We’ve been playing The Pulse: a text-based Choose Your Own Adventure-style of game by StoryFix Media.
Written by Christopher Webster, this is a sci-fi/horror game that sees the player communicating over a radio with an unnamed woman in a town called Cutter’s Crossing, where bad, bad things are going down. What sort of bad things? Well, people are melting, there’s soldiers everywhere and there seems to be a strange pillar of light shooting up and into the sky. Who is this woman? Why is she there, can she be trusted, and what is going on with the town and with the Pulse itself? With 20 different potential endings to the story, there’s certainly plenty of content to delve into and explore.
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Players will need to investigate their surroundings to collect potentially useful items, decide whether or not to be entirely truthful with characters, and most importantrly they need to try to both make sure the characters trust them, and don’t get too badly banged up. Can’t run away from the melting people if you’ve fallen off a roof, for example. (Speaking from experience here. Let’s just say my first playthrough did NOT have a happy ending!) There’s a definite feeling throughout the entire playthrough of risk vs reward, that actions DO have consequences and some of the options really do give pause and will make the player weigh up the pros and cons before they click a button…. assuming the game gives them the time to do so!
Gameplay consists of the character “talking” to the player to explain where they are and what’s going on. The player will then be offered a binary set of choices, for example “kick the zombie” or “run away from the zombie” to move the story forward. Some of these events are even timed, fading out if the player does not pick an option quickly enough and leaving the decision entirely down to chance. Sometimes there is a pause between events, if the character is travelling or resting, for example, so players should keep this in mind unless they want their phone beeping at them at random times of the night to let them know something is happening.
Anyone who has played the “Lifeline” series of games on Android or iOS will be familiar with the mechanics of these games, though the timed decisions is a nice little addition to mix things up a bit. All in all The Pulse is a solid addition to this particular genre of games, though it’s not without issues.
Even after three playthroughs I found it difficult to connect with the main character, or really get invested in her trials. A little more time spent getting to know her would have been nice, and given the player a chance to both empathise and bond with her. There are also some annoying spelling mistakes later on in the game that can jerk a player out of the moment, but beyond that everything runs smoothly.
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There is also a nice ambient soundtrack by Auto/Reflex which adds to the atmosphere, although sometimes, at least on my device (Samsung S9+) there was a funny click/pop sound when it switched from one track to another. Not sure if everyone will encounter that or if it was something specific to this piece of kit. It wasn’t all the time, just every now and again so perhaps due to something else running on the device as well.
The Pulse is currently available through the Google Play store for the princely sum of £1.79 and at that price it’s difficult to find a reason to NOT recommend it. If you are someone who enjoys these kinds of games, give it a look. It’s an interesting universe and story and hopefully there will be more to follow.