Sunday, 1 September 2013

The Dreaming

The Dreaming is Visual Novel by Taleweaver and LVUER of lemmasoft forum; its free so you can check out the thread here.

'The Dreaming is a visual novella in which you take the part of Gabrielle, a young psychiatrist during her first weeks at a mental institution. One of her early jobs is to complete the diagnosis of Julius, a young man hospitalized at the clinic with an unusual case of schizophrenia: not only has he vivid hallucinations - the whole world seems like one big hallucination to him. Digging deeper into his mental condition, Gabrielle soon finds out that there is more to Julius than meets the eye... and a few of these things are terrible indeed...'

The Dreaming is focused on making choices that gather information and clues into Julius' past. The great thing about the novel is it's storytelling; it's very clear that a lot of thought has gone into the concept and you can see how all the threads of the story fit together through multiple playthroughs. The mystery was very compelling and it's very easy to become hooked on unraveling the truth.

The atmosphere is very believable, and at times you can feel genuine fear and surprise at some of the twists and turns. Some people complain that the artwork can be quite jarring at times, and while I can see why some would deem this true, it wasn't a distraction for me at all. In a way, due to the nature of fantasy, illusion and hallucination it's cartoony graphics contrasting with it's gritty backgrounds made it feel a little more sinister in my eyes.

There are 6 endings in total, most are easy to obtain, however achieving the 6th ending is no easy feat at all. While I seemed to struggle less than most, I think I may have got lucky with a couple of choices that I made that lead me to the full true ending, which I found to be very satisfying and definitely worth trying. Don't get me wrong; I think once you've played through the whole game, the choices that need to be made make a lot of sense, although there were still a couple that I felt were more random than an actual choice. Although I've never actually played a visual novel that really challenged me, so it was different indeed. Perhaps visual novels don't do that as it becomes a 'blocker' to the continuation of the story; luckily the story was so good and held my motivation.

Another negative would be that the game lacks polish, and while this doesn't matter hugely as the story is what's important, I really think it would reach more people if it had a finished feel to it; it's something I think the writer probably intended but it hasn't been achieved yet. Polish includes things like default UI, photograph backgrounds, some spelling mistakes and so on, nothing particularly important but I like well-rounded games.

Overall, the writing is great, and it's worth playing through and getting the true ending!


It would have received a 10 if it improved the difficulty curve and had a more finished feel.

Saturday, 29 December 2012

RE: Alistair++ Review

RE: Alistair++ is a free visual novel game from Sake Visual. Merui, the main character, loves video games, so RE: Alistair is set in both her high school and her virtual world of Rivenwell Online. One day while playing Rivenwell with one of her friends, an evil character called Alistair steals a rare drop from a boss she and her friend Fiona defeated. Gutted at her loss of such an exclusive item, and realising that Alistair must be from her school due to a power outage, she sets out to recover her item by figuring out the identity of Alistair.

If she can find out by the end of the month, her precious Blessed Stone will be returned to her! There are three likely candidates at the school, so which of them is it? You can find out by spending time and delving into their secret pasts with a variety of conversation options and items. RE: Alistair has a great writing style, that's also very witty. Merui is such a likable character that you'll be rooting for her all the way! The three potential candidates to be Alistair are Derek, Travis, and Shiro; but they could also be your knight in shining armour!

While on the face of it, it doesn't seem much like a potential dating sim, it actually is, but it's not totally central to the plot. You can date any of the three characters either genuinely, or in an attempt to find out more about the mysterious Alistair. The game is very light-hearted with serious undertones about family and responsiblity, but it doesn't dwell on these for very long.

The gameplay comes in the form of selecting the correct dialogue, but also raising the appropriate stats to appeal to your potential lover. Each day you can choose to eat lunch in one of three places, after school you can perform one of three tasks, and in the evening you can check your mail or perform one of another three stats, all of which have different effects. The mall is pretty central to the gameplay and it's difficult to gain a boyfriend if you don't invest in some of the items he might like or suggest to you, and you can gain cash from your part time job helping out at the school.

The reason why this game is better than other dating sims is that everything isn't so black and white, like raising stats to a certain level. There is a lot more guesswork involved and the affection stat is there but it isn't exactly visible, so you've got to use your instinct to find out if you are close enough for a romance, or if you've chosen the right answer.

I love the artwork. It's absolutely adorable and the CG stills that are unlockable are amazingly sweet. You can view these in the extras screen, and if you acquire a character their BIO will also be displayed in the extras. I was really spurred on to unlock everything and I've only got one more character left! I had a lot of fun with this game, it's short but sweet and it'll keep you coming back for more. It's charming, I love the Rivenwell interface and as a gamer the whole story and theme appeals to me a whole lot.

And the most awesome thing is that it's totally free! I would have paid money for this game.

Overall, I give RE: Alistair++ a 9.5 out of 10. 


Always Remember Me Review

Always Remember Me is a visual novel/dating sim by Winter Wolves. This charming little game is set around a rather tragic tale: you, Amy, were riding home on your boyfriends motorbike one day, when you were hit by a drunk driver. After awaking in hospital, it soon becomes clear that your boyfriend, Aaron, struggles to recall you in his memories, suffering amnesia from the crash that day. Devastated, you try and make sense of the situation. To make matters worse, the person he does remember is a catty ex-girlfriend from his distant past, who tries to make new moves on him.

Will you try and rekindle the memories that your beloved boyfriend has lost? Or will you seek comfort in the arms of your closest friends and accept that things will never be the same? The storyline of Always Remember Me is indeed very engaging, and somewhat different from the norm. Starting off in a relationship makes it very difficult to move on, and as the scene is very well set at the beginning of the novel, you do start to feel very connected to the main protagonist. The story is beautifully written and realistic, adding to the depth of the game. The story is very romance focused, and doesn't derail from that, so you may consider that a positive or a negative point.

All the characters are different but likable. You have the option of multiple partners to pursue, Aaron is not the only one you can try and date, although most people make that their first and primary goal. The gameplay is based on stat building, but you can also visit various spots around the city to boost your morale and increase your energy. You work part time at an ice cream shop, to make enough money to spend doing various activities or the mall. The cash flow is well balanced and you can do overtime if you want to be a big spender, which can help you get items that may make courting your chosen lover easier. The game plays for an amount of time that is just right, and each character has a normal and special ending. For extra challenge, the difficulty can be increased, and if you fail to win the heart of anyone on the first playthrough, you get a stat boost to make it easier next time. It's likely that if you hesitate, you'll end up alone! It can be a close call if you don't pick someone fairly early on, but it's good to play it through once to get a feel for the game, and then pick it up again later.

The game can get repetative, but there is a range of activities you can participate in and you can expand this range by purchasing items. I played through the whole game twice in one day and wasn't bored, and will likely play through it again later, too. I think it's because of the way you feel for Amy and the way you need to explore the different outcomes and options, it's so easy to put yourself in her shoes.

As always, this game is meant to be played through multiple times, and so if you do want to get all the unlocks you'll get your moneys worth. Also, the artwork is beautifully done and the music, especially the introduction theme is a really nice addition.

Overall, this is one of the more memorable (oh the irony) visual novels out there, and one that you'll probably feel more connected to. I wouldn't say it's very light hearted though, but sometimes that can make a change. Also, I'd say that it isn't cheesy which a lot of novels attempting to talk about a serious topic are. I don't have many negative points to make about it, I got it on sale so it's definitely worth the money I paid.

Overall, I'd give Always Remember Me a 8.5 out of 10. 


Friday, 28 December 2012

Cherry Tree High Comedy Club Review

Cherry Tree High Comedy Club is a visual novel game, now available on Steam, in which you play the protagonist Miley. After getting to final year in high school and realising that her dreams to be a comedian are fast approaching breaking point, Miley decides that she is going to start a Comedy Club at Cherry Tree High School. Miley's attempt to enourage people to laugh and smile will be in your hands as you set off on your mission to recruit new members.

CTHCC is a very cute game, filled with the usual anime sweetness and light that you may be used to. There are a variety of characters to speak to, all with believable and interesting dialogue. As you become more friendly with each of the characters, more and more is revealed about themselves as you play along. You need at least 5 members to reach your goal, and with you and Hariet already enrolled, 3 is the actual base number you need to recruit. Many people ask, is the game actually funny? While it won't have you rolling around on the floor, it does have some dialogue that will make you chuckle.

The gameplay is broken down into different elements. There is the novel element which progresses the story as you level up, and this spurs you on to become closer to each of the characters. You progress through a calender, each with a Morning, Afternoon and Evening. In the morning and afternoon, you can choose to speak to various characters or participate in events around town. You can get a coffee, watch a movie, or chat to your friends. Miley herself has stats, and if you increase those your ability to talk about certain topics will increase. This all helps in recruiting new members, especially if they love a topic you are talking about!

You can make money by making necklaces, or by helping out at the local shrine. The game is supposedly set in America but everything about it is very Japanese, so I do find it odd why they've tried to label it as an American city.

I also really hate the controls. For some reason, they just don't feel natural at all, the select and cancel buttons are annoyingly interchangable and don't really correlate well. This is easily overcome as you get more absorbed in the storyline, but if you are playing with a keyboard it may get quite irritating. The artwork is very pretty, and the interface is not too bad either. The music, as most visual novels, is pretty generic but not annoyingly so, and it's a lot better than some I've heard.

Overally, CTHCC is a relaxing visual novel game, it's not very hardhitting or impactful but it'd be good for a playthrough on a Sunday afternoon. It's certainly very charming, and you'll likely want to play through it again as you can replay with data from your previous save, and you can aim to get a variety of endings, too. While a number of things could be improved, such as a raise in the difficulty, better controls, and perhaps a longer game in general, CTHCC is everything you expect from a game of this genre.

I give Cherry Tree High Comedy Club a 7 out of 10.


Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Magical Diary Review

Magical Diary is a visual novel/dating sim by Hanako Games.

Published on Steam, it's available to download for £10.99, currently on sale at £4.94. Magical Diary is a game set in a Magical School, in which you, the main protagonist have been sent to to harness your magical powers. Born to human parents, you can feel somewhat of an outcast among your new school friends. Magical Diary deals with the challenges you face as an adolescent including romance, friendship and studying, all with a touch of magic.

On the face of it, Magical Diary seems to be just another visual novel with a magical gimmick. However, it is much more than that. The inclusion of a wide variety of genders, races and sexualities is a vast improvement on the usual genre, and it never makes a big deal out of this, either. What you may expect to be stereotypical anime tropes don't always turn out how you might expect.

The artwork is pleasant and consistant but nothing hugely special. The UI could do with a little work and the 'skip' mechanic can be a little buggy at times. The audio, again, is nothing special but it does the job. I often find that overcomplicated audio in visual novel games can be a little distracting especially when the loop is noticable, so it's not much of problem. You can design your own character which is a fun addition, and makes you feel more part of the story.

The gameplay follows three different patterns; the novel, the lesson segment and the dungeon segment. The novel segment is one of the best and the story is believable and well-scripted. While some of the characters can be cliche at times, a lot of them may surprise you in the end as you delve further into the story. You are given a variety of choices in Magical Diary which have a direct influence on the story, and can impact further on down the line. I like that a choice you made much earlier can effect the game much later, and everything you do has a direct and noticable consequence. All the choices are also believable. Sometimes, VN games give you choices that you would never consider doing yourself, and it can be jarring, but Magical Diary doesn't do this.

The lesson segment is simply a way to build stats, to learn spells which will help you in the dungeon segment. While it's a simple mechanic you still feel like you are shaping a character, but to be honest no matter what you pick unless it's extreme you'll be hard pressed to go wrong. You can also choose to do other things like sleep or go to the gym, which reduces stress levels and increases strength. On the weekends, you can study or go to the mall, and there are a variety of magical items on sale and things to do. I feel the items are overpriced because you rarely earn enough currency in the game to be able to buy the most expensive items, and when you do have enough cash to splash it'll be near end game and you won't get much of the benefit of them.

The dungeon segment is fun but could be vastly improved. It does add a little extra though, a puzzle element. You can use the spells you've learn throughout your lessons to complete various puzzles along the way. To be honest, I feel that you do end up using the same spells most of the time and most of the spells you do have go unused, although that might have just been my style of play. You can complete the game without using any of the really complex or expensive spells. You have health/mana, and you may need to replay a few times to be able to get the hang on the mana system. Overall, it's a nice touch.

The game also has Steam achievements if you purchase it via Steam which gives an extra push for you to play it through a couple of times more. If you are interested in pursuing romance or unlocking some of the achievements, this is possible too. The game supports many save states so you can branch off wherever you like.

Overall, I had fun playing Magical Diary. It's a short game, maybe about 4hours if you take your time, but the design of it suggests you play through more than once to get enough out of it, and certainly you may be interested to do that.

I give Magical Diary a 8 out of 10.

You can purchase it via Hakano Games and they are having a Christmas Sale at the moment.


Tuesday, 25 December 2012


Welcome to my blog about all things Visual Novel related. Here, you will find all the latest resources for Visual Novel style games, including all the reviews. Lesser known games and games available on Steam will be posted here too.