Thursday, June 1, 2017

What's Your Name?

Author: Sunlit Dreamer & Amiralo
Availability: Free, Download
Format: Visual Novel
Genre: SupernaturalHorror
Rating: Teen

Found at

My Scores (Out of 5):

Writing: 2
Art: 3
Gameplay: 2
Romance: 2 (“Still a better love story than the internet meme.”)


In What's Your Name?, you are Insert-Name-Here.  You've agreed to participate in a government program that pairs up humans with mythological creatures.  If, by the end of the first date, the M.C. gives you his name, that means the match-up was successful, and you can arrange to get married!  Until then, be careful, because lampirs, pukis, and mer-men are very, very dangerous.


The Writing

The writing in What's Your Name? makes a couple of interesting and unusual choices.  First of all, this is the first visual novel I've ever played that uses third person narration.  While that style of writing can work just fine for books, I think games require a closer link between the player and the main character.  Whereas “You see a ghost” or “What should I say to him...?” put the player in the main character's head, “She got up to leave” keeps us at a distance, watching from the outside.  It makes it a little harder to get invested.

Another gamble that I don't think paid off very well is having three separate player characters.  When you get a route (more on this later), the game doesn't just present you with a different guy: it puts you in the shoes of a different, corresponding girl, with a different look, personality, backstory, and motivation.  To me, this also makes it harder to get invested: instead of exploring one character through different paths through one story, we're essentially given three very short stories with little time to understand who we're playing as and little reason to get attached.

As for the skill of the writing itself, I have mixed opinions.  Some parts of it were nice, though there were a few grammar flubs here and there.  Some of the descriptions, though, seemed like they were trying to do the job of the art.  A picture is worth a thousand words, so why go to the effort of narrating someone's clothing, pose, or features when you could just show us?  And speaking of art...

The Art

The characters themselves are done nicely enough: they have a kind of sketched look to them, with soft colors that are easy on the eyes.  The backgrounds, though, are very simple.  What's infuriating, though, is that there are times when the screen goes completely black except for the text describing what we see.  There's no call for it; they could at least keep the background up!

On the plus side, the music is very beautiful.  However, I must complain about one of the sound effects: At one point in the lampir's route, our character's ears ring.  We do not need to actually hear this high-pitched ringing.  Seriously, it's a shrill, high note just on the edge of hearing that stretches on and on until the scene is mercifully over or you've taken a mallet to the computer and started smashing it.

Also, I'm on the fence about the chibi-scenes in this one.  They're cute, I suppose.  I do appreciate that our protagonists are different races, but it would have been nice if we could see them sooner, instead of being surprised at the very end with an image of them that may look nothing like what you've been picturing this entire time.

The Gameplay

Like Other Age, this game starts with a personality quiz to determine who you'll be pursuing.  After much thought, I've decided I don't like this technique.  It creates an unnecessary obstacle.  To get any specific character (a must for completionists), the player has to answer questions in a way that matches up with the traits of someone she hasn't even met yet, which calls for either mind-reading, a walk-through, or lots of trial and error.  It lacks the fairness of interacting with someone based on what we know, see, or guess about them.

I was also disappointed that we get very little input into what kind of person our main character is and how she interacts with the world.  Basically, the personality quiz only chooses which story (and thus which main character) to drop you into.  While there are choices, they are only a few with very little difference between options: you can, for example, choose whether or not to look your partner in the eyes while lying, but you cannot choose to evade the question or tell the truth.  Combined with the writing decisions mentioned above, this makes it very hard to connect with the main character in the way a player should be able to.  After all, if the narrator doesn't believe she's me, and she's already more or less made up her own mind what to do in the story, then why am I even here?

I think the worst part of the gameplay, though, is that certain scenes require you to do absolutely nothing.  The choice menu is in front of you, and you have to just wait for several seconds instead of clicking an option.  This is interpreted as your character doing nothing.  No.  Do you know what's a better way to have a character do nothing?  Give the player a choice labeled “Do Nothing”.  I didn't even know “nothing” was an option until I read the walk-through, since usually these things aren't timed and I saw no indication that this was any different.  Oh, and one of those “do nothing” moments comes while an annoying, high-pitched sound is playing.  You didn't actually need your ears, did you?


What's Your Name? took some risks that didn't completely pan out. Still, it has its moments.  It's not the best game out there, but I wouldn't call it the worst, either.  Basically, I'm not mad; just disappointed.

Remember, though, that this is only the opinion of one person.  You might think this game is the perfect match for you, or you might want all traces of it eradicated.  Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

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