Availability: Free, Online/Browser-based
My Scores (out of 5):
Romance: 4 (“Ooh, now we're talking!”)
In Number Days Sim Date, you are Evelyn/Insert-Name-Here. You've gone with your friends to the grand opening of a new theme park, only to suddenly find yourself alone in a park that's now surrounded by a glass wall. A few other people are in the same predicament as you, and you've all gotten the same cryptic text message on your phones: “Your time here will end when your number reaches zero.” Your number is Twelve...
First of all, the plot is amazing in both concept and execution. The story is like an episode of The Twilight Zone, and I can easily picture it being adapted into a book or movie. In fact, if anyone reading this knows Pacthesis (or, better yet, is Pacthesis), I'd like to point out that the indie game Five Nights at Freddy's has already made such a transition, so it might be time to get an agent and/or publisher and claim some of that sweet, sweet Internet Money.
The characters are very distinct and fleshed out, each possessing flaws, passions, and quirks that come up again and again in both the cut-scenes and the dialog-trees. No two are interchangeable, and even characters with similar traits (weirdness, intelligence, shyness, etc.) express those traits in very different ways. This helps make the endings very satisfying and emotional, both in story-mode and free-mode.
I greatly enjoy how the plot itself isn't just flavor, but is instead used to showcase the characters' personalities by letting us see how they operate under pressure. Who takes charge? Who follows? Who tries to solve things by himself? I also like how every character's path ties into the game's over-arching theme of “Be Yourself, and Accept Others for Who They Are”, which is a good message. I do wish, however, that the dialog-trees were a little more synced up with the main story-line, since characters sometimes reference things that either haven't been introduced yet or were already solved.
Not only is the art well-drawn, but I'm very impressed by the level of effort that clearly went into it. Dialog is accompanied by a profile-picture with changing expressions, and the main part of the game features animated figures, decent backgrounds, and some very lovely CGs. I also like how the lighting changes from day to night, and the way inventory items appear in the backpack as actual items rather than just abstract icons of equal size. The music is fun, too.
Number Days offers two modes of play: story-mode and free-mode. This makes it easier to go back and get alternate endings without the main plot getting in the way. Story-mode also offers chapter-select, and each section begins with helpful tips on how to play.
Like Cafe Rouge, much of the game involves wandering through the map, as opposed to just selecting a location and being magically teleported. Unlike Cafe Rouge, though, there is a handy mini-map to consult if you get lost. Also, as in MemoryDays and HeavenlyPlaygirl Dating Sim, characters' locations often change; however, the relocations are much more frequent and random, here, which can be very annoying when you need to find someone.
The classic Dating Sim Interactions of Talk/Gift/Date are all present and all affect the game, but with interesting side-effects that I won't discuss because of spoilers. There is also a point-and-click element of finding small objects scattered across the map, which presents an extra challenge. Strangely, there is also a set of...non-minigames? I'm not sure what to call them, since they're an activity that you can do to get tickets for prizes, but “playing” them really just amounts to rolling a die to see how well your character did. It took me a while to realize what was going on, and then, since I usually hate mini-games anyway, I wasn't sure how I should feel about it. Luckily, nothing about this section is truly necessary anyway, unless you really want to give your new friend an expensive present.
Two words: Magnum Opus. Number Days is one of the best games I've ever reviewed and may well be Pacthesis' crowning achievement. The plot and characters are well-developed, the art is lovely and brings the story to life, and the game-play is both elaborate and well-balanced. Most of Pacthesis' earlier games have struck me as being slightly experimental, and this game is where the previous experiments finally pay off.
What do you think, though? Does this game deserve all the happiness, or is its number up? The comment section is open today, with free admission and no height-restrictions!