A Kiss for the Petals: Maidens of Michael

cover.jpgA Kiss for the Petals: Maidens of Michael is an action Visual Novel game based on a budding romance between two high school girls. It’s a stand alone game in a series of games all dealing with the same topic but with different couples. This game is based on the coupling of Risa and Miya, about how their romance started and the problems they had along the way. The characters in this series of games, are all fairly unique granted a couple of them are by the book standard character archetypes. Not only are they unique but the couples all balance each other out really well in some way. That balance makes everyone that much more endearing for reasons I can’t quite explain. Risa and Miya are no different in this aspect and that really brings a super cute quality to the game.

Risa is always trying her best, she works as hard as she can at everything she does even if she’s not very good. She’s also the class president and is constantly looking to do whatever she can to stand out more so she can get into better universities later in life. Miya on the other hand… she’s a super genius who’s good at literally everything from sports to all forms of studies. She’s however, considered a trouble child because constantly skips class, much to Risa’s annoyance as she has to fetch Miya constantly. Miya has a photographic memory as such upon reading a book once; teachers have nothing left to teach her. She’s always spent her time reading since she was young so she knows generally, everything really. Most of the game you play as Risa, occasionally moving into Miya or side characters’ points of view but those are very short and very rare.

The game is fairly basic, you have a handful of choices throughout the whole game, maybe a dozen or so, and this game is HUGE, it’ll take around ten hours to complete your first time, and there’s three or four endings for their relationship. However, as a nice little bonus, you also get the stories of all the other couples on what they did during parts of the game as well. Each of these stories are a bit smaller but still sizable, and I believe they all have multiple endings as well. This lets you feel even more connected to the side cast that have a lot of importance with the main story.

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Risa and Miya, aren’t they cute?

This game isn’t going to promote any deep thoughts, it’s a nice light-heated adventure about a naive girl falling in love for the first time and all the trials and trepidation’s that come with it. Not just that but falling in love with a girl, which she never expected would happen in the first place, and to top that off falling in love with a girl she always thought she hated. So basically this is a Rom-Com. You will laugh, a lot. Risa regularly blushes and stutters because, again, she’s new to all this. She all but freaks out because of the other girls and their openness when it comes to their own relationships and perversions. Risa is far too prim and proper and it’s really funny to see her freak out at even the smallest suggestive things being said let alone the larger ones half of which start off going over her head before it slowly dawns on her what they’re talking about.

The entire game is voice acted, every single character. All of the voice actors did really good in this as all the characters are voice magnificently. The voices are in Japanese with English subtitles, hopefully that doesn’t bother you because it is done really well.

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The frisky girls… ooh la la

Now the thing you have to remember about this game, is perversions are aplenty, this is not a children’s game. There’s two versions of the game, an 18+ which is the original localization and then there’s an ‘all ages’ version but… honestly… I don’t think it’s really all that all ages even then. The ‘all ages’ version is heavily toned down, there’s next to no nudity in it, there’s no sex scenes, only two bits of nudity I remember both are breasts, one is when Miya is sick and Risa wipes off her sweat so you see Miya chest, this is a common thing in Japanese media. The other time Risa nearly walks in on two classmates… hmmm… getting a little frisky in a classroom and she looks for a bit cause she’s trying to figure out if she’s is okay with going that far with Miya, in that you see a bit of one of those girls’ breasts as well. Beyond that, I don’t remember any nudity in the main game. I don’t remember any nudity in the side parts, but I didn’t finish them all before writing this and I can’t really remember them very well. However, honestly I would think those bits either straight up don’t have any nudity or it would be in a similar vein as the sweat washing part in the above. I think they’re fixing the frisky bit to be censored as I’m pretty sure it was suppose to be censored.

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A girl and her perver… I mean girlfriend

Regardless, I say I don’t think it’s ‘all ages’ period not so much because of the couple of tits you see cause I’m not a prude but because they talk about sexual things in the game. Sex is a part of romance, asexual people aside anyways. The girls in this, like me and many girls I’ve known growing up, are very open about sex, granted I think sometimes some of these girls go a bit overboard sometimes, but so did I when I was younger so… yeah. I consider it fairly realistic, however these girls are seemingly obsessed with sex related things. In anime and Japanese video games, the portrayal of girls’ and their thoughts on sex tend to go in one of two ways. Either they never think about anything related to sex which is crazy talk, or that’s ALL they think about which is just as laughable. This game pushes that towards being all they think about. To be honest I don’t really see an issue with talking about sex in front of kids, that’s just not an issue with me, but there’s a limit to what about it you talk about or how much detail you go into and this game pushes it beyond where I think it’s acceptable for kids to read about. As such I really don’t think it’s appropriate for younger audiences. Maybe older teens but 18+ fits that bill so I mean… yeah.

I think this is great for anyone who’s an adult, the all ages version, tones it down and removes the sex scenes and such for those of you not into that stuff, because I know some people want the VN but don’t want naked people shoved in their face. The game is really funny, especially if you like perverse humor and people being oblivious to it. However, on the other side if you don’t like perverse humor, I don’t know if this game would sit well for you honestly. I thought it was hilarious but I’m a big ol’ perv, most of the dirty jokes and Risa’s reactions to them were hilarious for me. For those of you who want the full experience of the game there’s the 18+ version which has all the extra sex stuff in it, including the creepiest fucking sounding kisses I think I’ve damn near ever heard. But then again Japan is really bad with kissing sounds in my opinion in damn near all media, it always ends up sounding like they’re making out with like squid tentacles or some shit, it’s just… wrong sounding. So. Fucking. Wrong.

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A cute school valentines event

For me, I loved the game, other than the kissing sounds, which you only get if you play the 18+ version. And thank fuck for that, cause that would scar people for life. It’s $35 on MangaGamer’s website, I don’t know if it was the same on Steam or not, but it’s currently unavailable on Steam. My speculation is it’s not on Steam currently because of that above mentioned frisky scene not being censored, MangaGamer is working on getting it back up on Steam, hopefully they do soon, because it is a pretty funny game. If pervy humor amuses you, this will make you piss yourself. If you want a kindhearted story about the start of a romance and how a naive girl navigates it from first kisses, to Valentines and Christmas to trying to figure out if she’s comfortable enough to have sex or not and how it would even work, to helping each other deal with life problems, this is also for you. It has a great heartfelt story if you can ignore the prevy stuff, providing you don’t like the pervy stuff anyways. I’m all for it, I totally suggest it, but I know because of its content, it won’t be for everyone because it is really open about perversions and not everyone is comfortable about that. If you’re not sure if you’re into it, maybe get the other A Kiss of the Petals game that’s on steam, it’s a lot shorter, and it’s much cheaper. If you like you that, then give this a go, I think it’s worth your money. That being said, when it’s back on Steam, if it gets back on there, we’ll update the below Point of Sale area to the Steam page instead of the game’s landing page. I’m really hoping you guys will give it a chance I think it’s a really good game.

cover.jpgA Kiss for the Petals: Maidens of Michael was developed by: Yurin Yurin and Sei Mikaeru Joshi Gakuen

Point of Sale: MangaGamer

$35.00: The best thing about 18 year old high school girls is no matter how old I get they’re always 18… or something. I feel a bit dirty after saying that…

The Seal.pngA review copy was provided by the publisher.

darkmikasonfire has awarded A Kiss for the Petals: Maidens of Michael The Indie Gamer Team Seal of Approval

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The Mind’s Eclipse

SteamSmallCapsule_rev1.jpgThe Mind’s Eclipse is a science fiction Visual Novel game with a basic point and click mechanic. It was developed and self-published by: Mind’s Eclipse Interactive, LLC. The point and click mechanic is simple in that you can interact with parts of the environment which allow you to learn more about the world, and individuals that live in it. This occasionally provokes conversation pieces as well. You also pick up items that are used later to unlock doors and the like. There’s no puzzling about any of the game, if you pick up an item and you can use it you’ll lose it, if you don’t have an item to get into an area, then you can’t get into it. It’s very basic, which is fine since at its core this is a visual novel.

In this game you play as Jonathan Campbell, he’s just woken up in a hospital with no memory Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons. You’re informed that the hospital is losing oxygen and you need to get out of it by an AI named L, which has rooted herself in your head. After dealing with your immediate issue, you go on a journey to figure out what’s happened to Europa, to regain your memories, and to find your loved ones. The only quest left at that point is, do you really trust L?

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This game allows you to learn about the world around you and the people that inhabit it but it doesn’t force that knowledge on you like most VNs do. In most VNS they tell you about the world around you either with narrative pieces or through dialogue with characters. This game instead allows you to choose whether you want to bother with most of it or ignore it as you get most of this knowledge from interacting with things in the environment which is mostly unrequired. I, personally, like seeing the background information but I know that isn’t for everyone. Because of the way this game is set up, it doesn’t force you to hear about all the background stuff if you really don’t want to know it. I think the background information was useful as it made the world feel more alive. It also gave explanations and background which helped explain the game and helped connect threads later on.

This VN instead of being about characters, it was more about Jonathan’s personal beliefs and his backstory. It’s used to explain who and what he is and why he did the things he did. It’s a story about a man learning who he was and figuring out if that’s who he wanted to be. The age old questions of: Am I who I was? Is that who I want to be? If I don’t want to be that person, do I have a choice, can I be someone else? The game is all about introspection while looking through his eyes at the outcomes of his previous self’s actions. A self he no longer knows thanks to his amnesia.

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I mean look at her she’s fucking adorable and super cool

Most of the game Jonathan talks to himself about things, trying to piece information back together. When he’s not doing that he’s often talking with L. He tries to get information about the world around him from her since he’s been in a coma for who knows how long and he has amnesia. L becomes his AI encyclopedia, at least when she has an answer for anything anyways. Jonathan doesn’t really interact with other characters beyond reading personal files that are nearly everywhere. When L talks there’s often an avatar of her that shows up which is really cool, she had an awesome design.

There are choices occasionally in the game but all but one are just do this or wait to do this, and to get forward you have to eventually do it. This is why it’s kinetic there’s no real choice in the game until the end. It gives you a choice at the ending you want for the game, I went both routes, assuming there’s only the two anyways. When that choice comes up it’s pretty obvious since it’s not a do it or wait to do it option. The VN works as a kinetic one, but I have a feeling this team, if they wanted, could probably make a really good action VN with a bunch of endings. The game was really well written.

steam_screen5.pngThe game had a lot of sci-fi talk as the game involved nanotechnology, AIs, cybernetics, and genetic modifications. It dealt with them as, oh these things exist, not everyone likes it, some people go a bit overboard, etc. It’s treated like it’s just part of life which is nice. There’s not a big deal made of it or a lot of information poured into the mechanics behind it as though it matters. Instead it’s just an everyday thing and I really like how that played out.

I suggest the game, it’s $10 so it’s cheap, it lasted me around 3 hours. It has a nice gritty look to it and with it being in black and white it looks even grittier which is nice. The story being so introspective and dark is a nice palette cleanser for a VN, most of them are fairly cheerful and happy or bittersweet. Other formats of VNs are a fairly small percentage, so it’s nice to come across one that’s not happy go lucky or bittersweet every now and then.

 

main capsule image.jpgThe Mind’s Eclipse was developed by: Mind’s Eclipse Interactive, LLC

Point of Sale: Steam

$10.00: The eternal question every man asks; if I fucked up big time, but forgot I fucked up, did I still fuck up? Even future men ask this, as this game shows.

 

The Seal.pngA review copy was provided by the publisher.

darkmikasonfire has awarded The Mind’s Eclipse The Indie Gamer Team Seal of Approval

 

 

 

 

 

 

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SeaBed

titlescreen.jpgSeaBed is a bittersweet lesbian Kinetic Visual Novel game. It was developed by: Paleontology and published by Fruitbat Factory. For those of you unfamiliar with VNs, a Kinetic VNs doesn’t have choices in it; there are no routes to take in it. It’s all pure reading while basking in the game’s auditory environment all while watching cutely characters pop up on the screen. SeaBed focuses on the intertwined stories of 3 women Sachiko, her lover Takako, & their friend Hibiki. Each chapter switches whose eyes you see the game’s world from.

The developers do some things that I don’t usually see in VNs. They toss both flashbacks & whole trips to another time into the story. That is one chapter might be today but the next chapter might be three years ago. Tied with the flashbacks it makes the game a bit discombobulating, which is good because of what the story is talking about. Also I liked that they used flashbacks, in most games & books people might talk about the past instead of actually seeing the past like a proper flashback; it was nice to see a proper one.

In many VNs I’ve played you often get character archetypes which are fine, but I prefer when they’re given more depth & this one starts you off immediately being tossed into the depth of the characters. They give the characters this depth by showing you parts of their lives at different ages so you see them grow and their personalities change to a degree like people do in real life. By doing this the characters feel more real, for a lack of a better word. I love that they made these characters individuals instead of just archetypes; it helped me relate to the characters.

There was one big issue with the game; sometimes the conversations were hard to follow because the VN didn’t have nameplates or different colored text for characters talking. Because of this, if a conversation was long, I lost track of who was saying what. For those who don’t know a nameplate is a box is on the bottom of the screen where conversations go, & it has a spot right above it that has the name for whoever’s talking at the moment. In this VN all the text is white & there’s no nameplate. Thankfully most of the conversations are short so it’s not hard to keep track of all of them but any long one is a pain.

The game might have that issue with conversations but lots of the game deals more with descriptive text & thoughts more than talking. So even though the conversation is hard to follow sometimes, the rest of the text is easy to understand. It often talks about very detailed environments, & well thought out ideas characters are having. The environmental text sets a beautiful scene however that kind of writing is dry so it might bore some people. I’ll admit I’m usually one of those types, but the way this game uses it is great. The detail helps set up the scene & talks about how the characters feel about it, which in turn makes the character feel more real, so I found I really enjoyed it.

NarasakiHibiki.jpgThe game deals with love & mental illness by showing it in a straightforward way, not as something fantastical like you see in games such as Hellblade. Sachiko is having hallucinations & doesn’t know why. We see the way she reacts to them and how they affect her private life, all while Hibiki, a psychologist, tries to help her. Just like in real life, the Hallucinations come & go without warning. This leaves the reader having some trouble telling what’s supposed to be real & what’s fake because of how fluidly the hallucinations fit with the Sachiko’s waking world & even more so with how well they mix in with flashbacks. But dealing with illness isn’t just from Sachiko; Takako has some sort of memory issues & is working on trying to fix them with a different psychologist in another area.

Sachiko&Takako.jpgAs you get further into the game, it throws you through some serious loops as reality, flashbacks, & delusion becomes hard to separate. Some parts of chapters spend a good chunk of their time switching between various views with nothing seemingly being real, but unknown as whether it’s just fragments of dreams, flashbacks, or the ravings of someone who’s completely lost their shit. These chapters become confusing and disorientating for the reader. This is done on purpose, after all the best way of seeing someone’s delusions and memories mix together and seeing how hard it is to tell what’s real, is by doing exactly that; put it all together in a big mess. There are tiny tidbits here and there about completely unrelated days, conversations, & times. This happens some in the start but happens more & more as you continue the game.

There game will also punch you right in the feels. You’ll laugh & smile a lot while playing it as there’s a lot of mild comedy and just cuteness galore, but there’s also a few parts that will likely make you sniffle or outright bawl. As stated the game is bittersweet, the entire story is great and is so amazing even right up to the very end. It makes you sad when it’s done and over.

There is a chunk of the game that’s called Tips as well; you unlock parts in it as you play the main game. When these parts are unlocked you want to save as soon as you can & quit out of the main game then go play them, they give extra small bits to the story, these are usually 5-10 minute long parts. They are based around the time they’re unlocked, and they don’t make a lot of sense until later in the game where everything starts to fall into place. However if you wait to the end to read them they’re ruined.

Some people think these kinds of games are all about sex, there’s no sex in this in case that worried you. It does however allude to the character’s having sex once or twice but nothing more. Most of the story is about emotions from being in a relationship, the complexities of thoughts and feelings people have for each other and life in general. It’s not for kids because it deals with things far beyond what a child would readily understand, but teens & adults understand the emotional ties the game deals with.

Overall, I totally suggest the game, it’s $20, & took me just shy of 30 hours to play through it. It was a great story that had twists & turns in it many of which blindsided me. It also brought up lots of emotions in me. Those two items made me think it was rather grand adventure myself. I can also admit I cried like a baby while playing this a few times. It’s only drawback, once again, is that it does a lot of environment building which has a tendency to bore people.

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SeaBed was developed by: Paleontology

Point of Sale: Steam

$20.00: It shows you just how crazy love can make you.

The Seal.png

A review copy was provided by the publisher.

darkmikasonfire has awarded SeaBed The Indie Gamer Team Seal of Approval

 

 

 

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The Red Strings Club

Over three years ago, Gods Will Be Watching made a release and even now I’m still not entirely confident what it was about. You were mercenaries trapped in six moral-riddled scenarios that could see your crew being splattered, and yet somehow come back in the following one like a children’s cartoon. Yet this was then explained away in an ending that… Uh… Things happened in? I could just have air between my ears though. It looks like the same developers are back with a game that while I understand and dig, feels less open to your own choices.

The Red Strings Club is a point-n-click adventure by Deconstructeam, whose only prior game (in case you skipped the fluff above) is Gods Will Be Watching. You play as an information broker bartender for most of the scenes and a hacker for most of the rest, as a robot reveals a corporate conspiracy that seeks to bring a new bleak age to society.

So, what does it mean to be an information broker bartender? It means pouring drinks and having a quick chat. Each drink you serve offers a different emotion. Which by that I mean you pour different alcohols to make a gauge go up, down, left and right, to connect to an icon specific to who you’re talking to. You then can ask them as many pre-determined questions in that mood as you’d like, with the mood influencing if you may get an extra nugget of information. For example, if you question about someone’s disappearance, you may have better luck if your customer is remorseful rather than sky high ecstatic.

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This side of the game feels tactical, yet suave. There is a definite atmosphere of being a face, manipulating people to spill the beans on what you need to know, without the drab “pick the right text option” style most games roll with. In addition, any information you reap can be used later.

All except one of the remaining scenes delve into your hacking companion, as they pick up the pieces of a dead ally and then infiltrate a place with the information your bartender buddy has picked up. Without spoiling much, while I found the rest of his scenes a bit drab gameplay wise, it was the infiltration that felt gripping in an unusual unique manner. It still will feel simple for fans of titles like Hacknet, but simple works for rather than against The Red String Club as it stops people from being locked out for lacking skills the game never prepared for.

There is also a single “pottery” scene at the start staring a robot. While the UI is a bother at times, especially switching what tool to use, and it felt narrow how to solve the problem ahead (yes, this is me ducking and diving around spoiling like a low budget John Woo film), it was unique enough to still engage.

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What I am driving at is there is a rather diverse amount of mini-games, but The Red Strings Club is heavily dominated by bartending. While not a bad thing (and I still high five VA-11 Hall-A every chance I get), it does feel more limited and less varied next to Gods Will Be Watching and with less repercussions and choice for your actions. There is still some sway, but there isn’t a failure state as far as I can tell. This lack of a failure state isn’t a complaint necessarily, especially next to how harsh Gods Will Be Watching was at times, but something to consider if you’re looking for a challenge.

Similarly, those looking for a long game will be left thirsting for more as it has a 3 hour play time. There is the option for replayability due to choices, but outside of narrative differences there isn’t much of a variance between one pathway through the game and another.

However, let’s be honest, you’re not raring to jump into this cyberpunk misadventure to challenge your wits, but for the writing within. Well, I’ve got some good news for you: The Red Strings Club is a journey within a colourful setting.

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Part of this colour comes in the form of the characters. You may have heard the controversy around a character being “dead named” (i.e. a trans person’s prior name before transitioning being used). I will say that while it does happen, the context revolves around a jerkish character using obscure information as a password and does act hostile if you ask the character flat out what the trans character’s dead name is.

I bring this up as a source of frustration. No no no, not with The Red Strings Club, but did anyone high-five the development team for having a gay couple as the protagonist? Yep, Donovan the bartender and Brandeis the hacker are dating, and it is actually done really well. I honestly don’t get a chance to experience a good non-straight non-created protagonist enough and I get two well-rounded and developed gay/bi characters at once? Needless to say, it feels like a delightful treat.

It isn’t as though the rest of the cast are bad at all. The other characters are diverse in views, attitudes and roles, and each one adds colour to the setting; especially when you’re trying to wheedle information out of them as the bartender. You have to decide if to appeal to their bold sexuality, their arrogance, their misery or other options to get information, which the mere offerings of moods speaks to who they are at their core.

Then there’s the pondering the game performs on authoritarianism, the nature of brainwashing and perhaps even the ethics of therapy. That said, The Red Strings Club always refuses to take a stance on anything, always asking you to pick your position. You may be criticised for what you say, but never judged, as the game always lets your opinion speak for itself.

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The base-level narrative, the characterisation aside, is probably the weak link in the writing. It functions to string one-interaction-with-another and to carry the philosophising. There is enough unusual things going on to not feel like a 9-to-5 office job in a cyberpunk world, but I never felt captivated or hooked on where the game was going to lead me next. The world only feels effective due to the people who populate it, rather than being intricately thought-provoking. It just leaves an empty dull feeling and I can feel myself forgetting elements of the plot as I write this.

So what does that leave us with? Well, with a game that invokes the feeling of being a sly face and a savvy hacker in a cyberpunk world, each customer and ally offering colour to a drab landscape. It has gameplay mechanics that never challenge but lend enough of a ludonarrative interest to still hook you along. While it has a dead name controversy, it also has a gay couple who are faithfully and expertly written (and aren’t just walking stereotypes or just incidentally gay). It is short, but does offer a little replayability via the choices, although the choices in the end wouldn’t amount to much beyond some narrative differences. So I recommend The Red Strings Club with heavy caution.

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The Red Strings Club was developed by Deconstructeam.

Can be bought on Steam, Good Old Games and Humble Bundle for $14.99.

It is significantly more narrative focused than gameplay focused, but the narrative inside holds a rich and distinct cast and some relevant philosophy in an age where we are increasingly locking our doors to immigrants, criminals and anyone who looks at us funny.

This game was paid by myself.

The Seal

Kailan “Riobux” May has given The Red Strings Club the Indie Gamer Team Seal of Approval.

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