If you evaluate just the video component of Atom.com’s The Deepening: Select Your Own Adventure, it doesn’t represent great strides forward for the medium. But looking at the complete interactive storytelling experience, which mashes up 8-bit gameplay and graphics with a low-budget Miami Vice spoof, the simplicity of its execution makes it one to check out.
Ian and Brant Duncan (otherwise known as the Duncan Brothers) first explored the world of undercover cops with crappy fake mustaches in the original Deepening sketch, a decidedly amateur-level production with some funny quips and asides. But the Select Your Own Adventure follow-up, produced and hosted by Atom, features much stronger sound design and a tighter storyline; the mission begins with Cappy (Ian) assigning Bukowski (Ian again) and Stevensen (Brant) to resolve a terrorist hostage situation: bombs, knives, and teddy bears being a few of their weapons of choice.
But the star of the show isn’t Ian Duncan’s dual performance, but the functionality of the Select Your Own Adventure interface (which the final credits attribute to Richard Bennett). Using the bright, poppy graphics Nintendo nostalgists remember fondly, the interface is pretty seamlessly mixed with the video, with several different kinds of user interactivity enabled to help you navigate through the various story options. (Screen grab after the jump.)
It doesn’t take a long time to navigate all the different story paths — a quest made easier by the control panel, which allows you to backtrack and explore the other choices available — and the overall result takes an estimated five minutes of video and transforms it into an engaging 15-minute experience.
Atom.com called Ian and Brant (otherwise known as the Duncan Brothers) “viral hitmakers” in a February press release first announcing the project, a moniker that’s ALMOST true, depending on your standards. Their Channel 101 pilot Overdrift, parodying The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift and other car films, has gotten over 300,000 hits since its August 2007 YouTube release. But their other videos tend to hover in the 5-digit viewcount range, their undeniable enthusiasm and adolescent senses of humor held back by occasionally poor production values.
However, they have improved over the years; their more recent Sexy Rich Young Things videos, which parody pretty much every show on The CW, show great strides. And this new Deepening adventure represents a big leap forward, one that’s gotten some solid Digg and StumbleUpon attention. Hopefully, this format is one they choose to pursue — there are thousands of guys making wacky sketches for the Internets, but not enough pushing the storytelling possibilities available.