Spotlight Sunday: Telvoikai

This is the second Spotlight Sunday ever and I’m glad to be doing something so unique! The great story suggestions have been coming along nicely, so thank everyone who’s been voting. I greatly appreciate all the input. For anyone who hasn’t read this story, you’re in for a treat! Again, I won’t spoil any of the important parts of the story so you can have the best experience ever!

The Story

Name: Telvoikai

Author: Corvaena

Style: Limelight Spotlight

Genre: Adventure; Sci-Fi

CC: Yes

Chapters: 9

Status: Fully Released

Summary

A ship accident leaves you paralysed from the waist down, and someone important to you is trapped in a coma. Nevertheless, you try to get on with your life on the lower floors of the ship: where all of the other unapproved children reside. However, it isn’t long before you’re thrown into a world of exploration, science and discovery, and you find yourself thrown into a completely different world.

My Verdict

This story really pushes the boundaries of what you can do with an interactive app like Episode, and I think that makes it a stand-out from the moment you start playing. Straight away, it tells you that it is new and different, and that you’re not going to find anything like it anywhere else on the app. This is an experience that all readers and writers alike should take the opportunity to have! I know it has certainly immediately got me thinking about what’s possible on the app. Technically speaking, it is on its own new level and it is visually absolutely stunning! 

My MC having a moment with her love interest

Corvaena hasn’t neglected the plot, either. It most definitely matches the quality of the rest of the story and keeps you hooked from the very start. There aren’t as many sci-fi stories as I’d like on Episode (perhaps because it lacks its own dedicated genre on the app), so reading something like this is refreshing and fun. The MC has an endearing backstory, which shows that a lot of thought went into the creation of Telvoikai, and the way it is expressed and dealt with in the story humanises the MC from the offset, which is a wonderful thing to experience. Usually it takes me quite a while to warm up to the character I’m playing as on the app, but not this time! Including a scene in which the MC talks to her comatosed friend/love interest makes you empathise immediately and want them to succeed.

If there was something that I noticed about the story at large, it’s definitely the pacing. Corvaena has managed to simultaneously give us enough time to understand what is going on and how life changes for the MC, whilst also establishing the idea that the plot is moving quickly and that we are being swept up, slightly confused, into the action. That’s exactly how you’re supposed to feel, as that’s how the MC feels, too. I love how much I really feel like the protagonist in this story, and a large part of that comes from the fact that there is very little dramatic irony or unnecessary, clunky exposition.

The Main Menu

As soon as you start the story, you are introduced to the main menu, which works fantastically. It looks and feels very sci-fi-esque, and breaks an action-packed story into multiple sections to make things easier to swallow. That way, it gives you that sense of control straight away, as you can choose when the next scene plays, when and how many times you customise your characters, and at what pace you decide to learn things about characters and other plot points. For a story that has a lot of details that are easy to miss, it really makes sense that you are able to access these in the glossary and play the chapter as many times as you want to ensure you’ve got the story perfect for you. It is also a clever way to avoid unnatural exposition. Instead of simply telling us who the sentries and Caithe are, I can access my glossary after they’re mentioned and get all the information I need in a way that really feels like a sci-fi log.

Characterisation

The characterisation is fantastic and believable from the start. Although I may have trouble remembering the extremely sci-fi and fun names from time to time, there’s no doubt that I could recognise the look and personality of each of these characters. That’s saying something, because I’ve only read three chapters so far! Plus, managing to give each person a unique character design is next to impossible on Limelight, which looks unbelievably airbrushed, no matter what you do. Nevertheless, this is definitely accomplished in this story, and each character looks beautiful with their different features. 

Giving each character a different way of speaking can be difficult, as you automatically make most of the people in your story speak like you do. However, personality-driven speech and mannerisms are expertly executed in this story, and you can tell what kind of person you’re speaking to, even if they don’t fit into stereotypes or character types… at all. For example, Caithe is the hot female scientist who is so dedicated to her research that she is willing to leave her privileged position to work on the lower levels of the ship to pursue her passions. Sound familiar? No? Well, how about I add a little more individuality to her character: she’s also friendly, caring and very easily distracted. I bet you’ve rarely, if ever, heard of a character like that!

Who wouldn’t laugh at this hilarious commentary on the self-proclaimed “nice guy” trope?

We’ve barely been introduced to the coma victim as anything other than unconscious by the end of Chapter Three, but by the little I know of them, I am already fascinated and happy that we have the choice to make them the love interest. Yep, that’s right: the choice! We get a little flashback into their character and they seem wonderfully flawed and deliciously lovable. What more could you want from a potential love interest? Very little. I mean, who wants perfection? It’s overrated. Corvaena shows that by making us love her characters for their flaws, and not in spite of them. I mean, I can’t help but smile at Caithe’s slightly distracted nature and the MC’s bouts of shyness. These are the things that make them enjoyable to read.

Customisation

There are very few stories that offer customisation as frequently as this does without positively annoying you by the third time. I guess that’s the beauty of establishing a main menu that fits so perfectly into the sci-fi genre: the story includes customisation at every possible turn without being intrusive by simply having it as an option at the top of the menu. If you don’t want to customise, you only have to do it once. If you do, then revel in the change to be who you want to be, when you want to be it. I did change my character’s look more than once because it I find it amazing fun, but it really isn’t necessary if you want to stick to who you are. For the people who want to customise their characters more than once, rest assured that the choice is always there! You choose your name, gender and look! If you don’t then you can choose once and the custom window will never bother you again.

A word of warning, though: thanks to Episode’s insistence on releasing the new assets at a snail’s pace, this story currently doesn’t have the more recent customisation options, at least up to Chapter Three. There’s still plenty to use if you want to, though, because it is full CC and all of the more recent skin colour names are definitely there. I know one or two people might find this frustrating, but the story is so, so much more than the ability to customise your characters, so if you actually want to read an excellent story for its excellence, this is the place to look. If you’re more concerned with having as many features as possible, maybe you should try the Azalea’s Dolls website, or something. Then, you can beautify characters to your heart’s content. Story should always come first on Episode.

Diversity

I struggled with whether to put most of the CC options under the “customisation” heading or this one, but after much deliberation, I’ve decided that it is really important to the diversity of the story. You can choose if your MC is male or female, and the same goes for the love interest, which means you have the ability to be different genders and sexualities if you so please. The coding that must have gone into that! Even better, the author encourages readers to use the CC menu option as many times throughout the story as possible if they want to be gender fluid. I know that I usually say CC isn’t diversity, but I think this story is an exception. The inclusion of gender fluid main characters is something that is largely lacking on Episode, and allowing people to change their gender per day in the story is a great was to combat this! 

The other characters are diverse in terms of race and gender and there isn’t a single character who is stereotypical or defined by their status as a diverse cast member: we have a young black woman who is a scientist despite her age, many female scientists in general and a mixture of men from all different backgrounds and persuasions. I think the choice to set this story in a futuristic world helps with this, as none of the characters are defined or limited by their social, racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds and people aren’t treated differently as a result of their sexuality of sexual identity. While stories about oppression of minorities are important, it is refreshing to find a story where people have different problems to the ones we have, such as whether their conception was “approved” or not.

Even more than that, we have a disabled MC who does not let that define them. That’s a rarity for Episode because it is bloody hard to make a wheelchair on the app — whether or not you use overlays. I think that the use of Spotlight helps with that: you don’t see the character’s legs anyway and you can forgive the fact that their torso is visible and looks like they’re in a standing position. The MC is not defined by the accident that left them paralysed from the waist down, and get an amazing opportunity to be an explorer regardless of (or perhaps even because of) their disability. Due to the limited capabilities of Episode, representing many physical disabilities can be extremely difficult, so I am so glad that Corvaena chose to represent this.

SPaG

There is very little to say on this matter! I haven’t noticed any egregious spelling, punctuation or grammar issues and the number of typos present is at a real minimum. In terms of the vocabulary, it is great and varied (as you would expect from a cast of mostly scientists and sentries, or robots), and there are some extremely sci-fi, story-exclusive words, such as using “flickers” to tell the time,  that are easy to pick up because of how well-integrated they are into the story at large. Plus, the occasional readerMessage doesn’t hurt!

Uniqueness

There’s so much that is unique about this story! Of course, the option to play as a woman, man or gender fluid person is at the top of that list. Then, there’s the fact that it’s completely in Spotlight, which is hard to come by in a fantastic story on Episode. The fact that it’s sci-fi is rare because, as I mentioned before, Episode is yet to create a specific genre shelf for that to encourage people to create futuristic stories. Using tappable overlays and scrolling to make the story more interactive is wonderful and different! I love being able to look around in the submarine and use the camera to note all the different objects around me. It makes the experience more immersive… no pun intended! 

The names are different and fun, too! Nothing like the usual Brodies, Jaces and Theos (yes, I’m taking a bash at my own story) that you usually find on the platform! Instead, you have Sivel, Tormia and Sentry941. They all remind me of one of the many actual sci-fi novels I love: The Dispossessed. Characters from the futuristic moon colony in that book have similarly interesting names, and I loved that about it! Or perhaps these are names that are common in other countries with other languages and I’m just being hopelessly ignorant. I sure hope not!

The artwork is just of an amazing standard! A distinctive art style always does add to the uniqueness of a story on Episode. I love the fact that they’re incorporated so naturally into the story and that you can access them as many times as you want in the main menu. Of course, the fact that there’s a main menu at all is unique, as I’ve already mentioned, and helps us to digest the packed plot in easy-to-swallow little chunks. It’s just nothing like I’ve ever seen!

Overall Impression

I just really get the feeling that a lot of love went into creating this story. It really does show! Everything about it has been thought about in so much detail and it definitely took a lot of time to create! It is reminiscent of actual video games. The only thing missing to make it seem like an indie sci-fi PS4 exclusive is the ability to jump back to the main menu whenever you want, but I’m not sure if I’d want that to be a feature in this story, if just because I’m pretty sure Episode is yet to invent a way to save your progress in a scene if you decide to jump to another one. 

Stunning introduction!

As you might have already guessed, I’m kinda a sucker for a fun, interactive title scene and this story definitely delivers. Using the tappable overlays to involve the reader in the introduction is fascinating and fun, and eases you into the idea of having way more control over this story immediately. I love the look of the story: the submarine reminds me of those futuristic Star Fox or Space Raiders-type games people used to play in the 80s, but it has clearly been modernised for this story. At every turn, you’re reminded that this world is different to ours, which makes it all the more amazing that the characters are so darn relatable!

Whether you’re an avid reader, a budding Episode author, or both, there is so, so much you can learn from this story. Do yourself a favour and read it. I promise: you won’t be disappointed!

If you want to go on an adventure, treat yourself to this story!

And don’t forget to vote for the next Spotlight Sunday!

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