Ever wished you could craft your own genre narrative in the vein of books like Game of Thrones, or Twilight, or The Princess Diaries, where the story tailors itself to the decisions you make?
Well, turns out there’s a game for that.
Choices: Stories You Play, a mobile narrative portal from California-based Pixelberry Studios, is the app for those of us who don’t just want to read our adventures, crime mysteries, horror stories or romances but play through them as well. With narratives you can download (referred to as “books” you can add to your “shelf”), you can immerse yourself in stories about all kinds of entertaining characters. It all depends on what kind of genre you’re in the mood for.
If you’ve always been a little bit envious of Mia Thermopolis, Choices’ “Royal Romance” books follow the adventures of a character of your crafting—you pick everything from hairstyle to complexion to name—as they find themselves unexpectedly falling head-over-heels for Liam, the Crown Prince of Cordonia. But will your romance blossom with actual royalty, or will you find love elsewhere? One of the upsides of Choices is that you have the option to pair your character off with several different characters, and no two storylines will be the same. If you want to fall in love with the Crown Prince’s surly best friend, that option is available as well. There are diverse romance options—you can pick what you want “your” prince to look like, if you so desire. That’s the best part about this game, and why the name itself is so apropos: everything is up to you.
If you’re looking for something a little spookier but with an underlying current of romance, the ongoing “Bloodbound” is also a fun narrative to play through. You make decisions in the game as the potential assistant for a mysterious executive named Adrian, who at one point is revealed to be a (gasp) vampire. Once you learn his secret, you have to face the unexpected consequences of being pulled into the world of the supernatural—and your choices don’t always affect only you, but those closest to you as well. Think Twilight meets Fifty Shades of Grey (lol, the irony) but without the problematic undertones.
You don’t necessarily have to pick a romance to play, either. Choices also offers thrilling adventure series like a Game of Thrones-esque "The Crown & The Flame", in which exiled queen Kenna and the mysterious Dom must organize an army to take back their kingdom. There's also "Hero," where you’re the superhero tasked with keeping your city safe; "Endless Summer," in which a tropical paradise island holds plenty of secrets, or one of my recent personal favorites called "It Lives in the Woods," where you and a group of your friends must face something old, powerful and scary living outside your small town; and the list goes on. There's also the occasional fun crossover hidden within each book, so characters you've grown to know and love from "The Royal Romance" might show up in "The Rules of Engagement," for example.
Choices is free to play, but there are some drawbacks. Unlocking new chapters in each book requires a “key,” and the app caps them at two with a two-hour load time to get more—but if you’re like me and get horribly addicted to playing after a while, you might appreciate the intervals so you don’t wind up spending your whole day in the game. You can also purchase additional story options like clothing and dates using the in-game currency of diamonds, but they aren’t essential to making your way through the “book.” Consider them more of a fun bonus (though I’ll admit to having spent some dollars to buy some diamonds in bulk in order to unlock the choices I want). The app does allow you to earn diamonds with every completed chapter, and you can watch brief ads in order to unlock more if you don’t want to drop the cash. If anything, it’s made me more deliberate about what I use my diamonds on. Dressing your character in the latest duds may not be a priority when you know there’s going to be an opportunity to get them some quality time with their love interest further into the story. Pixelberry has confirmed that they’re currently looking into more ways for players to earn extra diamonds in future updates of the app.
Choices is definitely more of an adult game, although Pixelberry has also developed the kid-friendly Hollywood U and High School Story, the latter of which has been praised for its tackling of important issues like bullying, body image, and eating disorders. Since their launch, they’ve also partnered with the Cybersmile Foundation, donating over $350,000 to help combat cyberbullying, as well as the National Eating Disorders Association. (So, really, all those diamonds are going to a good cause!) Ultimately, for what you get out of it, Choices is a thoroughly enjoyable mobile game that already has a ton of fun stories, diverse avatars, and entertaining twists—with more content coming out all the time. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go play through the next chapter.