Where to Get It: Steam
At first, I had mixed impressions. A beautiful piano piece on the one hand, not making it clear the drawers are the menu, and the key the options on the other.
The piano remains good. And the opening crawl… Don’t let it put you off. Yes, it’s all text, but being that fits. Toma has no good pictures for this. Why should she, when she feels off, isolated, and feeling like her core, her identity, was stolen via the simple fact her aunt named her baby with Toma’s mother’s desired name for her daughter. And it’s affected her self esteem, to the point where she, a beautiful young lady (and she is) feels plain, weird, uncomfortable to be around.
A kinetic novel (where one doesn’t choose, but simply experiences the story), it revolves around two people, both young: Toma and Emmeline, and the fateful meeting they have in a graveyard. And it’s an emotional ride, where I found myself tearing up at one phrase early on:
“Every person has a story, and there is not enough space on a single tombstone to say it.”
But the story is told, and I teared up several times. That, in and of itself, says a lot. I sometimes tear up at the weirdest things (Like the SST arrange of Space Harrier, of all things. No idea why), but I don’t often do it overall…
But Toma’s story, and Emmeline’s struck a chord. They both loved a girl, and, in the end, they both got the relationships they wanted, and resolved, at least partly, the histories that plagued them.
You’d think that was a massive spoiler, but no. The details matter. The very British nature of the game matters, the small things matter. Just like a light brush of the hand, or a stammered set of words.
The Sad Story of Emmeline Burns is free, is hella gay, and it made me almost cry. If you want that experience, and don’t mind it being a kinetic novel… Go give it a go.
Oh, and the gallery is in the book, and the music box’s function is obvious.
And so we close our tale, the biscuits and milk all eaten, the night drawing in. Sweet dreams, one and all…
Source: Free, Cashmoneys for the DLC
Price: Free (£4.79 for an extra romance route and extra eye candies)
Where to Get It: Steam
Omigosh. This is so hecking wholesome. So hecking wholesome, in fact, that I’ve said hecking twice.
Okay, okay, let’s get into it. Rawr.
Witches x Warlocks is a visual novel with some resource/raising elements, in that you need potions to cast and learn spells from the four potential sweethearts, and you have times of the day to choose to make potions with one of said sweethearts, learn spells from them, and work part time to buy potions. And, naturally, learn about your four potential sweethearts, and romance the heck out of them as The Matchmaker of Dwimmermere, the Halloween Town!
…Who’s also a witch who completely forgot to study, and realises exams are in a week’s time. Which is why you’re doing all this. Whoops.
So, aesthetically… Everyone is cute. The visuals are clear. The music is nice, and my only (minor) gripe with the VA is that, no matter what gender presentation and pronouns you pick, your protag has exactly the same voice. Otherwise, everyone is characterful, and there’s just enough VA to get more of a sense of their characters.
Speaking of characters… I love them all, and if time actually permitted, I would smooch all of them. There’s Damion, the frankensteinian cutie, Zero, the gruff poltergeist who, nonetheless, is warm beneath that, Lawrence, the grumpy werewolf, and Carmilla, the wry, seductive vampiress who nonetheless hides some pain in her past. I want the best for all of them, and this is a hallmark of a good dating sim: You want to date them all.
And then there’s something I enjoy most of all: This is a game that wants to be played. So long as you have at least 8 of every potion at the end, and a selection of spells that cover most situations, you will be fiiiine, and the full selection of a given character’s skills goes a long way, and, y’know… Gives you more chances to get to know them, and closer to giving them a big sloppy kiss.
So yes, Witches x Warlocks is fun, it’s wholesome, it’s cute, and it tugs at my heart in the right ways. Give it a go.
Now, what we need are more queer villainess isekai otome visual novels. And manga. And anime. I won’t shut up about this, you can’t make me.
Where To Get It: Steam
Princess Maker is a funny old series. It popularised the life simulation and trainer genres in the west, and, for all that its basic formula has remained the same, it managed to create different characters, moods, and refinements throughout the series.
Even so, when I found Go! Go! Princess, I sat there for a while, just… Blinking. A board game with life-sim elements, containing the first four princesses to be of the series. Competitive princess making, if you will.
Naturally, I got some friends together to play it (after playing it hotseat and solo.) What we agreed on was that this… Definitely had its weirdnesses. Fun overall, but also with a fair bit of jank.
So yes, you are four princesses to be, and the king is setting a number of tasks, which will determine who has the right to join the Prince on the throne… And who gets any other one of the 36 endings (some of which are unique to the princesses.)
There’s, er, just one problem with that last bit. You’ll have a bastard of a time achieving the ending you want unless you’re specifically gunning for it, completely ignoring the mad rush to the quests which are… All around the damn map. There is an option to have a smaller map to work with, and quicker games than the full 8 years (96 turns), but even so, there’s a lot of running around, and, with having to move the full value on the die or dice, without going back on your path, some of the quest locations are painful to get to, being at the end of a path. So right off the bat, you have a sometimes painful quest system, which either results in a mad, unstructured rush to each quest location, or, in the case of everyone but a single player ignoring the quests in favour of their ending (itself a problem due to needing to learn the board, rather than just thinking “Ah, yes, this job would do this, perfect for a General’s necessary stats!”), one player going for one quest, and then the rest of the game a cavalcade of “Ahh, fuck it.”
It’s… A very odd design, where the incentive to faff around on the board is, once you’ve achieved a princess ending for the first time, much larger than winning, unless there’s conflict for a goal. Add in that behind the scenes is somewhat obfuscated, and you have further confusion. How does a high magic skill influence the magic roll in combat? Dunno. Is there any way to relieve stress beyond the random 500g doctor event or some specific churches on the map? Dunno. Do higher stats = higher rolls in general? Seems like, but dunno…
Aesthetically, the game is… Alright. It has the small text problem of earlier games, free mode in the map isn’t as helpful as “Original” mode, and while the icons tell you roughly what to expect, it takes practice to know how it benefits, but…
In the end, this is a weird one. I don’t really see it as appealing to lifesim fans, and similarly, it’s got enough board game annoyances and lack of incentive that I don’t really see it as appealing to them, either. It’s a hodgepodge which feels aimless, and, although we had fun, it was mostly because we were friends playing, not because the game was well designed.
The Mad Welshman wonders what else could be shoehorned into a game like this. Doom? System Shock? Alan Wake, maybe?
Source: Supporter Gift
Where To Get It: Steam
I enjoyed the hell out of Monster Prom. Truly, it was an experience that will always stay with me, the days of smooching monsterfolk that shaped me, a magical time fraught with drama and sometimes iffy humour…
And now, it’s time for summer camp, with a mostly new cast, some new mechanics to shake things up, and, although the core of the game remains the same… Going to places that raise stats, successfully navigating events through picking which of the two choices correspond to the higher stat of the pair (yes, you have to deduce this), a campfire interlude in which you try to get hearts with the monster of your dreams by pandering… All of this remains the same, but there’s new wrinkles, changes. And some of them I like, some of them, I understand (but don’t necessarily like), and… Well, actually, there’s only one thing I don’t reallylike, but we’ll get to that.
It’s basically a VN dating sim type dealio, but with extra horny, a customisable content filter, and a competitive element if you’re playing together.
Anyway, changes. Character choices feel a little more natural, if a little bit more confusing for the first part, which is picking three items for your stat improvements to put in your backpack. With the quiz of the previous game, it was a little more clear, but I sorta get it, and it is a fitting way to work it in, as is trying to break the ice with your chosen bae before you’ve hit the camp.
The campfire, much like the lunch hall of the previous game, is mostly the same, except… There’s two differences, and they’re both fun. Want to give another player a boost? Spread some goss, honey, the mothman over there is dying to hear the latest! Haven’t seen it backfire yet (nope, just did, right now… -4 Boldness, OW), and there’s some fun madlibs. Now… Juan the Magical Latino Cat, this… Is a slightly different story. His role is to shake things up, by providing you with one drink, chosen from either one you can see, and maybe guess the effects of… Or the Mystery Box. There’s a couple that screw you over, but mostly, it’s interesting stuff, which does change your plans, and I like that.
Then there’s the little bit of rep, and this time, definitely intentional. Last game, we had Zoey, who many consider to be transgender (and awesome), and now? Milo, the nonbinary reaper. Who, like pretty much all of the main cast, is extremely cute. Would talk up on their instagram contents, 10/10. And someone’s parents being a gay couple. And pretty much all the main cast technically being pansexual. Okay, I take it back, this game’s pretty queer.
Aesthetically, it remains the same, although the music does feel samey pretty quickly, I kinda miss the “What they did after” vignettes, but the replacement of a cool credits animation makes up for that somewhat, and, while there’s stuff still needing to be put into the game (Hi there Gallery mode, I want a full screenshot of Milo’s hot bod, thanks in advance.) It remains accessible, the content filters are a nice feature, even if they don’t… Full cover everything, but I’m reasonably certain they’ve tried to keep it CW free, outside of the events and endings.
So, is it a recommendation? Yup, pretty much. I’d have liked it if they’d released with all the content, rather than putting it out now with some stuff missing, but, honestly, it’s definitely enjoyable right now, even if I do wish there was a cheat sheet built in that, once you’ve smooched your date once, helps narrow down what stats you need to smooch them again. Mostly because it’s tiresome remembering, and I want to enjoy the events along the way. Still, if you like smooching monsterfolk, Monster Prom remains a series to enjoy.
Well, unless you’re not up for thirst. Because hoo boy, there’s a lot of thirst.
As before, The Mad Welshman had real difficulty working out who they wanted to date. So they dated them all.