Tag Archives: visual novel

Endless Summer (Visual Novel)

Pixelberry Studios

Status: Complete (3 books)

My rating: 4.5 of 5

Along with a group of fellow college students, you find yourself on a plane heading for a Caribbean island paradise. Sounds just about perfect, right? Only, before you even land, things begin to go awry. There’s an extra person on the plane, and no one can figure out which of you isn’t supposed to be here. A freak storm nearly causes your plane to crash. And when you arrive on the island, instead of a bustling tourist resort, you find . . . nobody. Eerie in the extreme, but also kind of tempting since you’ve got a huge resort stocked with food and booze, nice rooms, beaches and pools, and a fun group to hang out with. Only, how long can you have fun before the strangeness of the situation begins to have larger repercussions? And will you be able to find the clues you need and make the choices you have to in order to survive?

Endless Summer is another choose-your-own-adventure style visual novel that’s playable through the Choices app. And the first thing I have to say is, quite simply, play it. It’s a lot of fun, it’s well thought out, and it’s engaging. The art style is unique and in many places quite beautiful–especially the island scenery, of which there is a lot. This story is largely character driven, and they manage to create characters who are interesting and fun to interact with. Of note, a lot of what goes on in this story is driven by your relationships with the other characters, and those relationships are impacted by your prior choices. So choose wisely. The initial plot lands you on this seemingly deserted island with a group of fellow students, but the plot quickly spirals in an ever-expanding whirlpool of mysteries, time travel, strange people, and evil plots that somehow manages to remain unified and coherent in spite of the strange paths it takes. I also feel the need to note that this story is absolutely rife with geeky and pop-culture references–not that you can’t play without a good knowledge of these, but stuff is definitely going to go over your head. Personally, I thought this aspect of the character development was absolutely marvelous. The sole reason I don’t rate this visual novel a 5 of 5–and this is significant–is that a lot of major choices and story paths require diamonds (i.e. real money, in most instances). It’s possible to play, enjoy, and complete the story without spending any real cash–I did it and had a blast doing so. But you should know going in that there are lots of major things you just aren’t going to be able to do, or you should go ahead and purchase a set limit of diamonds before going in, if you choose to spend anything . . . otherwise the spending is just going to get out of hand. But despite that, I would highly recommend Endless Summer to anyone looking for a fun choose-your-own-adventure story that’s a bit off the beaten path.

 

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The Freshman (Visual Novel)

Pixelberry Studios

Status: Complete (4 books)

My rating: 4 of 5

It’s the start of your freshman year at Hartfeld University, and the future is bright. You’ve got a suite full of fun, interesting people who seem to want to be friends . . . maybe even more than friends. Hey, maybe this will be the year you find love! Either way, there are great relationships to build. But not everything is perfect–you’ve got sorority drama, financial crises, a cranky mentor/boss who wants to use your personal drama for his own ends. In fact, things get pretty complicated pretty quickly.

The Freshman is a choose-your-own-adventure sort of visual novel available through Pixelberry’s Choices app. I have to say, I really enjoyed this game. It brings out both the drama and the excitement of college, the thrill of defining yourself, building friendships, and making choices that will determine your future. I feel like they did a good job of making the main character–the girl you play–both developed as a character and open to interpretation based on the choices you make. That’s a hard line to determine, but I think the way they did it works. I definitely enjoyed the other characters as well; you’ve got some strong personalities, but it makes for an enjoyable mix. Although yes, also waaaaay more drama then I ever had at college, thank you very much. The creators manage to keep it fun though, mixing in humor and sweet moments in the midst of the drama and angst. In addition to all the school activity and drama going on with your group of friends, this is also a romance story (some might say it’s primarily a romance story, although I think it’s possible to stay single throughout if you so choose) with three dating choices. Again, I felt like this was fairly well-balanced against the rest of the game. The art and music were well done, and the text/interface are easy to interact with. Honestly, my only complaints are the main complaints I have with the Choices app itself–primarily that certain choices cost diamonds, and it’s impossible to get enough diamonds to afford all the choices you want to make without spending actual money. But I found I was able to enjoy the game in spite of not having the diamonds to choose everything I wanted to, so it doesn’t negatively affect the story too much. I would recommend The Freshman to anyone who enjoys a slice-of-life sort of story and to those who like western (as opposed to Japanese) visual novels.

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Choices: Stories You Play (Mobile Game/App Review)

Publisher: Pixelberry Studios

Platform: Android

My rating: 4 of 5

Do you enjoy visual novels with solid characters, great music and visuals, and real choices that affect the course of the game? The Choices may be just the choice for you. Find true love, save your kingdom, solve the mystery . . . just remember that the decisions you make matter, so choose wisely.

Choices was quite an interesting find; I’m frankly at a loss as to whether to refer to it as a game itself, or to just call it a platform, like Steam or Tapastic. More the latter, I suppose, although between the visual novels offered on this platform, there is a consistent system and gameplay style, so it’s sort of all one game consisting of multiple stories in that sense. Either way, it offers a variety of interesting stories (which I’ll likely review individually at a later date) including a number of romance stories, at least one epic fantasy, some quirky mysteries, and a couple of horror games. Pros include a solid gaming system that is explained clearly, interfaces well for the player, and is actually interesting to play. You also really do get some significant choices, which is cool, although in my experience the ones I’ve played have kept me from dying so far. And so far, the stories I’ve played have been well written–as stated above, attractive art, good characters, and nice music. Cons are mostly in the way they’ve set the game up financially. Technically, this game is ad-supported and free-to-play, which is cool and technically true. You get one (generally un-obnoxious) short ad before each chapter, and it’s otherwise a clean game without interruption. Where this technicality falls apart is that you have limited keys (stamina, essentially) to unlock new chapters, and you have to wait a good bit of time or pay for more keys if you want to play more than the allotted amount at any given time. Now, that’s not entirely a bad thing, although it can be annoying, since it keeps me from spending hours at a time staring at my phone. More significant is that the games use diamonds to unlock certain options, but you only get one diamond for completing a chapter, and most options require several to unlock them. So your choices are to generally take less favorable/special options and save up your diamonds for where it really counts or spend money to buy extra diamonds. Having said that, I’ve yet to find a place where the story suffers significantly or where you can’t proceed if you only take the free options; you just miss out on some extra scenes and such. So the general conclusion is that, while I have to take points off for being a bit annoying in making me want to spend money when I shouldn’t (and yes, I would pay a lump sum to install a version of this where that’s not an issue), I think Choices still has a lot of potential to be a fun (even addictive) visual novel platform with a solid interface and some enjoyable game options. Recommended.

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EXPIRED | Deal Alert: Humble MangaGamer and Friends Bundle

Just an FYI, for those of you who enjoy visual novels, Humble Bundle currently has a pretty nice bundle of them for a decent price ($10 for the entire thing). Looks like it’s got some variety–horror, tourism, looks like some slightly ecchi idol ones, and even one that looks like a nostalgic/romantic shoujo ai one. Honestly, I’m not at all familiar with most of these games, so I can’t vouch for how good they are, though some definitely look interesting. Probably the biggest selling point of this bundle is its inclusion of the first five Higurashi When They Cry sound novels–which, frankly, is enough to be worth buying this bundle in its own right. Because, let’s face it, those games are classic.

If you’re interested, you can find more information at https://www.humblebundle.com/games/mangagamer-and-friends-bundle.

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EXPIRED | Double Deal Alert: Fairy Tail Humble Bundle & Steam Summer Sale

So I know I’ve been posting waaaay too many deal notices and not nearly enough actual content, but . . . these were too good to pass up. I promise, I’m working on an actual post, just as soon as my heart stops bleeding enough to actually form coherent sentences. (I just finished re-watching BBC’s Merlin, and wow, but ouch!)

Anyhow, Humble Bundle has an amazing manga bundle available right now–tons and tons of Fairy Tail stuff. If you haven’t checked out Hiro Mashima’s incredible manga series yet, I highly recommend it. It’s a fun shounen series full of lots of feels. The bundle includes the manga through volume 45 as well as several side stories like Blue Mistral and Ice Trail . . . and some swimsuit edition sort of stuff if you’re into that kind of thing. Yeah. Anyhoo, well worth it just for the main manga alone. You can find this bundle at https://www.humblebundle.com/books/fairy-tail-manga-books-bundle, and it’s good for around 10 days as of when I’m writing this.

On another note, Steam is having their big summer sale, which means lots and lots of games for bargain prices. This sale lasts until July 5th. You can find out more at http://store.steampowered.com/.

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EXPIRED | Deal Alert: Sekai Project Humble Bundle

Yay for visual novels! Seriously, right now (for the next 10 days as of when I’m writing this) Humble Bundle is offering a sweet selection of various Sekai Project visual novels for a really good price. It looks like they’re not all just dating games either; there’s some interesting variety. Probably the highlight to me is the complete World End Economica by Isuna Hasekura–creator of the beloved Spice & Wolf. I’m curious to see what else comes of this set, though.

You can find this bundle at https://www.humblebundle.com/sekai-project-bundle.

Also, for anyone who’s interested, HB is also offering an ocean-themed set of games for Ocean Day (didn’t even know that was a thing, but cool) and a selection of Eisner-nominated comics as well. Enjoy!

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The Huntsman: Winter’s Curse

the-huntsman-winters-curseCreated by Desert Owl Games & Universal Studios

My rating: 4.5 of 5

An old woman sits by the fireside, telling fairy tales to the children sitting at her feet. Tales of great happenings, like the invasion of the snow queen Freya and her armies. And tales of things smaller but perhaps of no less import. Like the tale of Elizabeth, a young woman who took up her father’s sword after his death and went out into the wilds to seek her missing brothers. Or Marcus, the man she meets in the woods who insists upon accompanying her but keeps many secrets. Perhaps, in the end, all the old woman’s tales are really just a part of a greater story.

The Huntsman: Winter’s Curse is an American visual novel that incorporates a card battle system into the gameplay. It’s a bit different–usually you get one or the other–but in this particular setting it works remarkably well. I should go ahead and say that I’m pretty sure this visual novel is connected to a movie (or movies) which I have never seen. I’m coming at this review purely from having played the game, so if you’ve seen the movie, your perception of the game may be markedly different. . . . I don’t know. Just playing the game, it’s clear that this is very intentionally made to appeal to the largest possible audience–which is both good and bad. Bad in that you don’t get all sorts of fun indie/nerdy jokes and references like you do in games like Impossible Quest. Good in that the gameplay is really polished. Seriously, the card battles are just challenging enough (but if you die, you get another chance, and another), the story flows well with some choices (all of which eventually lead you back to the same story path), and the balance between story and card battles is so natural feeling that it had to have been carefully researched. In other words, this visual novel would be playable even to those who aren’t particularly used to gaming, and it’s got enough variety to be interesting even to those who don’t like to sit still for visual novels. Also, the story is interesting, if a bit predictable, and the art is pretty, although a bit to Disney-esque in the character design for my taste. As a plus, although the game is technically rated teen, I think it’s fairly appropriate for ages 10 or 11 and up–there’s fantasy-style fighting, but it’s fairly clean and appropriate for the most part. All in all, I think The Huntsman: Winter’s Curse is an enjoyable and playable visual novel/game that should appeal to a wide variety of players (although not perhaps to hardcore gamer types). Definitely worth a try.

Note: On the topic of giving the story a try, you can find it on Steam or on the game’s own website. On Steam (where I played) it’s listed as free to play . . . which it is for the first chapter out of five. So fair warning, you can try out the game for free (and there’s enough there to really get a feel for whether you want to play more), but if you decide to play the entire game, it’s about $18 for the whole thing.

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