Let’s face it, sometimes winter break can feel a little monotonous. After hectic nights trying to meet deadlines, wild nights having fun with friends and adventurous explorations into the city, the lack of activity over winter break can be a stark change. But there is something I’ve found to add a little more action to those days: the Choices app by Pixelberry Studios.
As a freshman in college home on winter break, I started searching for free games on my phone to help mix up my daily routine. Since I only tried free apps, some were, let’s just say, a bit less user-friendly than I preferred. After trying app after app full of ads that crashed my phone, graphics that could do with a dose of tender-loving-care and dialogue that lacked dimension, I was getting close to giving up and returning to my typical routine of re-watching another episode of “Criminal Minds.” But then I stumbled across Choices.
Choices is an app available for both the Google Play store and the Apple store that is full of various interactive visual novels. The app works by having you pick any one of their “books,” whose genres range from romance to horror to mystery, and create your character. You get to customize the name, appearance, clothing, gender and orientation of your avatar. Varied skin tones, hair types, and clothing styles are available to really help you feel connected to the character you customized. You then go through the book making “choices” along the way that cause the novel to advance in the direction in which you took it. A dedicated user for the last three years, it is safe to say I am a fan of the app.
One of my favorite aspects of Choices is you never have to spend money on it and still have fun. Every time you read a chapter of a book, you use one key. Keys renew every two hours up to a maximum of two keys. Each chapter tends to constitute around 15 to 30 minutes of game play, much more than similar apps, such as Episode, and perfect if you need something to occupy your time.
There are ads, but they are infrequent and only appear in a maximum of 30-second intervals every so often when you start a chapter. The graphics are also well-done and clear in comparison to other apps I have tried. Faces are unique, and color schemes and backgrounds are just as detailed. Everything in Choices moves fluidly with the combination of visuals and text working to create a complete story.
In that light, another element I love about Choices is their stories. New books and series come out regularly, providing many options to choose from. Unlike Episode and other similar apps where stories are created by amateur users, Choices employs a team of writers solely dedicated to delivering the most entertaining plots they can. Stories pull the reader in, causing time that may have dragged on previously to pass in an instant. There have been times when I get so invested in a story that I’m shocked to realize an hour has passed in an instant.
For example, the “Endless Summer” series follows a group of college students who end up stranded on an island full of unexpected hurdles that keep readers on the edge of their seats. My favorite series on Choices, Endless Summer combines adventure, mysticism, romance and action all into one story where I get to choose the outcome. And don’t forget, it’s all free.
Choices takes their books so far in complexity they even allow you to import your decisions from previous books to the next in a series. The app releases its new books in weekly chapters, motivating you to remember to log back in to get your latest fix on your favorite story. Every time you start a new book, the app asks if you want to use your choices from the last book or start anew.
One of their series, “The Freshman,” I have actually been playing since I was a freshman in college. A junior now, I have followed the heart-warming series about a regular college student who just wants to have a good time with her friends through four different series as they have been gradually released. I played “The Freshman” as a freshman, “The Sophomore” as a sophomore and “The Junior” as a junior, and am currently saving the recently released book “The Senior” for my senior year. I played the series importing my decisions as the life of my character grew in time with the growth I was experiencing in college. Even though I was quite busy during the school year, I would always try and play a chapter or two to end the night on a peaceful, refreshing note.
While Choices is free and it is completely unnecessary to make purchases to enjoy the app, there are options to purchase items if you want to add to your experience. With each book being part of a series that can be as many as four books longs, you may feel the need to buy more keys if you don’t want to wait for yours to renew to read the next chapter. Choices provides the option of buying more in different bundles that cost between $2 for five keys and $40 for 150. Needless to say, there are a few times I was so eager to read the next chapter I may have purchased an extra key or two.
Choices offers “diamonds” as well. Throughout the stories you will come across decisions that cost diamonds. They can be anything from buying a new outfit to a tricked-out weapon to even just a special scene with your love interest. Diamonds are given to you every time you complete a chapter and if you watch an optional ad afterward, you receive an extra one. Diamonds can also be purchased in packs anywhere from 20 for $2 and 1,500 for $100.
The good news is diamonds are not required at all for the story to progress in a way that is still exciting. While they may be able to provide extra perks for your character, you really do not need them. It can be a little difficult to pass up a cool-looking tool or two I’ll admit, but my trick is to shut my eyes and quickly click through any cut-scenes about diamond choices. You can’t be tempted by what you don’t see!
All in all, Choices is a free app that acts like anything but. Instead of just lying in bed bored, it allows me to spend my time riding dragons or living on a cruise or even pulling off a criminal heist. For a total cost of $0.00, doesn’t that seem like a good time to you?