Availability: Demo/$9.95 Full Version, Download
Format: Visual Novel
2 out of 5 ( Writing: 2, Art: 4, Gameplay: 1)
Found at http://www.hanakogames.com
In Fatal Hearts, you play a teenage girl named Christina. Her friend's parents are acting weird, girls are getting murdered, and she keeps dreaming about a strange guy. Can you solve the puzzles, find love and not die?
I have to admit that I didn't get very far in this game. In what little I have seen, the writing seems to run the gamut from okay, to cheesy, to "What the heck was the author thinking?!". The first line that gave me pause was a comment by the narrator that her mother doesn't let her wear makeup, which is "probably why I still don't have a boyfriend." ...Honey, that is not how love is supposed to work. But okay, we're in the first-person perspective of a teenager here; I suppose I can accept that she's a little bit stupid about these sorts of things. But then, we come to another scene that just breaks my suspension of disbelief in terms of sheer stupidity...
Last night, your friend ditched you and went off with some complete strangers. This morning, you get a call saying that someone was found dead at the place you last saw her. You are now worried that your friend may have been killed. At this point, your mother comes right up to you and, not knowing about the call, asks you if you would like a ride to some place. How do you repond?
A: Tell her that you don't want to go right now because you're worried about your friend's safety.
B: Say "Mom! Thank goodness you're here!" then tell her about your friend and ask her for help.
C: Say NOTHING AT ALL to the adult standing right in front of you, and handle it yourself, even though a violent, federal crime is involved.
If you guessed anything except C, you are smarter than our protagonist. I mean seriously, what the crap?! I could buy leaving Mom out of the loop if she was gone and you didn't want to call and bother her, but when she's Standing Right There and asking you something? That is the epitome of stupid. It might be more palatable if there were at least an option for telling her, so that then we could just blame the player. But no, talking to the adult doesn't even cross our makeup-obsessed teen's mind.
So enough about the writing, then: On to the art! The art is decent and anime/manga style. I have nothing more to say about the art. Moving on, then:
I hate the game play. Words cannot express my utter loathing for it! Any attempts would probably include the words "vomit" and "bowels" and "ripping it to shreds and then setting it on fire." Readers of my earlier posts might have picked up on my slight dislike of minigames. Well, in Fatal Hearts, every chapter has one, and they are necessary to advance through the game. These "puzzles" range from "annoying" to "impossible and annoying". The first one is reminiscent of the Gemini minigame from Wonderland Sim Date: move annoying crap out of your way. That's it; there's no mental challenge at work, just lots of click-and-drag. At the other end of the spectrum is the puzzle that frustrated me so much that I finally just quit the game altogether:
You have stumbled across a dead body, and need to run away before the police see you. (Yeah, this part just cemented for me that the protagonist is an idiot since, given that she'd just arrived and hadn't touched anything, even a cursory crime-scene investigation would clear her almost immediately.) But anyway, you have to guide Christina through a maze of bushes, keeping the bushes between you and the cop at all times. If the cop sees you, she will move toward you, and she can move twice as fast as you can. This puzzle is probably doable and there's probably a walkthrough online detailing a long and complicated series of back-looping paths, but I don't care enough to look. What really grates my cheese about it though, is that after I lose this puzzle, I don't get taken to a Bad End or a story that branches from me being caught; I get "Oh, you've lost. Here, let's just reset that puzzle for you:" and my agony begins anew. What's more, there is no "Skip Puzzle" button, just me losing and losing until I finally chuck the computer out of a second-story window.
In summary, this is the worst commercial game I have ever played. The art is the only real redeeming quality, but considering that they're charging money for this thing, the art had better be decent. I consider this the commercial equivalent of Dating Sim Academy, with the notation that at least DSA was free and I could finish it! (note: The author of DSA has done better games, some of which I've discussed on this blog, so I feel justified in continually tearing it.)
Now, as usual, there is room for disagreement. Maybe you have more taste for puzzles than I do, and maybe your suspension of disbelief is stronger, or you can justify the protagonist's actions. I can't. I hate this game. But, feel free to try it out and share your thoughts in the comments.