Let me quickly summarize myself. I’m a normal 33 year old guy who is happily married to a great woman, has a decent job and owns a house including a slightly overweight cat. I act my age (most of the time) and I embrace life’s responsibilities whole heartedly. Add a passion for music (read: I’m a singer / guitar player), tech (#pcmasterrace) and gaming as icings on the cake. All-in all, I would dare say I’m your average Joe. On the other hand, I am not the target group for a mobile game like Choices: Stories You Play. All the more reason to give it a shot!
choices: stories you play
Out of toilet boredom, I recently downloaded a game on my smartphone called Choices: Stories You Play by Pixelberry Studios. C:SYP is basically a collection of interactive (comic) books in which you play a single or multiple characters. In other words, role playing.
There is wide variety of books to choose from; some are romantic, some are scary, some contain puzzle elements and there is also a Game of Thrones-like fantasy book. Basically there is something for everyone. However, I have noticed that most stories have a female main character, making me assume that young women are the target group for this game.
Every book is split up into chapters that will give you about 15 minutes of gameplay depending on how quick you read. The number of chapters in a book is different, but I would say the average chapter count is about 15. A whole book would then take about 4 hours to complete.
Throughout each chapter, different dialogue options pop up. Agreeing or disagreeing with someone is an example. The way you react influences the relationship you have with someone. Based on the choices you make, you push the story into a certain direction. It’s a simple concept.
The story I first selected is called The Freshman. In short: it is a coming of age story of a young woman who attends her first year in college. Here she will meet new friends, fall in love, try to fit in and make a big amount of choices. Although the story is extremely predictable due to the abundance of clichés, it is still enjoyable if you are able to look past this. I’m sure some people will complaint that the #socialjusticewarrior sauce is a bit too much due to the extreme political correctness of the characters in terms of race, gender and sexuality. Out of your five housemates two are gay, two are not Caucasian, there is one nice sports guy, one computer nerd, one musician, one party-goer, one introvert bookworm, the privileged student with rich parents is black instead of white and so on. It didn’t bother me, but it’s clear the writers did not want to step on anyone’s toes here.
Ignoring the bit I previously wrote, I dived into role playing as a young woman in her freshman year in college. I soon got to learn my roomies who quickly became my besties. I met my two male love interests. One jock and one rich guy who is an aspired writer. Decided to turn down their flirts. I made enemies with the popular sorority girls. Found out my dad lost his job and couldn’t pay for my tuition, causing me write about my life for money for a literature professor who has some sick fetish. Turned my love interests down again. My cute, sweet and fun bestie Kaitlyn turns out to be a lesbian and fancy me. Decided to f**k it all and turn lesbian myself. Rejected my male love interests for the sixth time. Enjoyed my lesbian relationship with the best girlfriend ever. Best choice I ever made. Turned down the flirts of the persistent male love interests yet another time. And then Kaitlyn and I got the lead roles in a play and we are supposed to kiss during the grand finale! But her parents are going to be there! And…
S**t! I got hooked to this thing! I actually noticed my real-life self started to really like this fictional Kaitlyn character. Kaitlyn got stuck in my head and I had a hard time waiting for the keys to generate and play the next chapter. Imagine how I felt when she needed some time away from me because she was afraid to come out to her parents! Like, omg! I was almost depressed! Thank God the writers allowed us to get back together! I almost wished she was real, just so I could hang out with her. I’d say it’s a big compliment to the writers.
Starting chapters costs you keys, one each. When you want to replay a chapter you have already completed, you will still need spend a key. Out of keys? Then you cannot start a chapter. New keys are automatically generated, one every two hours. The problem is the limit. You can only stock up two keys, which is obviously not that much. Want more keys? Then pay up!
Also, every chapter has premium content which you can unlock with diamonds (not keys). For example: you will get the question whether you want to go on a date with your love interest. It will give you the opportunity to get to know him / her better, but it comes at a price. Going on this date will cost you about 25 diamonds. Depending on how zealously you bought them, a diamond will cost you about €0,10. In other words, this date will cost you €2,50. Personally, I think this is a crazy amount of money due to the limited amount of extra gameplay (about 5 – 10 minutes) it will give you.
On top of that, you can also dress up. Yes, you can change your appearance. At the start of a new book you can choose your face and hair, but you can also change your clothes during the game. Some basic clothes are for free, but the more premium outfits come at a price. The clothes actually impact the story as well. Want to impress your friend’s rich parents? Better dress up according, otherwise they might reject you. Imagine showing up in the wrong clothes, omg! Alas, new attire don’t come cheap. They will cost you 25 diamonds each.
You can also earn diamonds, instead of buying them. You get one diamond after finishing a chapter. There are two problems with this. First of all, it takes about 15 minutes to earn one diamond. Second, finishing a chapter will only give you a diamond once. Replaying it won’t give you another diamond. So you would need to keep playing different books and different chapters to earn diamonds.
This all leads to a rather absurd situation. A book can consist of 15 chapters. Every chapter has at least one premium content option with a 20 diamonds value. Every book has about 15 different premium outfits with a value of 20 diamonds each. Applying simple mathematics, you will need around 600 diamonds (worth about €60) to fully unlock a book. It is simply impossible to earn a useful amount of diamonds, even if you are into grind festing. If you want to enjoy C:SYP to the max, you will have to dig in your wallet and dig very, very deep.
I’m amazed that I got hooked to this story so bad. All the more because I’m neither a teenager anymore nor am I girl that is into these kind of stories. Au contraire. It’s almost scary that a fictional character got stuck in my head like this. But I guess that’s a big compliment for the writers. So Pixelberry, my sincere compliments! On top of that, whatever your opinion about the quality of the content, Pixelberry does offer a ton of (different) content / books. New chapters and books are released every week. So it’s hard to run out things to do. Another big compliment to Pixelberry in terms of content.
The books I played had some really good graphics. I understand it´s not a 3D spectacle, but the backgrounds, people and expressions are solid. They really amplify the story. There are no sounds, but there is music. It´s simple, but the tunes work. They actually stick into your head. To be honest, I am actually thinking of making a real song out of one of the tunes. When it happens, I will let you know.
The biggest negative feedback I have is the ridiculous pricing. It is simply way too expensive. Asking €2,50 for an outfit or five minutes of premium content is simply too much. Some chapters have multiple premium options, costing you €10 to experience the whole chapter. Which is absurd for 20 minutes of gameplay. Even more bothersome is the fact that you can´t properly earn diamonds. Replaying a chapter should earn you a diamond as well and even then collecting 25 diamonds would be a massive job.
Looking forward to playing future chapters of The Sophomore (the sequel to The Freshman) and everything that comes after. As long as Kaitlyn is my girlfriend of course!
- simply entertaining to play the stories
- graphics are really good for this comic style
- the music is good, it really sets the mood, but the loops aren’t very neat
- loads of (different) content and new content released weekly
- Kaitlyn! Kaitlyn! Kaitlyn!
- ridiculously expensive to do extras
- even earning diamonds by grinding is impossible
- stories aren’t particularly original