Some of you might have heard of Choice of Games. They're a company that produces text-based interactive fiction games, using a programming language that they created. They also allow users to utilize this language to make their own games, letting developers to make their own games and have them hosted on the Choice of Games website in exchange for a share of the profits. This site was where I played my first fully text-based game: Paranoia.
You play as a man suffering from paranoid delusions who was recently diagnosed and given medicine by a doctor. However, you're hesitant to take the prescribed medication, as you worry that your doctor may be out to kill you. At first glance it seems like this is just the paranoia talking...until a little research reveals that you have very good reason to be suspicious. But how do you get the word out? And how do you survive in the meantime?
Gameplay consists entirely of making choices regarding what to do each day. One of the most important daily choices is whether or not to take your medication. Taking it lowers your paranoia, which helps keep you sane, but if the doctor is not to be trusted, his prescriptions may not be either. Not taking your medicine increases your paranoia, and if it gets too high, you run the risk of game over by man in white coat.
Whichever way your mental state goes, it can affect your available choices and how you view them, sometimes adding a choice or taking one away depending on the situation. For example, letting your paranoia get too high will prevent you from taking your medicine at all, and at that point, the game is sure to tell you, you're pretty much screwed. Touches like this make the writing stand out. The game does a good job of making you feel what it might be like to be trapped in this situation. Your character is completely right to be paranoid about the doctor, but who's going to believe you?
The game is rather short, and once you've figured out the path to victory, replayability goes out the window. But for a free story game, there isn't much else to ask for. And it's a great way to introduce someone to the interactive fiction genre; it's the game that got me so excited about the concept, after all.
Paranoia is available for free download on the iOS Store and the Android Market, and available to play in browser at Choice of Games.
Final verdict: A short yet enjoyable experience with a gripping story and excellent writing, good for introducing a new player to interactive fiction.
Paranoia is written by Kie Brooks, designed and developed by Dan Fabulich, and distributed by Choice of Games. The opinions expressed in this review are my own. I was not compensated for this review in any way.