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 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 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

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!