I’m probably dating myself. It’s not like anyone else would. (Ha ha, Zing!) When I was growing up, there was a series of books called “Choose Your Own Adventure.” As the title states, you would read part of a story and decide how the hero should proceed by turning to the corresponding page. When speaking to others on this topic, I am regaled with fond memories of this series. Somehow, I must have picked up the wrong ones as invariably I would get something like:
It was a bright sunny day as Thomas was strolling through the field. Coming to an apple tree, Thomas realized that he was feeling peckish as he had not eaten yet today. Inspecting the tree, he knew that it the limbs were heavy with Granny Smith apples; his favorite. He also knew that this tree did not belong to anyone, so indulging himself would not cause anyone else a loss.
To have Thomas eat an apple, turn to page 162.
To have Thomas decide to wait until he gets home to eat, turn to page 55.
Flips to page 162:
Thomas bites into an apple and right into a tablet of flesh-eating acid that spurt the viscous liquid directly down his throat. As he felt his insides melt, he realized that he should never have agreed to be a character in this book. He will leave only a liquefied puddle behind, the only impression he will ever leave on the world. For you see, life is harsh. One minute, you find yourself rewarded for doing what you love, something that you spent years of college to learn and toiled in obscurity until you receive some attention from a publisher. The next, you are roped into writing some pap that stupid kids keep buying, forcing you to write more. Seriously, who is reading this stuff. I can’t even put together a decent narrative flow due to the format. I hope, that is to say that Thomas hopes, you all get severe infections from paper cuts.
By the way, Thomas will fall into a diabetic coma and die if you choose to have him wait.
Many years later, though, Choice of Games’ Heroes Rise series fulfills the true promise of the Choose Your Own Adventure series in a big way. I simply cannot recommend these enough.
One thing to get out of the way though: these games are not text adventures. When I first heard of these, they were pitched as a return to this genre. I grabbed these from the reviews pile with visions of typing “go north” and “swing sword.” No, there is nary a white house or grue to be found. Instead, we are provided with true interactive novels, where you can customize your hero’s name, alter-ego, and appearance. The customization is all done in story, as well, adding to the immersion.
It is with this that I took mild mannered Goatous Sterling and his super-hero form Boregasm (it was midnight when I named him, that’s why) along his quest for justice and a little recognition. Taking place in 22nd century era Millennia City, the world is one where super heroes are common to the point that there is a strict governmental regulation system in place. Poor Goatous was the son of a famous super-hero couple that screwed up tragically when defending themselves resulting in the death of a villain. They are incarcerated for life, and Goatous is on a quest to redeem his family name. While doing this, the player will make choices of what actions to take. This is mostly done via selecting an option from multiple choices and selecting next. Obviously, you can more specifically customize certain options. For example, Boregasm’s super-hero crush resembles Christina Ricci. Your mileage may vary.
When making choices, the player must also be mindful of the hero’s current health and power status. Health depletes, of course, as he takes damage. Power is used as the hero performs special moves. Should either of these fall to zero, this super-hero yarn becomes a tragedy. They are both periodically replenished, so if the player feels that the best choice is also the most expensive, it’s still a viable option. Also, unlike the tale of poor Thomas, the player will know well in advance if a situation as gone out of control and be provided opportunity to save themselves during subsequent decisions. It’s easy to see where your hero stands with these resources by clicking the stats button.
The writing itself is well done for the goals of the game. While I wouldn’t call it elegant, the prose is meaty and fast moving. We are given just enough to paint the scene and allow the imagination fill in the rest. The balance here is fantastic. It creates a quick paced, interesting, and exciting story with plenty of twists and turns. Comic fans will find plenty to nods here; I noticed a few inside jokes and lifts from famous four color stories.
That is not to say that all is well in Millennia City. There is a serious issue with the save feature: the player only gets one. I understand that this was done by the makers so that the player owns his or her story, mistakes and all. That being said, when I wanted to show my wife this one, stalwart Boregasm had to be sacrificed. I wish the poor guy could have been set aside, but he is now lost to the ether. I consider this a pretty major faux pas.
Also, while this is on Steam, I personally feel that this game would be better played on a tablet. It’s perfect for traveling. Fortunately, it is also available on the Google Play Store, iTunes, and the Kindle Marketplace.
Barring the save file misstep, I truly believe that there is some great life here. At three dollars per episode, the gamer gets a fairly long, enthralling adventure. There are more as well, ones I will certainly check out next time I engage in long distance travel. No matter how you play it, though, Heroes Rise is certainly worth the time and money.