App Reviewed on: iPad 2
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In an age where literary franchises like Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey are becoming run-away successes, it is obvious that the medium is in desperate need of something new and compelling to kick start creativity. Linden Lab is hoping to do just that with the new app Versu; A groundbreaking new interactive literature platform on iOS. Can the new form of media provide phonetic freedom from the printed press, or is this another case of unnecessary advancements to a perfected genre?
Most people have consumed interactive media in some way, shape, or form, but they might not realize it. Anything from a standard role-playing game to the more literary centered, “Choose Your Own Adventure” series of novels would qualify readers as being familiar with the genre’s basic mechanics. Thankfully, the three base stories included in Versu’s initial free download also act to effectively introduce the story telling mechanics to the user.
Readers navigate their way through a narrative, using a series of different dialog choices and actions. Based on the decisions made, the software’s internal AI determines how the various non-playable characters (NPCs) will reaction to a given situation. These interactions then influence how a dialog tree can play out. Using the same advanced AI, the other NPCs in each party will also influence the mood of the collective, which further adds to the overall authenticity of the storytelling.
Featuring two smaller stories and a third, more substantial long-form adventure, each work can replayed numerous times in hopes of achieving a separate outcome. In the last story, which can last upwards of forty five minutes per session, there are a plethora of characters that could be included in the party and/or controlled by the reader, making it replayable many times over.
One last feature of note is that Versu is far more than an interactive e-reader. There will be additional novellas that appear for purchase through the in-app store at regular intervals. The development team hopes to release authoring tools to the public as well, which will allow the budding scribes amongst the population to try their hand at writing and selling their own works.
Thinking outside the box has allowed Linden Lab to bring interactive storytelling to a new generation of reader. Versu is an ambitious first step into what could be an immensely compelling new medium of literature. It is well worth the download if for no other reason than to get in on the ground floor of what could genuinely be something special down the road.