Availability: Free, Download
Format: Visual Novel
My Scores (Out of 5):
In Zayay, you are insert-name-here. You're in a place you don't recognize, with no memory of where you were trying to go. A strange bunny-man offers to help you remember by showing you around the area. What could possibly go wrong?
“What on earth did I just read?!” is not a good question for a story to leave the audience with. After several playthroughs, the only information I had gained about the world and the characters in it is that there was some kind of war, there are some kind of gods, and there's some kind of demon bunny named Lord Zayo Byron who sells bones. Also, the woods have a nymph in them. This wasn't because the story was confusing, exactly, but because nothing of substance really happens with any of the characters. Information is so minimal that one gets the impression that there *is* no story, nor any real sense of character beyond “here is a creepy rabbit-man”. Who are you, and why did you come to this place? Unknown. Why does Zayo do what he does? Unknown. What does he like? Fear? Dream about? Unknown. Unless, of course, you get all the endings and unlock the out-of-story character interview in the “extra” section, because heaven forbid something as important as characterization be anywhere in the actual story, and personally, I think the revelations given in this “interview” just make the character even flatter.
Furthermore, the game seems to outright mock players of romance games. At the risk of spoilers, there is one ending where Zayo flat-out insults the protagonists for expecting a romantic outcome, using the phrase “I hate your kind”. It's easy to see this as the author trying to mock the player for wanting to play a dating game and get a romantic ending from it. Granted, the fully-revealed twist makes things a little clearer, but again, the most information we get is outside of the actual story and so locked away that I'm a bit upset at having already used the “beware of the leopard” quote.
One thing I'll say about Lord Zayo: poorly-written though he may be, at least he is well-drawn. The eyes especially were pretty captivating. Everything else, though, was kind of “meh”. The background of the forest was kind of interesting in that it had several layers which rocked back and forth, giving it a nice surreal sense that evoked the wind blowing through the trees. Over-all, though, the actual shapes and figures in the backgrounds were very simple to the point of feeling lazy. The music was nice, but I didn't really feel that it connected with the story or setting in any meaningful way. Like everything else in Zayay, it simply was.
Perhaps the biggest (maybe even only) draw about Zayay is the randomized dialog which makes it so that no two play-throughs are exactly the same. In one session, Zayo first approaches you; in another, you first approach him. He may ask your name, or nick-name you himself. Responses to questions may be different, even contradicting answers given in earlier games. Of course, this actually worsens the problem of getting to know the characters and the world since information isn't just revealed, but changed.
Aside from the randomized dialog, though, the actual game itself is pretty linear and boring. There are five locations, and you will visit all of them, once and only once. There are three choices at the end, leading to four (technically three) possible endings, so while your choices apparently do have an effect, it's really only minimal. There is a sharp twist to the game that really doesn't become fully clear until you've unlocked and seen the extra, and frankly, it just doesn't seem worth it to me.
Zayay strikes me as a rather gimmicky waste of time. There is a twist on the otome-game genre and some interesting, randomized variations in the dialog, but the game is otherwise on rails, the characters and setting are never really fleshed out in any meaningful way, and while the characters are well-drawn, the backgrounds are pretty lazily done. It's not romance, it's not horror, and without the locked character-interview, it's not comprehensible.
But then, maybe you disagree. Do you think Zayay is cute, or does it just leave you wondering why you came here? Feel free to discuss in the comments.