Author: Tall Tales Productions
Availability: Free, Download
Format: Visual Novel
My Scores (Out of 5):
Romance: 2.5 (“With endings this sad, it's not just dead: it's buried!”)
Found at lemmasoft forums
In Romance Is Dead, you are Madeline “Maddie” Washington, a biology student at the University of New Orleans. You've come to the conclusion that romance is dead. Perhaps it's a good thing, then, that you've now found yourself in the company of three guys who are also dead! ….Wait, what?
Major props to this game for being the first one I've ever played (much less reviewed) that has a black protagonist. I point this out because most of these games tend to feature characters who are either white or “Asian but with white skin and fair hair”, and I'm not the only one who's noticed this trend, either. Perhaps the tide is finally turning! What's more, this isn't just a palette decision: the issue of race, and the language and ideas associated with it, actually gets brought up a bit, just as it was in A Due.
I also enjoy how this game has such a strong sense of place. This isn't just “Anytown, USA”: this is New Orleans. It isn't just a school, either: it's the sciences section of UNO. The amount of detail given in the story makes me inclined to believe that the creator(s) either came from this area or did lots and lots of research, because it all feels very rich and real. Even the state's history is taken to account for the characters' back-stories, as voo-doo and segregation and the Louisiana Purchase all play a part in making these characters who they are.
The story is also strongly dated, which is a bold and often-risky choice: pop-culture items like Buffy the Vampire-Slayer or The Walking Dead are often discussed, and we are reminded, quite firmly, that this is the 21st century. A lot of works set in the present try to avoid committing to a specific point in time, since time is always moving. Time will tell if this decision will preserve the work or make it rot.
I was very surprised at how cartoony the art-style was. It's not like anime, either, but more like something you would see on Western-made television. While it's not bad, it does seem to me like a style more suited to a comedic piece than a romantic one. The backgrounds are just filtered photos, which was a little bit disappointing when it's so clear that somebody involved in this production can actually draw. The music is nice, being a little bit creepy and a little bit jazzy and quite a good fit, though perhaps not quite the auditory match-made-in-heaven that Cafe Rouge struck gold with.
The balance in this game felt perfect to me, having a good amount of branch-off points and dialog changes without actually carrying the story too far away from the main plot-line. All of the choices make a difference, both in the ending and how you get there, yet the anchor-points in the plot keep it from becoming a sprawled-out mess. The mystery of Adam's death and zombification always remains at the center, but how this gets resolved and who you end up with at the end is deliciously left open.
Romance is Dead is a very well-made game. The art could be a little better in some ways, but the writing more than picks up the slack for it, and the whole thing is assembled beautifully in a way that encourages lots of replay. Overall, I enjoyed this game quite a bit and look forward to seeing what else Tall Tales Productions comes out with.
Of course, this is only my opinion. Does this game capture your heart, or does it just stink like a pickled corpse? Let us pick your braaaaaaaaiiins in the comment section.