Category Archives: Visual Novel

Game Review: Bad End

Not even a month into the new year & I’ve already completed three games.  Not bad!  Granted… they were all new games that I got over Christmas sales, so they don’t actually tick off my backlog, but… Oh well!

I can’t quite pin down one thing that drew me to today’s game, Bad End.  It could’ve been that it has decent reviews for a little indie visual novel game, or that it was discounted even more than it’s $2 price.  But probably a large part was that I have a thing for horror stories that take advantage of modern technology.  This love of being haunted through progress started with the movie Stay Alive, a movie about a video game that kills people if they die in the game.  And Bad End’s premise is basically the same.

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The titular Bad End is a game within the game.  Players take the role of regular high school student Kyuuhei, who begins investigating rumors about a new mobile game that kills people after his best friend mysteriously dies of a heart attack the same night he texted Kyuuhei about getting the game to work.  Believing this can’t be a coincidence, Kyuuhei discovers that no one seems to know where this game came from, despite its popularity, & threads from people who get the game to work always end mysteriously.  Kyuuhei takes it upon himself to finish the game without making any mistakes to hopefully end the curse so no one else dies, but between the mental fatigue and ghostly phone calls, the line between the game world & reality starts to blur.

As with most visual novels, all of your actions are limited to simply selecting between various choices when the game prompts you.  But as the title suggests, these choices are littered with Bad (or quite literally Dead) Ends.


20170103185103_1Narrative: The overall impression I left the game with was that it was a missed opportunity.  There’s nothing in the story that I can point to as bad, but I don’t feel it was as good as it could have been.  The concept of controlling a character in a visual novel that’s controlling another character in another visual novel is interesting.  And the mystery revolving around the Bad End game (in the game) is well-paced.  I enjoyed solving the mystery along with Kyuuhei, always trying to stay one step ahead of the game.  I felt excited when I caught on to where the story was going, as well as a sense of accomplishment for being right.

That being said, I did find the resolution disappointing.  It was very clichéd, & surprisingly cheesy for a Japanese horror story.  If you know anything about Asian horror, it’s usually that there’s no happy ending.  I did figure out what was behind the cursed game, & it made sense… but I felt Kyuuhei was way too forgiving about the whole ordeal.  The “misunderstanding” killed a lot of people, including Kyuuhei’s stated best friend, & yet he seemingly overlooks this detail because he gets some T&A out of it.  I swear his last scene in the game comes across as, “It sucks my best friend in the whole world died, but at least I got a girlfriend!”  I don’t know… I’m not a guy, so maybe that would be their response, but it just irked me.

But, for me at least, the biggest misstep is all the squandered opportunities the story provided Bad End.  It had the potential to do some interesting things.  They could’ve done some fourth wall breaking stuff by having the character in the mobile game be self-aware & work with Kyuuhei (something that would’ve made sense given the origin of the cursed game), or even some double-fourth wall breaking stuff by having Kyuuhei realize he was being played.  At the very least, I would’ve liked to have seen something other than you-mess-up-once-&-just-die.  The way the store page & trailer presented it, I expected the real world to gradually become more dangerous as threats from the game started chasing Kyuuhei with each mistake he made.  What I got, however, was make a wrong choice & a ghost hand comes out of your phone & strangles you.  The End.  Maybe it’s not fair to judge a game based on what I wanted, & there were some clever bad ends in the beginning (like choosing to believe your friend really did die of natural causes, not pursuing the mystery & living happy life, or going insane from the constant calls from the dead because you couldn’t take the pressure of making a choice in the game).  But it really did feel like the studio dropped the ball.

Overall, aside from a disappointing resolution & some clichés, I can’t say there was anything “bad” about Bad End’s story.  But it wasn’t memorable either.

Score: 3


20170103213327_1Mechanics: What can you say about the mechanics in a visual novel game?  You use the mouse to select an option when prompted.  That’s it.  It is nice, though, that you can save whenever you want, meaning you can save before you make a choice & start back from there if that was the wrong choice.

As for the choices themselves, for the most part if you pay attention to what’s going on in the game it’s not too difficult to make the right choice.  Except for the very first choice made while Kyuuhei’s actually playing the game.  Kyuuhei’s first choice inside the Bad End game gives you one of three directions to run & there’s absolutely no way to know which one won’t get you killed.  It’s obvious when you make the right choice why it’s the right choice, because it’s the direction that leads you back to the main street, but prior to that the game gives you no clues about what’s in any of the directions you’re given the option to run in.  And given that you can actually make one free mistake (meaning you get a second chance) it feels like the developers knew this & were just being mean-spirited.  Like they wanted you to die here.  That just feels like bad design.

Not much else to say.  Just don’t be stupid, & in most cases you won’t die.

Score: 3


untitled-1024x680Aesthetics: If you’re not familiar with the visual novel style, most of the graphics consist of a background with still images of the characters speaking superimposed on it, with dialogue boxes beneath.  And while Bad End has all that, in comparison to other visual novel games I’ve played recently, the images are very uninspired.  Again, not bad.  They just look like your average anime.  The backgrounds are pretty generic, which is doubly bad considering you’ll be seeing the same places over & over.

The music likewise feels very stock.  I know I’ve heard some of them before, but I’m not sure if they’re stock music that comes with whatever program the developers used to create the game or if it’s from a royalty-free site.  Worse yet, none of the music seemed to really fit with the accompanying scene.  The normal music is way too cheery for the game’s themes, & the music intended for scary scenes wasn’t scary.  And as there are no voices, or any other sounds, the music is all you have to focus on.

Overall, there was nothing particularly bad in the presentation, but nothing to make Bad End stand out, either.  Everything felt very stock, & gave me the impression of not putting in much effort to give their game a unique feel.

Score: 2


Replay Value: Low.  There’s really no point to play Bad End more than once after you’ve beaten it.  Even if you’re dying to get all the achievements for seeing all the bad ends, because you can save before each decision you can just pick up where you died.  The game’s always really short, only taking a few hours to finish.  Score: 2


Breakdown

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Final Score: 2

Final Word: Bad End reminded me of those Goosebumps Choose Your Own Adventure books. While there’s nothing glaringly wrong with Bad End, there’s nothing memorable about it either.  The most interesting thing about it is an interesting premise, & it doesn’t even handle that well.  Overall, I can’t recommend Bad End to anyone really.  Even with the low price, I can recommend much better visual novels to put that money toward over this.

–  GamerDame

Title: BAD END
Consoles: PC, iOS, Android
Rating: M
Developer: Arai Koh Create Office
Publisher: YOX-Project
Release Date: November 25, 2015
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Filed under 2, Horror, Indie, Mobile, PC, Reviews, Visual Novel

Game Review: Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood

I sort of feel the significance of the events depicted by the Assassin’s Creed games are lost on a history pleb like myself.  Although I admit being moderately more interested in World History than American History, if only because past the colonization of the US most history classes in public school seem content to forget the rest of the world.  Still, for all I know of the events in Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood they could just be making stuff up.

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I didn’t try the multiplayer, so no review on that aspect

AC Brotherhood begins almost immediately after Assassin’s Creed II with Desmond et al. on the run from the Templars while trying to find a safe place to hole-up & give Desmond the opportunity to scour Ezio’s past for clues to the Apple of Eden’s location in modern times.  This is paralleled by Ezio’s story, where the assassin’s villa gets attacked by the guy he let live at the end of the previous game (surprise!) & he must flee to Rome.  Now facing the family of the freakin’ Pope, Ezio must gather allies & rebuild the Assassin Order before taking the Piece of Eden back.

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Most inaccurate passion play ever

Not much has changed in terms of gameplay, though a few new features have been added.  The most prominent is the ability to recruit the downtrodden of Rome into your order.  Once you recruit them, you send them off on missions to be completed off-screen for gold, rewards & experience.  As they grow in level, you can customize their equipment & create a formidable order, even gaining the ability to call on your recruits during missions.  The renovating mechanic returns, except now you can buy up all of Rome to earn a steady income.  But to do this, you must free the region from Borgia control by killing their commander & burning towers.  This also carries the benefit of fewer guards about, making travel &  missions a bit easier.  You can also complete side missions for the three factions you ally with in the game.

Narrative: To me, the story feels disjointed, especially toward the end.  At first, it flows fairly smoothly.  But I don’t feel like new characters get introduced properly.  The new big baddie, Cesare, just shows up without any preamble or context outside of a text blurb you can bring up.  I don’t recall him being mentioned in the previous game, though there was a big gap between my playing them.  This happens several times throughout the game, especially in regards to targets I’m supposed to go after.  I just don’t feel like Ubisoft does a good job of meshing their world together.  Characters just pop up without any establishment.  And having their involvement explained through a text dump that I don’t read half the time is bad storytelling.  Video games are an interactive medium, not expensive books.  If I miss vital bits of the story because I didn’t read a prompt that shows up in the middle of a cutscene, you’re doing a bad job.  It gets worse at the end, where entire months fly by without ceremony.  Seriously.  Ezio steals the Apple back, Cesare runs away, then five or so months later he shows up to lose a fight over Rome.  Then several more months later we’re fighting in some out-of-nowhere siege battle against him.  What is going on?  Important characters from the last game pop in & out without much influence over the story as a whole.  Even the Truth & Subject 16 subplot ultimately went nowhere, even after the massive build-up.  I think the worst example was the Cristina missions you unlock if you meet enough sync requirements.  What’s the point of these?  When do these occur in relation to the story?  I appreciate learning about Cristina’s fate, but couldn’t they have added these during the regular course of the story?  It just comes across as a bunch of unconnected bullet points.  It’s a shame, because I like the idea behind the story.  I like most of the characters, & enjoyed seeing their evolving interactions with each other when they’re there.  I just wished there was more of it.  If I have to look up the Wiki to understand what’s happening, the story’s busted.  Score: 3

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Yay for property destruction

Mechanics: As I said before, most of the core mechanics of the game remain the same.  The combat is still ridiculously tedious, though real effort has been made to make it more engaging.  You can string counter kills together if you’re fast enough, which makes dealing with the swarms of enemies the game throws at you a bit easier.  I also appreciated that it gave me more options for going on the offensive instead of twiddling my thumbs waiting to counter.  Enemies still block a ridiculous amount, but you can throw dirt in their eyes, shoot them or (my personal favorite) kick them until the fall over then stab them.  Weapons are fun & fit a wide variety of styles.  I loved the crossbow & poison darts, which were perfect for stealthily taking out enemies.  I also appreciated that the game gave me a wide berth on how to complete missions while also providing goals.  Every mission has a Full-Sync goal, or challenge for completing the mission, such as remaining undetected or killing a target with the hidden blades.  These are optional, but it’s a nice motivation.  The newer elements are fun, but ultimately pointless.  You can ignore the recruitment & Borgia towers outside of the one plot mission if you want.  But they do make the game more fun & slightly easier.  I really enjoyed building up my order & calling in recruits to help me.  Although they didn’t seem to have much in the way of self-preservation instincts, & never understood the concept of being a distraction then running away, instead taking on every guard in the area.  I also wished taking out the towers meant no guards on the rooftops.  I get why, from a balanced gameplay perspective, they’re there, but it seems unrealistic.  I’m pretty sure ancient Rome didn’t have people walking around the rooftops.  Or at least make the guards less adept at climbing buildings than me!  Why is parkour a skill everyone has?  But for all these little annoyances, the only parts that made me angry were the Da Vinci machines, especially the glider.  Don’t give me timed missions where I have to drop poorly aimed bombs on some running twat in a fiddly hang-glider.  It’s so hard handle both in terms of maneuvering & aiming the weapons.  I nearly broke my controller during that mission, I wanted so badly to throw it at the TV.  Overall, it’s a mixed bag.  Some of the additions are a lot of fun to play around with & really make you feel like an assassin… while others make you wonder if anyone actually play tested them.  Score: 3

 

ACB_PC_SP_04_Leonardo

Did they cut out Leonardo to sell DLC?

Aesthetics: I don’t recall there being an obvious difference between the style of Brotherhood & its predecessor.  It’s not bad, by any means.  The models are nice enough, & I really enjoy the design of the city.  The music was great, as always.  Even if it doesn’t suit your personal preferences, it still fits the feel of the game well.  Except one track that randomly played while I was just running around that made me think I was being chased when I wasn’t.  The voiceacting was decent as well.  Score: 3

Replay Value: Low.  After the credits roll you can keep mucking about in Ezio’s time, though there isn’t much reason to short of being a completionist.  But you can replay any mission you’ve already completed, including side missions, from the DNA screen, & there are “cheats” you can unlock to affect random aspects of the replay (like all female assassins).  Score: 3

Breakdown

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Overall Score: 3

Recommended for: those who enjoyed the previous Assassin’s Creed games & want to see Ezio’s story continue.  Possibly a rental for those who enjoy having fun mucking about in a historic city.

Not recommended for: people who found the previous games tedious or repetitive.

-GamerDame

Title: Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood
Consoles: PS3, 360, PC
Rating: M
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Publisher: Ubisoft
Release Date: November 16, 2010

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Filed under 3, Action, PC, PS3, Reviews, Visual Novel, XBox 360