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About the Story
A pair of knock-off choose your own adventure books from Soviet-era Kyrgyzstan.
Nominee, Best Writing - 2013 XYZZY Awards
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Number of Reviews: 4
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The shtick of You Will Select A Decision is that the English translations of a pair of Choose Your Own Adventure (CYOA) knockoff books originally written by Russian computer scientists in the 80s have just now become widely available. The real author of this work is Brendan Patrick Hennessy, and he has created one of the funniest and best written absurd text games I have ever played. The two self-contained adventures demonstrate a deep understanding of all the methods of the original CYOA books, and so are able to mobilise and make fun of the lot of them over their course. Perhaps the most faithful feature is the way every passage of text in the games is tied to a real page number, allowing for the classic CYOA 'turn to' parlance to be in place.
"If you take on a fisty attitude and confront the witch head on, turn to page 53"
The humour of You Will Select A Decision is fuelled both by the strange outlook of the books' faux Russian authors and by the superb contortions of the translated text. The first story, Small Child in Woods, is about a peasant girl who sneaks out of her village one night in defiance of parental strictures. This story gives the authors a chance to expound on life in the context of their home turf. The second story is a lot more fanciful and has the reader playing a cowboy in Wyoming in the 1800s, a tale obviously begging to be mishandled by its Soviet Union authors.
We live in times when even a clueless person can prise the occasional linguistic gem out of the back and forth of Google Translate, but it takes a writer's skill and understanding of language to consistently craft and squish faux-translated words into a form that is funny for showing up all our assumptions about the workings of English. This is what has been achieved at length in You Will Select A Decision. Weird choices of tense, verbs and nouns are exploited to produce a constant stream of misdirections, surprises and absurdities. The fake authors try for a stern narrator's voice, but most of the time they succeed only in being capricious. The usual set of morals in CYOA books is usurped by advocations of Communist pride and anecdotes about obscure Soviet heroes. The main joke is that when the fake authors aren't waxing ideology, they're just clueless about how to satisfy a reader or tell a tale competently. The stories swerve towards or away from exciting moments in just the wrong fashion, and in a manner you can imagine would be guaranteed to irritate a sincere child reader. A great set piece may be followed by an unavoidable stupid death involving rocks falling on the reader's head. A climax may be steadfastly worked towards and then not delivered.
You Will Select A Decision remains vigilant in delivering this fantasy of a specific kind of hilariously bad, translated storycraft from its two starts to all of its numerous finishes. With more than 200 pages of content across both stories, the game also satisfies as legitimately designed CYOA, with just as many major and minor branches of possibility as you would expect from one of the real books. I laugh a lot in life, but I don't think I've ever laughed along with a computer game as much or for as long as I did with this one.
You Will Select a Decision is an extremely well-written piece that uses Soviet-era tropes and language quirks to full effect, creating a world that draws the reader in with atmosphere, charm, and stellar humour. It's a pity there are still only two adventures within, since the titles of the others teased in the beginning seemed ripe for potential. Nevertheless, I highly recommend these stories, and if you're a big fan of word play, choose-your-own-adventure books, or whimsical Soviet references (or better yet, all three), you're sure to get a big kick out of it. Five Orders of Lenin.
I have selected many decisions. I have met many Victory Ends and many Death Ends. Yet there are still many decisions to select and ends to meet.
With You Will Select A Decision, Brendan Patrick Hennessy has created a fun and funny romp Soviet era mortality tale for children, translated poorly into English.
I laughed, I cried… out with laughter, I felt something deep inside, when my stomach hurt from laughing. Most of that is hyperbole, but I did laugh.
You Will Select A Decision‘s first decision is to choose which story to play, “Small Child in Woods” or “Cow Farming Activities on the Former West.” The homepage does tease (taunt) you with “Other Books in This Series,” particularly “It Is Very Good To Be The World Skateboard Champion,” which sadly does not exist.
I played through “Small Child in Woods” with my very pregnant wife. I mention that she is very pregnant not as a humble brag, but to show that You Will Select A Decision is safe for all, even those in my wife’s condition, which is very pregnant. We had a very much amount of enjoyable time with playing. (These are the kinds of sentences I want to write in this review but that would surely annoy the reader and is an entirely inappropriate style for a review.)
My very pregnant wife and I reached a number of endings in our play through. The best feature of You Will Select A Decision is the way the game makes it easy to backtrack and try different paths and discover new endings.
“Cow Farming Activities on the Former West” I played through myself and more thoroughly explored the options. The large number of endings is impressive. More impressive is the quality and entertainment value of all these endings.
Often, Interactive Fiction is a solitary experience, but with You Will Select A Decision I would recommend playing with a partner or even in a group. You can all take turns selecting a decision and laughing with your very pregnant wife.
You can find the SPOILER-Y portion of unWinnable State's review of You Will Select a Decision here.
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