He walks back over to you, smiling. “You have heard of vampires, haven’t you?”
You nod your head. “Sure, I’ve read some of the girly romance books, watched a few movies. Why?”
“They’re real. And they live right here in Lily Valley. They must be stopped. And it’s up to us to stop them.”
Reading Strange Loves Vampire Boyfriends is a bit like falling into a personal time machine and traveling back to my own head space as a teenager. It calls to mind moments of lying on my stomach, lights out except for a side lamp, reading until the sky was beginning to blush with the rise of the morning sun. It’s that kind of guilty pleasure, like popcorn movies and TV shows about teenage werewolves.
Tin Man and Gamebook Adventures have a business of making the kind of pulpy choose-your-own-adventure games that wouldn’t be out of place in the back of a bookstore. Vampire Boyfriends is the first in a short series of games that focus on supernatural romances. The second person book is written with an eye towards pop-culture, and while likening it to the high-camp of something like Lollipop Chainsaw (as one Android commenter did) is a bit far, it certainly is aware of it’s roots. Under certain paths, you are every bit the action-packed, high-kick giving, crossbow toting Buffy clone that you’d ever dreamed of. It’s self aware, but not patronizing. It knows that it’s audience is familiar with similar works – Twilight, Vampire Diaries, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer to name a few — and it name drops them with abandon.
The story is light and funny, the commands simple and intuitive. It is an excellent introduction to text-style adventure games for the vampire-romance loving set in that regard. To select your path, simply choose between a couple of pre-determined options. Closed paths are labeled red, open paths are labeled green. The bookmarking system, once properly utilized, is an excellent and intuitive system for returning back to previous points especially if you are prone to death (I am). For the most part, Vampire Boyfriends operates like a traditional e-reader, except you get to pick your college major and who you’re going to love.
The writing is uninspired, and in many regards calls to mind Buffy fanfiction. It relies heavily on tropes, and your character falls madly in love with every single male character she meets. As with any supernatural romance on TV, every man in her life pops fully formed from the gentleman model club, and it felt like I (the player) had to restrain her at every turn from making out with them. The other issue is that while the character is written in the second person and seems to be intended to operate as an audience stand-in, her behavior was so erratic that it felt like I was reigning in a teenager rather than a senior in college.
However, there were moments where I was genuinely amused, and I managed to complete the game in three different and distinct ways before closing the program. The writing can be tongue and cheek, and when it manages to catch you off guard the experience can be incredibly rewarding.
For a light read, a reminiscence towards late night YA in high school, or a simple guilty pleasure Strange Loves Vampire Boyfriends is an interesting experience. It is available from the Gamebook Adventures website, as well as the iOS and Android marketplace.