Tricks and Treats

You might remember that a few weeks ago I posted about a project a friend of ours is doing, called Midnight Murder Party. It’s sort of like a serialized novel, but has elements of the visual novel and webcomic mediums (in text form, though). It’s quite good, and I’m not just saying that as a friend, but as a fellow writer and horror fan.

The reason I’m talking about it again is because a Halloween special was just released, and it’s different from anything else in the series so far. It’s also extreme ambitious and deserves to be reviewed on its own.

If you grew up in the 90’s and early 2000’s, you’re probably familiar with “choose your own adventure” books. They existed before then, I think, but the Goosebumps ones that came out during that period were easily the most popular and best remembered in the genre. If you don’t know what they are, they’re novels that, instead of reading linearly, offer you different choices at various points which effect the story, by redirecting you to different parts of the book with different story elements. There are multiple endings and story paths, which means there’s a lot of opportunity and reason to reread them and make new choices. The Midnight Murder Party Halloween special takes up this tradition in spectacular style.

The good thing about the Internet is that you can do a lot more with it than you can with physical media. So interactive stories like this can actually be even better on a computer. There’s background music, for instance, and the story advances with animated text boxes that fade in and slide up (I know that’s kind of vague but you’ll understand what I mean when you check it out). The whole experience feels very dynamic and it’s a lot of fun — and a lot easier than flipping through a book to various pages, going back and forth all over the place. Also you can easily reread what you’ve already done by just scrolling up — a nice improvement over flipping blindly through a book until you find the right page.

Honestly I think what impresses me most is the whole concept of the “choose your own adventure” story. I wouldn’t even know where to begin with writing something like that, and keeping track of all the paths and everything would just be a nightmare. It seemed like a huge undertaking reading them when I was young, and it still does now that I’m older and actually know someone who’s done it. Granted I don’t think this would be as long as the Goosebumps ones, but it’s pretty substantial.

And that’s what makes it such a strong piece of fiction. There’s a lot here to explore. There’s even an underlying morality system, which means you’ll get to find out at the end if you’re a jerk or not — and there are multiple levels of niceness/jerkiness, not just “good” and “bad.” The amount of choices is a little overwhelming at times, but only in the sense that you feel like there’s just so much to do and you don’t want to just pick one. Which is why you can replay it as many times as you want, of course.

I can’t lie, I spent probably about an hour playing through it and trying all the different options, and I think I covered everything and got all the endings. There might be a few combinations of choices I didn’t try but I don’t think they were anything that would lead to different endings. And I was talking with the creator while doing this, and he didn’t say there were any more endings I was missing, which is a good sign.

Most importantly, it’s a lot of fun. There’s humor, there’s solid writing, and while it’s a simple story, that’s actually a really good thing. You don’t want a story with so many choices to get overly complex, or else it becomes tedious to play it again and again to find all the endings and paths. It’s just a fun Halloween adventure. And it’s also an easy way to get the trick-or-treating experience without having to leave your couch. Bonus!

If you haven’t figured it out now, I’m highly recommending you check this out. Halloween is only a few days away, after all, and what better way to get in the spirit of the holiday than by going trick-or-treating with everyone’s favorite creepy party host, Arlene?

You can check out the special here, the regular story here, and like us on Facebook here.

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