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.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

General Development Update #5


I have added a download of the special edition of Sheets to the page. It includes the local .html file, the game's base poem in its original format, and a short page of production notes. There is also now an option to make a donation, although this is completely optional.

Read the game again on its freshly tinkered-with page here!

Also, if you enjoyed Sheets, please take a moment to rate it at its page on the Interactive Fiction Database.


The website pretty much looks the way I want it for now. I added some newly necessary rules to the contact page; please read them before attempting to contact me.


I also wanted to say thanks to the new followers I've gained recently. Thank you for your support, and I hope to soon have a new game out to impress/astound you.

See you soon!

Monday, August 3, 2015

Circus Reviews - Cursed Sight

A long while back, I was browsing Reddit and happened upon a Kickstarter for a game called Cursed Sight. I took a look, and admittedly I was immediately attracted to the low cost of entry: a digital copy of the game was only $3 or so. So I backed for $3, and later moved it up to $5 for the privilege of getting my copy a week before the release date. And then the day game, earlier than expected, and I immediately grabbed my Steam key and went to work. And boy...was I in for a surprise.

The story takes place in the fictional country of East Taria, a kingdom that is home to a rare treasure...or rather, a girl. Miyon was born with an unusual power: anyone who gazes into her eyes will die a week later. She also has the power to affect fate with mysterious rituals, and is thus highly prized in the temple. The story starts when our narrator, a young boy named Gai, is sold to the temple by his parents and becomes a servant for Miyon. Bitter towards his parents for their actions, Gai approaches his new life with a lot of anger, but upon meeting Miyon, things may change...

Gai and Miyon are children when the story begins, and it's an interesting contrast to most visual novels that have teenage protagonists. They're both kind of brats at first, which is to be expected, but they very quickly undergo character development that turns them around for the better. The other major character is Sasa, a bellstress at the temple and a surrogate mother to Miyon. She has a lot of depth to her that you don't see at first, but even on the surface she's likable. Other characters pop up later, and not wishing to spoil their role in things, I will only say that they're pretty important!

The story is interesting and progresses well for the most part, but there is a time skip partway through that is rather poorly handled. It has a transition similar to the others (I'll get to those in a moment) and then suddenly it's been ten years with no warning. Shortly after this, the first major plot twist appears...And maybe I'm just a smarty pants, but I saw that twist coming a mile away. It involves a character not revealed in the demo and so I'm not going to spoil details, but it's easy to see coming after a while. Not bad, just easy to see. There were some later on, though, that I didn't see coming at all.

And speaking of the transitions, I really don't like the way they were done. It involves a random CG coupled with the game's logo, and it just kind of pops up when a scene is done. It feels rather choppy and abrupt. In addition, the GUI window is small and placed a little low on the screen, and it kind of bothers me. (I admit this may just be a personal preference, though.

But despite my minor nitpicks, I am still going to recommend this game to you until I lose my voice. Because holy fuck...This story. It is sad and heartbreaking. Do not go into it thinking it is happy. It is not. It is sad and heartbreaking.

I'm still sad.

This story broke all of my expectations for it. It was way deeper and sadder than I thought it was going to be. It's almost frustrating, because I care about the characters enough to want them not to be sad as well. And the mark of a good game is that I care about its characters that much. Combine that with the beautiful visuals and the lovely soundtrack, and I can ultimately say that playing this game was a very positive experience (despite the sorrow).

Not too long ago, I made a list of my most anticipated visual novels of this year, and this is the first one of those to be released. All I can say is...It deserved to be on that list, and it deserves to be in your library. It is a wonderful piece of work, and I am happy to have been a backer (although starting to wish that I had backed for more).

Cursed Sight is available on Steam and the Humble store.

Final verdict: While there are some flaws in the design and a poorly handled time skip, Cursed Sight is a beautiful game with a surprisingly moving story and inspiring characters, and it comes highly recommended from me.

Cursed Sight is developed by Invertmouse. The opinions expressed in this review are my own. I was not compensated in any way for this review. I was a Kickstarter backer of this game and received a copy of the game prior to launch as part of my reward tier.