Maybe I can still tell someone my story
LongStory is an episodic choose-your-own adventure/dating game set in a high school. The game is queer friendly, with five romanceable characters (two female, two male, and one other). The first episode is available through the Google Play and Apple app stores and can be completed in about one long-ish sitting, depending on your reading speed and your propensity for analysis paralysis.
In LongStory you play as a young woman just starting school at a small town after a year abroad in France. However, once you arrive at Weasel Heights you must traverse social situations, deal with your potential attraction to classmates, and unravel the mystery of the previous tenant of your locker.
LongStory bills itself as a game that encourages healthy relationships and behaviors to prevent bullying and harassment. While that may sound like a PSA, in practice it seems to mean that you’re not expected to fall in love with the guy who’s being a total jerk to your character. There is the tough guy, smoking kid from Dubai who is a bit of an ass, but when he apologizes it feels earnest. He was having a bad day, and he’s sorry for taking it out on you. Your relationships in LongStory are not patterned after Bella and Edward.
Often times in high school simulations across all media, bullies are depicted as psychotic denizens of Hell. Perhaps this is because the high school bullies we remember have been magnified by the lens of time, but in reality few of your high school enemies were ever Disney villains. Characters like “the Law” in Video Game High School are interesting, but they don’t feel real. In contrast, LongStory’s current villains HanniferJane feel both tied to the pop culture sensibilities of highschool while still be authentic. They’re the three-headed-hydra of mean girls, but they’re not actual monsters. They’re a piece to the puzzle for why LongStory feels like a high school experience.
Interaction in LongStory is dictated by picking from a selection of options. Occasionally it felt like the options were limited to specific emotions I didn’t feel, but that’s the nature of a choose-your-own-adventure story. One of my favorite segments involved texting your home-school friend Nora. When texting, you get the same dialogue options as you would in a standard conversation, but it’s presented as a phone screen. It’s difficult to quantify, but the input feels right in a lot of ways, like a real world conversation. Those texts were some of my favorite in game interactions, and went a long way towards who I “picked” as my love interest.
It’s worth noting that dating simulations are difficult for me. I played through the three Mass Effect games, and managed to awkwardly not seduce anyone. Apparently my Commander Shepard was too awkward to properly flirt. However, LongStory managed to make talking to your classmates feel organic enough that romancing was easily done or avoided.
My major strike against LongStory is the “episodic” aspect of the game. A lot of games seem to be heading towards a more episodic model, from Telltale’s Walking Dead and Fables game to Double Fine’s Broken Age. It’s a cheap trick in some ways, but a lot of episodic games end each episode with a cliffhanger. The intention is to invite the reader back, to keep them wondering about the next installment. This is where LongStory falls flat. For me, the ending just cut off. The credits rolled. I was left confused. Did I miss a big moment about Em’s secret? Did I get a love note from one of my admirers? Nothing. I simply have to wait til August to read the next installment.
I’m concerned that in a bid for authenticity, the developers might have left drama at the door. The game is still definitely worth a play through (and it’s free) and you can find out more at the LongStory website.