Crème de la Crème

by Hannah Powell-Smith

Romance
2019

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Number of Reviews: 2
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A Substantial Achievement, August 15, 2021
by ccpost (Greensboro, North Carolina)

I played this game several months ago, curious to try out Choice of Games for the first time. I fear this may have ruined other Choice of Games for me, though, because this one may be difficult to top. As I became familiar with the mechanics of the Choice of Game format (a story driven every few paragraphs by a set of multiple choices that impact the trajectory of the narrative and also affect various stats), I could see how masterfully Powell-Smith utilizes these features. Every choice feels meaningful, and the stats help you to see how you're making progress (or not) to a wide range of goals. I found myself truly strategizing as I made choices, checking my stats and considering how one choice over another may help lead me to a desired outcome.

In the game, you play as a character starting at a prestigious finishing school where your main goals include finding a suitable marriage and/or securing a social station that will help to clear your families troubled image. Though the genre of the game is not in my typical wheelhouse, I immediately became hooked.

What really makes the choices, stats, and achievements/goals feel meaningful is the enormous size and scope of the game. With 10 NPCs that you can develop relationships (both romantic and platonic) or rivalries with, along many other in-game achievements that can shape the plot in large or small ways, there really are an astounding number of ways to chart a course through the game. At over 440,000 words of game text, I only scratched the surface in my one playthrough. I believe I will feel compelled to play through again in the not-too-distant future.

More than just the scope of the game, though, is the craft behind the writing. Every scene is well written and richly descriptive. The NPCs have distinct personalities, lending real weight to the choice to develop relationships with one versus another. The setting is also rendered to great effect throughout the game -- by the end of the game, I felt like I knew Gallatin (the finishing school) even though you don't navigate through the world a la a text adventure.

The game is certainly an achievement, a wonderfully executed work in its own right, but also a testament to the possibilities of Choice of Games and the like. While CYOA-style works can be interesting, they typically feel like you're taking one of a handful of alternate paths through a set narrative. In Creme de la Creme, I really felt like I was moving through a fully realized game world and making impactful choices along the way. On top of that, the writing is sharp and the plot is full of intrigue. I understand that Powell-Smith is currently developing another Choice of Game set in the same world as Creme de la Creme, and I'll be playing that as soon as it comes out.