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Dear Esther review - A mesmerizing journey

I crest the top of the hill slowly. A distant lighthouse comes into view, dirty white against a grey sky. Seagulls cry and a brisk wind disturbs the overgrown foliage on this forgotten path. The sun is slowly sinking behind the cliff, the last of its rays reflecting off of the water that spreads endlessly in every direction. A large radio tower, out of place amidst the remote desolation, beckons me with its soft pulsating light.

As I continue to make my way forward, always at a measured pace, I stop frequently to take in the incredible details of the landscape surrounding me. Never before have I encountered such an enchanting locale. Its sheer beauty is nothing less than stunning. Without saying a word it manages to be powerful and descriptive.

My journey tells me the story of a man who has long been lost. His words are not always clear, often caught up in dreams or flowery prose, but they are evocative. In his more lucid moments, he reveals a powerful tale, but never one that succumbs to the pitfall of wordiness or over-explanation. He seems to realize the intrusive nature of his narration and only tells me what he must. The rest I can fill in for myself.

The role that I play is more spectator than participant. I have little agency, nor do I desire more than the  little I am given. Now is not the time or place for such things. This is a different sort of experience, one in which I am content to immerse myself through exploration and observation. Convention is an anchor best let go free here; dismissal of preconception a necessity. 

This island provides a rare opportunity to release your imagination from its cage. Let your mind wander as you listen to the haunting melodies of the beautiful music and the troubled words of the unseen narrator. Fill in for yourself those gaps that would normally be stuffed with unnecessary exposition. Study what little you are given and find the hidden meanings, the subtle connections, and, ultimately the truth. This is a path not meant to be walked only once. It is short, but dense and layered. You inhabit this world just long enough to be satisfied, but not long enough for it to feel pretentious or monotonous. 

Dear Esther provides a glimpse into the true power of interactive art in a way few other experiences have managed. By taking a bold step into uncharted territory, it demonstrates what is possible when we unhinge ourselves from convention and embrace the unexpected. It delivers its moving tale with aplomb in a medium that struggles with even basic narrative coherence at the best of times. Those with even the slightest interest in pushing the boundaries of this nascent form should discover Esther’s mysteries for yourself without hesitation. It is a mesmerizing journey you won’t soon forget.

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