Versu Puts the Reader Right Into the Story

Imagine a book in which you could become one of the main characters, choosing how to interact with other characters and even affect the plot. This is how stories in Versu work — you can determine your character’s objectives, actions, attitude and more as you explore the interactive stories.

Disclaimer: The stories fall into the Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice realm of literature. So if you’re a fan of those, you’ll be a fan of the currently available stories. And if you’re not, you might want to pass on this one.

Ready to read on? Click “more” to take a look at the future of story-telling.

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The Beginning

As apps go, Versu is fairly user-friendly; there are only a few things you need to learn to be able to navigate the app like a pro.

When you start the app you’ll be taken to the library, where there are currently two free interactive stories, aka episodes. There’s also an introductory episode intended to teach you the ins and outs. An additional episode can be purchased for $4.99 through the app’s store.

Versu offers two free interactive stories, as well as an introductory episode and a fourth episode which can be purchased.

Versu offers two free interactive stories, as well as an introductory episode and a fourth episode which can be purchased.

The introductory episode is called “An Introduction to Society.” In it, a character named Grandmama tries to convince a character named Lucy to show more interest in her societal obligations while also discussing Lucy’s cousin Maria, who has an “un-taking face,” and zzzzzzzzz … I’m sorry, I just nodded off, and I bet you did, too.

While the first episode’s plot is mostly yawn-worthy, I encourage you to complete it anyway, since it does let you practice interacting with the app before you take on longer, more involved — and more interesting — episodes.

The Middle

Clicking Play launches the episode of your choice. The cast of characters for that story is then displayed and you’ll be asked to make a decision regarding which one of them you want to play. Characters are represented by black-and-white sketches, a name or title, and a brief description provided at the onset of the episode — although you’ll certainly learn more about each character as the story progresses.

You get to choose which character you want to play for the duration of that story.

You get to choose which character you want to play for the duration of that story.

After you’ve chosen your character, the episode can begin. Dialogue appears in regular text; narrative appears in italics. Feel free to hold your iPad vertically or horizontally, whichever way is more comfortable to you. Notice there are two important buttons at the bottom of the screen: Act Now and More.

Use More to progress the story as you read. Depending on what transpires, you are periodically made to interact with the story and other characters, although you can interrupt at any time by clicking Act Now, provided the button isn’t grayed out.

Periodically your character will be required to take action; at other times, you'll have the opportunity to act and can choose to do or say something.

Periodically your character will be required to take action; at other times, you’ll have the opportunity to act and can choose to do or say something.

When an action is required, or when your character has been given the opportunity to speak, act or make some other decision, a window will appear over the main text to display your options, which could number anywhere from two to a dozen. Remember: your character’s decision will influence the other characters and the direction of the episode.

Now and again your character will be given objectives. Examples include persuading another character to like you, finding shelter or escaping a situation. At any time you can review the objectives of your present situation by tapping anywhere to bring up a control bar at the top of the screen. The trophy button then reveals your objectives.

The inclusion of objectives and achievements makes reading each episode feel a little more like a game.

The inclusion of objectives and achievements makes reading each episode feel a little more like a game.

When you complete an objective, the app will open a text box to acknowledge that you completed the task. Also, Versu will remember which episode and character you were when you accomplished it. If you wish to replay an episode as every character, you may find it’s a greater challenge to gain achievements as certain characters than as others.

The introductory episode will likely take you five to 10 minutes, but the other episodes are much longer. You don’t have to play an entire episode in a single sitting — just tap the bookmark button in the control bar to save your place in the story. You can come back to the app and continue at any time.

Some characters reoccur in the stories available through Versu, but the relationships you form with other characters don’t necessarily carry on to other episodes.

Replaying episodes as different characters can be fun, as each character has his or her own objectives and achievements to unlock.

Replaying episodes as different characters can be fun, as each character has his or her own objectives and achievements to unlock.

As characters come and go throughout the many scenes in an episode, it may be difficult from time to time for you to remember who’s “in play.” Tap the People icon in the lower right to reveal or hide the menu of characters. Then tap on any character for a brief description of his or her current state or objective (for example: “Elizabeth is pleased with Mr. Collins”).

The End

While the team behind Versu promises that additional stories are forthcoming, for now you’re limited to “An Introduction to Society,” plus:

“The Unwelcome Proposal” – An adapted scene from Pride and Prejudice, in which Elizabeth’s cousin Mr. Collins is full or reasons why they should be married. She disagrees and tries to convince him that her refusal is sincere.

“The House on the Cliff” – An accident to a carriage and mail coach strand a group of strangers in a desolate stretch of coastland. The only source of shelter is a mysterious and ancient, rambling estate where neither servants nor master appear to be at home.

“A Family Supper” ($4.99) – The Quinn family is hosting a small house party, but an unconventional guest threatens their peace with sonnets, vegetarianism and a gift for finding everyone’s sore points. When secrets start coming to light and a corpse appears, it’s up to you to bring about justice … if justice is even what you want …

Versu is off to a fantastic start — the character interactivity is complex and fun to experiment with. In the future I hope to see stories that keep the same amount of dialogue and character interaction, but also include plots and situations that are more contemporary.

If you love choose-your-own-adventure books, you’ll have to give this app a try. What choices will your characters make? Where will you direct your story?


Summary

Versu introduces an interactive reading experience where readers become the characters.

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