August 7th, 2012 | By Meg Stivison
Heroes Rise: The Prodigy is an interactive fiction game for PC, Kindle, iOS, Android, and Linux. You play as a young would-be hero, in the Powered world of Millennia City, but when the game opens, you are an underpaid, part-time videogame tester, so low-level the execs don’t even know your name. (I’ve actually been in that position, and I loved the industry nod from author Zachary Sergi.) Since your famous Powered parents were jailed after a botched operation, you’ve been living quietly with your gardening Grandma, under an assumed name. But all that will change when you get your hero’s license….
The game is a text-based adventure, using ChoiceScript, in the vein of Choice of Romance, and Choice of the Vampire. I love interactive fiction games. I’ve played a lot of Adventure, Zork, and similar text-only games, so I’ve spend a lot of time trying to open doors with Use Key, Turn Key, Unlock Door, and Use Key With Lock where Use Key In Door was required. ChoiceScript, though, avoids the most frustrating part of IF games by providing multiple choice options instead of asking users to enter text.
Heroes Rise presents a scene, with full descriptions and developed characters, and asks the player how they react to that scene. Do you want to fight defensively, offensively, or with total disregard for any collateral damage? Do you want to work with the police or avoid them? Be polite or a brat? Do you follow the laws for Powered heroes all of the time, or only when they line up with your plans anyway, or do you and your Powers deliberately flout the laws of basic humans?
Good gameplay has been described as “a series of interesting decisions”, and Heroes Rise moves beyond an electronic version of a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book by asking players about their motivations as they make choices. Are you taking this on to rid the world of evil, get revenge, make money or get famous? This aspect makes it easier to connect with one’s character, and adds to that willing suspension of disbelief that all good superhero stories require.
Identifying with one’s character is quite easy, after you’ve chosen your name and gender, customized your herosuit and powerset, and chosen a personality for your omnipresent MeChip virtual assistant. You also impact interpersonal relationships by the dialogue you choose, making the characters and relationships so much more engaging.
My only complaint is a common ChoiceScript annoyance. I couldn’t find anyway to save the game partway through, besides leaving open the browser window in which I was playing the game, an inelegant but effective workaround. It’s not always practical to play through in one sitting. I was also frustrated when I got to particularly interesting narrative forks, and wanted to save the game at that point, and try the second one later. It didn’t seem like fun to try to remember everything I’d done to get to this stage in order to recreate my existing game, and then try the other choice.
Overall, Heroes Rise: The Prodigy is a great interactive superhero adventure story. With the Kindle or iPad edition, this is a grown-up and streamlined version of a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure paperbacks we read in grade school.