: New: Game Report: Choice of Games, Heart's Choice Games

Special note to my parents: Though this blog post is about video games, you might be interested. Specifically, Choice of Games has a couple of games ("Tally Ho", "Jolly Good") that are kinda like reading P.G. Wodehouse novels.

Playing a Choice of Games game is something like reading a choose-your-own-adventure book. Each screen of the game shows you some text to read. At the bottom of the screen there's a Next button to go to the next page screen; and maybe above the Next button there's a set of choices. Depending on what you pick, different things might happen on the next screen and further on in the book game. E.g., here's a screen from the game "The Bread Must Rise," in which you direct the actions and attitude of a contestant in a necromantic baking competition. Towards the bottom of the page, the game prompts you to choose a character motivation. This motivation can affect future wording, perhaps even plot direction:

screen shot of game. It's spare for a video game: it's mostly text on a soothing background. There's a row of buttons at the top: Show Stats, Achievements, Menu. There's three paragraphs of text (which I'll transcribe below). There is a menu of four choices (which I'll also transcribe below). And there's a next button. The three paragraphs of text: “This time, instead of a fine and a stern warning, you've received a certificate: ¶ YOU'VE BEEN CHOSEN AS ONE OF SIX CONTESTANTS IN THE GREAT GODSTONE BAKE-OFF. ¶ The certificate says more, but those are the big words, the important words. Those are the words your friends would see, if you had any. Damn, you never thought about that, but here and now, alone in your bakery while you wait until it's time to open, you can't escape the question. Why don't you have any friends?” The four choices: ◎ The thing about friendship is that it doesn't keep the lights on in the bakery. ◎ Friends? More like customers who think they're entitled to freebies and discounts. Please! ◎  I was so focused on the Great Godstone Bake-Off that I didn't have time for unnecessary distractions. ◎ Don't be silly, suddenly nosy voice in my head…Customers are friends!

There's a lot of text in these games; some have a few illustrations, but most get along with just text. When I play these games, I tend to compare them to other choose-y games I found via the book 50 Years of Text Games; those other games have plenty of art: they suggest some of the book's action by superimposing portraits of the characters on an art background showing the setting. In those games, you read a little text, but infer a lot of the story from the art. You might think oh, I bet these text-only games seem drab compared to those with art. But as you play more of these choose-y games, the text games have more variety. I have a theory about this:

In a game with lots of art if an author tells the publisher "This scene is set in something like a bakery, but with necromantic magic, like with skeletons and stuff" the publisher doesn't already have appropriate art on hand. The publisher might say…

The art-heavy games tend to have a lot of same-ol' same-old. You think to yourself, There's that generic restaurant kitchen again. Or you might think Ho-hum, yet another epic struggle of brave rebels against overwhelming odds; but I understand why the publishers wouldn't risk the art budget to try some niche-ier ideas.

There's a lot less constraint on these text-heavy games. You want superheroes? It's a lot easier to type the word "cape" than it is to draw folds in fabric. In Choice of Games and Heart's Choice (Choice of Games' romance imprint), I've played in Pulp-era science fiction, swashbuckling pirate action, 1001 Nights-ish fantasy, Edwardian-era farce, spooky vampire crypts, two undersea mermaid cities (not much alike), two modern-fantasy magical bureacracies (not much alike), the moon, Mars,…

I guess that's why, out of the various choose-y game systems out there, Choice of Games has my favorites. It's got a lot of variety! I'm not into ⅔ of it, too weird, not my kind of weird. But it has some games that are right up my alley.

I'll point out some of the specific games that I liked. There are over 100 games within Choice of Games, figuring out what you want to try might seem daunting at first. I hesitate to go overboard with my recommendations, though. A skilled critic can discern between underlying craftsmanship and the critic's own taste; I am not such a skilled critic. When I say "I wasn't into that Battlemage game; it had too many battles for my taste," you know just where to stick that review. That said, some recommendations:

Choice of Games:

Cliffhanger: Challenger of Tomorrow
Pulp-style science fiction.
Elite Status: Platinum Concierge
Rich-people problems require rich-people solutions, and you do your best to provide them. Attempting to save your soul is optional. Tragedy (unusual; most of these games are adventures, romances, and/or comedies)
Tally Ho,
Jolly Good: Cakes and Ale
Edwardian upper-class comedies in the spirit of P.G. Wodehouse
The Daring Mermaid Expedition
Undersea mermaids, pirates,… I'm not sure how much I liked this because it was good and how much I liked this because it was my kind of weird. But I'm sure I liked it plenty.
Creatures Such as We
Moody piece about getting/not getting what you want, set on the moon
The Dragon and the Djinn
Swashbuckling magical adventure in a fantasy world not quite like the 1001 Nights
Choice of Kung Fu
Swashbuckling magical adventure in a fantasy world not quite like imperial China in those movies from my youth
Social Services of the Doomed
You are a government bureaucrat in a modern fantasy world investigating mysterious phenomena

Heart's Choice (Choice of Games' romance imprint):

Swashbuckling nonmagical adventure on the streets of old-timey Paris, where you are a duellist for a brothel
Forbidden Magic
You are a government bureaucrat in a modern fantasy world investigating mysterious phenomena

Along with Choice of Games and the romance-ier Heart's Choice, they have another category of games: Hosted Games. As near as I can tell, just about anyone can post a game here. Like, I think when the publishers are deciding whether to publish a story, if they like the story, it goes on Choice of Games or Heart's Choice; if they don't much like the story but it's not illegal/hateful/grounds for a lawsuit, then it goes on Hosted Games. I tried reading two games there, got a few pages into each, and gave up. Those two games were pretty bad. There might be some fun games in there, but I'm not sure how to find those diamonds in the rough; that "rough" is rough.

Tags: game