Harpercollins - The Black Crown Project (2 stars)

Harpercollins - The Black Crown Project

Random House publishers dips a tentative toe into the waters of interactive storytelling with this online project that sounds more exciting than it actually is.

Black Crown is free-to-play for anyone who signs up, and as players get deeper into the world of the story there are opportunities to pay to ‘unlock story strands, expedite the narrative, and acquire items and status within the world.’ The model is one with potential, but Black Crown’s story is wilfully bizarre and slow-moving, offering little compelling narrative to entice a player forward.

The story world is the creation of debut author Rob Sherman, and is told in the second person, positioning the player as a new employee in the mysterious Widsith Institute. It is initially weird and entertaining, a grotesque bureaucratic comedy that’s part Mervyn Peake, part Douglas Adams. But the interactive element is a red herring, amounting to little more than pressing buttons to keep reading, rather like turning a page. The story gets increasingly strange while a clear plot remains elusive, making it all too tempting to log out and browse elsewhere.