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A masterclass in science fiction, April 27, 2021
Choice of Robots is an excellent, highly replayable SF story about the impact of automation and artificial intelligence on modern society. It's so good that I would buy it again twice over if I could.
At its heart, science fiction is about "what if" questions: what if you could travel back in time? What if androids were indistinguishable from humans? The best SF stories take an intriguing "what if" question and spin it into a gripping vision of a world that could be. The genius of Choice of Robots is that it lets you ask the "what if" question yourself -- through your actions and choices, you write the SF prompt that you find most personally appealing, and the game presents you with the future defined by your choices. The result is a riveting story structure that makes perfect sense for a science-fiction CYOA, full of player agency, surprises, and replayability.
The prose and narrative design of Choice of Robots are consistently excellent. Character and story arcs are vividly elaborated in sharp, elegant paragraphs. The game clearly foreshadows decision points and the results of your choices, resulting in a game that feels responsive and fair. And all the way through the game, those choices are remembered and referenced with staggering fidelity: your robot may develop a lifelong love of computer games or TV programming, depending on the corpus you train it with in the very first chapter.
An abundance of science fiction, IF, and computer science references betray the author's dedication and passion for his work. Turn-of-the-millennium American culture is lovingly illustrated, explored, and lampooned. Perhaps most importantly, the philosophical themes of the work are imbued in every chapter -- the ethics of artificial life, the balance between inquiry and humanity -- resulting in a cohesive authorial voice that resonates from every page.
But enough gushing. The point is that Choice of Robots is a damn good work, worthy of its pedestal in the IF canon; in my opinion, it could even be ranked among the all-time science fiction classics. This is a bona fide interactive fiction masterpiece: thoughtful, funny, heartwarming, solemn, and yet full of joy.
5/5 game, would conquer Alaska with killer robots again.