Please note LongStory is an episodic game. Currently, only episodes one and two are available. The first episode is free, while episode two is an optional in-app purchase.
Bloom Digital's iOS and Android LGBTQ-friendly episodic visual novel LongStory is about high school. Well, people, actually. You've just come back to the States after spending time abroad in France, and adjusting to school is hard enough thanks to the return of your old antagonists, a trio of girls you call Hanniferjane, nevermind the strange notes you just found in your locker. It seems like the locker's previous owner left under unhappy circumstances, and while everyone seems to know something, nobody wants to talk about it. Of course, whether you pursue the mystery or just focus on your life is up to you... it's not like you don't have friends of your own to think about. Like homeschooled Nora, who you only know from long chats online, or taciturn Marcel, who just wants to go home to Dubai. And then there's that person in the weird costume who never seems to talk, and yet always knows just what to do. Your choices will determine the outcome of not only the story, but your various relationships, as they carry over from episode to episode. Choose not only your appearance and preferred pronouns (limited to he, she, and they), but whether to pursue friendship, romance, or simply find out what happened to the girl who came before you in this funny, sweet, and earnest game.
Playing LongStory is pretty simple... just tap the decision you want when give a choice twice to make it, and use the bookmark in the upper-left corner of the screen to mark and return to a point in the game. Each episode is likely only around twenty minutes long, but chances are you'll find a lot of replay value to be had in going back and making different decisions, especially when it comes to who you spend time with... which makes the limited save/load function, something typically a lot less restrictive in the visual novel genre, all the more annoying. While LongStory still feels like it has some kinks to get out, with characters occasionally seeming to act as if you had made decisions you hadn't, for the most part it feels very genuine. Originally intended to be only playable with a female character, LongStory has since opened up in a big way with the inclusion of more genders and even gender-neutral avatars as the developers have shown a keen interest in listening to feedback. The writing is snappy, by turns funny, warm, and serious when it needs to be, and the cast all feels refreshingly fleshed out... though some initially feel like tropes or stereotypes, they gain more depth the more time you spend with them, and even the school bully isn't as pointlessly nasty as she(they) seems. Characters feel genuine, even down to the way they talk in a way that almost all of us will recognise in some form or another... I can look back at my years in school and point to more than a few Noras, Colins, and even Abbys, to the point where I could give you specific names for each. As a result, there's a realness to the setting and characters, even when dealing with goofier aspects like your good-vibes-obsessed principal, that's extremely appealing.
The first episode mostly deals with settling into school, meeting characters and establishing the bare bones of the mystery plotline, while the second episode gives you a chance to get more than a little flirty with whoever you might have your eye on and deals more directly with a conflict involving Hanniferjane. None of it is what you'd call "difficult", since winning is less about achieving a specific condition as it is uncovering whatever story you're focused on. Don't expect to get much of a resolution to the main story or, well, anything at the moment, since as of this writing, episode two ends on a big cliffhanger and episode three is likely a good ways down the road. It's a mystery story, sure, but it's also a character story, and LongStory succeeds by dealing with its subject matter with good grace and an open frankness that's softened by clear empathy in the writing. You don't need to be gay to find meaning and relevance in the parts of the story that deal with queer identity, and indeed, the five romance options allow you to flutter your eyelashes at whomever you choose. There's still a lot about the story, about all the connected stories, really, that feels rushed due to how short each episode is, like everyone is competing for attention (both from the player and the developers) and gets slightly undercut as a result. Still, LongStory is such a well-meaning, genuinely likable charmer that it's easy to recommend checking out at the very least, and definitely one to keep your eye on.
LongStory (iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad)