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Review: Chroniric XIX – a fun, interactive narrative adventure

Developer: Chroniric
Price: $3/£3
Size: 155MB
Version: 1.1
Platform: iPhone & iPad

Get Chroniric XIX

Narrative-driven games have found a welcoming new home on iPhone and iPad. These compact, intimate devices are perfect for dipping into all forms of interactive fiction.

Chroniric XIX is a game that takes a similar approach to the Lifeline series before it. It feeds you an intriguing text-based adventure, but with a real-time conceit.

Besides reams of text, images are used to add further color

The game essentially plays out like one long message thread between you and a mysterious time traveler named Echo XIX^. Whenever she sets off on a 30-minute commute, Echo XIX^ will drop correspondence for a period, and there’ll be a corresponding pause in the story. Later, you’ll receive a notification to resume the narrative.

This simple mechanic serves to add an extra layer of immersiveness and urgency to a tale of secret societies, Back To The Future-style temporal tinkering, alternate realities and scientific discovery.

The conceit here is that your iPhone is a mystical ‘Arcana’ tool

For all its sci-fi and fantasy trappings, though, Chroniric XIX is at its best when it deals with real human history. At various points in the story, Echo XIX^ will ask you to provide a piece of historical information in order to solve a conundrum. This basically involves you scooting into Safari and Googling for the appropriate detail, but it’s a neat way to ground this fantastical story in the real world.

It somehow makes you feel clever and just a little bit sneaky, like you’re cheating on a test with some kind of ingenious contraption that your teachers have never seen before. What’s more, it actually teaches you something by bringing those otherwise dry Wikipedia listings to life.

You can loop back and re-attempt crunch moments

Chroniric XIX’s story (which we’re deliberately being non-spoilery about) is entertaining, and can play out in multiple ways as you make history-rewriting decisions. But there are issues with the delivery.

We picked up on a number of spelling and grammatical mistakes, and there’s a general clunkiness to the dialog. It’s occasionally easy to miss the sense of what’s being said due to the awkward delivery of some of its lines. Whether this is down to matters of translation (the developer is French) we don’t know, but there’s certainly a sense that English was the second language here.

The narrative doesn’t always flow, and there are plenty of spelling mistakes

This wouldn’t matter too much in most games, of course, but in a narrative-driven experience such as this, it kind of does. When the means of interacting with the game is entirely contained within pithy multiple-choice sentences, those sentences had better be finely honed.

As it is, there were certain occasions where we selected a sentence and didn’t get the type of response we expected. On other occasions – particularly near the beginning of the adventure – the game’s unorthodox choice of words actively seemed to get in the way of understanding what was going on.

Fast Mode lets you play the game without its real-time constraints

You can work through these issues, though, and if nothing else they add to the game’s Gallic setting. There’s a fun, frequently educational tale at the heart of Chroniric XIX, and it’s told with no small amount of enthusiasm – if not quite enough precision.