Romance Club also has female LIs but their stories are not as comprehensive as the male LIs.
For MLM players, Choices is kinda the only game in town here if you want visuals, I think. You can play as male in the Arcana with the three male LIs but there's no visual customization, just pronouns. Chapters has a single MLM story that was released a while ago and they have not made any new ones since. Not sure if Storyscape's new Edge of Extinction, which has a male MC option allows you to go for a male LI yet.
Only two games have non-binary love interests: Lovestruck has two (Cyprin and JD) and Arcana has one (Asra, goes by he/him).
I still think the Arcana is probably the easiest one to earn in-game gems for, since there are so many ways to earn them. Heart Hunter, watch ads (if you have the beta feature), sell trinkets from the spin, win gems from the free spin. Chapters is pretty easy too since you can watch a ton of ads for gems and they don't really have that many limitations of how many you can watch.
The hardest one to earn in-game gems for is probably Lovestruck. Their choices cost more (~20+) and you can only get gems by playing Romantic Quests, which give max five gems in an ten-hour period. The daily puzzle piece technically gives you gems too but it's so slow it might as well not count.
Storyscape is decent primarily because it doesn't have that many gem choices per chapter, plus you can earn gems from rating chapters, which is nice.
Choices is decent at giving you free gems but it's also the most gem-heavy by far, since there are multiple gem choices per chapter and there's a lot of "collect them all" stuff in books.
Romance Club is pretty generous if you regularly check-in. Reading the first chapter of a new book gives you ten gems.
Chapters regularly lets you read a random book without using up any passes, for 24 hours.
Arcana recently also has had multiple weekends where no passes were needed to read books at all. You can also buy chapters outright and then you don't need to use passes or gems to play that chapter again and again!
Both Arcana and Lovestruck actually allow you to earn passes through other means than waiting for the timer.
Shoutout to Romance Club for having the most innovative name for passes - "Cups of Tea"!
Two games here have character animations: Journeys and Storyscape. The rest of the games do not have characters animate but instead rely on sprites.
Storyscape's 3D animations are insane for a mobile game - while yes, they can be creepy sometimes (uncanny valley), the models are very expressive and they actually add to the story in many ways. Nothing else here compares to it.
Journeys's animations are more like Episode's and are simpler and 2D, and half the time you're just waiting for the animation to finish so you can go through the book faster.
Both Choices and Lovestruck have animations for other parts of the story (like magical stuff), though Choices's are more complex.
Arcana and Storyscape have the least typos (almost none, I feel), Choices and Lovestruck have a few occasionally, and Romance Club, Chapters, and Journeys's books often have a bunch. I might be a bit unfair to the last three since their developers are not from the US and are overseas.
Chapters' regular gem choices are the worst because out of all of these games it's the one that most often makes you spend gems just to say something that isn't stupid or do something mind-numblingly idiotic, and it barely affects anything.
The age rating really affects the romantic content of the books.
Chapters is the most explicit (sometimes really badly so) in scenes. There are also some problematic books but that's a different story...
Storyscape is pretty explicit too; it's definitely targeting an adult audience.
Choices tends to rely on implied actions. (other than Bloodbound as does Arcana and Romance Club. No surprise that they have the lowest age rating in the App Store.
Ironically despite the name of these games, they vary greatly about how much your own choices impact the story.
Storyscape's choices are pretty consistently going to affect what happens later in the game. Just an example, Titanic ends really differently and has several different endings depending on what you did/ did not do.
I know a lot of people complain that choices in Choices often don't change the story, but they still do in some (Endless Summer!).
Arcana choices affect whether you get the upright/reversed endings for a LI, which are very different story endings!
Romance Club's also put you on different paths that change the story line a bit.
On the other hand, choices in Lovestruck basically never affect the main story line. Some of the older books have passionate/thrilling endings (like Astoria) that get unlocked with your choices, but the new ones never have these endings. Same with Chapters.
None of these apps offer Telltale or Life is Strange-level choice effects though.
Journeys offers translations of their stories into several European languages - German, Spanish, Portugues, Italian.
Most of the games have something nice about their interface that I wish could make it into the other apps.
Lovestruck allows you to fast forward, rewind, and see a log of speech in the chapter. No more tapping mindlessly and missing something important! That's probably why they don't give you gems for finishing chapters though...
I really like the tarot check-in in Arcana. It's very on-theme and fun.
Both Arcana and Lovestruck allow you to collect CGs from LI interactions and you can view them in a gallery later. Both of these games have a mixture of free and premium CGs that you have to use gems to get, but there are many more free ones on Lovestruck and I'd say it's an integral part of the game.
Choices and Storyscape have what could be considered "CGs" but there's nowhere to view them outside of the chapter they appear. If you don't screenshot the moment you'll have to replay the chapter again to see it.
Chapters has a "Card Cabinet" where you collect character cards, etc. It's kinda like Steam cards that you earn while playing, though some of the cards require premium choices to be made to unlock. They also have an easy way to view achievements.
Journeys is the only one that's in landscape, and I actually like that because it feels like I'm watching a movie. They also tell you how much of the chapter you have left when you pause.
Lovestruck and Chapters both have the ability to write and see in-game reviews of books. But the comments on Chapters are rarely about the book and are just people sharing their friend codes.
Storyscape tells you who wrote and directed the chapter after you finish, I like that too.
History & Background
All the apps have very different histories about how they came about.
Lovestruck is technically the oldest here, since some of their stories were first released as stand-alone apps that later got merged into one app in 2017. Speakeasy Tonight was released all the way back in 2013, Astoria in 2015, etc. The company Voltage is based in Japan with an American subsidiary.
Choices released in August 2016 but the PB team had published two other games (High School Story and Hollywood U) before it with a similar (short) episodic format, and also Surviving High School with EA even before that. They are now a subsidiary of Nexon, a Korean company.
Arcana got its beginning through Kickstarter three years ago - unfortunately apparently some people still haven't gotten their rewards... Nix Hydra is still an independent game studio as far as I can tell.
Chapters came out a year or so after Choices and they clearly in the beginning copied a lot of how that app works, right down to the wording of certain choices. The company is ChineseAll USA Corp, based in China, and the US subsidiary is based out of Sunnyvale. That being said, their app now has more unique features and mechanics to keep people playing.
Romance Club seems to have a big community of readers especially in Eastern Europe, and they're based out of Moldova.
Journeys is only a few months old but they seem to be very popular in Latin America.
Storyscape is the newest game here but they were hotly anticipated by a lot of people, and for good reason IMO. Their studio was a game arm of 20th Century Fox so I guess technically they're owned by Disney now?
Here's a chart by gendesexual orientation for which game gives you the most options / fits a particular demographic best in my opinion:
Here's how I would group the games according to similarity.
The "new otome games": Lovestruck and The Arcana; they're the most similar to each other, with CGs as rewards, and "routes" with specific LIs. Obviously they differ from the classic otome formula in that they have a much greater variety of LIs than just guys!
The "immersive fiction games": Choices, Romance Club both fit here. A library of their own books and customization of main characters. These two games are extremely similar (I suspect by intent...).
The "paperback romance games": Chapters and Journeys. Reading these are kinda like reading those cheap paperback novels you buy at the airport, ya know? It's not highbrow fiction, but it scratches a certain itch. These two are also the most similar to Episode in a way.
The "TV-show-as-book": Storyscape kinda exists as itself. For a while I wondered why they call their books "shows" but it kinda makes sense now because of the production quality. Of course, two of their books are actually from film/TV, but it makes sense because of their origins at Fox.
As a last word, it's kinda cool that for Choices, Storyscape, and Romance Club their developers have all been on and done stuff with their Reddit communities. Romance Club even has a link to the subreddit in the app! The other apps are slacking on this. Agree, disagree? Tell me!
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