Casual Fridays – Choice of Games Extravaganza Part 1

Hey folks!

When a company puts out two games that are enjoyable, accessible, and entertaining then you want to take a good hard look at everything that company has to offer.  This week, we’re going to give you the in depth scoop on the Choice of Games Library!

First of all, if you want to see any previous reviews we have one up for Choice of the Dragon, and Choice of the Broadsides.  That means I won’t be covering them here, but for the sake of completeness we’ve added the links to them.

Also, the games pretty much play the same.  They are all choose your own adventure type games with stats that the system keeps track of.  Unless something is of particular interest mechanically I’m not really going to talk about how the game play is.  It’s a radio option and a Next Button.

Choice of the Vampire by Choice of Games

Wow.  This game is Epic.  I mean that in the best possible way.  In Choice of the Vampire you play through the naissance of a young Vampire during the War of 1812, and continue to play this vampire through the other side of the American Civil War all the while dealing with the political machinations of Vampire Society.  You will fall in love, get revenge, flee in exile and plot and scheme over the course of generations.

This is perhaps the longest out of the Choice of Games library, and I mean that in a good way.  Sometimes the game seems to be padded because they’ve promised a certain amount of game play, and there’s nothing like a good fetch quest to be a time sink.  This game, doesn’t have that.  You are engaged with decisions that will impact you one, two, three or four dialogue choices down the road.  The characters are all well defined and when you decide to explore down the various character paths, you can really get an understanding of those characters and how your choices impact them.

This is the first game where decisions you make will cut you off of some of the dialogue options.  It’s a nice feature, one that I’m glad they finally implemented since it allows you to kinda of keep going with your previously held positions.  For instance, if you’re a member of the clergy in this game and you’ve expressed a deep devotion then the options that are full of blasphemy aren’t going to be available to blasphe-you.

The game does have some blood and violence, direct and immediate violence, so if that’s going to bother you then I would recommend that you check out some of the other games.  However, if you can handle it, even if Vampire tales aren’t really your thing, then I would tell you to check out this game.  It’s well worth it.

Recommended?:  Yes, very yes, totally yes, and in all ways yes.

Choice of Romance by Choice of Games

If there is room next to  Choice of Broadsides, Choice of the Vampire, and Choice of the Dragon for a Choice of Games game that people should play, it would be Choice of Romance.  In fact, I think I like Choice of Romance even more than I like Choice of the Dragon.  In Choice of Romance you play the child, again daughter or son is up to you, of a noble family who has come into hard times and you are the one hope for you family as you debut in society.

Your options for what you want to do are three fold, do you marry for money, love or power but they don’t feel as limiting as that sounds.  The only complaint that I have is that the love option seems to be the weakest of the three.  It doesn’t get the same screen time as the other two, though that just might be my own misguided desire for power.  Every time I played I ended up getting the ruler to love me, and only me damn it!  There will be no one else and there is a way to keep your character from one chapter to the next, when it gets published.

That’s another thing the game does right.  It avoids the whole “This is what would happen in a Medieval setting!” nonsense that a lot of other fantasy games espouse when they talk about same sex relationships.  The game doesn’t blink regardless of who you choose to love, it’s just accepted as something that happens.  Because this is a fantasy game, that’s something a positive that needs to be pointed out considering how many other games in this genre just kind of either gloss over the subject, or reinforces the hetero-normative firmly.

Recommended?:  Yes, and send what you can their way.  We need the sequel!

Paranoia published by hostedgames.org

This one is a doozy.  First of all, the name of the game is Paranoia.  Now I know that many other games have used this as a title before, but it’s still incredibly problematic.  When you feel the need to name your after a mental illness then you’re going to cut out a lot of people.  This game didn’t feel like that was enough.  It felt like it had to really drive out people, so the game is basically you trying to uncover a mystery while not getting taken away to a mental hospital.  Seriously, that’s the game.  You have to decide if you take the pills that your therapist gave you every morning, and you only get one action before you have to think about doing that again.

It’s got a tinfoil hat question for crying out loud.

Out of all the Choice of Games, this one would have to be the most disappointing because it’s got the lowest level of accessibility.

Recommended?: No.  Absolutely, 100% not.

What Happened Last Night? published by hostedgames.org

What happens when you take a company that has a high reputation for listening to gender issues, and sexism in their games?  Well, sometimes they miss.  What Happened Last Night starts out with the good old stand by, the woman in a refrigerator and works it’s way from there.  In this game you wake up without any knowledge of what happened the previous night, a la The Hangover, and you have to figure out what happened to the dead person, who is again always a woman regardless of your gender.

Along the way you can commit various crimes to try to discover what happens.  You can be nice, or you can be not so nice.  The quickest description I can use of this game is Hobbes’ Leviathan.  This game is “nasty, brutish, and short.”  You can get through it in about five minutes, and while the games says that there are lot of choices, there really aren’t that many.  You go through all the various threads really quickly, and the reply value of this game is pretty much nil.  I mean you can replay Choice of the Dragon, just because it’s kind of whimsical and even if you’ve gone through the game kind of the same way, the choices you make really influence what’s going on.  Not so much with this one.

Please note that the game has an in game warning about the level of violence and choice that you can/have to make in the game.  If that’s something you’re not to keen on, this will turn you off this game as well.

Recommended?: Meh? It’s not bad, it’s just quick and kinda unpleasant.

The Land of Three Classes published by hostedgames.org

There is an argument that can be made, though I don’t necessarily agree with it, that says a choose your own adventure game, and a short one at that isn’t complex enough to be a ‘real game.’  Most casual games get that a lot in general.  The Land of Three Classes tries to do some things to make the game a little bit more challenging, and a little bit more stimulating and that’s a very honest and desirable goal.  The execution here left much to be desired.

In The Land of Three Classes you play a student trying to pass a placement exam to be a full fledged member of the TriCla society.  The TriCla society being the one that venerates the three heroes that freed them from the tyranny of some evil priests who ruled the land with an iron fist.  The three heroes being the warrior, the thief, and the magician.  No names, just Warrior, Thief, Magician.  Don’t worry, they tell you many times that it’s more than thiefly qualities that they appreciate and not actual thievery.

Anyway the amount of preamble before the game was almost enough to turn me off the game entirely.  The writing felt, well, kind of lazy and when your game is entirely text that’s the one thing you can’t afford at all.  The text is the only vehicle you have, and as such it needs to be at the quality that it is for Choice of Broadsides and Choice of the Dragon.

The game play itself is rather predictable?  Not in the, “We know that this is fiction and we understand how fiction ends” kind of way.  More in the, “Wow, there is a large gate in front of me, I wonder if what I need to do to get past it, I know I’ll just gobble down some strength potions!”

Again, pretty great concept but the execution didn’t work.

Recommended?: Buzz! Not really, no.

 

Since there are a lot of Choice of Games games, I’m going to split this up into two parts.  The next post will talk about Imprisoned, Marine Raider, The Nightmare Maze and Popcorn, Soda … Murder?  Because if it’s got an ellipses and a question mark, then it’s gotta be good … right?

As always, feel free to have at it in the comments.  If you have a suggestion, let me know below and I’ll do my best to get on it!

22 thoughts on “Casual Fridays – Choice of Games Extravaganza Part 1”

  1. i just wanted to say i really appreciate how you approached the paranoia game. being in the spectrum that most people think of when they think of paranoia and tin foil hats, it feels very relieving to have that sort of perspective addressed, esp through games since it’s a form of media that people frequently don’t challenge.

    so, thank you. that part made me smile, it really did.

  2. You’re right about CoR: the ruler WILL find you attractive, and you’re kinda expected to follow up on that. Marrying for money, well, I didn’t think that would end well so didn’t bother.

    (and you $MONARCH Consort person–don’t believe for a second that you’re the only one the $MONARCH ever picked up that way…)

    As for CoV, well, I got turned off by the mandatory pitchforks in one branch and the abrupt ending post-Vicksburg. Definitely a fun game, but could use expansion.

    1. It ends okay, but it’s like “That’s the monarch, how do you turn them down without making huge enemies? Also, that’s where the power is! Hello!”

      Hard to turn down that branch when the alternatives aren’t really as fleshed out. Still really like the game.

  3. I think it should be noted that, besides Vampire and Romance, these games are user-contributed. The level of quality in writing and storytelling is not on the level of the four in-house Choice of Games titles (Dragon, Vampire, Romance, Broadsides).

    1. See, the problem with that is when you publish something for someone you still take the responsibility of having published for it. While the others are user-contributed there should be at least some level of QA on their part if they’re going to associate their name with it.

      1. Irrespective of that, there’s a very big difference between writing it and hosting it (I doubt they vet them at all, considering that inclusivity issues aside paranoia and what happened last night are truly shoddy games), and I don’t think it’s at all fair to insinuate (as the review does) that they’re by choice of games in the same way that choice of romance and choice of the vampire are.

        1. If you look on the forums, there seems to be some level of testing and problem-checking going on for the current crop. Marine Raider, for example, is significantly more professional than Paranoia.

          That said, I doubt anyone there specifically checks for ableism.

        2. This is where you and I will have to respectfully disagree.

          If you host a game, you are putting it under your banner. That means you hold at least some responsibility in putting it out there. When you go to their website, and you click on Games you will see a list that includes these games. There is a single line that says “User Something or other” above them, but it’s still on their site. When you search for these games, at least when I did, they are all listed and associated with Choice of Games. Some people might call that, publishing. I know I do.

          Look, if they put their code out there and say do what you will. That’s one thing. If you say, “Hey we’ll host it and split the profits with you” that’s publishing and as a publisher you are responsible for what you host. That’s how the process works.

          1. Agreed, if they host it then they take responsibility for it. They could always have a WHOLE SEPARATE WE DID NOT MAKE THESE AT ALL! NOT OURS! Page with big bold letters and warning that they don’t reflect them. But they don’t.

            1. See, even then there is a case where they say they share the profits. Even if you put that page up, if you’re profiting off of the product, or even just taking the money to break even, then you’re publishing it which leads to what I outlined above.

          2. While it is true that they must bear some responsibility for all of the content they publish, it is remiss of you as a reviewer not to note the distinction between the in-house content and the user-created, especially when there is such a difference in quality between the two.

          3. You make a good point, yes; they’ve changed the website a lot since I was last through the main site and they should have more care with what they publish.

            I still do think that as they are both authors and publishers, though, it would be better to draw a distinction in the review between what they wrote and what they only published.

            1. Distinction made.

              Games by Choice of Games are listed as “By Choice of Games” and games that are published by Choice of Games are listed as “Published by Choice of Games.”

  4. A problem I have with Choice of Vampire was the use of the word “whore” everywhere. One can argue that it was the “word of the time” but if your going to be progressive, ditch the use of that word, especially when you have a situation where you are using them, killing them and disposing of the bodies, and then getting away with the crime because “they are just whores”.

    1. Sad part is that I think I actually used that branch (feeding w/Jesse, IIRC?) and didn’t grok the problem. It’s quite similar to Interview w/Vampire, but that’s no excuse. My apologies; will work to ensure the failure does not recur.

    2. I had that problem with Choice of the Vampire too. In my first playthrough, I was surprised that the choice to offer Jesse room and board at a “whorehouse” was greyed out to me. I thought it was because my character was forthright, and the answer was considered backbiting. Nope! I just wasn’t good enough friends with him! Ugh.

      So yeah, the casual treatment of sex workers, the fact that all your makers are male, and the fact that my freed slave vampire took convincing to side with the North (even briefly) were a little off-putting. I found Choice of Vampire generally good and well written though, which is why those faults tend to stand out.

      Choice of Romance was a lot of more disappointing to me. I was disappointed with all three options (the ‘money’ option was bland, the ‘love’ option ended up feeling like a boring and self-centered character, and the King was just a full-tilt jerk), and I had made it clear from the beginning of the game that I was looking for adventure, not just romance. But nothing actually interesting happened in the game. It was pretty much just, “go to parties, find out how boring these people are”. I guess that might be considered ‘realistic’, but a lot of the earlier options hinted that there could be more to the story than just dating, and that didn’t pan out. The ending I got also felt incredibly rushed, and I do wonder if there are other better ones, but the game overall wasn’t interesting enough to do another play though.

  5. My personal favourites are Broadsides and Dragon. Especially the former is very captivating, it really made me feel as I was reading the Hornblower books again.

    Vampire seems to be based mostly on the Anne Rice interpretation of the vampire mythos, which I don’t find particularily awesome, so I didn’t enjoy the game as much. Romance, well, let’s say I prefer adventure stories with romantical overtones than the other way around, so I also don’t really recommend that one.

    Out of the user submitted games, only Marine Raider is remarkable, again as a pure adventure story.

  6. I don’t usually respond directly to reviews, but this blog has been hugely influential on my game, and I wanted to clarify some things.

    Re: publishing hosted games: we’ve actually created a separated company, hostedgames.org, to host the user-contributed games. The division has already been made in the Android Market, and will be rolled out to other platforms as time permits.

    Re: trying to take Jesse to a whorehouse: you lacked Streetwise, not jesse_rapport.

    Re: the use of the word “whore”: when choosing terminology, the balance between history and progressiveness is a tough one to strike. One clear example of this is the use of “nigger”: regardless of its historical accuracy, I decided to just not use the word in the game; working around that has made for some curious circumlocutions. Even beyond the fact that “whore” is the term of the time, I’m not really sure what other term could be appropriately used. That said, I’ll take a look at the code, and see if some adjustment can be made (that’s the glory of publishing digitally). I am also open to suggestions from the community on how to improve such things.

    Also, Jonathan, thank you for the lovely review.

    Regards,
    -Jason

    1. Hey Jason,

      Thanks for the comments. I’ve updated this post to reflect that, and I’ll be making sure to update the rest of the games (which I think are all hostedgames.org games) with the same title.

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