Did I get that right? Is this supposed to be here? Am I remembering this correctly?

This is Four Travellers, a game of confusion and epistemic doubt. You begin on a train – that is definitely a Calvino reference; I’ve just skimmed the first chapter – and none of the travellers seem to know how they got there, which leads to a plundering of memories and regrets and all the rest, Hunt’s story progressing from romantic tragedy, to romantic despair to total, gothic depravity in its three or four hours.

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