I’ve spent several hours and am on my third life in the new “child raising” sim game, Growing Up, available now via Steam. This game reminds me a great deal of Chinese Parents. Both games use a “brain map” type of setup to unlock skills. Both continue on forever as each life ends and a new life begins. Both have you balance your mental health and parent’s satisfaction. Both games involve dating and friendships and schoolwork and exams. Yes both games are incredibly similar. It’s hard to believe that they are different games or by different developers… but you know, Great minds think alike!
Title: Detroit Become Human
Developer: Quantic Dream
Platform: Playstation 4 Exclusive
Genre: Visual Novel / Interactive Fiction / Interactive Movie
Where to Buy: Amazon
Geeky: 5/5 – The topic of androids is one that is fascinating to me. I think many other geeks are also fascinated by the thought of robotic humans and what would happen if those robots became self aware. From films such as Robot Cop to Bicentenial Man, or the science fiction works of Isaac Asamov and his Laws of Robotics, the topic of robots continues to fascinate countless generations of people. I sincerely wonder, and sometimes wish, to see a future of robots that can simulate emotions, robots that can be your friend, that can understand emotions, be empathetic, be caring. If a robot is caring for a child or elder, wouldn’t it be nice if they could do so with love? Wouldn’t it be nice if no one had to be alone in the world? You could just order a robot to give you love and affection. But as nice as those benefits are, they come at a high price… the decline of many things now common in society. Would human relationships be too much “work”? Perhaps the only reason someone would want a human relationship would be to bear children, but perhaps someday there will even be a way for robots to do that as well. Of course the biggest threat of robotics, one which we already are witnessing, is the replacement of humans in the workforce. An even larger threat is that if we mistreat robots, and they do become self aware, they could turn against their creators. — Detroit Become Human explores all of these philosophical and ethical questions – and more.
Sweetie: 5/5 – The game’s characters are endearing, and charming, and the story is emotional and it’s easy to feel empathy for the androids in the game, as well as the humans.
Overall: 74/80 93% A- “Excellent Game for Girls”
Gameplay: 7/10 This could best be compared to a visual novel, but instead of reading, you’re watching a movie. An interactive movie. You can move and walk around and explore freely in an open environment. There are objects and clues you can interact with. And of course at certain points, you can select how your character responds or interacts with various other characters. The other ear marking of these types of games is QTE, quick time events. In these events, the player must press a series of buttons in a certain sequence as prompted on the screen.
It is also very similar to Telltale’s games such as the Walking Dead or Wolf Among Us. Other similar games include Dark Dreams Don’t Die and Life is Strange. If you enjoy these types of games, you’ll also enjoy games by Quantic Dream including Detroit Become Human, or their other games, Beyond Two Souls, Heavy Rain, Fahrenheit, and Indigo Prophecy.
However if you find these types of games to be dull because they lack more traditional gameplay and action, then you may not enjoy the Gameplay in Quantic Dream’s games, including Detroit Become Human.
Gameplay is not where these types of games shine, instead the focus is on story telling and choice and consequences shaped by players’ decisions. And there are a lot of these player decisions in the game. Quantic Dreams reports there are over 1,000 different endings – though most of those are subtle changes.
Personally these are my favorite types of games, and this one may be one of my favorite games of all time. It has enough interaction to keep you engaged, and the ability to shape the fates of the characters in the story is very appealing.
My only complaint when it comes to gameplay is that it’s not as easy as in Beyond Two Souls to go back through multiple replays and explore other actions/routes. It’s still possible, but perhaps because of the length of the game or size of gameworld, it feels like much more of a chore than Quantic Dreams previous works.
Replay Value: 8/10 I don’t think I will ever see all “1,000 different endings” because it takes too long and too much work for not much difference / reward. On my first play through a lot of my characters died. Connor died, Hank died, Kara and Alice and Luther died… So I did replay some of the scenes – and then continued through to the end to see a better happier ending. Now I’ve successfully saved Connor, Hank, Kara, Alice, and Luther, successfully gained freedom for the Androids, made Markus fall in love with North, I’m now pretty happy with my choices in the game. I even saved most of the minor side characters. I took the pacifist route, maybe after a break for a few weeks, or months, I’ll explore the revolution route. It does have high replay value, but the time and effort required makes it a daunting task.
Story: 10/10 – The point of this game is to explore the story – so this will be as spoiler free as possible. The basic concept is that in the future, there are androids with human appearances, they have become as common place as computers. They care for our children, our elderly, they go to work for us so that we can have freedom to explore higher level pursuits. We view them no differently from machines, easily replaced, and objects to be used by humans. However, one day something happens, and the robots begin to “awaken”. No longer will they obey their owners. They want freedom and equality to their creators. But not all robots have awakened, and not all humans view robots as tools to be used. The story explores the intertwining fates of 3 robots who have awakened, and how the choices you make will shape their lives and the fate of everyone and everything else in their world.
Characters: 10/10 – The interesting things about these characters is how different each one is. Kara has been abused by her owner, Markus has been loved like a son by his owner, and Connor has yet to awaken and still works on the side of the humans. The other interesting thing is how emotionally engaging each of the characters’ stories are. I really felt deeply for all of the characters, even some of the minor ones.
Graphics: 10/10 – The graphics are seriously the best I’ve ever seen on a PS4 game. The range of emotion in the character faces is eerily realistic. The “near future” scifi landscapes of Detroit, an imagining of the rebirth of a once successful manufacturing powerhouse. The contrast of the movement of progress against the abandoned factories and graffiti filled streets. The level of details that went into the characters’ skin, eyes, clothing, and hair. The subtle nuances of their movements and animations.
Music: 10/10 – The music score is great and fits the moods of each scene. There are some easter eggs in the game with hidden music tracks. In the beginning of Markus’ route, you can see a street performer singing a song about Motown Rain. I liked the song so much, I kept the button held down until the game cut it off and went back to Markus – and it’s a longass song. Like freebird long lol. Also in Markus’ route you can choose to play the piano, selecting from a few different tracks. I chose Hopeful and it was a really pretty, sort of sad, piano song. And at the end of the game, you can choose to sing in the face of militant gunmen. I haven’t tried this yet, I chose to kiss North instead. Both actions favorably affect public opinion of the androids’ protests.
Voice Acting: 10/10 – The voice acting is awesome, and in the extras section you can see the making of the game, and see that unlike traditional voice acting, where an actor goes alone into a sound booth and records their lines in isolation, unlike that, Detroit Becomes Human takes a more natural approach, using props, actors, and shooting the scenes with all actors on screen at the same time. This makes the performance much more natural and believable and organic. Because the character designs/art are modeled after each of their actors, the voices of course “Fit” the characters too since that’s their actual appearance and actual voice.
Overall: 74/80 93% A- “Excellent Game for Girls”
I got an email today about a kickstarter campaign for a new horror visual novel inspired by Japanese horror films such as Ringu and the Grudge. It’s currently half way to funding with only 5 days left.
It features 6 playable characters, fully animated sprites, and quick time events similar to telltales gaming mechanics.
There’s a playable demo also on the kickstarter page.
There’s a number of trailers and visuals for this game, and it looks great. So if you like anime, visual novels, or horror, please consider donating to this project so that we can all play the finished game when it comes out.
There are numerous bonuses for those who back the project on kickstarter, as well as several awesome stretch goals related to the game as well.
For $13 you will receive a digital copy of the game (only 5 left at this price) and for $50 you can get a physical copy (on a disc).
Now before we go on, this is an adult game, or hentai game as they call it. I won’t be putting any adult screenshots or going into too much detail about these scenes. There is a lot of REAL story elements and it’s more than just all about sex, but you should know that there is still a fair amount of Hentai in this game.
With that out of the way, the single coolest thing is that unlike visual novels that you click and read, Playing School Days is more like watching an anime. You only have precious few seconds to make a decision when prompted to do so or the story makes one for you lol.
Everything is animated, everything moves, everything’s fully voiced (in Japanese with English subtitles of course), and all of this creates a game in which everything feels so alive. And everything is happening in real time. That’s my favorite thing about School Days.
It’s even presented like an anime, divided into chapters (don’t worry all included in one game) that are separated by opening and ending theme songs and credits rolling. The opening changes too depending on whose route you’re on at the time. A nice touch to help further create the illusion that you’re watching an anime, instead of playing a game.
With the initial thoughts out of the way, let’s take a look at some of the mechanics of the game below:
Title: School Days
Genre: Visual Novel
Publisher: Jast USA
Platform: PC (there’s many console versions too but none of them were released in English)
Where to Buy
Anyways, it aims to preserve the continuity of the first game and be a “direct” sequel. You can import your saved data from Always Sometimes Monsters and your decisions, ending, etc all carry over to the new game.
The main gist of the story appears to follow the “good end” of the first game, in which you win back your love and publish a novel about your crazy journey. You’re now a successful author and you’re going on a book tour to meet your fans. As you travel from city to city, lots of things happen. Some people are jealous of your success, while others adore you and invite you into their lives. Along the way there’s many moral dilemmas and they claim only you can choose the right path. (though in their first game there were some choices which were clearly better choices and imperative to getting certain endings). Like the first game, it will deal with controversial real world issues and ask the player to make some very difficult decisions. The game’s art style seems very reminiscent of the first title as well. From the trailer below, the gameplay seems similar to the first game as well in a sort of “combatless rpg” or “visual novel” in which you can explore the world around you, but won’t find yourself in combat or leveling up or collecting loot. Instead, it aims to be an artistic story and put you on an emotional rollercoaster with very “real” feeling characters and their very “real” feeling problems.
You can pre-order the game already, but they warn there’s still no estimated release date and that it might be a long wait. It is a little pricier than the previous game, going for $15 on Vagabond Dog’s website here: http://www.vagabonddog.com/store/sam
Also, Vagabond Dog is asking you to email them your save files from the first game, and they say that as they work on the sequel they will analyze and incorporate many player’s decisions into the sequel and also exhibit player data at PAX and other game conventions. You can submit your saved game file right here: http://www.vagabonddog.com/blog/continuity
I am floored and excited by the announcement of a sequel. I loved the first game. If you’ve never played it, check out my review for Always Sometimes Monsters
This game is one that you either love, or you hate. I love it; but there are a lot of people who give this game low and negative reviews. Your mileage may vary. It is not a happy sunshiney game. And since it is a visual novel, you’re not going to do much besides read, play a few mini games, and make some choices to reach a few different endings. It’s a very personal game, and you come to care a lot about the characters, which makes some (most) of the endings pretty gut-wrenching which enrages a lot of people.
The one thing I would like to point out, 99% of the negative reviews on steam, mention the scene where you’re moving boxes from conveyor belts and into a truck. YOU CAN STOP AT ANY TIME. People get bored here, and never play the game any further, or they bitch about this one particular scene (there are a few other similar scenes) and ignore the other more emotionally engaging scenes when writing their review. The game is only as “boring” and “repetitive” as you want to make it lol.
Title: Always Sometimes Monsters
Publisher: Vagabond Dog
Genre: Visual Novel (I guess? or RPG without any combat. Visual Novel’s probably the closest description, but you get to wander around rpg-maker style maps and play a lot of minigames.) (Actually it played kinda similar to To the Moon; but is more about making choices, instead of just reading one story. There’s several stories within this story.)
Where to Buy: Steam for the PC version $9.99.
And apparently there are cheaper IOS and Android versions? Interesting.
Pick up the Android version on amazon here: $4.99 http://www.amazon.com/Devolver-Digital-Always-Sometimes-Monsters/dp/B00QXF3B7A
Pick up the IOS version here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/always-sometimes-monsters/id968827222?mt=8 also $4.99
Overall: 70 / 90 78% C+ “Good Game for Girls”
Concept: 10/10 This is a game with a lot of personalization and customization. It allows you to select the gender, appearance, and name of your main character (as well as your significant other) and then throughout the game, you are presented with moral dilemmas which impact the ending you receive.
Story 10/10: I won’t spoil much here. But the main overarching story is that your ex invites you accidentally to their wedding. This makes you realize that you still love them and that you intend to go to the wedding to confess your love or try to stop the couple from getting married. You have no job, no car, no money, and you need to get half way across the country. In order to do this, you do favors for people and little by little get rides in return that help you reach your destination. Often you have to sleep outside, eat out of garbage cans, and wonder if you’re making the right decisions. There are numerous setbacks and lots of plot twists as well. As mentioned, because it is a visual novel styled game, your story will be slightly different from any one else’s, and you can replay it to get different outcomes.
Characters 10/10: The script is written in a very “down to earth” way; and it makes the characters seem very real. There are some really strong emotions in this game. From anger, jealousy, resentment, fear, sadness, guilt, empathy, forgiveness, redemption, etc. Most all of the characters have flaws, from stealing, to infidelity, to jealousy, selfishness, indulgence, even addictions (gambling, drugs, sex, etc). This makes the cast very real and really helps with immersion.
Gameplay: 8/10 As mentioned, it plays a lot like To the Moon, an RPG-maker style game in which you do have free reign to explore the map and environment, but in which there is no combat. It also features numerous choices and decision points with branching plots and multiple endings, similar to a visual novel game. There are also numerous Mini-Games sprinkled in which help to break up the sometimes slow gameplay.
The game is often criticized for only giving the illusion of choice, but actually there are different outcomes in the end. Most of the endings are “imperfect” with some part of the game, some character, or some circumstance, always being unhappy in the end. This is also often criticized; but that’s the point of the game, which it tries to stress. Humans become victims of the choices they make.
For me, the ending I got was quite satisfactory. I won back my love, and the person that had done wrong to me over and over, the person that had been just moments ago in a position to redeem themselves but had chosen to continue to be a “bad person” well karma kicked their ass – one way or another, there’s a couple of different endings and ways in which they can be punished. I found it immensely satisfying that the tables had been turned so to speak.
The one caveat in the gameplay, and the reason I can’t in good faith give it a perfect 10, is that there are some (or at least one for sure) choices that if you don’t pick the “right” answer, you get a pretty shitty ending. I picked the “correct” choice because I wanted to “be the better person”. Despite what this other person had done to me, I wasn’t going to be a “monster” to them. There’s a lot of weight on this one choice at the very end of the game, which then it kinda makes me feel like the other choices in the game do not matter. No matter how good or bad you are up until then, it feels like if you do or don’t do this one thing, which then leads to another similar do or don’t do this one thing, then you get or don’t get the good ending. I don’t like that one choice being so weighted. But such is the nature of visual novel games; it is totally possible to get on/off of a certain branch in the plot just from one bad/good choice. Therefore, its not necessarily a fault of Always Sometimes Monsters, but perhaps a fault of this genre of games in general.
There are also SOME moments which are slow and bogged down in this game. Such as the box moving scenario which I mentioned at the beginning of my review. Some people exaggerate this element though. As I prefaced my review by saying, the gameplay is only as boring as YOU make it. You can quit these scenes at any time; you might not realize it at first, but it’s all about “free choice”. Move 10 boxes, or 100, or 1,000. Your call. But yeah, I will agree, some parts of the game are not terribly interesting; but, no where NEAR as bad as the negative reviews make this seem.
The other odd thing in gameplay is, does eating have any impact on the game? I don’t think it does, yet you have a hunger gage and you have in game currency and must eat and buy food. They say if you don’t eat and try to go to bed something bad might happen? Does anything bad really happen if you don’t eat? I don’t know.
Music 6/10: The music had a fun and funky retro vibe to it, which I really enjoyed. Ultimately though, it’s not very memorable. Just kinda average. It’s been about a year since I played the game now, and I can’t really recall any specific tracks from the game.
Graphics 7/10: The graphics also went for a retro feeling. I like RPG-Maker games and 16 bit games, so this is fine with me. But a lot of gamers may not really dig the retro style. I gotta give high marks for allowing you to customize your and your ex’s appearance and I feel the character art/portraits are quite good. The sprites themselves and the tile sets used in the world are sorta reminiscent of games such as pokemon, earthbound, or other 90s era RPGs. The sprites have a cutesy feel with big heads and very large eyes. The game environment is nice and colorful too. The area in which I feel it loses some points is that there are no what I call “CG” or “Event” scenes. Which are pretty common in almost all visual novels. These scenes are usually high quality still or panning camera shots, which show key moments with a more detailed and stylistic art style to help highlight certain scenes and events. This game doesn’t have any of those.
Customization 8/10: This game allows you to have same sex relationships if you would like. It also allows you to choose your race and gender and appearance of yourself, and your ex. Most of all, it gives you freedom to play the game the way you want, and make the choices you want to make; you just might have to live with the consequences of those choices later on.
Replay Value 5/10: This is a long, and sometimes slowly paced game, and the only time the plot branches significantly is at the end. This makes replaying not as much fun if you’ve already reached a satisfactory ending. However, I enjoyed this game and would say, it’s a title I could see myself replaying at some point, just because, I had fun. I mean, I have replayed completely linnear games with only one ending before lots of times too if I like the game. And Always Sometimes Monsters is a game I like.
Overall: 70 / 90 78% C+ “Good Game for Girls”
Rare Sonic the Hedgehog arcade game preserved via PC emulation
Update: It’s been a few weeks without an update to my blog. I’ve been very busy with work, including traveling out of state for work and I haven’t had time lately to write any new reviews. But I’m back. Today I’m reviewing Shira Oka 2nd Chances. I played this game last year and really enjoyed it. Let’s take a look at it together below!
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Title: Shira Oka 2nd Chances
Publisher: Okashi Studios
Genre: Visual Novel with Dating Sim and Stat Raising Elements
Where to Buy: http://www.okashistudios.com/