The Madness of Roland
The Madness of Roland (HyperBole Studios) is the only completely original fiction title we saw this month. Initially intended as a stage play, writer/producer/actor/publisher Greg Roach discovered that a multimedia production would better serve the project. The story is loosely derived from The Song of Roland, a medieval tale/myth about a knight in the Court of Charlemagne. In this version, Roland is defending Paris from the Spanish Moors. Inexplicably, Roland goes mad, turns into something akin to an ape-man, and goes on a killing spree. Several days later he comes to his senses. Could it have been an evil spell? He returns to the battle, saves the day, and his crimes are forgiven. It is not as silly as it sounds. There is a serious effort here to bring interactivity to fiction. You can read the story in a number of ways. Each chapter offers a linear narration as well as first-person narratives from a number of different characters. Animations and videos are interspersed. A map shows how much of the available material you have read. Included on the disc are an author’s statement, a bibliography, and background references on the original Roland story. This title needs more work. Tighten up the art direction and fix some of the small irritants: lapses in narration, and mismatched tools to scroll the text. Since this is one of the first original, interactive works of fiction, a little more time spent in development might have made this a classic.
– March 1995