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Author: David Whyld
Reviewed by The Xenographer
"Choices" is a game that doesn't seem to know what it wants to be. Is it a lighthearted, sexy piece following the misadventures of a teenager who really wants to get into her teacher's pants (but will take anyone else she can get along the way)? Or is it a more serious drama about said teenager's crumbling home life and said teacher's terrible secret? I really don't know. There is nothing wrong in principle with having some serious plot along with your porn (nor yet with having sex scenes in your serious drama), but in this case the different tones of the various scenes did not mesh well, resulting in an odd and disconcerting sort of mood whiplash.
One problem that this causes is with the sexual abuse/blackmail storyline. Was that supposed to be portrayed as titillating (as indeed the heroine seems to find it at times), or was it supposed to be horrifying? It came off different ways in different scenes, with the result that it was hard to take fully seriously, but also made the sex scenes with the teacher (and possibly her sister) at the end fairly uncomfortable. It is quite possible that the game was simply written for people who enjoy fictional depictions of rape, which is not at all my kink -- so it may just be that I'm having problems with it because it isn't aimed at me. All I can say is that the handling of that storyline definitely did not work for me.
As for the heroine's troubles at home, they seem intended to offer the reader insight into who she is and why she acts as she does. It doesn't quite work, however, as it's all very trite and the characterizations of her family members never rise above the level of two-dimensional caricatures: Alcoholic Dad, Catty Mom, Delinquent Brother (with bonus Creepy Uncle in one scene). The heroine's insecurities about her sexuality, meanwhile, also suffer from the game's sexy/serious dichotomy: why is someone who doesn't want anyone to know she's gay trying to seduce any girl or woman who looks at her? It's a wonder her secret didn't get out a long time ago (although to be fair to the game, no one who finds out seems especially surprised by it).
It's not a terrible game; the choose-your-own-adventure format is fun and not something you see often, and aside from a few typos/misspellings the quality of the prose is generally good. There are a number of lines that are quite funny, often in a darkly sarcastic sort of way. It's just that all things considered, I think the game would have been better off if it had abandoned all pretenses of having a plot that deals with Important Issues and embraced its gratuitously sexy nature, or if it had put a little more effort into portraying those Important Issues with sensitivity and nuance.
Reviewed by Grimm Sharlak
You play Melissa, a lesbian schoolgirl who has found herself utterly head over heels for her teacher, Miss Harris. The game details Melissa’s lusting after Miss Harris and attempts to woo her, with a few side trips along the way, before you learn the dark truth behind Miss Harris…
I’ve always been a big fan of Choose Your Own Adventure, etc, and it was great to see an AIF game along those lines. There is no pointless wandering, guess the verb or overly difficult puzzles. This reduces game time by quite a large amount (thanks to the UNDO command, you can try every option at every branch with little consequence) but also makes for a fun, frustration-free game experience. The plot is a solid little thriller, with interesting subplots thrown in: Melissa’s parents and brother all have little plots of their own, not to mention targets for Melissa’s sexual advances outside of Miss Harris.
The only real letdown for me was the sex. While after five or so playthroughs I never obtained full points (or the “good score” of 60+), I did see every ending, and quite frankly the sex was a bit lacking. Still, this game is truly AIF – there are scenes of violence alongside the eroticism to ensure that even without the sex this ain’t for kids. However, when the ‘best’ ending is a sex scene only a paragraph longer than the ‘good’ ending, which wasn’t too long to begin with, a player can be left feeling a little disappointed. More on this in a moment.
As mentioned, Choices plays like an electronic Choose Your Own Adventure novel. Aside from being able to look, the player can only select from a number of options at certain points, which determines their score and the path they take through the game.
This leads to a very streamlined experience, as a player need only take note of what they chose the first time through and choose other things (and other combinations of options) to see all the game has to offer. Some may decry the lack of control, but I enjoyed it, especially considering that in the end you can only perform tasks the programmer included in any game. However it shortens the play time, and in some cases none of the options lead to good outcomes, but that goes with the genre.
All in all, easy to play and fun as well.
Much like David Whyld’s previous entry into AIF, To Score or Not to Score, the sex is somewhat lacking. The ‘best’ ending in the game provides a few paragraphs-long scene, with no interaction whatsoever, and the same goes for both the ‘good’ and ‘moderate’ endings. While what is there is solid, it lacks the interactivity and length that gamers may have come to expect from AIF.
I much would’ve preferred for the choices format to continue, so the player could direct the sex scene, going from one piece of it to the next, to at least allow some interactivity and lengthen the scene somewhat. Instead all the sex scenes in the game lack detail (there are some during the game, in addition to those at the endings) and are over quite quickly. Some may prefer it over jumping through hoops to guess what to rub or lick next, but I thought that if David toned it down just a touch, he could probably submit this game as straight IF!
If the point of the game had been to just complete it, this wouldn’t be so much of an issue. However, when you finish the game the first time (regardless of how) you are told of a moderate, good and best ending. And since these sex scenes are touted as the reward for a job well done, they could leave the player feeling somewhat let down. Still, as I said earlier they are solid and do have their moments.
Since David Whyld has released a second version (the one reviewed here) with a fix of the only bug found, this reviewer didn’t find a single problem with the game. This is mostly due to the Gamebook format, but ensuring that the game kept track of each choice made (as early choices affect later choices) is a good effort and works quite well.
Some may feel that some choices aren’t influenced by what you see earlier in the game, but I found the flow of the game to be quite good.
The long and the short of it is that I thoroughly enjoyed Choices. David Whyld brings not only some decent writing to his games but a good sense of humour as well. The only drawback is the somewhat short sex scenes, which in the age of A. Bomire and Chris Cole leave the player feeling a bit let down. Still, a great effort.
Reviews should be considered copyrighted by their respective authors.
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