I sat down on a Sunday morning to play Scents & Semiosis, interactive fiction by Heavy Petal/Sam Kabo Ashwell. This article describes the experience and my impressions.
First, there is a casket, whether real or metaphor, contains bottles.
Bottles contain scents made of several ingredients. Scents suggest sense memories that are not your own, but you pretend. Ingredients suggest states/nouns.
The ingredients are things like cinnamon, sakura, blue lilac, and muscadine grapes.
Carefully, you choose one ingredient; the one that feels most true to you. You signify its meaning.
These noun/state/meanings are things like innocent stillness, nebulous fondness, and sex.
As a perfumer, you choose more bottles. Scents and memories arise.
Finally, you find you have assembled a private collection of ingredients for your edification. A perfume no one will smell.
Scents & Semiosis is a sweet, alluring experience. A single playthrough may only take five minutes, but it is five minutes to yourself, forming delicate connections and meanings.
I love the large vocabulary and esoteric descriptions of special, shared moments. Quite poetic. Though cast as my memories, it felt like peeking into the lives of others, which can be fun too.
It’s a peaceful, procedural-generated piece, different each time.
I absolutely appreciate the time I spent making perfume. I encourage everyone to make some tea and read wafting memories. Feel the shape of the scent. See how you feel about it now.
Scents & Semiosis can be found on itch.io and plays in a web browser.
Scents & Semiosis is written in Inform 7, an interactive fiction development system. Find out more about Inform 7.
Sam Kabo Ashwell makes games and writes about games. Find his work at These Heterogenous Tasks.
The piece is written for Emily Short, a well-known writer, and advocate for interactive fiction. Learn more at Emily Short’s Interactive Storytelling.
Thanks for reading! Relaxing with this interactive fiction was a treat.
Have you tried your hand as a perfumer in Scents & Semiosis? If so, what was your experience? Let me know in the comments.
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Try your hand as a perfumer in Scents & Semiosis, interactive fiction with procedural generation, strange ingredients, and private memories.
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