Between LongStory and Life is Strange I now have more high school drama in my life than I ever did when I was in high school.
And I’m totally OK with that.
If you’re unfamiliar with the title, LongStory: A Dating Game for the Real World is an episodic dating game from Bloom Digital Media in Toronto. The first episode – Locker 1224 – became an unexpected hit with more than 100,000 downloads when it debuted in March 2014, while the he second episode, Hanna’s Notebook, launched yesterday on iOS and Android before heading to PAX East in March.
The timing couldn’t be more fortuitous with Valentine’s Day right around the corner. LongStory was designed to be as inclusive as possible, giving players complete control over their sexual preferences and gender identities as they navigate the usual assortment of interpersonal teenage conflicts. In that regard the game is a success. The narrative has a lot of mystery and ambiguity – it is a dating sim – but there’s barely any judgment (and none from the game itself) as the characters react to various events.
It helps that LongStory has some of the sharpest, most believable in-game dialogue in recent memory, all of which bolsters the narrative and thematic undercurrents. I wouldn’t quite call it realistic – one character is dressed like a sports mascot – but the tone is breezy, the characters are fun, and the whimsical humor is charmingly sincere. I enjoyed learning about the people at the unfortunately named Weasel Heights High School, and I’ll happily be going back for more.
So if you don’t have any other romantic plans for the weekend, LongStory is an exceptional alternative. In fact, I’d say it’s worth checking out even if you won’t be canceling those dinner reservations. It has a powerful message about empathy and the potential to appeal to audiences of all ages and persuasions, making it the latest in a long string of noteworthy titles delivered by thriving Toronto developers.
The first episode of LongStory is available for free, so there’s no risk if you want to give it a try before making a decision about episode 2. The soundtrack is also available on BandCamp.