Version Reviewed: 1.3.3
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Interactive novels are really the "Choose Your Own Adventures" of the 21st century, and it's only right for these new age novels to be on the iPhone. The interactive novel genre certainly isn't new to the App Store, but Cause of Death is the first truly ambitious one, and is also the first (to my knowledge) interactive novel to come from video game powerhouse EA.
The novel experience itself is very well made, and quite original, but the real point of interest is that EA is planning on releasing the Cause of Death series in weekly installments. I'm not entirely sure how the pricing will work in the future, but as of now the system works (and is modeled after) television programming. Each week you can tune into the newest chapter in the "Now Airing" section, but if you want to play another chapter you have to purchase it in the "On Demand" section. Each chapter costs 99 cents if played out of order or ahead of time (they are available a week early, but are free if you can wait), and if the first chapter was any indication, they will take a few hours to get through.
Aside from the plot (which you will like if you like CSI type shows), the "game" finally gets the interactive experience down right. Instead of relying on gimicky pattern matching or beat tapping, Cause of Death forces you to use your noggin to solve crimes. The dialogue trees all contain right and wrong answers, and at the end of the mini chapters give you a total score. While you can get through parts of the game without paying attention, some of the final puzzles require you to type out answers that could only be derived from clues that you find. If you do well throughout the game, you're also treated to bonus scenes that set up the following weeks chapter. The combination of the smart, diverse dialogue and the ability to earn your teaser trailer made the game command attention without relying on the strange fast twitch mechanics that some of the other interactive novels use.
While it probably won't be of much interest to those who aren't interested in reading, Cause of Death is definitely the best interactive novel that I've come across in the App Store. It's fairly smart, flows nicely, and most importantly, is fun. If you enjoy a good read or are a fan of crime stories, be sure to check out Cause of Death.