If having fraternal twins this summer doesn't completely blow up my life (I'm 99% sure it will, but you never know!), then Ruby Reviews will become a somewhat regular feature of the blog. We're starting off with a bang in this first installment—a "dating sim(ulation)" game you can read/play on mobile that combines many of my favorite things: good writing, romance, time travel, video games, and being on my phone.
First, let me explain dating sims. They're a subgenre of role-playing video games in which your player character interacts with one or more romantic interests with the goal of achieving a happily-ever-after. "Interact" almost always means "choosing one of several dialogue options" at key points in the story, and sometimes there's no incorrect choice—the story simply goes down another path, encouraging you to replay the route to discover all the ways in which the story could play out—but sometimes there's a best answer that maximizes your character's deepening relationship. Think of dating sims as the romance version of "choose your own adventure" stories, only with more of an emphasis on earning a high score.
Dating sims aren't confined to mobile games—I've played and enjoyed Hakuoki: Stories of the Shinsengumi on PlayStation 3—but you'll find a huge selection of dating sims in the app store of your mobile device. They're almost always free-to-play and instead rely on micro-transactions to earn revenue. Often, you'll also find games that let you read the first chapter or two for free, but you need to pay to unlock the entire story.