iPhone IF and CYOA

Two applications in the new iPhone App store caught my attention particularly: an implementation of Advent (already discussed some on RAIF), and what looked like an educational Choose Your Own Adventure book (or similar) called “The Battle of Waterloo” (from TouchTomes, by Graham Perks and Elizabeth Jones).

They’re both seriously disappointing. Advent is, I think, basically a case study in how to do an interactive fiction interface wrong on the iPhone. There’s no scrollback. The background images (of cave interiors, your feet, whatever) are distracting. The creators haven’t leveraged the game dictionary to provide helpful autocomplete for commands — something that should be possible and would make command entry considerably less laborious on this platform. Overall, yuk.

“The Battle of Waterloo” is indeed a Choose Your Own Adventure book, and is as unpredictable and surreal as the original series. Some of the outcomes lead to swift military outcomes (so swift, in fact, that it’s hard to get a clear sense of what is going on in the battle). But there are also inexplicably horror/paranormal outcomes, which make it seem more arbitrary and less like historical re-enactment. Add to that an assortment of typos and punctuation errors, badly written dialogue, maps too tiny to read (but which you can’t zoom into), and a maze for pity’s sake — and what you get is essentially a mess, something that reflects almost none of what we’ve learned in the last several decades about interactive storytelling or multimedia education.

On the positive side: I do find the iPhone screen big enough to read comfortably. There’s room for good stuff to be done for this platform. It just hasn’t happened yet.