Tuesday, July 26, 2016

My Superhero Boyfriend

Author: ?
Availability: Free, Online/Broswer-Based
Format: Arcade Game
Genre: Superhero
Rating: Everyone


My Scores (Out of 5):


Writing: 0.5
Art: 2.5
Gameplay: 2
Romance: 0.005 (“Well, there is kissing in it...”)

Summary


Back when I was first debating the idea of giving these game reviews an official Romance score, I mentioned that my personal idea of romance probably involved Batman somehow. I actually wasn't kidding, so I recently decided to find out for sure if any superhero dating sims existed. Instead, I found this.

My Superhero Boyfriend has nothing to do with being rescued from certain death at the last minute by a good-looking guy with strong morals and a sharp wit. It has nothing to do with dangerous secrets coming between loved ones, the constant threat of being discovered, or the complexities of leading a double-life. It has nothing to do with the difficulties of keeping a date when one of you might be called away at any time, or shouldering the heavy burdens of a job where failure can mean that people die. No, it is none of these things.

What is it, then?

...You walk down a hall, dodging guys, until you reach the one guy at the end of the hall.

Okay, so it's not exactly the kind of game I was hoping for, but let's look at it for what it is:

Review


The Writing


I almost gave this a zero, since there's no real story and no real characters. The “boyfriend” at the end of the hall could very easily be replaced with a ham sandwich. However, the game does at least try to pretend there's a reason for everything that's happening, so I had to concede half a point.

Seriously, though: awesome kissing somehow causes objects to fly into the air and try to hit you? Yes, I know the superhero genre is inherently a blank check for weirdness, but this hurts my brain. At least pretend it's telekinesis gone hay-wire, or something!

Also, there's a different guy at the end of every level, implying our main character changes boyfriends more often than she changes her clothes.

The Art


The graphic art is pretty decent. The obstacle-guys are apparently super-villains or something, given the costumes, and there's at least a little variety in how they look. The music, however, is an extremely short loop of annoying ear-kryptonite which strips the art score of its powers.

The Gameplay


Well, it's simple and easy enough: your character just walks forward, and you use the arrow keys to dodge the guys coming at you. If they hit you, you mash the space-bar in order to repel them with your laser-vision. Finally, you reach the end, and have to click a bunch of random objects. It's basically the kind of game you play when you just need to veg out for five minutes.

TL;DR


My Superhero Boyfriend...exists. The art is okay but with annoying music, the writing is virtually non-existent (and what's there is kind of stupid), and the game-play is mediocre casual-game fare. Worse things exist on the internet, and it's better than getting hit with a shovel.

Feel free to share your own thoughts in the comments. Personally, I'm off to go read some Lois & Clark fanfic and wonder why FNAF apparently got a dating-sim before the Justice League.

Yes, FNAF.


WHAT IS WRONG WITH THE INTERNE—vermind. See you next week: same GGR time, same GGR channel!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

A Due

Availability: Free, Download
Format: Visual Novel
Rating: Teen 


My Scores (Out of 5):


Writing: 4.8
Art: 4.8
Gameplay: 3.5
Romance: 4 ( “Why are all these onions here?!” )

Summary


In A Due, you are Sona Song-- a punky slacker whose Father inexplicably left you his orchestra. You wouldn't actually care, except that you only get his money if you attend their practice sessions, and you happen to owe a lot to some shady people. One day, though, you run into a strange fellow named Hao; he doesn't speak English, and you don't speak Chinese, but you can tell he's very upset with the quality of your orchestra's playing. Can the language barrier be over come by the language of Music...or even the language of Love?

Review


The Writing


This is one of the few games I've played through that made me want to cry. Granted, there are a couple clich├ęs and I groaned when I found out the protagonist of a Music-themed story was punnily named Song, but for the most part, this story really stuck a chor—um, hit home for me, especially since I have a music background myself. The musician's interactions with each other and their conductors really rang true (minus the violence and chair-throwing), and the themes of music's universality and how it brings people together just went straight to my soul.

I also like the fact that not only do we have a Chinese protagonist (perhaps the first one I've seen in any of these games), but her being Chinese isn't just “decorative”. Sona has to deal with racism, people assuming she can speak Chinese, and finally: the language barrier. Language itself is almost a character in this story, and the theme of language is blended exquisitely with the theme of music.

On top of all that, it really is a touching story with good humor and emotional moments, and there's major character development in both the protagonist and the love interest. I became very interested in these characters and their bond, and when the game was over, the story still lingered on in my head. I needed more. That's usually a sign of good writing. (As a bonus, this game also teaches you Chinese and Italian! What more could you want?)

The Art


The backgrounds are photographs, and the characters are decently drawn in the anime/manga style that's pretty standard for otome games. I got a kick out of the buttons being shaped like musical notes: that was a nice touch. Also, the chibi drawings between chapters were pretty cute. Another graphic detail I really like is the way that whenever Hao speaks Chinese, the words Sona actually knows have their transliterations written above the character: it helps to put us inside Sona's head (Plus, you get to learn Chinese words this way!).

The real show-stealer, though, is the music. You'd expect a game with a music theme to have a decent score, and A Due does not disappoint! Several Classical pieces play throughout the story, as well as a couple numbers that are a bit more Rock. As a nice touch, the background music even correctly corresponds to the songs name-dropped in the script: when Sona decides to have the orchestra play the theme from Romeo and Juliet, guess what you hear in the next rehearsal scene? Also, the story's own theme song is probably going to stay in my head for a long time.

The Gameplay


The gameplay is mostly linear; while your choices do affect which ending you get, the story itself doesn't really branch out the way Frozen Essence or Requiem of the Abyss do. That said, there are three endings, and getting all of them unlocks an epilogue. While not the shortest game, it can be totally completed in a day.

TL;DR


A Due is a beautiful story about language, music, and the need to love what you're doing. It's beautiful in every way, with good writing, decent art, lovely music, and clear, straight-forward gameplay. This might be one of the best games I've reviewed; it's definitely one of my favorites, although that might be partly due to my own personal biases.


What do you think, though? Is this a game you'd play con amore, or do you just want to smash a guitar over it? Feel free to compose your thoughts in the comments.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Heart Rate Dating Sim

Author: Skye033
Availability: Free / Online
Format: Dating Sim
Rating: Everyone

My Scores (Out of 5):

Writing: 1.5
Art: 2
Gameplay: 2
Romance: 1 (“No Sale.”)

Summary


In Heart-Rate Dating Sim, you are...You. The bell has rung, and now you face a critical decision: go to class, or ditch school and head elsewhere?

Review


Writing


There isn't much to say about the writing, as there isn't much *to* the writing. It's pretty short, simple, and straight-forward. The “plot”, such as it is, is that you decide where to go, meet a boy, and try to persuade him to go out with you. I will say, however, that the title (and title-page) are very misleading as this game has nothing to do with hearts, heart-problems, hospitals, or even Love if you stop and think about it since the relationship only progresses as far as “What's your name? You're cute. Want to go out?”

Art


Well, the music is upbeat, and there are backgrounds. I don't really have any praise for the artwork, though I've definitely seen worse. Much worse.

Gameplay


This game is very quick to get through. There's no mucking about with stats, time-limits, or alternate paths; if you say the wrong thing, the game ends. That's it. Its simplicity is almost beautiful, actually.

TL;DR



Heart-Rate Dating Sim is definitely a “casual gaming” experience, as it doesn't really offer anything deep or innovative to the genre. It might be good for introducing someone to the concept of dating-sims, etc., as it is very brief and easy to understand, though I doubt more experienced players will get much out of it. It needs a different title, though, because come on.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Charms of Lavender Blue

Author: Waffrus
Availability: Free/Online
Format: Visual Novel
Rating: PG


My Scores (Out of 5):


Writing: 3
Art: 3
Gameplay: 2
Romance: 1.5 (“Who is this guy, again?”)

Summary


In Charms of Lavender Blue, you are Nabi. Your family is under a curse that causes your first love to either kill you or die trying. Luckily, you have a magic charm to keep the curse at bay! You move back to your old neighborhood after years away, only to find that your childhood friend, Pierce, is now avoiding you. Seriously, what's up with that guy?

Review


The Writing


For starters, I like the premise. Instead of a setup where the protagonist has to find love, we are presented with a situation where love itself is dangerous. It's an interesting obstacle. Unfortunately, I don't think the premise is fully exploited; the only time the curse ever really becomes relevant (aside from encouraging Nabi to join the jewelry club) is in a flashback. We never really feel the pressure to stay away from Pierce, nor is the reason for his behavior apparent until the end. The danger is never made real in the course of the story, which is a shame, since it seems like it would make for a more exciting romance than the usual fare.

The other disappointment is that we don't really get to know Pierce or Nabi all that well. How much of Pierce's disposition was a put-on, and what is his real personality like? What does Nabi actually like to do, given that she mainly joined lapidary out of necessity? Why do they like each other? Is he smart? Is he funny? Do they have anything in common (besides being in this club)? At least in Lady of the Castle, we found out that the Prince likes flowers, misses his mother, and wants Elise to be happy. With Pierce, it's just “He was happy once, now he's grumpy. The End!” Oh, and he doesn't like little kids. That's something, I guess.

The Art


The art is very pretty with less of the facial problems that marred Lady of the Castle. Waffrus's strongest point seems to be hair and clothing, especially the latter: Waffrus has a knack for showing off the softness and folds of cloth, and I'm actually a little impressed by that since it's an area I struggle with. The backgrounds, while simple, have a painted look, and my only nitpick is that Nabi's room seems to have a dirt floor (or possibly straw). The music is nice, too.

The Gameplay


Once again, I had to deal with that funny little “I” cursor that indicates I'm about to type on a button instead of click on it. It's annoying, but not exactly a tragedy. My greater concern is that the choices you make don't really affect the game beyond the next page. After that page is over, the plot snaps back onto its one track with no lasting repercussions from what you had chosen. Nabi even talks to Pierce about “that thing you did”, simultaneously referring to the scene where he kissed her and the alternate scene where he sort-of hugged her; it doesn't matter to the game which option you chose. The only choices that determine which ending you get are the obvious decisions of whether to join the club and whether to enter a relationship with Pierce. Everything else could essentially be replaced with “White or Wheat?”

There is only one flaw that I find to be completely intolerable, however: a Double-Negative Question. I'm not speaking as a grammar nazi, here; this question seriously tripped me up. The question was “Is that a No?” and my options were “Yes” or “No”. I chose "No", to indicate “No, that wasn't a 'No',” i.e. answering the current question. However, the game did not parse it that way, instead translating it as “No is absolutely my previous answer, in case you weren't certain.” This kind of ambiguity is a very serious pitfall to have in your game, as it can unfairly rob the player of their ending because they thought you meant something different. As it happens, this decision didn't impact the ending at all (see above), but it still can cause lots of undue frustration.

Please, authors: check your dialog options for ambiguity. If one option can be read as meaning something very different, or if both options are essentially thesame, or if there is no context for the player to know which optionis true or which is a lie, then it may be time to re-write. Our choices should have meaning, and that can only happen when we are purposely and knowingly making that choice. We don't have to know what that choice will lead to—that is, after all, part of the fun—but we must know if we are choosing to lie, insult, reject, accept. Ambiguity hurts that experience, so please do your best to be clear at all times.

TL;DR


Charms of Lavender Blue is okay, but doesn't really reach its full potential. The premise is interesting, though the characters are a little under-developed for my taste, and there isn't any tension despite a lethal curse supposedly hanging over the protagonist's head. The plot is mostly linear with only the briefest of detours after choices, one choice being infuriatingly ambiguous. Overall, I give it a “meh”.


Of course, this is just my (admittedly fussy) opinion, and yours may differ. You might think this game is just charming, or it may leave you cursing. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.