LnScramble, Reviews

Ludonarrative Scramble: May 18-May 22

This is Ludonarrative Scramble! Over the course of the week, I play a handful of free, small, indie narrative games (visual novels, IF, text adventures, etc), and talk about them.

This week’s theme: Only One of Any Asset Jam Roulette

This Life Escapes Me

Dev: Coda Blue, et al

Genre: drama, dark romance; linear visual novel

 My Playtime: ~10 min

I…uh…wow…um. I cried. I’ve only ever cried three other times over a video game and two of those were in Mass Effect 3. The art is gorgeous, and they made excellent use of their limitations while still making the character sprite so expressive. And the story itself was perfect for the thousand word limit. Amazing work and awesome use of the 3D camera. 

Rustea Conversation

Dev: Foleso

Genre: fantasy, slice-of-life; visual novel, conversation sim

My Playtime: ~5 min

The art on this is really cute, and the music is nice and peppy. There also seem to be A LOT of variations which is very difficult to do with such a small word count, so props for trying. That being said, I think they could have benefitted from still trying to form cohesive little stories. The conversations didn’t really GO anywhere. There’s no hint at a bigger story that makes you want to find all the conversations. So cute but nothing that really grabs you. 

A Short Game About Nothing

Dev: m.

Genre: slice of life; linear visual novel

My Playtime: ~5 min

This was the perfect concept to explore in a jam like this. Art: adorable (though they maybe could have taken advantage of the fact that they were allowed multiple expressions to spice her up a bit). I even dig the white background concept. They also make pretty good use of Ren’py pause. Where the writing started out kind of fun and quirky, though, it sort of just…devolved into a vessel to deliver hollow platitudes. Maybe I’m too cynical, or it just wasn’t “for me.” I don’t know. It just didn’t wow me, and I think they could have kept the quirky feel but given it more depth. 

XX Project

Dev: azuremia; kinetic novel

Genre: sci-fi

My Playtime: ~ 2min

This had an extremely good use of minimal assets to create expressiveness. Other than that, just a goofy little experiment. I’m a little conflicted because I think they could have done SOMETHING with interactivity and really up the polish and fun. Still conflicted about that because after I finished playing I was like “what was the point of that?” but maybe it also falls within the spirit of the jam. I can’t totally make that call, right now.

Wires Crossed

Dev: nisie

Genre: espionage; visual novel, puzzle

My Playtime: ~10 min

This was a solid little game, and I’m impressed they managed to actually included puzzle elements in such a short game. The art was cute, the writing was pretty cute. The puzzles were a little difficult to get a hold on at first being all text, and in other circumstances I would hope they would have more pictographic cues. I know this was a shorter jam than a lot of visual novel jams are, and that would have required an extra layer of programming I can see them not having time for or being restricted by because of the asset limitations. So eh. I think they also could have benefited from a “lose state” considering the nature of the problem you’re trying to solve. That would have really upped the narrative stakes and been delightful. Overall a fun little mini-puzzle game, though. 

Edited to add: Reading the comment made by someone else on the game page, there are apparently more endings than I actually got. I’ll go back and look and see what the situation is there. However, I still think they could have benefited from you actually failing the puzzles the first time and having a lose state that way. Maybe you can after multiple attempts. I might have to sit with it longer.

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