What is “Soundstory”?

I’ve always been convinced that iOS devices were excellent primarily for reading, but most of what people seem to talk about is the games. I’m honestly surprised there haven’t been more attempts to combine the two. Soundstory might be an attempt to do just that… if anybody can figure out what exactly it is.

Soundstory is the name of two iPhone apps that sort of blur the line between “book” and “game”. Even their creator, Matthew LoPresti, doesn’t really know what he’s come up with. There’s a pretty lengthy postmortem at his blog. Whatever the series is, both items combined shouldn’t take more than a couple hours to get through. The first one – Warm Wisps, is free and the second – 10:00pm is 99 cents.

Warm Wisps is basically just a single screen of a grass field with a metropolis in the background, containing several items to be tapped. Tapping each one reveals a sort of short story to be read, telling bits and pieces of the protagonist’s life. That’s really it. It’s like 30 minutes total but I think it does a good job of exploring a world with a sense of ambiguity. It left me wanting to know more.

10:00pm feels far more sophisticated but about the same length – it’s actually timed in fact. I won’t spoil much, but you essentially get closer to the core of the story begun in Warm Wisps by investigating a computer’s news feeds, email, and other communications. The sense of world and place conveyed in such a small package is truly impressive. If LoPresti’s really trying to bill this as a book (which 10:00p is listed as on iTunes), then people going in expecting a book might be blown away.

According to the postmortem LoPresti was initially inspired by Metroid Prime’s scan visor and the way players used it to tell a fairly complex story in a uniquely immersive way. People who try out Soundstory might draw parallels to adventure games or visual novels, which I’m a bit disappointed aren’t more common on iOS. I think somebody has already compared it to Dear Esther – which I’ve already referred to as a short story in video game form.

Whatever it is, I definitely think that Soundstory is at least worth your time, if for no other reason than to speculate on what mobile platforms can really do for books… or games… or whatever.

BULLETS:

  • My main disappointment with Mass Effect 3’s “Extended Cut” DLC actually deals with how I had to find it on Origin (for PC). On Xbox Live, PSN, or more importantly Steam, it’d be on the front page or at least the “latest content” section. Origin doesn’t seem to have an equivalent yet, so I had to track down the DLC in order to download it. EA has some serious catching up to do.
  • Some new adventure game called Anna in the style of Amnesia: http://t.co/UoAPbNKg
  • Some Rockstar expats seem to be making a serious game about the Iranian Revolution. Art looks really good: http://t.co/5ejbMAR4
  • This picture should be the official response to all “Nintendo is Doomed” comments and articles: http://t.co/YdOR77Er Sure it doesn’t show the last year and the fiscal loss it brought, but that loss is pretty miniscule compared to the scales on that chart.
  • Man, PC gamers who trust Ubisoft just can’t get a break: http://t.co/tqGnqhMP
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