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A Museum of Dubious Splendors is quite splendid

The wonderful Studio Oleomingus last night launched A Museum of Dubious Splendors, their latest Borgesian blast of hot explore-o-fiction. It’s another fragment of their mythical game Somewhere and, like many of the others, is itself made of fragments of stories and fictional histories built around stories. In short: you get to read some nice short stories and look at lovely little rooms. Oleomingus are making some of the prettiest dang video games around.Oleomingus say that A Museum of Dubious Splendors is an adaptation of essays from Gujarati poet Mir UmarHassan, or at least an adaptation of a translation which could be crude or could be faithful – we just don’t know. They say all this is true and surely they’d never make anything up on some sort of metatextual magical realist kick.

The museum is a series of small rooms containing recreations of objects from UmarHassan’s stories, strange sculptures and colourful places. Each room is a separate area, with short stories coming as you enter somewhere new. You’ll read about gods, growths, scholars, and the museum itself as you wander around. The layout is confusing and physically impossible so have a good poke about, try doors and see where you end up.

The music, again by Salil Bhayani, is cracking too.

Oh, and if you like a room and wish to be sure you can return to it, whip out your camera: photos you snap are your saves.

A Museum of Dubious Splendors is available from Itch for Windows and Mac, offered as pay-what-you-want with no minimum.

Oleomingus have recently contributed to another museum, as one of the many teams and artists who built spaces and objects for The Zium Museum. That’s good, that.

The wider Somewhere is supposedly due in early 2018. It’s a game about a search for a mythical city of storytellers, exploring the story by stepping into other characters and recursively through characters in the stories they have to tell, stories within stories that loop and weave from different perspectives. From the fragments they’ve shown, it has a strong postcolonial bent of explorers chasing cities and scholars seeking stories, trying to capture and categorise what they find but often shamefully realising it’s beyond them.

I’m tempted to go one step further and wager that Somewhere is not one single game but an idea shared and explored across all of these small things Oleomingus call “storybooks” or “experiments” from Somewhere’s world. I’m happy to be proven wrong but I do like to think that Oleomingus have been releasing fragments of stories attributed to fictional authors and connected to fictional histories, presenting them as facets and explorations from a game which is itself fictional. Whatever they’re up to, it’s great.

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Alice O'Connor

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When not writing news, Alice may be found in the sea.

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