Where To Get It: Steam
Oh hell… I got played by Comet… Comet, the worst liar on the ship outside of Shigemichi… She’d collaborated with me early on, and then… She voted me out in the final round. She wasn’t even a Gnosia, the other one was…
But here’s the thing… It was loop 40. And the characters get stat boosts and new abilities over time, just like you do. And, in the end, while I was a good orator, people had gotten tired of my shit, because I talked too much.
Here’s the takeaways, and they’re important for playing Gnosia overall: Be suspicious of even those you think are close friends… And consider your moves carefully, because, in this visual novel game of mafia, even the basics of accuse, cover, defend, and argue can backfire on you. And, throughout it all, you’re trying to understand what’s even going on. Why are you entering all these alternate timelines? What are the Gnosia, the mafia of this game who can erase one person from reality each night? What are the Bugs, the people who can destroy the universe with their paradoxical presence? And… Who the hell are you and these other people anyway?
Right, a brief note on Mafia or Werewolf for those who don’t know. There are the killers, who can kill each night. It goes day, night, day, night, and each day, the group argues as to who the killer is (in Gnosia, there is no choice but to vote, even on the first day, by the way.) The game then introduces other roles: The AC Follower, who doesn’t know who the Gnosia are, but sows confusion in their name. The Bug, who, if they survive, win the game (and destroy that universe.) The Engineer, who can check someone each night to see if they’re Gnosia. The Doctor, who can check who you voted out each night to see if they were Gnosia. The Guardian Angels, who can protect one person a night, but not themselves, and The Guards, a pair who, if they declare themselves, can permanently remove suspicion of them, because no-one else can claim their role, unlike the Doctor or Engineer.
There’s your summary. Now, onto the aesthetics and the writing. Aesthetically, it’s simultaneously lovely, with its hand painted characters, and off, because there’s always something a little weird about the characters, exaggerated when they’re Gnosia, and they’ve won, showing their true colours. It’s accessible and friendly, with a sans serif font, clear icons, no faffing about that obscures things… I like it.
The writing is less clear cut, because, outside of character specific events, the introduction of features, and the occasional snippet, there’s not a whole lot of it. Is that a point against it? Well… No. Because the characters are fleshed out, the snippets are interesting (particularly amusing is the one where either Jonas or Shigemichi, an overly verbose and poetic captain and a gullible guy who alienised himself, out themselves as Gnosia because they couldn’t possibly lose that videogame they’re passionate about!), and these are clues as to who to trust. They tell you a little about their behaviours, who they’ll pick on, who they’ll defend. Kukrushka, for example, will defend you with all her sweet, mute heart if you’re her friend, but if you’re her enemy? Oh boy, she’s going to hate you and go after you every chance she gets. They’re helpful, and honestly, the whole cast is likeable, even Raqio, the smug nonbinary fucko (yes, there are queer folks in this game, another plus) who values intelligence over everything.
And some characters definitely appear to know more than they’re letting on. Hi, Yuriko.
Overall, I like Gnosia. It’s simple, it’s replayable by design, and while certain characters are a bitch to get all their fragments from (you have to futz with the difficulty to get a chance of ideal circumstances), it’s a pleasure to get to know a little more about them… And the overarching mysteries of the game. My only bitch about the port is a pretty minor one, and that’s that the mouse controls seem a bit finicky. But only a bit, there’s keyboard and controller to play, and it’s turn based, so no big.
The Mad Welshman is sus no matter what happens, so hey, vote him out, doom yourselves by all means!
Where To Get It: Steam
Content Warning: The game contains mentions of abuse, bullying, self harm, drugs, and suicide. Although TMW has not managed to fully check the CWs, they assume there are more, but these alone are biggies for a fair few folks.
Well… That’s been one hell of a ride.
Yeah, sometimes all you can really say as an opener is something so simple, because Hermitage: Strange Case Files is an emotional rollercoaster, and, naturally for a horror adventure game with obvious Lovecraft influences, it’s a deeply unsettling experience at times.
Slight, yet important tangent here, because I know something’s going to be said: Yes, Lovecraft was a racist fuck to the point where even his peers went “Whoooooah there, buddy!” Yes, a lot of his work has racism, and indeed, much of the subtext and theming is racist as fuck too. But if you are to judge a later work riffing on the created mythos, not on its own merits, but just as a sentence that starts with “This person liked Lovecraft’s work, ergo, they are -”, you’re doing a disservice to the creator in question.
Okay, that said, let’s go into it. Hermitage: Strange Case Files is a supernatural mystery visual novel, mostly from the perspective of a bookshop owner whose landlord is… Mysterious, and knows more than they’re letting on, his lawyer cum investigator friend, and the various people who are caught up in horrors that said trio help solve. The first chapter is available as a free demo, and oh boy, it’s a doozy. A private school. Bullying. Strange dreams that prove to be real. I would definitely say, if you have a trauma trigger about school bullying, that the descriptions are uncomfortably on point. In each chapter, there are only a few puzzles, the majority of which are to do with sliding clues onto questions to answer them (three per question), with three chances on each, and a bad ending awaiting if, well, you fuck any of them up.
So, let’s get the bad out the way: Scarlet text on a dark transparent box, with sometimes dark backgrounds? HAVE. COLOURBLINDNESS. OPTIONS. Some of the questions, perhaps due to the translation from Chinese to English, are worded in such a way that you likely won’t get it the first time, and sometimes, when you click to fast forward text before clicking again to skip the line… Well, it just skips the line before it’s done. Okay. That’s the bad out the way.
The writing is good. It will frustrate some folks to know that it has the feel of a sequel at the beginning, but most things get revealed by the end, don’t worry. It’s descriptive, it’s emotive (oh boy is it emotive), and the characters, even the ones who are introduced for only one chapter, are fleshed out as well as they can be for their screentime. It draws you in, and I honestly didn’t realise the first chapter took almost 2 hours, because, well, there were only five puzzles (technically four), and the writing drew me in.
Aesthetically, apart from the aforementioned accessibility issue, it’s styling… The character designs are sharp, an ink and airbrush style you often see in manhua, with the occasional more painted look, the menus of the game fit the mood and theme of a mystery game well, the locations are nice, and the soundtrack and ambient sound… Mmmm, chef’s kiss, it’s good stuff.
So yes, if you like horror, if the content warnings don’t turn you off, and if you like a nice visual novel to keep you up at night, then Hermitage is a definite recommendation from me.
Have. Colourblindness. Options. This is not a request.
Source: Review Copy
Price: £3.99 (£3.99 artbook)
Where To Get It: Steam
On the one hand, I love my Good Queer Shit, this is well known. I like gijinkas (human anthropomorphisations of various stuff), and I like games that use engines that aren’t really built for the game. But…
…This game tries way too hard. And the result is a little painful.
Okay, maybe more than a little, this thing… I think I heard ten memes in the space of five minutes, and my brain (and teeth) ache a little.
So… Anyway, the game. It’s a visual novel made in Ren’py, simple choices, a choice of sea life gals to smooch on Valentine’s Day, short, to the point… And it has top down walking in it. Top down walking that scrolls somewhat jankily, and… Feels superfluous, honestly. There are set situations you’re faced with, things only opening up (a little) when you get to a certain point, so… Why not go with a more traditional structure, choosing where to go, etcetera?
Honestly, that’s mostly dissatisfaction with the jank of the top-down, majority segment of the game. Aesthetically, it be pixels, with hand drawn character art for the conversations, so I’m not complaining about the aesthetics.
The writing, on the other hand… Ohhh boy. See, I was down with “It’s time to pick up women. [pause] Respectfully.” But then, shortly after?… Stans, Stands, Darude’s Sandstorm, lots of cheesy lines… It grated. It grated a whole lot, and the humour seemed forced. I didn’t really feel any attraction to anyone (much less the protag), and…
As such, I… Really can’t recommend this, unless you’re a masochist, or are as internet poisoned as the two jackass boys who seem to be the nominal antagonists of the story. I like my Good Queer Shit, but this… This ain’t it.
The Mad Welshman would like to be, under the sea, in a cute dolphingirl’s parlour, in a cave… Alas…
Source: Review Copy
Price: £15.99 (Game plus soundtrack £23.18, Soundtrack £7.19)
Where To Get It: Steam
My word, this one is a delight. I mean, I’ve heard some… Interesting things about the developers, nothing you could repeat, mind you, but…
I am joking, I’ve heard nothing. But that’s the most fitting intro I could think of for a game set just before La Revolution, in which scheming is rife, including yours. Who shall you side with, who shall you snub, and what shall you wear, while avoiding poverty because your fiancee ran off to God knows where before you even arrived?
In any case, this is a life simulation game, in which you’re balancing various stats (it’s a relatively simple one, so it’s favour with factions and characters, money, peril, and exhaustion) while engaging in social situations in a visual novel style format. Read the text, enjoy the expressions, pick the most suitable path for you, and see what ending results (or, you know, aim for a specific one)
At the time of the review, I was, essentially, already on my way to revenge, revolution, and a lesbian romance with an older widow. Perfect path for me, honestly, I love me Dat Good Queer Shit, I dislike the Bourgeoisie, and the noblewoman who snubs you at the beginning of the game is a hateful bitch. I could have curried favour with another lady (a painter for the Queen), some men, the military, the church, but… Naaahhhhh. So, what do I like and dislike about the game, then, now I’ve mentioned this?
Aesthetically, I love it. Expressive characters, solid writing, clear UX, music that fits both the period and the mood, good tooltips… My only bitch with the UX is that when something is grayed out, this is the time to hit Escape to go back, but it does not, in fact, inform you of this. Oh, and the windowed mode going a bit fucky from time to time. But, overall, it pleases me, very good.
Now, the core gameplay loop and the writing? Oh. God. Yes. The gameplay is simple in all its elements. When you’re not at a party, you get one thing to do a day, like buying a new dress, selling or disseminating that Hot Gossip, engaging in encounters, trysts, furthering one of the stories, some days gives you invitations to parties, where declining hurts your credibility (remember, this is also the word for “Someone believing you”), and accepting sets a day aside for attending said party. When you do, you get two social encounters, picked from a pool. Do well, get nice things, maybe some bad things, like Peril (leading, obviously, to bad things. Do poorly, get more of the latter, and expect your reputation to plummet.
It’s easy to navigate, which leaves… The writing. The characters are, as mentioned, expressive visually, and it’s the same in terms of writing. Madame Honorade Gazelle (alas, a Bourgeoisie… Maybe I can persuade her otherwise), for example, is a firebrand, teetotal, but passionate, and caring not for your silly conventions. Camille, your maid… Well, I screenshotted one of her exchanges above, she’s most definitely not law abiding when she needs (or wants) to be, and a cheerful and helpful servant. Alas, not romanceable. Maybe that could be in a patch, or a DLC? After all, out of the romance options, only two are gay (out of six), and we could do with a bigger scandal, couldn’t we?
In any case, to folks who like lifesims, visual novels, and intrigue with a historical touch, this is a very good pick. I’m having a lot of fun, and I expect to have more.
Give us Camille if you want to live, developers. The villains and villainesses demand Camille. (We won’t really hurt you. Camile pweaaaasee?)