Prom Week Review
By Ken Thomson
Described as a cutting-edge experiment in interactive narrative, Prom Week was an IGF 2012 Finalist for Technical Excellence and a crowd favorite at the E3 Indiecade Showcase last week. At least, I think so. I certainly didn't get a chance to play it up till the point I got home from the expo as the booth was constantly crowded with interested playtesters.
Set within the days leading up to that all-important event and on that hallowed occasion itself, Prom Week allows players to explore the stories of ten adolescents, all of whom appear to be based on familiar high school archetypes. For example, there's Oswald, the overachieving bastard in preppy attire and the curiously-dressed foreign exchange student Gunther. Each of them come with their own set of likes and dislikes along with a relatively malleable network of person connections.
This, of course, is where it gets interesting.
To put matters into perspective, let's take a look at one of the earlier stories you will unlock. In spite of the fact he's a bespectacled, pimply Linux-loving teenager, Zack wants to be the new Prom King. Given his basic nature, this isn't particularly easy to accomplish. To make matters worse, there's a jock named Buzz standing between him and his prize. Without the (literal) muscle to back his claim to throne, how does he proceed? When you begin Zack's story, the game tells you exactly how: you turn others against the reigning candidate. However, it's not a must. All characters come with multiple goals. If you can't stomach the idea of playing the backstabbing sneak, you don't have to. Instead of ruining Buzz's reputation, you can choose to work towards establishing a relationship with Zack's crush or to make friends with the head of the Prom Planning Commitee or any combination of the three objectives.