The Outcast was initially published on the App Store back in June of 2014. It's since undergone some revisions and tweaking with the help of the game's fanbase, which seems appropriate for an interactive novel.
The edition currently available - officially titled The Outcast: Episode 1 - has definitely shaped up with the help of that user input.
Whereas the first release was literally a jumble of paragraphs that barely told a coherent story, the game in its current form flows far more smoothly and offers choices as well as consequences.
Granted, some players won't be happy about the fact The Outcast is fed to you over a course of several hours, but it's still a valid (if flawed) design decision.
The Outcast tells its story in a ruined world after an unspecified event or disaster. Civilisation has seemingly broken down, and the remaining population is taking refuge in buildings that used to be malls and schools.
Resources are scarce, and bandits are everywhere. Soldiers keep the peace through force.
Your character has a few stats, including water, health, and food. Certain circumstances causes those stats to diminish or replenish - running afoul of bandits, for instance, or deciding to give a fellow drifter a sip of your water.
In fact, choices play a key role in where you end up, and how you interact with others. There are no solid right or wrong answers, but there are definitely consequences.
The Outcast takes you to interesting places and lets you "talk" to interesting people. The blurred, painted artwork that illustrates many of the locales you stumble through provides the adventure with a lonely atmosphere that's somehow also peaceful when you're walking the road.
While The Outcast isn't as involved or interactive as an adventure from Choice of Games' library or one of the Fighting Fantasy novels, there are still enough branching paths to make you feel like you're in control of your destiny.
That said, having to wait between events - sometimes for hours - doesn't always provide the feeling of tension SimpleMachine is aiming for.
Why should I wait for ages just to see how an altercation between myself and some cultish religious fanatics turns out? That's the kind of thing that would go down pretty quick!
Waiting around could work better if adjustments were made to the events' timing. Like, waiting around while my character walks down the road to their next destination? Sure. That's acceptable.
A hero is you
The Outcast: Episode 1 brings some interesting ideas to the realm of interactive storytelling.
What's up for grabs isn't perfect, but it's a strong start. A little work and a little time, and we should get our "happily ever after."