Sunday, March 23, 2014

Indier than Thou (Visual Novel Review)

It's pretty cool to be an indie game developer these days. But while some have seen great commercial success, there are plenty of great indie games that people haven't played simply because they don't know about them. Some may also think that if a game is free, it must not be any good.


This is even more true for visual novels. Visual novels still seem to be in a somewhat awkward niche between “real computer games” and choose-your-own-adventure novels.  That is unfortunate, because these are some of the best interactive fiction I’ve read lately, with powerful twists and realistic characters and a lot of emotional impact.  Since they are available for free for Windows, Mac, and Linux, you really have no excuse not to at least give them a try!


SOON

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Time-travelling, mad science, and killer robots are great and all, but they are not enough to make a good story.  But SOON is not just a romp through time and space - it also has funny, realistic characters we care about, who make tough choices and change over time. Your sympathies and goals will change as you change time in this choose-your-own-adventure visual novel reminiscent of Jason Shiga’s Meanwhile.


The Dreaming

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Don’t be deceived by the simplistic anime art style - this is psychological horror of the best kind. While movies can sometimes make you feel some of the things the main character feels, games and visual novels are a much better medium for really experiencing complex emotional questions such as “Is this real?”, "How can I help someone who seems delusional?" and “Would I know it if I was insane?”.


Romance is Dead

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This quirky supernatural romantic tragicomedy’s greatest strength is its characters. The main character’s witty dialogue and intelligence are a refreshing contrast to the angsty indecisiveness so often found in the romance genre. It’s definitely worth replaying several times to uncover each character’s secrets, past, and true motivations. The jazzy music lends a distinctively New Orleans flavor to the game as well.


Adrift

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In Adrift, you are the human in charge of an underwater city, but your body is locked away in a stasis chamber. You must get both robots and humans to be your eyes, ears, and hands in this game that will test your perception, management skills, and creativity.

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