Well, I have played the games from RomanceNovel Comp. As I decided I had more "impressions" than real critiques, this "review" is more of a free-association piece.
I liked them both, yes. They were both cute and quite amusing. Before I start commenting on the games, I would like to just say that I am quite amused at the amount of obvious judge-pandering that existed in those games. As I am one of the judges that was pandered to, I am a bit flattered. I do wonder how the one judge that wasn't pandered to felt about this, though. Unless there were references to Stiffy Makane that I might have missed?
Considering the amount of flak the romance novel genre gets from the majority of the male populace (and some females, too), I was prepared to play games satirizing the genre and poking fun. I was pleasantly surprised that the authors managed to throw in components that get mocked while maintaining a sweet, and yes, cute, facade.
Which one did I like best? I have to say my vote goes to Choose Your Own Romance. I enjoyed Forever Always, especially trying out different combinations of tartans and how people reacted to them. Yet Choose Your Own Romance was different, and refreshing. I wonder why authors like Jude Devereaux and Judith McNaught have yet to try their hand at this kind of story telling? It's quite immersive.
As I liked Choose Your Own Romance better, I am going to review Forever Always first. Fair is fair.
Forever Always gets points for having a romance-novelish author and beginning. Quite an interesting place to begin a romance novel, I thought, but as the place to drive the plot, it is quite effective. I felt the conversation was more developed and fleshed out here, (which I am sure, pleased a judge) and I felt the time constraints were quite effective. If you dawdled too long by doing extraneous things, the game would not wait for you. I found the variety offered by the different characters interesting - in a longer game, I would have wanted it to be a bit more fleshed out than just being a nice cosmetic layer for the status bar and affecting only one part of the conversation.
It would never have occured to me to try "MUSE THOUGHTFULLY" (helpfully suggested in ABOUT), and I did find the different adverbs very well handled. I found myself smiling and laughing at points, and at other points, trying to understand some of the innuendos thrown in. All in all, the game is quite comprehensive and well-done. I would not complain to having the game expanded to include more conversation options. I giggled helplessly at the TAKE command, and wondered if this was one of the judge-panderings I might have missed. I was quite disappointed that the TAKE, EAST command wouldn't let me win the game, though.
Now, with Choose Your Own Romance, I quite liked the style. It was unusual, it was refreshing. I found myself drawn in despite my attempt to be haughty about how this isn't a "real romance-novel". I was quite amused at the meandering path the game took, whether I choose to be indulgent or hasty. Each action had an appropriate Victorian era response. The attention to detail (even though the descriptions were not always as detailed as Forever Always) is quite intricate and quite flowery. The attention to what happened in the past changing the description is subtle enough that I missed it the first few times.
I liked the variety of endings. Some amusingly unromantic, some quite tragic, and a variety of happy endings. My favorite ending would be the happy ending that ended unhappily, after all.
I found the game quite immersive. I enjoy romance novels because they are fun to get caught up in. Whether it be the medium of IF or because I was choosing the options, I found myself more enthralled with the different situations I managed to get my heroine in. I do think the author enjoyed the "insanity" component a little too much though.
All in all, good job.
This article copyright © 2002, Fahmi