Monday, December 26, 2016

Where have you been, you awkward slug

Well. It's been a while, hasn't it?

I'd like to apologize for being so silent these past several months. It's been a very hard time for me emotionally and financially, and I kind of crawled into a metaphorical hole and fell asleep down there, hoping I could wake up in the spring and everything would be flowery again. Of course, life doesn't work that way. I did wake up, and now my brain has the awkward task of trying to put me back together while I come to terms with a lot of facts. Facts like, really bad things have happened to me and I put off dealing with them for too long. Facts like, I'm a mess right now and scared that I'll never get better. Facts like, I want to try and keep going anyway.

Over the next month, I will be attending job training for a new job I've taken in Washington, 2,000 miles away from my current home in Arkansas. It's a big opportunity and I'm excited and nervous and sad and the whole gauntlet of emotions about it. It does unfortunately necessitate that I continue to remain stepped back from Some Strange Circus for a little while longer, while I go to training and then go get settled in a new state. But I'm determined to keep going. Once I am moved into my new state, I'm going to look at getting things back on track with my writing, which is something that's always been very dear to me.

To those who have supported me in the past, thank you. To those who are reading this, thank you as well.

I'm not okay just yet, but I'm going to work on it.

I'll see you all soon.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Circus Reviews - 16 Ways To Kill A Vampire At McDonald's


IF Comp is here again, and I didn't enter like I'd planned to. I may be stuck in a hole, but darned if I won't pull something down here with me. So let's play some IF Comp games!

The game centers around a vampire hunter named Lucy who generally just acts as bait for the undead creatures and doesn't do much of the heavy lifting herself. But on her night off, she wanders into a McDonald's and comes face to face with a vampire, with no backup and an adorable cashier to protect. With time ticking down before the vampire makes a move and no way to tackle the vampire head-on, how will Lucy manage to save the day?


I normally tend to go for the story-driven IF games, such as those by kaleidofish, but the bulk of this one's gameplay involves trying to figure out how to kill the vampire with your limited surroundings and whatever knowledge of traditional vampire myths you have. Pretty much all of the common ones can be used in some way, which is helpful in that it doesn't have to go into a bunch of tedious exposition, but a McDonald's doesn't have a ton of options when it comes to religious paraphernalia, for example, and thus creative thinking is required. This game in particular makes more use of your inventory than most of the IF games I've played. You actually start with a few items that turn out to be extremely helpful, which I did not realize my first few times through the game.

The vampire itself is treated as the villain, and it feels like that's gotten so rare in a world where Twilight is part of general history. Part of the vampire's plan does involve seduction, but it's not treated as anything attractive; it's treated like a predator hunting prey. Lucy herself takes the entire thing as just part of her duty, and treats the seduction thing as simply something to be dealt with. She's fairly no-nonsense in general, but cares about the safety and well-being of other people and thinks on her feet. You might trust her for help with a supernatural being trying to kill you after spending a game with her.


The game has sixteen different endings (of course), and there's a helpful list that details each ending and gives a hint for the ones you haven't gotten yet. As you play through the game, you also get bonus content, like vampire facts and a more spoofy sequel wherein Lucy gets to bring her two friends, Maggie and Luke, along to hunt even more vampires. The amount of content here is happily surprising considering it's a free IF game. There is also a "true ending" that I haven't quite unlocked yet, but I'm looking forward to it.

All in all, this is well worth the time you'll put into it. It has massive replay value and good goals to work towards. It's not a particularly deep game and maybe not filled with a bunch of new ideas, but there's also something refreshing about treating a villainous predator like a villainous predator.

And maybe, you'll never look at a McDonald's the same way again.


16 Ways To Kill A Vampire At McDonald's is available to play in browser through IFComp.

Final verdict: A simple but enjoyable game about good old-fashioned vampire killing, with enough replayability and bonus content to make it well worth your while.

16 Ways To Kill A Vampire At McDonald's is developed by Abigail Corfman. The opinions expressed in this review are my own. I was not compensated in any way for this review.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

GenCon post-mortem

Well, I only actually went for one day, but I have a few things to say, at least.

GenCon is different than any anime convention I've been to. There didn't seem to be so many panels. There were a lot of booths for different game companies and a lot of people playing games. "Artist Alley" was a thing, and there was a dedicated author's section that made me quite happy. It was very...crowded. Hard to deal with at times for a person with social anxiety, but it all worked out. I met some cool artists, including one whose work I've admired for a while, and picked up a nice little stack of business cards. If I wasn't so poor I'd hire most of them for visual novel shenanigans.

I wish I could have stayed longer, to tell the truth...I wanted to see more of the con and I wanted to see my family more than I got to. But, you know, financial obligations and impending doom.

I have a number of pictures on my cell phone that will eventually make their way online, probably to Instagram, which I do occasionally post on.

Also, driving a nine and a half hour drive alone is interesting. It's freeing not to have to make conversation all the time, and to have the ability to stop wherever the damn hell I feel like. That said, it was hard in the mornings, when I was getting so tired that I had to pull over. This did lead me to discovering the joys of five-hour energy shots, which helped somewhat. I made terrible time both ways, but eh, who cares.

I guess that concludes my ramblings. I wouldn't mind going to GenCon again, but there's that awkward thing where next year it conflicts with AnimeFest, which I wish I was going to this year and had hoped to go to next year...So we'll see what happens.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Circus Reviews - So You Killed a Guy


The issue with reviewing interactive fiction games is that they often have no pictures, and thus inserting pictures throughout the review ends up being boring and likely to spoil things. However, I feel like I haven't played nearly enough text-based games lately, especially with IFComp upon us. So here, I present to you an interesting gem plucked from r/interactivefiction: a Creative Writing thesis as presented in Twine.

In an unforeseen twist, So You Killed a Guy opens with the narrator telling you that you have just killed a guy. This narrator purports to be your guide, claiming to have instructions that will allow you to get away with this crime unpunished, and as long as you follow these instructions, you will be perfectly fine, probably.


To me, a lot of second-person fiction sets up the protagonist as a concrete character while still referring to "you" when telling the story; this game, however, doesn't really have a protagonist, unless we count the narrator himself. The story is set up in such a way that you alone fill the "protagonist" role, and it feels more like the choices themselves are the character, if that makes any sense. A number of your options are filled with sarcasm and apathy, and you are presented with a number of opportunities to mercilessly screw with the narrator, but you can also play along and be cooperative.

The narrator is probably the real character here. He begins by presenting an almost too enthusiastic front, being quite into the fact that you're a murderer and rushing to offer his assistance, but the facade shatters pretty quickly if you refuse to play along with what he's telling you. What develops is a neurotic voice that lashes out and gets angry, but at heart wants nothing more than to write a good, original story. That's something that hit particularly hard for me, especially considering the recent slump I've been in. What's different about the narrator's fits of rage, though, is that they actually affect something. The narrator is in control of the game world; if he doesn't like something in it (like, say, YOU), he can change it...unless, of course, he lacks the creative inspiration to do so. Isn't that an ability we all wish we could have?


There are several different ways the story can end depending on whether you heckle the narrator and how much, and each one explores a slightly different aspect of the issue of writer's block in a unique and compelling way. You might successfully make it to your planned ending, or you might poke fun at the narrator one too many times and end up being severely punished for your actions. I personally started feeling rather bad for the narrator in at least one path, only for this to dissipate somewhat when he began threatening me with violence.

I fully admit that I am not qualified to judge the merit of any sort of thesis, but I do know at least one small thing about video games, and I feel that this holds up as a game pretty well. It treats a subject I know very well in a new way, and I'd strongly recommend it to writers of any kind, or to people who enjoy IF games and are looking for a quick one to try out. Also, I hope that the author considers continuing to write for Twine, because their first project is an enjoyable one indeed.


So You Killed a Guy is available to play for free on philome.la.

Final verdict: While perhaps not intended as a game in the traditional sense, So You Killed a Guy stands out with its relateable narrator and its short but fascinating exploration into the struggle for creativity and inspiration.

So You Killed a Guy is developed by tomfrom1995. The opinions expressed in this review are my own. I was not compensated in any way for this review.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Circus Reviews - Empty Horizons


As I'm writing this, I've just reached a certain point in Empty Horizons. A certain point that gives me strong admiration for ebi-hime as a writer, yet again. A certain point that reminds me that reading a story without having anything spoiled for you is an amazing experience. A certain point that makes me realize that this review is going to be very similar to another game by ebi-hime that I reviewed, Round the Mulberry Bush, in that I can't discuss what I want to discuss without breaking my policy of not having spoilers in my reviews.

...Well, fuck.

Let's talk a bit about stories like that. It's very difficult to recommend them, because telling people that something might seem bad but it will get better if they keep going sounds like advice from your nightmare's life coach. And yet here I am trying, because it's gotten to me and it's just that surprising.

Anyway.

Empty Horizons follows Mireille, a sheltered eighteen-year-old girl whose life is thrown into disarray after her father's death. Her uncle in France invites her to stay with him and hires Lyon, a former chauffer for the family, as her escort. Mireille is reluctant to go with him and isn't even sure if living with her uncle is what she wants, but goes along anyway, and during the journey, she struggles with how to feel about her father, about her lost former life, and about Lyon, who despite his irritating habits and womanizing ways has a certain charm to him.


I'll be honest...I was set to skip reviewing this game. At first glance, the story was predictable and boring. Mireille and Lyon's relationship develops rather predictably; while their banter is amusing at times, it's easy to see where things are going, and Lyon isn't a particularly likeable character despite sharing the narration with Mireille, who is just as abrasive but is also a lot easier to sympathize with due to the more frequent glances into her head. Also, Mireille at one point reads what is very heavily implied to be Twilight, which is incredibly offensive.

And then...a thing happens.

As much as I admire ebi-hime, I'm annoyed that she keeps writing visual novels that I can't fully discuss without spoiling the experience, which is something I never want to do. So good on you, ebi-hime; you have stifled me yet again. I'm left standing around unable to say much other than, "Please play this game; it's worth it!" And it makes me look like kind of a shitty reviewer. But if I have nothing else, I have moral standards when it comes to game reviews.


So to get back to things I actually can talk about:

SillySelly returns to do the artwork, and it stands out once again. Backgrounds are well done, and I'm particularly fond of the sprite art for Mireille; there's something about her expressions that betrays her vulnerability despite the harsh front she puts up. The soundtrack is lovely as well. I'm particularly a fan of the title screen track, but then, I've always been a sucker for a good piano track. And the story itself...the turn it takes is not one that you can predict. It blew me away when I first read it, but looking back on it now, I'm a bit sad it turned out the way it did. There's no other way it could have turned out, really, but I did end up feeling for the characters in the end.

This review is not much of a review. I feel like maybe I shouldn't have even written what I did, because again, there's little I can say about the plot here even though that's all I want to talk about. All I can say is, don't give up on this game like I thought about doing. Keep going. Give it a chance. As I've said before, it is not in any way what you expect it to be.

In conclusion, I am set to name ebi-hime the OELVN master of defying expectations. There isn't a medal or a trophy for this, but hopefully it's not too dubious of an honor all the same.


Empty Horizons is available on Steam and itch.io.

Final verdict: With Empty Horizons, ebi-hime has pulled out yet another game with a plot twist so important that I can barely properly review it without giving it away, so all I can really do is recommend it and then go and mumble in a corner.

Empty Horizons 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, June 29, 2016

Sleeping Pillowbook now available!

Sleeping Pillowbook is a small collection of unconnected poems about different things. It's basically meant to serve as a preview of my poetry.

It is now available for download through itch.io.

https://somestrangecircus.itch.io/sleeping-pillowbook

Thank you!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Poetry preview and poetry timeline and poetry rambles

In the near future, I will begin putting some of my poetry on itch.io for sale. It might be a weird choice, but I'm a weird person so I think it fits.

I recently had the idea to make up a small sort of preview of some of my poetry. Maybe 10 or 12-ish poems, just so you can get an idea of my style and what you'd be getting into. I'd like it if people purchased my works when they come out, but I understand that taking a leap on a new author is risky and I also understand that not everyone jumps for joy at the thought of poetry. So I think I will work on this preview and have it up in the near future.

Incidentally, do any of you recall the name "24 over insomnia"? It was a collection of poetry that was on FictionPress (Fanfiction.net's sibling) years ago, but it got taken down because people kept plagiarizing it. I wish that I could go back and read it, because it was such a huge inspiration to me.

Once Yumi-chan is finally behind me (progress is slow but forward-moving) I will be focusing more on poetry for a while. The timeline in my head goes something like this:

1. Poetry preview (up sometime this week)
2. fractured starlight
3. A free poetry collection
4. A different not-free really dark poetry collection.
5. A collection of very sarcastic poetry. (Way way in the future.)

This isn't set in stone, but it's how I'd like it to go.

I'm also toying around with what visual novel idea I'd like to try for next. I have a few scripts kind of started but am not committed to one yet, and at least one of them will be too costly to produce for a while. We'll just have to wait and see.

I hope that was a sufficiently non-boring update. Go back to your life.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Circus Reviews - Highway Blossoms


I don't normally start things off on a serious note. But to be honest, seeing a thread in the Steam forums about how anyone who plays this game is a creepy deviant pissed me off, especially in light of recent events. So in slightly alcohol-induced anger, I'm going to stick it to the man and play me a nice lesbian road trip visual novel, because I can. That and I've been waiting for this to come out forever and was ridiculously overexcited to see that it was launching early, but you know.

Nineteen-year-old Amber has taken her grandfather's old motorhome and started on a journey across the desert, to get to a music festival. By chance, she happens upon Marina, whose car has broken down on the side of the road. Amber takes pity on Marina and drives her to get some gas, but by the time they get back, Marina's car has been stolen. Luckily Amber isn't in a big hurry, and she agrees to be Marina's chauffeur for an expedition involving a hidden treasure and a new gold rush.


Amber and Marina are a compelling main pair, and have a lot more depth than you might think if you just played their first few scenes. Amber is trying not to deal with the grief she feels for her grandfather, and it's portrayed in a way I can really relate to. She worries about Marina's airy personality, while Marina herself wants to be as helpful to Amber as Amber is to her. The way their relationship develops and the conflicts that later come into play are realistic and at times heartbreaking to read. I also like that this story doesn't even try to make either of them closet keys. They both just know that they're lesbians, something that can be surprisingly rare in lesbian stories, and I appreciate that it's just treated like an ordinary fact, as it should be.

The most prominent side characters are Mariah, her childhood friend Joseph, and her younger sister Tess, all of whom are also looking for the treasure. Well, to put it more accurately, Mariah is looking for the treasure and Joseph and Tess are along for the ride. They're all an interesting bunch, and I actually would have liked to see more of the relationship between Mariah and Tess and learn about why the ten-year-old Tess is traveling cross-country with her sister. Then again, they're in the story about as much as they need to be without being annoying, occasionally providing a rival for Amber and at one point giving her some valuable advice.


The story of the treasure is an interesting one, although at times it feels very secondary to the relationship, which is par for the course in a romance. Still though, the fact that there's all this gold to be found and the characters don't ever mention how they're going to cash it in and how they'd deal with hypothetical fame resulting from being the ones to find this treasure. And then there's the fact that if that many people were already searching for it before them, I feel like someone would have had to have found it out of sheer dumb luck. But honestly, it doesn't bother me that much; it's not meant to be the main focus and it's not treated that way. And yes, it's still cool to be hunting for actual gold.

The artwork is beautifully done, but what adds to it is the presentation. Specifically, it's the use of animation and the Ren'Py 3D Camera System, made by Alice in Dissonance, the folks behind the Fault series. There are all kinds of little animation touches, like when the characters are driving somewhere, and they all add a great sense of immersion and polish. As great as all these things are, though, I regrettably have to mention the fact that on my initial playthrough, I was unable to adjust any of the music or sound volumes or the text speed; the sliders didn't exist. Not sure if this is a bug or what, but much as I enjoy the music, I also enjoy the ability to adjust it. (EDIT: No one else I've found has had this issue, so it may simply be an issue with my computer and not the game itself.) There's also a point where Amber is talking to two other characters and her sprite is transparent...I might just be weird to notice that, but it was a bit distracting.


Once you finish the story, there's a "Goofball Mode" that basically adds a whole bunch of extra call-forwards and memes. It is hilarious and worth your time. And in addition, as you've probably heard, this game has a free adult patch to add H-scenes. They're all tastefully done, but I have to take some slight issue with one, so HOLYSHITACTUALSPOILERS for once

...

Never fake an orgasm, Amber. Never do it. It's a bad idea. I guess this is probably a matter of personal taste (no pun intended) but orgasm faking really bothers me!

Okay, I'm done with this tangent now.

...

Despite some small flaws, I am overall very impressed with Highway Blossoms. A lot of work has gone into it, and it really shows. The story, while not winning any awards, does pull your interest, and the characters are fun to be with and hard to watch struggle. My favorite thing, though, is dat animation. It's just such a nice touch and it adds an amazing feel of refinement that I haven't seen in many visual novels. As a developer myself, I'd go so far as to say that Highway Blossoms is a game to admire on a production level, and I hope to one day make a game as good as this.


Highway Blossoms is available on Steam. The all-ages version on Steam can have adult content added with a free patch available in the Steam forums.

Final verdict: A few bugs and holes in the plot aside, Highway Blossoms shines in its characters and artwork, but most of all in its production quality in regards to innovative camera use and animation, and it sets a very high standard as a shining example of what talented folks can do with Ren'Py.

Highway Blossoms is developed by Alienworks and published by Sekai Project. The opinions expressed in this review are my own. I received a free copy of this game in exchange for my review.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Circus Reviews - Heirs and Graces


This review has been edited since its original posting.

Now that I think about it, I don’t think I’ve ever played a game where you play as a male and can only romance males. It feels like an underrepresented genre to me, so Winter Wolves' Heirs and Graces, which launches today, is a welcome release.

Their latest stat-raising dating sim follows a young man named Marcel, who spent his life growing up in poverty with his mother after his father, a noble lord, abandoned them. In order to meet his father without imposing demands or making things awkward, Marcel applies to work in his father’s home as a servant, but his plans go awry when his father recognizes him. Still, it seems to work out, as Marcel’s father is willing to give him a chance to prove himself worthy of being the house’s heir, and Marcel himself finds plenty of interesting folk around the castle to occupy himself with…

I haven’t played a ton of Winter Wolves games, but from the ones I have played, stat-raising seems to be a signature feature and it makes a return here. I have certain issues with stat-raisers in general, most prominently in Always Remember Me. I do wish that there was more upfront explanation in regard to what stats help with which relationships, and I also find it a bit confusing that the stats page includes characters that you haven’t necessarily met yet (obviously this is only a problem in the early game, but still). Even with these flaws, though, there are some improvements. The days are occasionally broken up with events featuring romanceable characters that help refresh the pattern, and somehow it feels like slightly less of a grind.

The characters are all memorable, and probably the strongest point of the game. Despite what you might call a standard fantasy setting, neither Marcel nor his potential love interests fall into stereotypes, and all of them are interesting. Serious butler Vincent, ex-gladiator Kamal, doctor Borges, and elf lord Eloy are your options, and though I normally tend to sway for one love interest or another, all four of these guys appealed to me. (And to Marcel, of course.)


Despite my praises for the writing and characters, I’m afraid I can’t always say the same about the art. The sprites feel very pale and washed out in comparison to the backgrounds, and their expressions don’t always match what they’re saying. The backgrounds themselves are fine, and the GUI is functional. But the sprites, being at center stage, can distract.

There are also points throughout where little details that could have been fixed or tightened up, but weren’t, detract from the overall experience. As previously mentioned, naming characters that I haven’t met yet in the stats as if they should be familiar to me doesn’t quite work for me. There is a help feature included on the page, but it doesn’t include all the information I want, like what stat goes with which character. It also didn’t volunteer the information I really needed. I feel like something like what Long Live the Queen does with its tutorial, and giving the player a choice to play a tutorial, might have worked better.


So I have my clear and obvious problems with the game, as you can see. And yet, I really enjoy it. Not being told I had to pass skill checks frustrates me, but I want to go back and do them over anyway. The characters may not look fantastic, but they’re very well-developed, and the writing is ultimately strong enough to draw your attention in.

Also, I got to tell an elven lord that I hope he dies alone and this somehow made him like me. Always fun.

Would I have preferred a more polished experience in places? Absolutely. Am I unhappy with the experience I had? Not at all! I’m quite pleased to call Heirs and Graces the best Winter Wolves game I’ve played to date, and I really hope they keep it up with their future releases.


Heirs and Graces is available directly from the developer. Buying direct from Winter Wolves will also allow you to redeem a Steam key when it goes on sale on the platform.

Final verdict: While the sprites aren't fantastic and there are quality-of-life details that could have been fixed, Heirs and Graces is kept up by its compelling writing and fantastically written characters.

Heirs and Graces is developed by Winter Wolves. The opinions expressed in this review are my own. I received a free copy of this game in exchange for my review.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Memorial Day

I tend to limit the amount of, as I call it, "real talk" that goes on my accounts. By real talk, I mean stuff about my personal life. I strongly prefer to keep those separate. But, of course, today is Memorial Day.

My grandfather, who passed away in January, was a veteran in World War II. My grandmother passed away five years before him, also in a January. I miss both of them. So I'm remembering them today.

That was all I really had to say. Have a good day.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Circus Reviews - A Little Lily Princess


So here's A Little Lily Princess, an adaptation of the novel A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Maybe it's Adaptation Week or something over here, since I just did The Armoire the other day. Eh, who knows.

A Little Lily Princess follows young Sara Crewe, who has spent her whole life being raised in wealth by her beloved father in India but must now leave for England in order to be educated at boarding school. She is introduced to an eclectic group of students—snobby Lavinia, dreamer Jessie, kind but slow Ermengarde, spoiled Lottie—along with her own personal maid, Mariette, and things go very well for her at first. She makes friends, tells stories, and even from her high position goes out of her way to help the less fortunate, like scullery maid Becky. But what happens when a princess loses everything she held dear to her?


The game's main emphasis is on its storytelling, but there is a basic stat-raising mechanic involved that helps determine your character route. Each week, you can choose activities for Sara to perform, and at the end of the week the events you chose give you various stats, which you can then spend on extra events with the girl of your choice. It's nothing challenging, and even if you have bad luck with the events and don't get the stats you want for a week or two, it's almost impossible to actually miss out on an event. Which is good, since it clears the way for the aforementioned storytelling to take center stage. The text adapted directly from the novel and the text that Hanako has added for the character routes are nearly indistinguishable. The styles match up perfectly, and even though I have read the original novel before, there were times when I couldn't tell what had been added. At the same time, there were also times when I could clearly pick out novel passages and fondly remember them. It's a very high quality read all the way through.

The characters are mostly interesting enough, although there are a couple in particular I can't stand...Lavinia and Lottie, try as they might, never managed to endear themselves to me, even in their character routes. I fully admit this to be personal preference, as I found no real problems with their routes but just couldn't bring myself to enjoy either of them. Ermengarde and Mariette have better routes, with Becky and Jessie taking center stage as my personal favorites. I sympathize with Jessie's feelings for Sara clashing with her parents' expectations of an eventual arranged marriage, and with poor Becky's life in general, and it made their routes extremely enjoyable for me.

As for the much touted yuri, the only route that I would call definitively romantic is Jessie's. There are a couple of more familial routes and a couple that seem like friendship to me but could end up going either way. Personally, I think it works. There could have been more romance, sure, but romance isn't what the original book was about; family and friendship played stronger parts, and they remain important themes here. Also, adding in extra romance probably would have made things...uncomfortable, let's say, considering that most of our characters are schoolchildren.


The music is quite charming! (And worth the wait that I endured due to my laptop deciding that some sounds should not be played.) The art is lovely as well. There are segments wherein the girls are depicted in the same chibi forms that you see when choosing your extra events, and you wouldn't think that a chibi style would work with this sort of game, but it's used sparingly enough that it doesn't overstay its welcome.

All in all, I feel comfortable recommending this game to a lot of people. Fans of the original novel will probably enjoy it the most, since you'll be able to pick out your favorite passages, but I don't feel like you necessarily need to know the source material to enjoy this, either. As mentioned above, despite this being called a yuri title there isn't a lot of it, at least not in a romantic sense, and so if you're looking for that you might try something else. But there's a lot to enjoy here, for fans of Victorian literature and the power of friendship and cute girls.


A Little Lily Princess is available on Steam or directly from the developer.

Final verdict: A Little Lily Princess is a cute and friendly game that will appeal to many with its strong writing, lovely art, and retention of the original novel's best themes.

A Little Lily Princess is written and developed by Hanako Games. The opinions expressed in this review are my own. I was not compensated in any way for this review. I was a participant in the game's alpha testing on a volunteer basis.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Circus Reviews - The Armoire


I didn't grow up with point-and-click adventure games, and thus I'm not naturally drawn to playing them, but one of my favorite Youtubers plays them often. But I am naturally drawn to free games and to dark games, and this one seemed to fit the bill when I saw it. It's actually an adaptation of a medieval French fairy tale called "Bluebeard" or "Barbe Bleue", and fairy tales are of course known for being rather dark. So does this little game work as an adaptation? Let's find out.

The Armoire's main character is a young woman who has just married a wonderful man named Richard. It seems like she will have the perfect life, and the only strange thing is a locked armoire in their room that Richard has forbidden her to open. Overcome with curiosity, the young woman begins exploring the house one night while Richard sleeps in the hopes of finding the armoire's key and uncovering the mystery.


Typical for a point-and-click game, your objective is to wander around the environment and click on things. There are a few simple puzzles and a basic inventory system, but it's nothing you can really get stuck on; the protagonist will give you hints if you don't seem to be getting what you need to do, and the game is easily completed in ten minutes or so. It's a short playtime, but it does serve to eliminate any aimless meandering and get right to the point of things.

There are a few technical flaws that didn't help my experience out. The text that appears below the main window is, a couple of times, so long that it cuts off and the last word or two can't be seen. The way the protagonist walks toward objects you click on feels a bit unnatural in places, as she can end up facing the wrong direction depending on which way you come at it. Also, the whole reason you can search the home is that your husband is asleep, but the fact that he sleeps through this entire thing, including when you're in the same room as him and making noise, takes shots at the immersion. None of these are really enough to detract too much, though.


As an adaptation, the biggest difference is probably the main character herself and how she handles the situation. In the original, the heroine pretty much immediately finds her goal; her husband goes out of town and gives her keys to every door in the mansion, but asks her not to open a particular one. Too curious to pass up the opportunity, she opens the door. There's some implication (at least to me) that the husband did it purposely to test her. In this version, the woman doesn't have the same access to the locked area and decides to go exploring on her own. And as usual, I don't want to spoil either version's ending, but let's just say that in this tale she takes action for herself moreso than her fairy tale counterpart.

It's a short tale, but a good one. I could definitely recommend it to people who enjoy fractured fairy tales and new takes on old classics, or people who enjoy proactive heroines. But I feel like its best audience is those just being introduced to the point-and-click genre. It's not too long, completely free, and does a good job of going over the basics. Definitely give it a look if you're wanting to get into those kinds of games, or if you just like exploring an empty mansion to spooky music. There are lots of good reasons to play.


The Armoire is available for free download on itch.io and GameJolt.

Final verdict: While there are a few flaws here and there that can break the immersion somewhat, The Armoire takes an old fairy tale and presents a fresh and interesting look at it, and serves as a great introductory game for those new to point-and-click games.

The Armoire is developed by TimeBomb. The opinions expressed in this review are my own. I was not compensated in any way for this review.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Yumi-chan: Script edits and guidebook

Just a brief update on the current status of Yumi-chan.

Been editing the script per advice of beta readers, and I wound up reworking a bigger chunk than I'd intended. Also started on the guidebook! It is probably laughably bad to someone who actually knows things about graphic design, but what can you do. It will include an interview with the artist Chiikaboom, lots of shiny pictures, and more!

I plan to purchase A Little Lily Princess and cover it as my next game review. Was planning to do the beta, but money has been really tight the past couple weeks. It's looking up now though! I had the privilege to participate in the alpha testing (I think that's the proper term) of A Little Lily Princess a while back and am interested to see how the game has progressed.

I've also been taking steps to get my poetry collection, fractured starlight, ready for publication. It will be the next project that comes out after Yumi-chan. It could not be more different than Yumi-chan. It will be commercial, but not very pricey. I'll probably do a little preview of it on Patreon once the time gets closer.

So, look forward to all of these things!

Monday, May 9, 2016

Circus Reviews - Round the Mulberry Bush


I seem to have missed the release of this or something, likely due to the fact that I don't check my itch.io page as often as I should. It just sort of...appeared. Well, pleasant surprises are always nice!

Round the Mulberry Bush is set in the late 1700s and follows Matilda "Mattie" Addison, a young nobleborn lady, and Oliver, a stablehand who works for her family. They meet as children, and over the course of several years develop a friendship that eventually seems like it could blossom into something more, but it runs into the brick wall that is social class discrepancy.


The only characters we see are the aforementioned Mattie and Oliver. Mattie, while not at all intolerable, is pretty typical for a character of this type...spoiled, stubborn, and spirited as a child, she eventually ends up growing into a proper young lady, and because she's not the POV character we don't have the benefit of getting her thoughts and feelings about things. Far more interesting, though, is Oliver. He starts out seeming like he will be a perfectly normal underdog love interest, pining for the too-far-above heroine from afar...but as you continue the story, character development marches on.

The story takes place solely in the summers, and is divided into seven of them. Over time, you see Mattie grow from a wild child into the prim and perfect young lady her mother wants, while Oliver nurses his feelings for Mattie and mourns the loss of the little girl he remembers. That whole summary, coupled with the game's official description deeming Oliver and Mattie's romance "impossible" and mentioning that your role is to watch their relationship fall aaprt, doesn't seem to bode very well, but you might end up being surprised at how things go.


At this point I find myself coming up against my own brick wall, which is the spoiler-free policy I try to uphold for my game reviews. So I have to summarize my thoughts on the game's ending with this:

I'm a fan of it.

...I think I'm gonna need to make a separate post with spoilers so that I can talk about why.

So anyway...Art is very nice. Music is the standard free stuff, but being a user of that myself I can't really knock it too much.

Anti-spoiler policies are hard, guys. Expect that spoiler post pretty soon.

I can try to sell you on the characters and their development; I can tell you how great the story is. But in the end, I feel like this is the kind of game you just have to play. It's only 15,000 words and is completely free, so...You should probably go play that. And then read the spoiler-y post that I've also posted discussing the ending. I hate feeling like I'm aborting my own thoughts, but...It all ends with a positive recommendation and at least I can feel good about that, right?


Round the Mulberry Bush is available for free download on itch.io.

Final verdict: Round the Mulberry Bush is one of those games with an ending I would be loathe to spoil, carried by an extremely interesting narrator.

Round the Mulberry Bush 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.

Circus Rambles - Spoiler-Filled Analysis of Round the Mulberry Bush

Since I can't in good conscience spoil the ending of Round the Mulberry Bush, I have instead decided to condense my feelings into this here spoiler-filled post, which I am posting prior to the spoiler-free review so that the review hides it and my integrity remains intact. That said...

WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for the visual novel "Round the Mulberry Bush." It is best not to read this article if you have not played the game.

There we go. So...

...

...

That ending.

Fun fact: I was opening up the script file to learn some things about how the fuck do I use Ren'Py transitions, and I accidentally ended up at the bottom of the script and read the last few lines. Out of context, I thought Oliver was literally strangling Mattie to death and that was how the visual novel ended. And I thought that was an awesome way to end things. Then I read through the visual novel for real and it turns out Oliver rapes Mattie, and that's how the visual novel ends. And I thought, okay, the reasons that this ending works well are exactly the same as they would be if he had strangled her. Which is cool. But before I frantically justify my statements lest people think I'm advocating horrible things happening to characters like Mattie, let's talk about Oliver.

The reason Oliver is an interesting character is because of the way his narration progresses. My first thought was "unreliable narrator", but as I examined his words I realized he doesn't ever really lie about anything. So he's not unreliable; he's just plain crazy.

The first summer of the game, Oliver's innocent enough. He's just met Mattie; he finds her intriguing. Cool.

The second summer develops their friendship. Still innocent.

But then, gradually, the rest of the summers slowly descend into Oliver becoming more and more creepily obsessed with Mattie. He knows he can never be with her; he mentions the forbidden fruit appeal specifically at one point. But his feelings only get stronger with time. It culminates in the final summer, when Mattie has just gotten engaged to a nobleman, and Oliver confronts her to know why she didn't tell him in person. Her response effectively shuts down any hope he might have had that their friendship, or anything else between them, could be rekindled. And his response to that is to rape her. The end.

The romance that can ultimately never work due to differences in class and social standing isn't a new idea, but this is a spin on it that works very well: examine the effects that has on the lower class member of the pair, who has to deal with the idea that he's not good enough for someone he loves. Examine the effects this has on the higher class person, who doesn't even seem to notice that they're putting someone who cares about them through so much anguish, albeit unintentionally. The results make it a far more compelling tale overall.

I don't think that Mattie deserved what happened to her. I don't think she ever really wanted to hurt Oliver; she was insensitive to his feelings, but she didn't seem to realize that she was actually doing him wrong.

Do I think Oliver deserved what happened to him? Well, to answer that question, I'm going to digress again into the subject of mental illness in the 18th century, so bear with me here.

Back in those days, there was no such thing as treatment for mental illness, and as a result it often didn't get acknowledged, at least until they started locking women in rooms as a "cure" for depression. I feel like a sort of side effect of this is that stories set in earlier time periods either don't feature mental illness or don't mention if a character might possibly have one, at least the ones that I've read. This story, on the other hand, it's pretty obvious as you go on that there is something very wrong with Oliver. He feels entitled to Mattie; he thinks of her as "his" Mattie. He becomes completely obsessed with her. And she doesn't even entertain the notion because it was unthought of back then. How different this story would be if it were set today.

So no, I don't necessarily think Oliver deserved to be miserable. He has a mental illness and needs some help. He does deserve to be punished for what he does to Mattie, of course, but I can see how he got to that point, at least.

All in all, I find Round the Mulberry Bush quite compelling and very well-written. It has a similar progression to a story that I want to release someday, and I would be quite proud if I could meet the standards set by this visual novel.

Thanks for listening to my sudden desire to go off on a giant rambling tangent. Appreciated!

Friday, April 29, 2016

The Great File Excavation

For something a little different:

I recently recovered my old hard drive from a laptop that died a couple of years ago, and transplanted it onto a laptop that works, if not always fantastically. Once I move I'll have room for a desktop, but until then, I have what I have.

In digging through all the schmutz that was on that hard drive, I found some...interesting things, let's say.

Fanfiction

A list of terrible fanfictions.

- The girls from Madoka are a lesbian brothel. Sucker Punch-esque. The fuck.
- House, AU starting after Chase x Cameron breakup in Season Three because Chase is dumb. Cameron gets in an abusive relationship and House gets her help and Cameron resents them. Probably they would have ended up together because House x Cameron is boss. But it ended 16 pages in halfway through a phone call.
- The first couple pages of some kind of Harvest Moon mob murder thing
- Surprisingly way less Full Moon fanfiction than I expected. I used to write tons of it. It remains my favorite manga. But the few that were left on my computer were kind of crap.

Who would have thought, the only fanfiction I was proud of was some of the Harvest Moon stuff. There was this one piece from DS Cute...I put a lot of work into it. I decided to get a beta reader. Said beta reader warned me they were pretty harsh and would pull no punches. I said cool, sent it along. Next day, I just get a message that says "Post it. Now." I'm still really proud of that. There was also one involving a love triangle and a miscarriage that I remember liking a lot back in the day...It held up all right.

Original Fiction

A list of terrible not-at-all fanfiction.

- Three or four beginnings to novels that had yandere teenagers as protagonists. Can you still be yandere in America? And why did I have such a thing for this?
- Something literally named "Awkwardsauce murder suicide story" that I'm kind of afraid to open.
- A decent number of stories about teenage lesbians.
- Several other novels with enlightening names like "Stuff" or "Yet another beginning" because apparently I suck at titles
- A piece from a creative writing course that I failed because depression.
- At some point I seem to have started the same novel about psychic siblings twice.

Nothing really worth saving here.

Poetry

- A fuckton of poetry. Most of it not as good as I remembered. Plenty of salvageable things, though.
- THANK FUCK, the poetry collection known as "fractured starlight" that will be getting published one day.

...

So yeah. What a bunch of weird shit I used to write.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Starlight Vega and Strawberry Vinegar - A Comparison

I've reviewed a decent number of OLEVNs on my blog since beginning. Most recently, it was Starlight Vega, what I expect to be the most popular yuri OLEVN of the year. But you may also recall that earlier in the year, I did a review of ebi-hime's Strawberry Vinegar, a yuri-ish title with a ton of sexy food pics.

Call me crazy, but as I was playing through Starlight Vega, I kept having moments that made me stop and think, "Hey, this reminds me of another game..." Now, none of this is meant to demonize either game, nor am I implying that anyone ripped anyone else off. Truth be told, it's me taking all my random whim thoughts and putting them in an essay-shaped object, just for the hell of it.

And so, I present to you today, an analysis of the similarities I found between Starlight Vega and Strawberry Vinegar.


1. SV and SP

The simplest reasons are the easiest to start with.

Starlight Vega = SV. Strawberry Vinegar = SV.

Pretty sure I recall the devs talking about this on Twitter, too.

Also, both visual novels were published by Sekai Project, which is SP.


2. Similar stories and characters

You wouldn't think at first that the two games have much in common storywise, and I agree that they deviate quite heavily in the later halves of each game. But you start out from very similar points when playing either game: a demon girl love interest has appeared unexpectedly, she's very attached to the protagonist, and she has a habit of quietly casting spells to keep everyone else in the dark. I feel like little Licia could have one day grown up into Lyria (who have similar names, even!) without too much character differentiation. Rie and Aria I don't see as having nearly as much in common, but I feel like when it comes to the finer points of romance they're both a bit...well, slow, and that plays into their respective romantic arcs a lot. Also, Licia and Lyria both have sisters that take an obvious authority role and maintain that they know best for their sibling.


3. Similar randomness of bad endings

I love both games, but one issue I did have with each was the way the bad endings tended to work. They were a bit random, a bit out of nowhere, and a bit abrupt, and a number of them on each side involve a demon removing the protagonist's memories. If I recall, in one Strawberry Vinegar ending Rie even lampshades what a stupid way this is for her story to end. It's not enough to majorly detract from either game, but it is noticeable.


4. Both have piles of sweetness hiding in the back

Okay, it's rather more apparent that Strawberry Vinegar is going to be a very sweet game just by looking at the title screen. But Starlight Vega has a similar vein of happy sweetness in its character routes, one that might not be so obvious at first. I'll just come right out and say that the harem ending is full of this (no I will not spoil it for you).

...

So what's my point here?

I acknowledge that these are two very different games. One has a singular love interest and one has multiple; Strawberry Vinegar consistently keeps the focus on Rie and Licia while Starlight Vega gives greater focus to the demon world itself; the actual substance of the good endings is pretty different. But there are similarities enough for one to take notice, and I have to wonder if there's a reason behind it. There's a pretty big following for yuri visual novels right now, and more and more OLEVN titles are coming out with female casts and female relationships. As all of us visual novel writers continue to work in this culture, picking up influences here and there, it's probably inevitable that some of us end up on similar wavelengths.

And there's nothing wrong with similarities in works! It happens in every medium. Look at the case of Repo! The Genetic Opera vs. Repo Men. Look at the year that two movies about friends with benefits falling in love came out with almost identical plots. Nothing's taken away from either party, really; sometimes, it just happens.

I personally think quite highly of both Starlight Vega and Strawberry Vinegar, and I don't mean anything weird by drawing attention to all these things the two games have in common. I feel like, in the end, I may not even have much of a point...It was all just a completely random whim.

I'm sure good at endings.

Starlight Vega is available on Steam and itch.io. Strawberry Vinegar is also available on Steam and itch.io.

........MORE SIMILARITIES.

The opinions expressed in this article are my own. I was not compensated in any way for this article. The "Wrong End" image comes from Corpse Party.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Circus Reviews - Starlight Vega


I think it'd be a safe bet to say that this was one of the more anticipated OELVN releases of late 2015, even after getting pushed back to 2016. I mean, multi-route yuri game with a successful Kickstarter? Pretty good, pretty good. As one of those Kickstarter backers, I too have been eagerly awaiting the game's release.

Starlight Vega centers around Aria Reid, a high school girl who moves into an old house of her grandfather's along with her mother. She and her best friend, Melody, immediately start finding strange things around the house, like a study that didn't seem to be there earlier and an old book filled with runes. One of these things, a purple gem, turns out to be more than it appears, though...When Aria touches it, a demon named Lyria is set free after fifty years, and the stone links the two of them together, meaning they can't be far apart without feeling pain. Melody begins attempting to translate the old book they've found in hopes that it contains a spell to undo the stone's link, while Aria tries to adjust to the sudden appearance of magic and demons in her formerly quiet life.


The characters are a really strong point here, although (I hope this isn't offensive to say) I think I like the demons a bit more than the humans. Aria is a likable enough protagonist, although she is extremely slow to realize that she's being manipulated by outside parties and it makes her dialogue frustrating to read at times. At the same time, though, her relative ordinariness makes her a great contrast to Melody, an intelligent and kindhearted bookworm who does most of the translation work on the book and has had long unnoticed feelings for Aria that soon come to the forefront. Lyria is flirty and fun, and her familiar Sid starts off prejudiced against humans but soon develops a touching friendship with Melody, the first person human or otherwise to treat him with genuine kindness. Scherza, the demon queen, might be my favorite...She comes off as a cold and distant ruler at first, but her romance path develops her more fully into a leader under phenomenal pressure to somehow save her people while ignoring her own loneliness.

Melody, Lyria, and Scherza have the main routes, with a few bad endings and a harem route unlocked after you do all the other routes. The harem route is very well written and far more than the typical harem fanservice junk, but reading through it after seeing all the game's other content will leave you with a bittersweet feeling. Without wishing to spoil, the harem ending has an outcome that is only made possible by the characters working together, rather than becoming somewhat divided as they do in other routes, and it nearly breaks my heart to think that all the routes could have been so much happier had the characters put their differences aside.


The art style feels a bit reminiscent of a sketchbook, and while I like it a lot...Some of the CGs looked rather unpolished, like they weren't complete yet, and I'm not sure if it's the art style contributing to that or if something just went wrong with those particular CGs somehow. There are also spots where a character describes wearing one thing but their sprite clearly shows them wearing another. It's probably a budget-saving move and it might not bug me as much, except there's an earlier point where a character is described as wearing something different and there was actually a CG for it.

Music is all pretty and polished, and the GUI I find particularly attractive. It's all starry and pretty and fits well with the game's theme. But you probably don't care about all that boring stuff...You're wondering about those H-scenes, right? Yeah, figures. They're tastefully done and as someone who also likes the ladies I enjoyed them, but if they're not your thing you can turn them off without missing any plot.


At time of writing there is a glitch involving a couple of CGs not showing up in the gallery, and I suspect a couple CGs are misnamed as well. It kind of ties in to that unpolished...ness I mentioned above in regards to the art style. Still, these are easily fixed and not a giant detriment to anything.

Everyone's always clamoring for new yuri visual novels, it seems, and I'm happy to report that Starlight Vega is a great addition to the category. It's well-written, it has nice characters, and both the individual and harem romance routes have satisfying conclusions. I'm glad to have backed it, and I'm quite interested to see what Razz ends up putting out in the future.


Starlight Vega is available on Steam and itch.io.

Final verdict: While it could have benefited from tightening up in a few spots, Starlight Vega overall presents a well-written story carried by strong and enjoyable characters.

Starlight Vega is developed by Razzart Visual. The opinions expressed in this review are my own. I was not compensated in any way for this review. I was a Kickstarter backer for this game and received a copy of this game on launch day as part of my reward tier.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Circus Reviews - HunieCam Studio


Ah, nostalgia. HuniePop was, of course, the first game I ever reviewed. And now here we are, over a year later, reviewing the spin-off game. I remember the hate HuniePop got, and it seems to have been multiplied several times over for this release for various reasons. Do I share in that hatred, or will my previous unexpected liking for the first game repeat itself for its little sibling? Let's take a look.

HunieCam Studio is a spin-off of Hunie Pop in which Kyu (who may or not be a fairy in this version, it's never explicitly addressed) hires you to manage a cam studio. After walking you through the basics (unless you select "Skip All Tutorials"), she gives you three weeks to prove that you have what it takes to run this kind of operation.


Gameplay is part management simulator and part clicker. There are a variety of activities you can assign your girls: cam shows for cash, photo shoots for fans, pole dancing and shopping for talent and style respectively, recruiting other girls at a modeling agency, relaxing at a spa to relieve stress, escorting at a sleazy motel, or buying cigarettes, booze, and adult products for their benefits. The management part of the game is very well executed, but the clicker part can get painful...and by that I mean physically painful. You have to click on a building rapidly to gain the money/fans/other resources from it, and you can also speed up the girls' tasks by rapidly clicking on the buildings they're in. The speed at which you're required to do this if you want to do well gets to ridiculous levels. There are upgrades you can purchase to have the buildings automatically collect resources every so often, but you still have to do the bulk of the work.

If you thought HuniePop didn't have a story, you'll want to stop right here and have a good laugh, because the story in this game is nonexistent. The girls don't even get last names, and the only way you'll ever learn anything about any of them is by playing HuniePop. That said, I don't feel like a deep story is necessary or would do well in this type of game.


The art style was heavily criticized when it was unveiled, but the developer chose to stick to the newer one, and I have to admire him for sticking to his guns in the face of so much ire. I don't have any strong feelings about the art style one way or another; it fits with the game well enough, and mostly I'm just glad they didn't try to do actual porn with it.

Replayability? Sort of. At the end of the three-week period Kyu gives you, you get a trophy based on how many fans you have, and you get a few wardrobe tokens, which you can use from the main menu to unlock new hairstyles and outfits for the girls...that you really only see on their profile page in-game. You could theoretically keep replaying to unlock all the achievements and wardrobe items; I suppose that depends on the kind of person you are.


I'm mostly put in mind of Bejeweled. The game is little more than a time sink; it's Cookie Clicker but with particularly sleazy management sim aspects added in. However, it serves its purpose extremely well, and the large amounts of self-aware humor throughout help lighten the darker aspects that aren't as apparent at first glance. In a continuity nod that I was particularly impressed by, Audrey from HuniePop is a cam girl because she developed an expensive coke habit after finding out that her previous boyfriend was sleeping around on her with every eligible girl in town. Yeah, that's right, it's all your fault. HuniePop had a startling lack of consequences for the womanizing protagonist, and it's nice to see some realistic fallout applied here. Also, Kyu, the only character you really ever interact with on a dialogue level, retains the seedy sarcasm that made her so enjoyable in the first game.

So how do I feel about HunieCam Studio, then? I seem to be going back and forth. Well, I don't think it's a fantastic game. I wouldn't mind an easy mode, maybe. I wouldn't mind some more development from these characters, even if it would be out of place in this particular title. But I'm not judging it as anything other than a Bejeweled-style time waster, and as that, it executes very well. Will I be playing it some more? Sure...as soon as my fingers stop hurting.


HunieCam Studio is available on Steam and the Humble Store.

Final verdict: A deep, complex game this is not, but HunieCam Studio succeeds at being a competent time-killing simulator helped along by poking fun at itself every couple minutes.

HunieCam Studio is developed by HuniePot. The opinions expressed in this review are my own. I was not compensated in any way for this review.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

NaNoReNo 2016 Post-Mortem

Well, here we are. My first NaNoReNo! The first visual novel to be released with my name somewhere on it! Oh em gosh.

A few scrambled thoughts on the experience:

- I'd never worked with a team before...It was fun, and it felt beneficial to have other people to bounce ideas off of. I felt a little bit of the fangirl-ish awe, since I admired the work my team members had done previously, and I also felt like they were way more experienced than me...But I'd definitely do it again, and perhaps they won't mind working together again next year?

- I learned from my fellow writer kaleidofish that working off an outline is so much easier than just winging it. Must adopt.

- As a co-writer, I was a bit worried about clashing styles, but I don't think it clashed much...There was editing, of course, but overall it seemed like it went together well. Although I have an occasional overuse of ellipses.

- For unrelated reasons, I was really depressed throughout the month of March, and it did hurt my productivity at first, but slowly I bounced back. Joining a writing group helped as well. Since joining one, my productivity has skyrocketed.

- I found out that I have a habit of tilting my head to the left while writing.

I definitely want to try doing it again next year! I feel like I've learned some things, and next year's experience will be even better!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

NaNoReNo 2016 release: Palette Swap, available now



I bet you guys thought I forgot, didn't you?

NOPE!

The entry that I helped work on for this year's NaNoReNo is called Palette Swap, and it has been released!

Credits:

Lead Writer & Director: kaleidofish - http://www.kaleidofishstudios.com
Co-Writer: Some Strange Circus - http://www.somestrangecircus.com (surely you guys know this person)
Editor & Concept Development: kaenSe4 - http://kaense4.tumblr.com
Sprite & Background Artist: Rachel Noto - www.rachel-noto.com
Letters Programmer & GUI Artist: Duskylli
Quality Assurance: Thestral
Special Thanks to BobotheParrot, from kaenSe4

For more information and to download the game, visit my website below:

http://www.somestrangecircus.com/#!palette-swap/cvqu

Thanks for your support!

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Circus Reviews - Lucky Me, Lucky You


After spending the month of March being rather busy with NaNoReNo and a big resurgence into poetry, I realized that it had been quite some time since I'd reviewed a game, and also that some devs I really like did stuff for NaNoReNo too and I wouldn't mind playing those!

Lucky Me, Lucky You centers around Nanami Okada, who is depressed following an unexpected breakup. Her best friend, Ryo, attempts to cheer her up with some questionable porn tapes stolen from a flatmate, and within them Nanami spots her first crush, idol Misae Morishita. Nanami impulsively decides to track down Misae and confess her long-ago feelings, dragging an unwilling Ryo along with her.


There are a few characters, but mostly we follow the pair of Nanami and Ryo. Nanami is exactly the kind of snarky, verbose heroine I like to read about, although I'm sure if I met her in reality I'd want to strangle her. She's shallow, self-centered, and, well...It should be obvious to the reader why her last girlfriend dumped her, even if Nanami can't quite figure it out. She is not a flat character, however, and does end up learning and growing throughout the story. Ryo is likeable enough...and male, which you probably can't tell from the photo. I couldn't either, and had no clue until I read the game description. Ryo is a guy who just likes to dress up as a girl sometimes for no real reason. This part of his character doesn't really lead to anything plot-wise; it's just kind of...there. I don't particularly mind; I'm a fan of living your life regardless of other people's opinions as long as you aren't hurting anyone.

The backgrounds are all filtered photographs, which makes the game's character sprites stand out, Nanami especially. It's not really a bad effect, but it kind of gives the impression that the game is going to be much darker than it turns out to be. These photographs all feel like pictures of a crapsack world, not quite like the actual setting.


I like the GUI and it matches well with the background art. Sometimes I would have liked to have had the character's name above the text when they're speaking; in places it gets a bit confusing as to whether it's Nanami or Ryo who's talking, although usually it's not too hard to figure out and that's more of a personal preference anyway.

The story doesn't have any surprises plot-wise, but there were a couple of things about it I found particularly refreshing. It treats Nanami's quest and the way it ends with complete realism. Also, Nanami and Ryo do not end up getting together in the end. (I don't consider that a spoiler because it's established very early on that Nanami and Ryo are both gay, and since they're not the same gender, well, them together wouldn't work.) Having two people who have been best friends forever suddenly fall in love is a common and often irritating trope, and it was so nice not to see it here.

All in all, a respectable NaNoReNo entry that I found quite enjoyable to read. Perhaps it doesn't have any big surprises, but it makes for a nice tale about friendship, facing your problems, and thinking things through.


Lucky Me, Lucky You is available on itch.io.

Final verdict: The game looks bleaker than it is and the story contains no real surprises, but Lucky Me, Lucky You is carried through by an entertaining main character and refreshingly realistic treatment of its subject matter.

Lucky Me, Lucky You is developed by ebi-hime. The opinions expressed in this review are my own. I was not compensated in any way for this review.