A fun 5-chapter choose your own HFN experience that makes you want to reread the book to fill in the missing pieces.
A couple of days ago, I saw a tweet from Nalini Singh saying that her Hard Play intro novel Cherish Hard had been adapted for an interactive game [ Apple | Android ]. Although I have constantly seen ads for Choose Your Own Adventure type romance story games, where you choose to either kiss the guy or turn him away, or you aim to ascend from servitude to sultana by seducing the right guy, I had never played one, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. It’s also been a couple years since I read Cherish Hard.
In a nutshell, the game condenses the novel into 5 chapters, so — based on my choices, at least — it ended with an HFN. Elements, including Isa’s relationships with her mother and best friend, were carried across into the game, as they furthered the romance, but Sailor was little more than the hot gardener who cared about Isa beyond their attraction. There was a lot more to him in the book, but what do you expect from only 5 chapters?
Update 18/1/20: There are another five chapters, and based on what I’ve seen of other Chapters stories since writing this review, I think we can expect to see two more weekly releases, bringing the story closer to an even 20 chapters.
The Chapters app itself was free to download and to play; however, some of the choices I might have preferred to make early cost diamonds. My limited experience with other games told me that diamonds would be rare, so I (and Isa) played it safe. Some of my choices earned me coins, and in my inexperience, I didn’t know that I could convert coins to diamonds at a 10:1 ratio. Live and learn.
Before the story began, I could choose Isa’s race, hairstyle and outfit, all for free. The artwork was pretty, and the characters almost bordered on anime in appearance. The “hot gardener” was very hot, and they kept Sailor’s ink on his shoulder. I had to keep tapping after each new sentence, and the characters ran through a small range of facial expressions and background colours to indicate tone or mood. The setpieces were very prettily done, and I have to admit that my favourite was the romantic beach after dark. The app did well with Jacqueline’s workplace — business with that touch of crafting in progress. The prose also fit Singh’s style, which I expected and wasn’t disappointed by.
There came a point where I could not accept a free choice because it didn’t fit the story and my preference, so I ended up buying some diamonds for AUD6.99, and used several on my first preferences later in the story, but still weighed up whether the option was worth the diamonds.
Something that surprised me but hadn’t occurred to me until after I finished all five chapters, was that some of the rewards included the ability to select clothes for supporting characters I never saw again. Maybe this is in case I go back in and choose the road less travelled next time?
Update 18/1/20: This turned out to be more like trading cards of the characters, and not something that is actually used within the game.
One of the issues Isa faced in the book that is briefly referenced in the game is that her ex wasn’t attracted to her curves and left her for someone slimmer, but Isa’s figure in the game is perfectly slim. I guess anything other than the size 0 she was dumped for doesn’t fit the aesthetic.
Also, the way the final chapter ended for me is Isa planning to go somewhere with a purpose, but gets distracted by Sailor and never does what she set out to do. If I hadn’t known that it was based on a fully fleshed out romance novel, I might not have noticed how much story was sacrificed for the romance. But again, what could I expect from only five chapters? The Chapters experience made me want to revisit the book to fill the pieces I know are missing.
I’ve avoided using diamonds where I could, unless the free choices were awful, such as suddenly rejecting the hero you’ve been getting to know and like, but you still need quite a few of them to play. Ultimately, you’re going to end up in roughly the same point in the story whether or not you spend the diamonds because it’s been mapped out to fill a set number of chapters
You need tickets to play the next chapter, but as a new VIP subscription player, I had a 24-hour day pass to use on one story, which allows you to read and interact with one story without tickets. You still need diamonds, and earn points on your choices. If you want to use a day pass on Cherish Hard, wait until it’s complete in two weeks.
Sometimes backgrounds are reused in other stories, such as the location of the party Isa and Nayna went to was also the location of a party in another book. It was a little jarring to see a bedroom from 1885 slightly updated with a new view out the window and reused in the 21st century. It just was not the second couple’s bedroom because the first couple had already spent so much time in it.
I’m going to keep watching to see how this plays out, and also want to read adaptations of other books I’ve enjoyed.
Overall, it’s similar to watching a movie that’s been prettily done, but if you want to get right into the story, yo can’t go past the book.