Saturday, May 30, 2015

Circus Rambles - On a to-do list

Things I need to get done:

- Play the large backlog of games in my Steam library.
- Write a review of the incredibly depressing Planetarian - the reverie of a little planet
- WRITE MORE. Especially on The Prince and the Wolf.
- Get my other new ideas in a more stable format than strange brain thoughts.
- Mess around with the actual website until it looks how I'd like.
- Figure out shit for weekend? Goodness.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Circus Reviews - Black Closet

This review was written about an earlier version of the game; newer features have since been added and are not mentioned in this review.

This review has been edited since its original posting.

I've been talking about this game for a good while, and now it's finally out of beta! Black Closet, by Hanako Games, has officially been released, which means it's now time for my review.

Our protagonist is Elsa Jackson, a senior at St. Claudine's Academy who has been elected president of the Student Council. Her job is to solve mysteries and keep scandals from ruining the school's reputation, with the help of her council members/minions: popular and flirty Althea, stubborn and opinionated Thaïs, friendly new girl Mallory, hypercompetent assistant Vonne, and quiet and antisocial Rowan. Your goal is to keep your fellow students in line, while trying to find the traitor within your own ranks and still keep your grades up long enough to get into a good college.

Gameplay, shown above, involves assigning your minions to tasks such as searching a crime scene or interrogating a witness. Your minions will match their skills against the stats of whatever they're going up against. Succeeding gains you valuable evidence, while failure may lose you council karma or school reputation, both of which you need to keep above zero to avoid a game over. As previously mentioned, there is a traitor in your ranks as well, randomly generated at the start of each game, and she will deliberately sabotage your missions until you can find out who she is and successfully win her loyalty to the point where she turns back to your side. Also, your advisor, Miss Talmage, will occasionally assign you cases that are so important she will expel you if you don't solve them successfully.

Right off the bat, I have to say it: this game is hard. Your cases are on a time limit, and your karma and reputation meters can take severe hits if you fail to solve your mysteries in time. Restoring council karma isn't too difficult, but restoring school reputation can usually only be done on certain types of cases (though you do get some outside of that, like a friendly meter boost at the New Year). It's possible to get a string of just the wrong types of cases and end up running your reputation dangerously low. There are also some plot-based cases that can be rather tricky; one in particular largely depends on the Random Number God smiling down on you and granting you a successful search. Luckily there is an option to pass off the plot cases to Miss Talmage if you get truly stuck (and you'd better exercise that option, because failing a plot case is a game over). Players who have played Hanako's previous title Long Live the Queen may be used to such a large difficulty curve, but others may have a tough time at first.

Your fellow minions are well-characterized, all of them having a lot more to them than it would first appear. Thaïs is easy to write off as a brat, but she's also got a talent for fashion design that rivals her talent for intimidating her fellow students. Mallory seems like a typical ingenue, but isn't quite as innocent as she seems (although she still gets adorably embarrassed at some of the more flirty comments from, say, Althea). Vonne masks her feelings about your previously ended friendship with her by being a standout, courteous sidekick. You get the opportunity to spend time with your minions on the weekends during the first semester, which is how you build their loyalty (a meter that determines how many actions they can perform for you in a row before having to take a break) and discover who the traitor is; it's also how you choose the girl you're going to romance. Or befriend: Mallory and Thaïs have more friendship-based paths since they're minors, and Rowan has a path in which you basically turn her into your personal slave (I like Rowan too much to do it, so no further details there).

The artwork is a pretty big departure from previous Hanako Games titles, but not at all bad. The CGs, in particular, have a kind of watercolor feel to them that looks really nice. I'd maybe say that a few of the sprites look a bit off...Rowan has a tendency to look strangely offended a lot of the time, although that could just be her admittedly rather antisocial personality. And Mallory maybe looks confused a lot. But that one suits her.

The soundtrack is enjoyable enough, but most of the tracks are short, and you may get tired of the constant looping. Still, I have a few favorite pieces of ear candy; the one that plays when a traitor is confessing her terrible sins to you stands out. And without wishing to spoil anything, the track for the final boss fight (yes there is a final boss in this game) is called "Attack of the Vampires", which in context absolutely cracks me up.

Once I got past the somewhat brutal learning curve, I quite enjoyed Black Closet. It's a very different game; I can't say I've really played another one like it. It's part mystery game, part puzzle solving, part romance. The characters are fun; the story is interesting; the gameplay is unique and well thought out. You may have a hard time getting the hang of things at first, but persevere; this game is definitely worth a playthrough.

Black Closet is available on Steam or directly from the developer.

Final verdict: The difficulty curve is possibly high enough to put some players off, but Black Closet combines unique and engaging gameplay with compelling characters and story to make an enjoyable game.

Black Closet is written and developed by Hanako Games and Spiky Caterpillar, and illustrated by Bramasta Aji, x-ren-x, Roman Hodek, and sarana. The opinions expressed in this review are my own. I was not compensated in any way.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Circus Rambles - On holy shit A-kon

I am very happy to announce that I will be attending A-Kon 2015! Just as an lowly attendee and only for Saturday and maybe Sunday, but it is a thing that is happening.

I am gonna buy anime swag. I am gonna ooh and aah at cosplay.

I've only been to A-Kon once before, and it ended up being marred by a personal event that happened partway through. I'm quite glad to get to attend again!

Well, that wasn't a very long ramble, was it...

Friday, May 15, 2015

Circus Rambles - On shots and thoughts

Drinking and contemplating tonight.

This time I'm gonna split my ramble up into somewhat cohesive sections, JUST BECAUSE.

Content Creators I Support Due to Their Awesomeness: An Explanation

Those few readers I have may have noticed my sidebar called "Content Creators I Support Due to Their Awesomeness". This is meant to list content creators that I love dearly and wish to support in any way possible. This is NOT meant to be saying that only these content creators are good and all the others suck. And some of it is VERY personal:

  • You may not know this since the branding isn't on the blog yet, but Black Rabbit Illustrations, the first one on the list, has been helping me create my real website and also designed the graphics that I use on Tumblr and various Internet forums. And also, she and I are blood related! (If you happen to read this I LOVE YOU AND STUFF AND BUY ME A BUS TICKET SO I CAN COME SEE YOU EVEN THOUGH WE ARE POOR.)
  • PushingUpRoses and Chiikaboom have both publicly talked about their struggles with mental disorders, and I have multiple, so I sympathize a lot and I think they're both very brave for talking about this; I know the whole thing can be really hard. I support both of them via Patreon and plan to buy as many prints from Chiikaboom as I can afford.
  • TotalBiscuit and his wife, Genna Bain, are popular enough that you've probably at least heard of them. TotalBiscuit has been dealing with cancer for quite a while, and just recently had what is supposed to be his last cancer-related surgery. Trying to keep producing content at a pace that, for me, would probably be murderous, while also dealing with illness and chemotherapy and all that shit? That deserves major props.
So if I've added a creator to that sidebar, it is probably because they really deserve it, at least in my eyes, and I encourage you to at least take a look.

Writing Is Hard As Shit

Writing consistently on one project at a time is hard. I have lots of other ideas for commercial projects that I want to make in the future, but I am also firmly committed to proving my worth by getting a few free projects out first. However, The Prince and the Wolf is slow going at the moment, and I don't have any other ideas for free projects besides The Tower. It's all really hard and I'm not used to it yet. But I'm bound and determined and really trying; please believe that.

Upcoming Reviews

Black Closet is expected to launch soon, and I will be doing a review around launch day and promoting it as much as I can, because this is a good game.

I'd also like to play Always Sometimes Monsters, which I picked up on sale for $2.99. But then, I have multiple games I've been meaning to play.

Pizza Is Delicious

......but I've eaten too much of it today.

Good night.

I'm off to muse some and maybe get a few more lines written. I hope.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Circus Reviews - ♥Arachne♥

Every now and then, the visual novel/interactive fiction community has what they call "jams". This is basically where you spend about a month or so and fully develop a game. You can't work on the game beforehand (although you can update it later). It's basically NaNoWriMo for games. The last game I reviewed, Those Without Names, was for NaNoReMo, a visual novel writing jam. This game was for the Magical Girl Jam, which involved creating a visual novel or interactive fiction game involving magical girls.

The story is...very hard to describe. Basically, you are a girl trapped in a room. Every day, you process information, possibly for customers of some kind (there is mention of a contract). You can hear things on the outside and want to escape, but failure only leads to pain. But once you do manage to make contact with someone outside and learn that escape is possible, how could you turn it down?

Gameplay in ♥Arachne♥, like a lot of interactive fiction games, is pretty much just about reading the text. Occasionally there will be what I'd call "hot phrases" such as those pictured above; you can click on them to either gain more information or advance the story. There isn't any option to go back and make a different choice, or to save, which makes it a little frustrating when you realize that you've advanced the plot but also missed a choice you could have made. From what I can tell, though, this is something of an industry standard, so I'm not sure I have much room to complain.

The storytelling is stark and minimal, and puts me in mind of poetry. I am kind of a poetry buff, so maybe I'm biased, but I like it all a lot. You're given small details periodically, but most of the setting and story is left to you to infer. I didn't even need that much detail to get into the shoes of the protagonist.

The game is short; you can complete it in about five minutes without much trouble. It only has one ending, but the ending it has fits the story quite well. It does leave a dangling sequel hook, and I'm a little disappointed that the author doesn't seem to have any intentions of writing more in the setting. However, I liked what I got; it was quick and simple, yet beautifully elegant. If you have a few minutes to kill, go give it a click.

♥Arachne♥ is available to play for free on

Final verdict: Though its short length can leave you wanting more, ♥Arachne♥ has an impressive minimalist writing style that works well, and what world you do get is dark and engaging.

♥Arachne♥ is written by fractoluminous and built by colinmarc and trucy. The opinions expressed in this review are my own. I was not compensated in any way for this review.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

General Development Update #2

The Prince and the Wolf

More writing done today. I have reached out to someone to do the art for the game, but it's all in very early talks. The same person also created a free song that I have decided to use for the game's title theme song.

Other Games

I may have started my next game after The Prince and the Wolf...Not sure yet. It's a bit early to tell. Trying to keep myself focused on one thing at a time, though. :)


I've also reached out to someone to give the blog a visual rework; more word on that when it comes around.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

General Development Update #1

This is going to be a series of little updates I'm going to start doing, involving the progress of various things. If I make big progress with a particular game, then I will post an update just for that game. This is more of a blanket update that will cover pretty much everything relevant that I can think of.

The Prince and the Wolf

Still writing. I have two endings completed, but am not sure how many I'm going for. I will continue to update on the game's progress on the "development status" page.

Other Games

I did start the first lines of one or two other games...Mostly just playing around with ideas, but I hope to have them more fully developed in the future. Priority is currently going to The Prince and the Wolf, however.


My actual website is being worked on gradually, and I plan to have it completed around the same time as The Prince and the Wolf. The "about me" page on this blog has been updated with a list of questions. I can't call them frequently asked because no one has actually asked me these, but I feel like they'll be important questions in the future. I've also created a "contact me" page that lists my social media accounts. Currently I am on Reddit, Tumblr, MyAnimeList, and VNDB. Eventually there will be a Facebook page.


So to whoever is reading, I appreciate your support! Still working hard, I am. One of these days I'll get it done! :)