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Stories In Play

Choice of the Vampire: ‘…twice shy’ (part two)

As part of my daytime job, I’m required to review quite a number of different media: mostly games, film, music and books. When it comes to discerning between amateur works and professional works, I have a complex set of criteria, and one very simple one.

The simple one goes like this: ‘What!? You’re kidding me…!’

Regarding fiction, it’s a phrase I’ll mentally exclaim if something in the narrative doesn’t gel with me, or if it seems like a complete jump of logic has taken place. It can be triggered by a character acting in a way that appears to be at odds with their previous behaviour; a completely unplausible plot point; cliched devices (such as a bad guy prattling on about their plans for world domination, rather than just shooting the hero and eliminating any chance the protagonist has of escaping); or, just simply, poor writing and structure.

If I think to myself, ‘What!? You’re kidding me…!’ once in the course of a novel, I’ll treat it as an aberration; a warning bell. Twice, and I’ll be starting to question the authorship. More than twice, and there’s a very good chance I’ll stop reading whatever it is I’m reading.

Regrettably, I’m now at the point where I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve made that mental exclamation playing Choice of the Vampire.

The disappointing aspect of it all, of course, is that Choice of the Vampire is a choice-based narrative with loads going for it. It’s got vampires and New Orleans black magic. It’s got power struggles, personal temptations and some great concepts hidden in the narrative. And the writer—Jason Stevan Hill—is more than competent in sections, when he’s not tripping himself up with the ChoiceScript options.

But for me, it wasn’t enough. I’ve picked this game up and put it back down more times than I’d care to admit to. I want it to get better…I really do. But I’m continually confounded.

For the record, I’ve decided not to go into detail about the negatives. But, by way of examples, here are just some of the situations where I was left shaking my head. (Exact details may not be 100% accurate due to the inability to ‘turn back pages’.)

*Multiple spoilers*

  • I completely understand the ‘unreliable narrator’ device for setting up the story in works by Choice of Games, but using the Second Person and telling the player that they’re unreliable too…? Case in point: the narrator has me telling another character that I’ve forgotten something I should know (the effects of vampire spittle). Wait a minute…I can’t even trust my own character!? (My own self?)
  • I’m a vampire, who kills and feeds on the blood of others, attempting to hit on a voodoo priestess who is well versed in black magic, but apparently I find the concept of a man trying to communicate with his dead son ‘macabre’.
  • And following on from that point, in a later scene I’m completely outraged by the idea of some guy smuggling crops and cheating the state out of its taxes!
  • Apparently, despite having been a vampire for some time and being totally besotted with Clotho—thinking of nothing else—I don’t actually realise that my penis doesn’t ‘work’ until I’m pretty much naked and on top of her.
  • I’ve happily agreed to pay the debts of a particular man and spare him having to deal with his debtors, only to find myself (in another scene) chasing down this man’s debt-collector and beating him into submission until he agrees to extend the time the man has to pay the loan.
  • I’m dating Clotho, a voodoo priestess–well versed in everything dark and mysterious–and she doesn’t know I’m a vampire!? And that’s even after I’ve sucked her blood out of her inner thigh and done all kinds of other things. In fact, she only knows when I tell her outright, and then it’s a startling ‘revelation’ to her.
  • My one true love in this entire world is savagely killed by my maker and broodmates, and I’ve chosen to totally want revenge and justice, yet somehow the next scene has me back hanging out with them and agreeing to attend a stately reception in their company.

In fairness, I will finish Choice of the Vampire. I owe it that, particularly after devoting two posts to my disappointment with it.

Discussion

7 Responses to “Choice of the Vampire: ‘…twice shy’ (part two)”

  1. I applaud the scope attempted by Choice of Vampires, but it’s kinda self-defeating, since less-dedicated readers will be immediately overwhelmed.

    The writing is decent on a sentence level. However, there’s excruciating detail of history and New Orleans, but weak characterization and event detail. As you mentioned, the plot is illogical and confusing. There’s no immersion, no sensory richness, no sympathetic characters — or even very interesting ones.

    I hate to bash, since I’ve enjoyed past Choice of titles, and hope they can keep producing and growing their audience, but I felt Vampires wasn’t really in the spirit of previous titles. I enjoyed Choice of Romance much more.

    Posted by Horace Torys | September 21, 2010, 2:22 am
  2. @ Horace:

    Looks like I made the wrong choice. (Pun not intended, but acknowledged!) I was tossing up between buying Vampires and Romance, and I very nearly went with Romance.

    You’re spot on with your succinct review. Though I did think the relationship with Clotho could have been a fantastic paradox for the player character (despite the fact that I felt like you were pushed into that story arc.) For me, every choice in Broadsides seemed to mean something, or produce some kind of dichotomy. In Vampires the choices were poor, lacking conflict, lacking sufficient detail to make an informed choice, or seemingly redundant (eg. attacking the footman outside the seance, the decision to pay the man’s debts).

    Posted by Neophyte | September 21, 2010, 9:04 am
  3. Try the online version of Romance, and if you deem it a good story, go ahead and buy the app (or consider it paid for when you bought Vampires). Romance is less dense and funner to play through. I didn’t think it had the crispness of Broadside’s events and interactions, and might have been simplistic in places, but it did go in other interesting directions.

    Posted by Horace Torys | September 21, 2010, 5:47 pm
  4. @ Horace:

    I should. Perhaps now that I have my iPad I won’t quite feel like I’m stuck in front of my computer, sitting on a web page, for hours on end.

    Cheers!

    Posted by Neophyte | September 22, 2010, 8:56 pm
  5. “Case in point: the narrator has me telling another character that I’ve forgotten something I should know (the effects of vampire spittle). Wait a minute…I can’t even trust my own character!? (My own self?)”

    @Neophyte: Can you be more specific? I’m trying to track down the specific moment you mention here.

    Posted by Jason Stevan Hill | October 5, 2010, 7:19 am
  6. @ Jason:

    It was early on. I’ve quickly replayed the start of the game online and below is a cut-and-paste of the text.

    I know that my post contained a number of negatives, but I hope you focus on the positives, too. There’s some great writing in Choice of the Vampire, and your desire to create an epic tale is evident. Keep at it!

    The significance of Padre Carlos’s question dawning upon you–such deeds being a clear violation of the Rule of Reserve–you go pale with terror. “No, Padre Carlos! Most certainly not! I would never draw such attention to us!”

    “I thought not. After all, I did teach you how to heal the wounds that your fangs cause.”

    “You did?”

    “Of course! That is why they call it blood-spittle. When a vampire applies his blood to a mortal’s wound, it is instantly healed!”

    “Yes, you did teach me that. I’m sorry, I had forgotten,” you reply, deciding it best not to argue.

    Posted by Neophyte | October 5, 2010, 8:21 am
  7. Hah. Well, my intention there was the that the player’s maker had *not* taught the player about the blood-spittle, but, as he observes, ‘it’s best not to argue’.

    Posted by Jason Stevan Hill | October 6, 2010, 1:25 am