Thursday, December 31, 2015


Squeaking in one last post before the year ends.

2015 was the year I left the crappy job I'd worked at for over three years and ended up in a much better job that I can actually feel happy with. Mere days before I left that crappy job, I also made the decision to begin developing games. I've gotten a ways in with that...I've released three games, have a couple more in the works, and I plan to keep pushing forward.

Plus, you know, I have swag business cards.

However...that's not what this post is really about.

Despite being a writer, I have a hard time telling people some things. Or maybe, I worry that I'm not getting my point across and thus stress too much. But I am a sincere person, so I generally go with just saying how I feel and hoping that gets it across.

I am honored to have Naomi Norbez as a Patron and a fan. I want to share with you all some of what she made me for Christmas.

I don't think I could ever really put into words how happy this makes me. Just...thank you. Thank you so much.

Thank you to everyone who follows me, and I'll see you with some more stuff in 2016!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Circus Reviews - Asphyxia

I've been meaning to play this game for a while now, but didn't get around to buying it until very recently. I fully intended to review it Christmas day, but then the whole Steam nonsense happened, and here we are a couple days later.

Asphyxia follows Samantha "Sam" Coleridge, a seventeen-year-old boarding school attendee in London whose lifelong depression has recently worsened thanks to a falling out with her best friend/idol, Lillian Wordsworth (and also a separate falling out with her decidedly-not-best friend, Tabitha De Quincy). Despite Roberta Southey's attempts to comfort her, Sam is despondent. Will a school field trip give Sam the chance to set things right...or is there no hope left for her and Lillian?

The characters are apparently all based off British Romantic poets, and the game provides literature files about the poet each girl is based on. I personally did not play through with this information (and reading it all prior to playing may spoil some plot events), but it can give you a lot of insight into the characters' actions and why things happen the way they do. It's an interesting choice, although it seems to have caused some people confusion about why the game itself isn't actually set in the time when these poets lived. The writing is also meant to evoke the time period, and it serves its purpose well even if it's a bit flowery at times.

Samantha herself is a spot-on portrayal of a depressed teenager, and I identified with her quite strongly. Other than how Sam feels about each of them respectively, Lillian and Roberta are extremely similar: they've done their best to take care of Sam but find it overwhelming to the point of draining their patience at times, and they're flawed but ultimately want what's best for their friend. De Quincey (I don't know why her teenage schoolmates only refer to her by her last name, it's a bit odd) is a creepy and obsessive stalker, and while I won't spoil the event that caused her and Sam to stop speaking, let's just say it ends up making her look very bad, and if the game wanted me to feel sympathy for her it failed miserably on that point. Georgia and Percy are mostly background characters; although Georgia gets a bit more limelight in one of the endings, Percy feels tacked on. Miss Alexandra Pope is a concerningly sadistic teacher, and while it's commented that she looks young for her age, her sprite takes that too far; she looks roughly the same age as her students, and it's distracting.

There are four endings you can get, and while all of them are well-written, none feels complete without the others. Each path has information vital to who Sam is, information that you don't get on other paths. It feels like this was meant to be one full novel with everything presented together rather than spread out across different paths. I did like all the paths, though, and was quite eager to finish them and get the big picture.

The art is gorgeous, and the soundtrack is pleasant. I enjoyed the story despite the above-listed issues. I suspect that Samantha might be hard to relate to for a player who hasn't dealt with clinical depression, but I found her quite relatable myself. I still find myself thinking that a more concise novel focusing on Samantha, Roberta, and Lillian that included all relevant events might have been more enjoyable. Regardless, there were enough positive notes to keep me engaged throughout my entire play through, and I'm glad I finally picked this up.

Asphyxia is available on Steam and

Final verdict: While the side characters don't feel as developed as the mains and the branching paths feel like they need connecting, Asphyxia has a wonderful main character and a bittersweet but compelling story.

Asphyxia is developed by ebi-hime and published by Sekai Project. The opinions expressed in this review are my own. I was not compensated in any way for this review.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Steam Winter Sale Visual Novel Recommendations

God, what a mouthful of a title.

Just a quick write up of my recommendations for this year's Steam Winter Sale, since I'm sure that you all have plenty of money left over from Christmas shopping. Disclaimer: this game obviously can't include games I haven't played, since that wouldn't be much of a recommendation.

Sound of Drop - fall into poison -

Length: 3 to 5 hours
Genre: Horror
Discount: 30% off ($12.99 to $9.09)
My thoughts: Great characters, great story, great soundtrack. Some of the endings and choices feel rather contrived. Full review here.

Hatoful Boyfriend and Hatoful Boyfriend: Holiday Star

Length: 4 to 6 hours for each game
Genre: Dating sim, parody
Discount: 75% off for Hatoful Boyfriend ($9.99 to $2.49), 15% off for Holiday Star ($9.99 to $8.49), 50% for the bundle of both games' deluxe editions ($24.99 to $12.49)
My thoughts: Well-known, very hilarious games. Hatoful Boyfriend is regularly discounted to this price, so you'll probably get another chance to pick it up soon. Holiday Star's discount is a bit smaller since it came out like last week, so that I'd recommend getting while it has a discount.


Length: 3 to 5 hours
Genre: Fractured fairy tale
Discount: 60% off (from $19.99 to $7.99)
My thoughts: Much more than just a Cinderella retelling. Plenty of replay value, although getting all the variations of the endings gets tedious. Great characterization. Full review here.

The Royal Trap

Length: 5 to 8 hours
Genre: Adventure, romance
Discount: 40% off ($19.99 to $11.99)
My thoughts: An intriguing story and nice artwork, but its biggest strength is in its amazing, heartwarming characters. This game is actually on sale directly from the Hanako Games website for a bigger discount, but regional pricing may vary.


Length: 5 to 8 hours
Genre: Romance, apocalypse
Discount: 60% off ($19.99 to $7.99)
My thoughts: Touching romance, gorgeous visuals, high production quality very apparent. Full review here.


And with that, happy spending! I personally am going to sit in a corner and be sad that I can't afford Clannad.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Year End - Heading Into 2016

Hello, folks. This is a condensed version of my Patreon post regarding the year's end and what plans for 2016 are.

I intended to have Yumi-chan's Wonderful Cake Shop done by now, but unexpected delays ended up making that impossible. Currently progress is being made and I am projecting release for spring 2016. I will keep you guys posted on how that goes.

I am working on other projects, and have decided the visual novel I'm going to be focusing on. I want to have my second visual novel out in 2016 as well, but I'm not sure how financially feasible that is. We'll have to see.

In closing, I thought that my first roughly-a-year of video game production went as swimmingly as it could for a newbie such as myself. I released three games, small though they were, and am actively working on others. I feel like I've gotten somewhere.

Thank you to all my followers. I appreciate your support.

Oh, and one last thing...

Yumi-chan's completed sprite! :)

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Circus Rambles - the last love song Post-Mortem

Game number three, and I still don't feel like I've hit the magic well of knowledge or anything, but I like to think I'm getting better.

At time of writing, the last love song has 77 views and 2 downloads since its release date close to midnight Sunday. That's probably very very small. But I personally think every little bit counts.

It was a hard game to write, really. There were long pauses during development because I had trouble bringing myself to write about a relationship crashing and burning. I don't normally get the shoes of my protagonist, so to speak. Perhaps that made the game a bit better.

I noticed that the exact same person has rated my last two games 1 star without leaving a review. Bad ratings on their own don't really help me because I don't know what your problem was. I don't think I'm writing perfectly by any stretch of the imagination, but I don't think I've written anything unreadable, either. Honestly, though, I'm not torn up or anything like I thought I might be. Have I grown a thicker skin from working in customer service? Possibly.

My first two games were linear, and this one was all about the choices. I admit to getting some flak for writing linear games, and I didn't realize at the game, but my impression is that linear IF games are kind of looked down on by some people. I personally equate them to kinetic novels: visual novels without choices. Just the story. I don't see anything wrong with that. I can see why people wouldn't necessarily be into them, but I don't think they're any less of a form of game. No, I didn't write a game with choices just to satisfy people who disliked the linear games; this was just the next idea that slapped me in the face with inspiration.

Someone told me that people who'd been in long-term relationships would find the game easier. Maybe? I am in a long-term relationship myself, so I don't really have an unbiased answer to that comment.

I think that's it for thoughts.

Thanks for playing, everyone who has. It means a lot to me.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

the last love song is released.

Well, I got pissed off tonight. So I released the game half an hour early. Yay for you!

Thanks for your support, guys. It really does mean a lot.

I hope you enjoy the game.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Circus Reviews - Sound of Drop - fall into poison -

I heard of this game when it was first released on Steam and thought it sounded interesting, but didn't end up getting it on launch. Then some time went by and the Steam Autumn sale happened, and this game popped up again. And since I can't afford to buy/review Clannad like I had originally planned to, because commissioning artists and paying bills both take up my paycheck at the moment, I decided to pick this up while it was on sale just to have something new in my life.

Sound of Drop is about a middle school girl named Mayumi Nakanobe and her best friend Himeno Tamagawa, who go to Manten Aquarium one day to investigate the morbid rumors surrounding the place, including those of girls disappearing after visiting a certain exhibit. While there, Mayumi catches a glimpse of her little sister Mari, who disappeared in the aquarium five years ago and was never seen again. Mayumi tries to chase her down but loses sight of her, and when she tries to turn back, she realizes that something about the aquarium has changed...

The main characters, Mayumi and Himeno, feel realistically human and flawed, and their friendship remains compelling and relevant even when the game starts to focus more on other characters and subplots. Aside from the previously mentioned Mari, there's also an aquarium employee named Kenji who offers you assistance inside and outside of the aquarium, a cold and cynical girl named Sayo who also seeks to solve the aquarium's mysteries, and a mysterious and methodical woman named Rieko. They all get varying development on the different paths, and no single path will tell you everything you need to know about them.

The game has a whopping 31 endings, four true endings and 27 bad endings. All of the bad endings are quick game overs from a wrong choice, and they mostly come about because you tell Mayumi to make a really stupid decision, like blatantly ignoring someone standing right there with the correct answer. The game has a helpful warning system, though: if the choices are red, then one or more of them will lead to an immediate bad ending, but if they're blue, you can pick any option. It might be strange of me, but there was at least one scene where I enjoyed the contrast between the glaring red choices and the smiling, oblivious face of a character sprite. Slightly more jarring is the cute chibis in the bad ending screens. They don't really fit thematically into a horror game, although they are nonetheless very well drawn.

The Steam version has the paths sort of split into two groups. When you first start the game, you can get most of the bad endings but only two of the true endings. Once you get one of them, starting a new game will include a new opening scene with Sayo and a girl she knows called Miku, and this also opens a new choice that will lead to a different set of true and bad endings down the line. However, the relevant choice and the new opening scene have absolutely no connection to each other, making the whole ordeal feel a bit forced. The choice in question is calling someone by their name, a name which you learn earlier, but if you haven't seen that opening scene on this playthrough, you aren't allowed to select the correct option and are forced to give a wrong answer and thus get a bad ending. I've seen route locking used successfully in games before (The Royal Trap is the best immediate example I can think of), but here it feels far too unnatural.

All those technical flaws aside, though, the story itself is quite captivating and the mystery of what happened to Mari is an intriguing and heartbreaking one to solve. One of the true endings does feel like the golden ending despite not being labeled as such, but all of them are touching and feel like natural directions for the story to go. The artwork looks beautiful and the soundtrack is the best I've heard on a visual novel in a while. The flaws are there, but they don't detract too much from an ultimately excellent addition to the market of translated visual novels.

Sound of Drop - fall into poison - is available on Steam.

Final verdict: The decision-making process can feel contrived due to a number of technical issues with how some of the choices work, but this is easily balanced by strong characters and a truly compelling story.

Sound of Drop - fall into poison - is developed by aiueo Company and published in English by Sekai Project. The opinions expressed in this review are my own. I was not compensated in any way for this review.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Officially announcing "the last love song"

I tend to hold off on announcing projects until I have enough writing done that I know it's not just a one-off idea I had, and I can finish the project and not abandon it. Tonight I think I reached that point with the game I've been working on recently.

It will be called "the last love song" (yes I love my lack of capital letters, it's a habit). It's a tricky one to write because it's all about relationship difficulties and it's a bit of a personal subject. However, I hope to have it finished up in early December.

If you pledge any amount to me on Patreon, you can view a few preview images of the game in the posts section.

Also, the new artist for Yumi-chan should have some sprite sketches for me this week, so that's something to look forward to as well. Yay!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Circus Reviews - Syrup and the Ultimate Sweet

I'm not normally one for creepily cutesy and shiny aesthetics, but after spotting this game on my Tumblr feed courtesy of Hanako Games, I found myself inexplicably drawn to it. After all, a nice simple game for the purposes of de-stressing is sometimes in order, and despite my dark and twisted mind, I do occasionally enjoy something a bit brighter.

Syrup and the Ultimate Sweet follows a candy maker named Syrup who despises magic despite living in a town chock full of it and subsists by running a non-magic candy shop with the help of her highly competent assistant, Pastille. One day, she enters her basement to find a candy golem girl (later given the name Gumdrop). Syrup's immediate conclusion is that the golem was made by her rival, the witch Butterscotch, and Butterscotch's cat familiar Toffee, but the candy golem doesn't seem to have any interest in spying and is oddly fixated on being friends with Syrup. Later, the titular Ultimate Sweet surfaces, and it turns out to be an actual sweet with an actual recipe, a recipe that Syrup once promised she would make for Pastille, but that may not happen since the recipe calls for magic and science together...

Syrup, Pastille, and Gumdrop, the main trio of the game, are the most well-established of the characters. Syrup is antisocial and mistrusting of others to a fault, but retains a soft spot deep down and is shown to be capable of overcoming her prejudices toward magic. Pastille is an almost insanely good assistant, possibly to compensate for the fact that Syrup is entirely incapable of running a shop on her own. Gumdrop is cheerful, naive, and endearing in her single-minded pursuit of friendship, but also has hints of not knowing what her purpose in life is. Butterscotch and Toffee have inconsistent development at times, specifically in one of the bad endings. The way that particular ending plays out feels extremely out of character, at least when compared to all the good endings. However, their friendship is touching and how they interact with Syrup is lovely as well.

The art is gorgeous, although if you aren't into that very apparent shiny cute style then it will rub you the wrong way. Most of the art is cartoony sprites, peppered with little illustrations like the one shown above, and they all work very well together. The font is kind of hard to read, being one of those that's all caps all the time. It fits well color-wise, at least, but I personally found it a bit tricky to decipher at times.

The plot is fairly simple, but ends up being quite heartwarming (provided you get one of the good endings, of course). There are ten endings, five good and five bad. A few of them feel abrupt or misplaced to me, like the aforementioned ending in which Butterscotch and Toffee's actions feel out of character, or one ending dubbed the "worst" ending that is indeed the worst, but sort of comes out of nowhere. And there is a plot twist present throughout some of the endings that isn't much of a plot twist at all; I could see it coming within the first two minutes of the game. The good endings, though, were quite nice and made me smile, even though they're all slightly bittersweet in their own ways.

So there isn't a ton of complexity here, but it's short and sweet and free (although you can choose to pay $2 to receive an artbook that includes an ending guide). The story arc ultimately evolves into Syrup's journey to open up her mind, about both magic and trusting other people, and playing against that goal will definitely net you a bad ending. It's worth it to see the good endings through, though. They'll give you a smile that's.......sweeter than candy.

(Hey, I had to do one candy pun.)

Syrup and the Ultimate Sweet is available for free download (or name your own price) at

Final verdict: Some issues with plotting and characterization, but a fun cast of characters and an ultimately heartwarming story make Syrup and the Ultimate Sweet a treat to read.

Syrup and the Ultimate Sweet is developed by nomnomnami. The opinions expressed in this review are my own. I was not compensated in any way for this review.

EDIT: I made an incorrect remark in the comments and have addressed it in the blog post below.

Friday, October 30, 2015

On bad luck and determination, both things you can also find in Undertale

Have I mentioned that Undertale is awesome yet? Yeah...Undertale is awesome.

So, it turns out I am not a lucky developer. Yumi-chan's Wonderful Cake Shop has taken a slight setback...the original artist seems to have dropped contact with me. I will not be naming them here, as witch hunts serve no good purpose. I ask that if you for whatever reason saved any of the original art that I posted as a preview a while back, you not share it publicly, and if you happen to know who my artist was, you NOT go yelling at them, as that would help nothing. Also, the logo will not be affected, as I commissioned it from a different artist.

Honestly, I bear them no ill feelings. My only feeling is disappointment that I have to start the artwork process over again. I do have another artist lined up who is starting on things, but it's a bit sad to have the script for Yumi-chan completely finished (pending a few more beta reader comments) and have nothing for it to do for a while yet. But, them's how it goes. At least I'm learning from this, right?

In other news, I've been focusing a bit more on Twine lately, since I don't need any outside help for those games. I'd like to thank everyone who played my latest, lucky me, as well as everyone who continues to follow me despite my shortcomings. I do in fact have another Twine game in the works, and have been piecing around with two girls at the end of the world a bit as well. I also have multiple visual novel ideas I've been playing with.

In short, I apologize for these delays. They are out of my control, but I can't help feeling guilty. I hope to have more to show you soon.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Circus Reviews - Beware the Faerie Food You Eat

There are a few fun things about IFComp. It got me playing more interactive fiction games, which was rather refreshing, not to mention it helped relieve some stress. It also introduced me to some cool developers I hadn't heard of before, one of whom is Astrid Dalmady, author of Arcane Intern (Unpaid). I took a look through her catalogue and wound up attracted to Beware the Faerie Food You Eat, a somber and depressing story that makes you feel bad. I thought, "Hey! Such a thing fits me perfectly."

You play as someone who knows how to enter the faerie world, though they don't have a defined reason for wanting to do so; you get to choose that in the opening. You have a long, difficult journey ahead of you, and you're in no way guaranteed to get what you want at the end of it...But what are you going to do about it? Turn back? Not go at all? Or just keep pressing on regardless?

If your idea of faeries is something akin to Tinkerbell and friends, go ahead and throw that notion out the window. These faeries are nowhere near as nice, and it's made abundantly clear throughout the story that you shouldn't trust them one bit. They will take any opportunity to fuck you over, and this is how most of the game's ten endings come about. Even completing your quest won't guarantee you a happy ending...but not going at all means you never tried.

The main character is pretty well-defined by your choices despite the game's short length. Your beginning choice of why you want to go to the faerie world affects how things turn out if you make it to the end of the journey. Despite the player character's single-minded determination, though, there's a sense of hopelessness throughout, like you're only persevering because you have no other choice, not because you have hope of reaching your goal. It plays a bit with the entire idea of such a quest, making you realize: surely not every hero succeeds on a quest. What happens to those who don't? What happens to a hero who sets forth despite overwhelming odds?

Perhaps it's just my inner brooding coming out, but I'm left with an overall sense of wondering at all the many stories in the world. Everyone is the lead in their own tale, but it's impossible for every tale to end happily like so many of the fictional ones do.

So if you feel the same brooding, or if you just want to read a fractured fairy tale with no clear "good" path, then give this game a shot. It's well worth it.

Beware the Faerie Food You Eat is available for free download at or to play in browser on the developer's website.

Final verdict: A dark and somber fairy tale that explores the hopelessness of the hero's quest and deconstructs the true nature of the "friendly" faeries from other, happier stories, well-written and with ten different endings to explore.

Beware the Faerie Food You Eat is developed by Astrid Dalmady. The opinions expressed in this review are my own. I was not compensated in any way for this review.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Circus Reviews - Arcane Intern (Unpaid)

Next up on the list of IFComp reviews is a game about being an unpaid intern. I've never had the pleasure of being an unpaid intern, but from what I hear, I wouldn't do it for anything. I have bills to pay; they don't just go away because the job is unpaid, right? And throughout this whole game, the omnipresent question of how the protagonist is keeping themselves off the streets doesn't ever go away, but maybe you just have a really awesome roommate.

The game follows YOU, a commoner who has just been hired to work as an intern at a publishing company enmeshed in a world of magic. You are given a special amulet that allows you to interact with the regular world; everyone else instantly forgets about magic once they hear about it, so people like your roommate Taylor won't find out things they shouldn't know. But other than dragons, the Otherworld, magical snakes and mongooses, flying memos, and mystic sigils, this internship is like many others: you're stuck with a bunch of grunt work and desperate to prove yourself worthy of better assignments.

The setting combines a bunch of magical cliches into a stew pot that works surprisingly well despite not being too specific about the world. Harry Potter is the most obvious inspiration (and it's not-really-but-totally named with an in-game series about Rebecca Butler), with some notable sparks from series like the Bartimaeus Trilogy scattered throughout. Character-wise, you have a fair number of choices to define how your protagonist acts, although the only ones that affect the ending seem to be in the final chapter. Characters outside of your protagonist are pretty much just there to further the plot, with the possible exception of Taylor, your completely normal roommate, and even she only really factors into one of the endings.

There are a few weird things about the technical design, chief among them the lack of a back button. If you accidentally progress too far, your only recourse is to go back to the title screen. If you've previously completed the game, you can access a chapter select feature, but it can only start you at the beginning of the chapter. There's also a few quirky coding choices, such as a point in the first chapter where you're taking coffee orders for the office. One of the office workers has a few options of things to ask her, one of them being her coffee order. But you can't just ask her this and then leave; you have to ask her every single question possible for the game to recognize your conversation with her as complete. If you just get her coffee order and then try to go get the coffee, even if you've gotten everyone else's orders, the game will say that you haven't gotten all the orders yet. It's pretty clear it was coded to only let you go if you read all the passages, and it was probably easier to code than the alternative, but it's unfortunately noticeable.

The story isn't particularly deep, but it's enjoyable nonetheless, and all three of the endings feel like realistic outcomes. I would have liked a bit more polish coding wise, but overall a solid title with an interesting vibe to it.

Arcane Intern (Unpaid) is available to play in browser or download for free at

Final verdict: While a few quality-of-life changes to the coding may have made for a slightly easier experience, Arcane Intern (Unpaid) has a nice aesthetic and the story feels very believable, with well-connected paths.

Arcane Intern (Unpaid) is developed by Astrid Dalmady. The opinions expressed in this review are my own. I was not compensated in any way for this review.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

lucky me has been released!

My second short little interactive fiction game, lucky me, has been released! You can play or download here:

Download version contains a local HTML file, production notes, and the cover photo.

You can also rate it at the Interactive Fiction Database here:

And finally, website page here:!lucky-me/c1cn2


Thursday, October 1, 2015

Updates both unexpected and not

I've been going back and forth on what to say in this development update. It's tricky to know what exactly to say sometimes. But, here we go.

For a long time, I've struggled with depression and anxiety. At the moment, I am officially diagnosed with persistent depressive disorder and social anxiety disorder. I suspect a few other things might be wrong, but confirmation on this would require going to an actual doctor and I'm having difficulty finding a provider that my insurance will accept.

Persistent depressive disorder is basically a fancy term for chronic depression. The symptoms are milder than that of major depressive disorder (which is probably the one you're more familiar with), but they're also longer-lasting. Social anxiety disorder is pretty self-explanatory; I get extremely anxious being around people and holding conversations, especially with people I don't know well. To make this even better, my day job is in customer service. It's hard sometimes, but I manage.

So the above problems, as well as a mixture of writer's block and good old-fashioned self-esteem issues, have really been getting me down lately. I feel like I haven't been doing enough. As far as Yumi-chan's Wonderful Cake Shop goes, I have essentially done all I can do until the artwork comes in, and it's not in yet and it won't be completed for a while. So I don't have a whole lot to offer right now, so I feel.

I thought I could fix the problem by focusing on writing other things, but ideas have been running slim. My output lately hasn't been at the level I want it at. And this only contributed to how badly I felt.

On the subject of Patreon: I know that I only have one Patron right now. But I take Patreon seriously and I want to treat it seriously, and so ideally I want to be continuously putting special things on there. But with the lack of content and the standstill I'm at in regards to Yumi-chan, I simply didn't have as much to give. And that, again, made me feel even worse. So I posed a question on Twitter, asking if perhaps I could start posting some other writings, like poems, as Patreon content in the meantime.

And here, everyone, is where the tone starts to lighten up, thanks to a couple of good people.

Naomi Norbez, my current Patron, answered the question by suggesting that since my Patreon is visual novel-focused rather than poetry-focused, that I could either change my Patreon characterization or make IF elements in the poems. And this got me thinking that maybe I should be trying to play to my strengths in poetry a bit more. So off I went to Twine to do some writing.

For the past couple days, I've been sitting in front of the computer, pretty much. Writing, thinking, writing. But today was a bit different. Today, the entries for IFComp 2015 were opened up for judging. I went through the list, and I started playing the game that sounded the most interesting to me: Nowhere Near Single by kaleidofish. I played it through, enjoyed it, and wrote a review of it just a few hours ago. And reading such a good story inspired me as well.

So I would like to happily announce that I'm putting the finishing touches on a Twine game called lucky me. I hope to have it completely ready within the next few days. It is not long and it is probably not a masterpiece. But goddamn it, it is a game and I am going to publish it. For all of you.

A million thanks to Naomi Norbez and kaleidofish for helping me. A million other thanks to everyone who's been following me so far. I hope to continue being of interest to everyone.

Circus Reviews - Nowhere Near Single

I admit, reading the entries for IFComp is bittersweet for me. By nature, I'm rather hard on myself, and I have to say, I wish I were there too.'s okay. I'm taking it one step at a time, and meanwhile, I'm also reading these awesome games, a few of which I'll be writing reviews for this month. First on the list is this one by kaleidofish, author of previously reviewed titles Venus Meets Venus and Fairly Dangerous. I do tend to gravitate toward the familiar, but I was also intrigued by the premise being about polyamory, something I'm interested in seeing more games about.

Nowhere Near Single follows up-and-coming pop star Jerri, who meets a girl named Sarai at a bar and accidentally stumbles into a polyamorous relationship with her and two other girls, Nayeli and Taya. Jerri struggles to balance her attempts at breaking into pop music with the professional image she is expected to maintain, all while trying to figure out a new relationship with not just one but three different girls. Matters complicate themselves when Jerri's manager learns about Taya and decides to push the image of them as a couple, which leaves Sarai and Nayeli feeling left out. Secrets and lies pile up on all sides; will Jerri make it through everything in one piece?

The four main girls are each complex and interesting characters with things to hide, and the way they mesh together is interesting to read. They're mismatched on a number of fronts, but they're all trying their best to make things work, and even if you don't have three girlfriends, even if you aren't dating a pop idol, the problems they deal with are relatable.

The writing style isn't quite as harsh as Venus Meets Venus, but fits well with the story and tone overall. The game also feels less linear, as it is possible to have different variants to your ending. Without wishing to spoil, where you're at and who you're with can change vastly depending on your choices, and it's great to have that degree of control over where things go, even if I'm constantly worried I'm going to fuck something up with someone.

As previously mentioned, I'm glad to see polyamory being explored as a topic here, and I think it's handled extremely well. I feel like the subject isn't brought up enough in games, and it's something I eventually want to write about myself.

The only really negative thing I can find to say about the game is that I did run into a coding error at one decision point. It didn't seem to affect my playthrough at all, but in the interest of full disclosure, it did happen. From what I can decipher from the error message I got, it was some kind of issue with variables.

All in all, a very strong entry in IFComp, and another great game from kaleidofish.

Nowhere Near Single is available to play or download for free at

Final verdict: Nowhere Near Single is a strongly written game with excellent characters, and it does a great job of sensitively handling a topic that needs to be brought up more in games.

Nowhere Near Single is written by kaleidofish. The opinions expressed in this review are my own. I was not compensated in any way for this review.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Circus Reviews - A Kiss for the Petals - Remembering How We Met

A Kiss for the Petals, or Sono Hanabira, is apparently a relatively famous series of yuri visual novels, but I admit I'd never heard of them until MangaGamer announced their licensing and translation of this latest entry in the series, Remembering How We Met. Apparently this is also one of the few all-ages' titles of the series, the rest being a bit too risque for Steam (though not at all too risque for MangaGamer in general if you've ever taken a good look at their catalog). It seems like they're trying to use this game as a sort of gateway for bringing over more yuri titles, which I am 100% on board with. Also, it didn't cost very much, which I am also 100% on board with.

Remembering How We Met follows the relationship of Risa Azumi and Miya Ayase, two girls who couldn't be more different. Risa is a kind-hearted class representative who goes out of her way to help everyone and studies rigorously to maintain her good grades, while Miya is more aloof and less social but doesn't have to put much effort into studying due to her high intelligence. When Miya starts skipping class to pursue her own interests, Risa takes it upon herself to get to the bottom of it, and from there, sugary pink love follows, and no one was surprised in any way.

The only characters that are given any depth are the main couple, and they're nice enough, if a bit stock. I'm more drawn to Risa; she's so compassionate and well-meaning, and also a constantly blushing dork, and it's very appealing. I don't completely get the in-game appeal of Miya, but her characterization improves as the game goes on and she starts to show more of herself to Risa. The other girls in class are literally just named Girl A, Girl B, etc. and so I can't really come up with much to say about them, other than noting how refreshing it is to see high school girls bestowing popularity on someone who actually deserves it.

The art is quite enjoyable, but it's a shame that it wasn't optimized for PC. The resolution the game gives is 800x600, which makes trying to fullscreen the game a futile exercise. As I understand, the art was originally optimized for tablets and phones, so it's disappointing but not surprising. The sprites sometimes don't change with the dialogue as often as I'd like, but are artistically sound. Background music is pleasant, but nothing really stands out.

On paper, we have a very average experience. As mentioned previously, there aren't any real surprises with the characters or the story. You can guess just by reading the synopsis what's going to happen. And the ending, while nice, is not only obvious but ridiculously abrupt, seeming to come right in the middle of everything. So, there's nothing really new here, and if you're looking for massive hidden depths or sudden plot twists, this is not the place to look at all.

But while there isn't anything world changing here, there's nothing inherently bad about the game either. It's a cute and fluffy story, and I had fun reading it. It is a kinetic novel, meaning no choices, but I'm not sure where else the story would go other than where it already went, and I don't think I want to see a bad end for these characters. There isn't groundbreaking substance here, but if you're a fan of lighthearted romance or of yuri in general, I think you'll find some fun here.

A Kiss for the Petals - Remembering How We Met is available in English on Steam or on MangaGamer's website. Purchasing from MangaGamer will also provide you with a Steam key.

Final verdict: There's nothing really new or unexpected here, but Remembering How We Met is at least fluffy and sweet enough to provide some measure of enjoyment, and I hope its localization leads to further licensing of yuri games.

A Kiss for the Petals - Remembering How We Met is developed by St. Michael's Girls School and published in English by MangaGamer. The opinions expressed in this review are my own. I was not compensated in any way for this review.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

General Development Update, the sixth?

I recently realized that numbering these wasn't so appealing to me. But eh, who knows.

Yumi-chan's Wonderful Cake Shop

Development is going to be at about this stage for a while...I'm waiting for the artwork to come in, and in the meantime I'm having several people read through the script. Feedback so far has been positive, which is nice.

The Prince and the Wolf

Well, the artist hasn't contacted me in over two months, so I'm going to have to assume they've vanished into the ether or otherwise decided they hate me. I can't really afford to commission more than one artist at a time, so this game will likely have to be put on the backburner for now. In the meantime, I'll try to get the last bits of the script done and just focus on making the writing better, and once my funds are a bit more free (or I have more of them), I can start searching for another artist.

Mystery Commercial Title

In other news, I've begun doing some writing for what I hope will be my first commercial title! It's in the very early stages and I'd prefer to avoid giving details until I have more work done. All I will say is...lesbians.

Other Writings

I want to write more reviews and things, but I haven't really had time to play any new games lately; day job and all that. I thought about doing a top five visual novels list, but can't really decide on any besides The Royal Trap by Hanako Games.

Lack of Interesting News

I feel like I haven't had much to say lately, and I apologize for that. If you're interested in more constant yet also somewhat more inane content, follow me on Tumblr and Twitter, both of which I am pretty active on. The Facebook page is a bit more business-related, but likes there are appreciated too. And of course, if you want to show support, have a look at my Patreon page.

Thank you to the new followers, as well as the old ones. I will keep striving to bring you more and better things.

Good day!

Friday, September 11, 2015

Yumi-chan's Wonderful Cake Shop website page now up!

Here is the shiny thing I alluded to recently...

The logo for Yumi-chan's Wonderful Cake Shop!

I have also created a website page for the game, which you can view here.

Thanks for your support!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Withdrawing from IFComp

I don't want to go on about it or make excuses. So I'll just cut to the chase: I am withdrawing from IFComp. I've had a lot of personal life issues going on lately, and those combined with feeling pressure to finish Yumi-chan's Wonderful Cake Shop caused me to not pay as much attention to two girls at the end of the world as I should have done. I don't want to rush and put out a game that I feel is not up to standards.

two girls at the end of the world will be completed at some point, if not right away. For now, I'm putting it aside for a little bit.

I apologize for this. I feel like I've failed in some way. But I think entering a bad game in a contest would be a bigger failure.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Circus Reviews - Always Remember Me

I'd heard of Winter Wolves before now and seen their games around, but until Always Remember Me, I had yet to play one. But they recently had a back-to-school 50% off sale, and one of my life rules is there's no better time to try something than when it's on sale, so I ended up choosing the game that I'd heard the most of.

Always Remember Me follows Amy (real name Amarantha, because why not), a girl whose life goes drastically wrong after she and her long-time boyfriend, Aaron, are hit by a drunk driver. Aaron develops amnesia from the accident and as a result no longer remembers the last few years of his life, including Amy. To make matters worse, Aaron's manipulative ex-girlfriend Abigail has managed to convince him that she's his girlfriend, and Aaron's father Osher encourages the deception, as he blames Amy for the accident and has never approved of her as a girlfriend for his son. But Amy has other options besides trying to make Aaron remember her, as there are lots of activities to serve as distractions and plenty of eligible bachelors in town...

The largest portion of the game is the life simulation part. Each day you can choose from several activities to perform, and outside of a part-time job five mornings a week and some scripted events here and there you pretty much have the freedom to choose whatever you want. Most activities affect morale and energy, and being low on those can make you more likely to fail at activities or have to take a break. Activities can also raise stats, and each stat is linked to one of the four guys you can romance: Aaron, Lawrence, Eddy, and Hugh. I really enjoy freedom of choice in games, and this one certainly has a lot of it, but since each guy only has one stat and you need that stat up to 99 to get his ending, the only way to complete the game is to grind certain activities for each guy. It can get repetitive after a while.

And since the biggest portion of the game is life simulation, the visual novel part feels a bit underused at times. Amy herself is well-developed, but the potential love interests in the game really only get characterization if you reach their scripted events, which requires the above-mentioned stat-raising in most cases. Aaron ends up with the most by virtue of being the guy you were dating in the backstory; the other three feel very unfamiliar. Without having seen most of those events, I don't have much to say about their characters simply because not much has been given to me, and I'm a bit hard pressed on why I'd want to go for another guy without knowing a bit more about them.

I admit, at first glance it sounded a bit callous to have so much focus on the multiple romance options you have in a game where your long-term boyfriend is in the hospital, but it's actually treated very realistically. Aaron's lack of memory is very hard on Amy, and with Abigail hindering her efforts to rekindle their relationship, it doesn't seem unreasonable that she would consider doing other things with her time. (On a side note, I do find it a bit confusing and irritating that Amy is explicitly told not to tell Aaron that she's his girlfriend, but Abigail does it and somehow it's completely okay. It seems unethical to me for a doctor to be knowingly participating in a lie like that, even if he thinks it would help the patient.) If you progress down an interest's path far enough, you're eventually made to make a decision between that interest and Aaron, and if you choose the new guy you're unable to interact with Aaron at all. There's also an ending where Amy doesn't get with any of the guys, but simply decides that one day she'll find the right person for her. It's sad, but it makes sense that Amy might eventually try to move on with her life.

The romance endings themselves aren't too bad, although they come very abruptly and with pretty much no transition. You do get the option, once you fulfill the normal ending requirements for a guy, to either stop there or continue for the special ending, which is convenient since it means you don't have to play through a guy's whole route again just for the extra ending. Again, though, transitions are nice. It's a bit jarring to go to sleep one night and then wake up pregnant and married, and I'd really like to see some more connectivity between the endings and the game.

I like the game as a whole pretty well, even if the characters feel so underdeveloped. I like being able to choose what to do with my day and how to raise my stats, even if completing a route means a lot of stat grinding. I wouldn't mind seeing a better balance of life sim and visual novel, as well as some more interesting characters, and supposedly the game will soon have a sequel, so maybe there will be improvement in these areas. What it already does well are the number of choices it gives to the player and the realistic treatment of a situation in which one member of a couple can't remember the other. All in all, I'm glad I picked this game up on the sale.

Also, gotta love broken heart icons.

Always Remember Me is available on Steam, the App Store, Google Play, or directly from the developer. Purchasing from the developer will also provide you with a Steam key.

Final verdict: The characters need more development, the grinding needs reduction, and the endings need more connection to the main story, but Always Remember Me still manages to impress with its colorful art, large amount of choices, and realistic portrayal of dealing with a lover's amnesia.

Always Remember Me is developed by Winter Wolves. The opinions expressed in this review are my own. I was not compensated in any way for this review.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Circus Reviews - Because We’re Here ~ Mohnblume und Blauerose (Demo)

This is a review of an incomplete game, and thus the final product may differ greatly from what I describe.
While this review was done per request from the developer, I am not taking review requests at this time.

I didn't ever expect to get people requesting that I'd review games, since I'm really not a game reviewer, at least not foremost. I mostly review games so that I'm producing some kind of content, because the development stage of a visual novel is a long process and I don't always a lot of in-progress stuff to show. Also, I like to write and I like to recommend things. But this review was requested of me by the developer, and I'm nothing if not sporting, so let's have a look.

Because We're Here (is a shorter title than the full one and thus what I'll be referring to the game as) follows Elfriede Rauss in an alternate version of the first World War. Elfriede wakes up alone and confused in a bunker, and proceeds to wander outside straight into battle. After the beginning, Elfriede begins to tell the backstory of the war, and how she got there.

I tend to talk characters first when reviewing a game, but here I am forced to talk about something else because it was the first thing that jumped out at me, and not in a good way. During the narration, as you click through, the GUI will randomly disappear and reappear. I assume it's meant to invoke the protagonist's confusion, but it really hampers the immersion. I felt like I was constantly being pulled out of the story.

The story itself is intriguing, if familiar, and as it went along, I found myself more interested in knowing where things were going. Most of the gameplay is straight visual novel, but there's also a sort of battle system involving Wit Points, wherein you attempt to defuse awkward situations through your dialogue choices. It's an interesting gameplay tidbit, and I'd like to see it used more.

For the most part, none of the characters really jump out at me with the exception of Elfriede herself. She seems to be a bit more opinionated than would be expected of a woman in her time, which is always refreshing, and I like her a lot as a narrator. Although for some reason, her sprite in the GUI grows lighter when she's talking to herself and darker when she's talking out loud, and I can't discern why that bothers me. There is also another character later on, a young man who hasn't enlisted in the war and is met with contempt by pretty much everyone, and I liked seeing him as well; I'm interested in seeing where his storyline goes.

Overall, I can't rank my experience with this demo as bad, just...average. Potential exists, but there's a lot of room for improvement. But that's the point of a demo, and I feel like I can't judge things as harshly as I would a full game, since there will more than likely be changes to the final product.

Will I be playing the full game? Haven't decided yet, but very possibly. At the least, I hope to see the developers improve on what they have, and I think they have the potential to put out a wonderful game.

Because We're Here is not completed at time of writing, but you can download the demo here.

Final verdict: Because We're Here has some design and artistic flaws that get in the way of enjoyment, but shows potential with an engaging protagonist and an interesting story.

Because We're Here is developed by Studio Elfriede. The opinions expressed in this review are my own. I was asked to do this review by the developer. I was not compensated in any way for this review.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Circus Rambles - On being a hybrid of development updates and random stuff

I can't really call this completely a development update, because I have other things to talk about. So it's a halfa. Like in Danny Phantom. Yes.

I apologize for being a bit quiet lately. The personal life has been beating me over the head with the difficulty stick. But despite this, progress has finally been made! If you look closely at the development status sections of this blog and my website, you will notice that Yumi-chan's Wonderful Cake Shop has had an update! I completed the first draft of the script last night and am working to get it to beta readers. I'm pretty happy with how it turned out, but maybe I've made some terrible mistake that needs to be caught. We shall see.

Next on the to-do list:

- Complete a review that was requested of me that I've taken far too long in doing. (I'M SORRY ;-;)
- Start scripting some other, hopefully commercial game. I have a few ideas but I'm not sure which one to work on yet, despite copious polling and advice.
- Play some of the games in my Steam library and write reviews for them, in the hopes that it de-stresses me a bit.
- Continue to direct Yumi-chan's artists as necessary.
- Sell my soul so I'm not quite so poor.

Also, I've recently been receiving more blog views, and I'm quite happy about that. :) Thanks to all my readers, and also to my new followers on Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook. And, of course, to my first ever Patron. I appreciate all of you guys, and I hope to dazzle you with something amazing soon.

Out of curiosity, I did a little list just to see which of my reviews have the most views, and as of yet the list goes as follows:

1. eden*
2. HuniePop
3. Blank Dream
4. Black Closet
5. Sword Daughter

I'm interested in using this as a way to figure out what sites have the most traffic and how to get some reviews a bit better read.

Just for completion's sake, a list of the lowest. (Going from five to one this time, with one being the lowest amount of views.)

5. no-one has to die
4. Analogue: A Hate Story
3. Ib
2. The Mirror Lied
1. Venus Meets Venus/Always Sometimes Monsters (tied for lowest view count with a whopping nine views each!)

The only game that was really done when I didn't have followers is no-one has to die; it was one of my first reviews ever. Some of the rest are older RPG games, so it makes sense that they'd get way fewer views. This is all a lot to consider!

For tonight, I'm going to try to not worry so much about everything, and probably fail miserable, but at least I'll give it a shot.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Circus Reviews - Blank Dream

I have a little fondness for RPG horror games like Ib, and I find that vgperson does an exceptional job with translations. So in my new Twitter-following adventures, I found that vgperson had translated another RPG horror game, as seems to be their comfortable niche, and so I decided to give it a quick go-through.

Blank Dream follows sixteen-year-old Mishiro Usui, who has committed suicide and ended up in a world called the Mirror World that seems to be a gateway between the real world and the afterlife. She is told to stare into the mirrors she finds and then break them, in order to fulfill the dying wish that she can't remember. On her way, she meets two other people, Yuzu and Ryotaro, who have forgotten their pasts and are trapped in the Mirror World, similarly to her. What will Mishiro find on her journey? Will she manage to discover and fulfill her wish?

To be honest, my first thought when playing this game was, "Somebody has played The Witch's House." There are a lot of instant death traps, just like that game, and several puzzles seem to be copy-pasted; anyone who has played The Witch's House should notice them pretty quickly. It's uncomfortably noticeable, not just because they're pretty much lifted from another game, but because this game didn't really need instant death traps. In The Witch's House, it felt necessary because the whole point of the game was that the house seemed to be trying to kill you. In this game, it's a bit out of place. At its core, it has a whole bunch of strongly dark themes like suicide, bullying, and adultery; it explored them all really well and could have done fine with just those, but it felt the need to add not just puzzles but puzzles that it doesn't seem to have invented.

The other characters aside from you aren't very well developed. Yuzu and Ryotaro just kind of hang around until the very end of the game, at which point you have to interact with them to get the full story and the best endings. Ending 1, the best ending, involves fulfilling both of their dying wishes, but the game doesn't ever make you care about them enough to actually want to do so. It's a shame, because they're appealing characters, but they're just not given enough time to come into their own.

Mishiro herself is very well developed, and I think I would have liked the game more if it had just been about her. Her story is both intriguing and sad, and once you learn why she did the things she did, you'll probably end up sympathizing with her.

As mentioned above, the game has some very dark themes to it; suicide is probably the most prominently explored. You're basically required to commit suicide repeatedly to break yourself out of memories and progress in the game, so it's probably not a game for the faint of heart, but it builds a dark mood that is good at drawing the player in. The story is interesting and well-paced, and the soundtrack that accompanies it is appropriately haunting.

All in all, despite what it does well, the game is dragged down by its unnecessary additions. Yuzu and Ryotaro do end up appearing in Mishiro's memories in an unexpected way, but at the same time, they're not really needed outside of the endings and aren't given enough attention to warrant the player caring enough to save them. Most of the puzzles don't add to the game that much. It's sad that I'm forced to just barely recommend this game, because I can't help feeling like it could have been a lot better.

On the plus side, there are wonderful, out-of-context screenshots like this one to enjoy.

Blank Dream is available in English from vgperson's website, and in Japanese from the developer's website.

Final verdict: Despite a compelling main character and an interesting story surrounding her, Blank Dream is bogged down by characters that feel useless, and by puzzles that feel like they've been lifted from certain other RPG horror games.

Blank Dream is developed by Kanawo (of Teriyaki Tomato) and translated to English by vgperson. The opinions expressed in this review are my own. I was not compensated in any way for this review.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Circus Reviews - Analogue: A Hate Story

I'm sure a lot of Steam users are familiar with the habit of buying games because they're on a really awesome sale and then letting them gather dust in the library for months on end. I expect that some of the games I picked up during this year's Summer Sale will be getting that treatment for a while longer, but the other night I finally dusted off at least one of them, Analogue: A Hate Story, a game I'd heard quite a lot about but hadn't ever gotten around to playing.

You play an investigator who is sent into space to investigate the strange reappearance of a ship that was sent off to establish an interstellar colony, but mysteriously disappeared. You're given the task of downloading whatever documents you can salvage from the ship in the hopes of uncovering why the ship disappeared in the first place. In the process of doing so, you end up accessing the ship's two remaining AIs: *Hyun-ae, controller of the log-keeping systems, and *Mute, head of security. For some reason, the AIs are unable to read what you type to them, so instead you have to communicate by showing them logs that you find so that they can give you more information. Through all this exploration, will you solve the mystery?

Gameplay consists of mostly reading the various logs that the AIs unlock for you over time. To request more information about a log, you show it to whichever AI you're speaking to and they'll tell you whatever they know, and send you a new log or two if they can. This system is a bit tricky at times, since you don't really receive very many hints. I may have just been obtuse, but I had trouble with the terminal system in the beginning, since not typing in the commands exactly as the developer intended them means the computer just yells at you. I also found it a bit arduous to scroll back through text logs trying to find the ones I hadn't yet shown to the AI. Normally, I might too have been annoyed at the inability to actually talk to the AI and tell them what you need...but that I can let slide because it winds up tying into the game's themes quite nicely. I'll expand more on that in a moment.

The only characters you meet are the previously mentioned AI girls, *Hyun-ae and *Mute. (There are numerous characters mentioned in the text logs that you don't get to meet since they're long since dead, and to be honest telling them apart gets difficult since everyone is named in Korean, but on the whole they're pretty well-done themselves.) *Hyun-ae is a very sympathetic character, especially when you learn of her backstory, and though you might think that what you learn about her would make her untrustworthy...when she asked me if I trusted her, I didn't even hesitate to click yes. *Mute I found completely insufferable at first, to the point that I debated quitting the game while talking to her. She's abrasive, unsympathetic, and blatantly misogynistic/homophobic, which I found hard to swallow despite being fully aware that she was probably just programmed that way. But going down her character path does give her some much-needed depth, and she ultimately proves that she's willing to be more open-minded than she seems initially.

Obviously, a lot of focus is placed on the story. Through the logs, you slowly uncover what kind of civilization was residing on the ship and why they're all gone. Several rather depressing stories end up converging into one, and what we're left with is pretty sad. Perhaps the most central theme is that lack of communication is something that kills...literally, in some cases. This is why I'm not so frustrated with not being able to talk to the AIs: that's part of the game's whole point. If you were able to simply talk to both AIs, you could resolve the conflict in about five minutes and find the answer to the mystery you were sent to solve relatively quickly to boot. But you can't do that so easily, and as it turns out, the characters you're reading about couldn't either.

There are five different endings depending on your choices, and while most of them are generally positively toned if bittersweet, one is designated as a sort of golden ending. There are some rather large questions left unanswered no matter what path you take, and I'm not sure whether those get answered in the sequel or not. But it does successfully make me want to actually play the sequel, so I guess it's a good thing that I got both this game and its sequel in one bundle for a very low price.

Overall, I enjoyed the game, despite being a few years late to the party, and I'm glad I finally got around to playing it. It makes me wonder what other gems are sitting in my Steam inbox. So hopefully I get around to some more soon.

Analogue: A Hate Story is available on Steam.

Final verdict: Some frustrations that occasionally pop up in gameplay aren't enough to detract from a well-written story and surprisingly deep characters, and overall Analogue: A Hate Story stands out as an exemplary game.

Analogue: A Hate Story is developed by Christine Love. The opinions expressed in this review are my own. I was not compensated in any way for this review.