Very few games are based on the works of Shakespeare, and most of those games don’t even have robot suits. Fortunately there is game that can satisfy your need for iambic pentameter and mechanical terror. Also, it’s a choose-your-own-adventure book.
In case it wasn’t clear, Ryan North’s Romeo and/or Juliet is not your average Shakespeare interpretation. In this book you get to choose how the story unfolds because, let’s face it, Shakespeare was kind of a chump. Why did Romeo and Juliet weave such a huge web of lies and misunderstandings instead of being honest about their abrupt marriage? Why didn’t Juliet just join Romeo out of town when he got banished from Verona? WHY DIDN’T ROMEO GET BREAKFAST IN ACT I?
Part of the fun of Romeo and/or Juliet is seeing what could have been if the characters acted like normal people instead of acting like insane horny teenagers. Or you can crank the crazy all the way up to eleven, sneaking (as Romeo) into Capulet castle disguised as a maid, ignoring responsibilities (as Juliet) to get out of marriage which leads to a career in swim coaching, or fighting ninjas (as Romeo and Juliet) as you steal treasure from your parents’ houses.There are over a hundred different endings ranging from “getting married to a corpse as a corpse” to “making a dangerous new breed of carnivorous horses.”
Following the correct route to get the authentic Romeo and Juliet experience is also really enjoyable thanks to the unique style of writing and obvious amounts of love and enthusiasm for the original work. It’s the type of book that will have the characters speak in verse one paragraph and modern slang in the next. It’s the kind of book where the author/narrator will question your poor choices the more you follow the “correct” path to tragedy. It’s the kind of book that is completely self-aware and surprises you even though you know where the story is going.
The best thing about Romeo and/or Juliet is how it keeps surprising you with every choice. It’s not limited to the big crazy choices that send you to fight skeletons or solve crimes. The book will let you express your character’s feelings in a fancy soliloquy or by PowerPoint presentation. After finding Romeo dead, you can stab yourself as Juliet or you can lift a coffin and drop it on yourself while yelling “PEACE OUT!” You can jump from character to character or simulate doing nothing for long lengths of time while the story focuses on the other guy/gal. Paths may branch out wildly or converge to a similar situations, but each choice feels like it’s own unique treat. There are things in Romeo and/or Juliette that shouldn’t even be possible in book format! (When was the last time you read a novel and unlocked a secret character for a new playthrough?)
I would recommend Romeo and/or Juliet to any fan Shakespeare fan who wants a fun game or any gaming fan who knows of Shakespeare. It’s not just a fun spin on Romeo and Juliet, it’s several. And though it is based on a famous literary tragedy, the book kept me smiling each time I flipped to a new page. It is hands down the best time I’ve had with something I’ve had to read in seventh grade.
I’ll leave you with this: For if there was a book you should get ‘twould be called Romeo and/or Juliet.
Hey, this was written by Zachary Long. You can contact him at @invadingduck on Twitter. Also, if you want to play a choose-your-own-adventure but with Hamlet, check out To Be or Not To Be. It’s also by Ryan North and Shakespeare! It available as a video game and an app too!