Nominally a one-player game, Common App quickly becomes a family endeavor involving one or all parents and unhelpful commentary from siblings, aunts, uncles, work colleagues, and, especially, in-laws. Affluent families may also hire a professional consultant who is, unfortunately, equally unhelpful.

Common Application centers around character creation and world-building. The key player, a college-bound high school senior, is encouraged to create a character based on themself but augmented with multisyllabic adjectives. For example, a stint as a hall monitor in middle school became their “periodic internship in hyperlocal law enforcement with attention to dilatory intent.”

At first, Common App doesn’t feel all that competitive, but it soon ramps up when the key player discusses strategy with friends competing in their own versions of the game. Strikingly, players with a common objective may not work together to achieve their aims. In fact, the rules all but encourage mutual sabotage. While players cannot access each other’s Common App environments, they can undermine other players’ confidence. Parents are especially encouraged to do so.

The signature level of the game is, of course, the Essay. Here, the key player must make their most difficult choices in world-building. Should they construct a narrative with a primary value of service, hard work, success, or pity? Since the rules neither expressly condone nor prohibit outright fabulism, players can be prone to sometimes making ridiculous and ill-conceived embellishments.

As I hope I have made abundantly clear in my review, the lack of clarity in the rules makes Common App nearly unplayable and, what’s more, leads to substantial conflict among playing and non-playing friends, family, mental health professionals, teachers, guidance counselors, and random passersby. The rules also lack pictures.

Finally, I must call out the length of time the game takes to tally your final score. The Common App does not allow players to evaluate their own performance in the game, and they must often wait four months for meaningful results.

GRADE: ⭐ (1 out of 5 stars)

I give Common App one star out of five for murky rules, player anxiety, and a complete lack of power-ups and extra lives.