How to Win is a visual novel that deals with… uhh, fuck how do I explain this. Fuck. I’m just going to take the easy way out, sorry, here’s a copy pasta of what the devs said it was themselves, How to Win is an “Episodic Political Visual Novel”. It deals with political stuff in various settings, there’s four chapters and each chapter takes place in a different setting, has a completely different cast, and deals with completely different situations. It’s not the most attractive game out there. Everything is 2D and ummm… for those of you who are older you’ll understand this but those old pictures that you could cut out and put on cardboard or the cardboard cutout characters, everything looks that quality. For you younger audiences… ummm, I got nothing for you cause it’s different from South Park and that’s like the closest thing I think I can say it looks like for you younger folks. Just let it be known it has a very unique, weird, low quality but not bad look to it. It’s difficult to explain… Sorry.
Okay, I’ve gone over the gist of what the game is, and how it looks. You play as the player. That’s all. Moving on, time to talk about the chapters individually, that’s going to take a couple paragraphs. First off, every chapter takes twenty to thirty minutes to completely, at least says the game, I’m not sure any of them actually took that long but who knows. The first chapter is about money and is a double feature with two games in it. The first game is called “How to Make the Most Money”. You play as a new worker at a big company and it owns everything you do as it expands, it gets most of the money you make for it and you get a pittance, you know, like real life. This one is about how everyone works and is kept down but some get to the top and become super rich, but that’s a rat race from hell and it’s rare for anyone to actually succeed at doing it. Everyone else falls to the wayside, forgotten as ‘lessers’. The second game in this chapter is “How to Defeat the Dragon”, where you start off as a drunk and go about trying to slay the dragon. In this the dragon is effectively a rich capitalist, trying to get all the money and not letting anyone have it, kind of like the current rich who make millions and millions of dollars who can’t and don’t spend it, instead just hoard so the have-nots can’t get any of that pretty, pretty green. It focuses on the drunk going out there to try and bring communism effectively and how great of an idea it is, but how it is inevitable to fail because it’s not just one person’s doing there’s a great many people and you can’t take them all down, there’s always someone richer. Am I depressing you yet? Good.
Chapter two is “How to Have the Most Fun” and it’s about how people try to escape from reality and go off to amuse themselves instead of dealing with the problems of the world. This, kinda hit home cause I do this a lot. I don’t like dealing with the real world. I’d rather play games instead of hearing about how many gays die, what rights are being removed from us, how our leader is being a cunt yet another day in a row on his streak of… how many years has this shitbag been in office? Like no one wants to deal with every single bad thing happening in the world, it’s sometimes just too much to bare, but instead of dealing with it, we hide from it, we escape into… well games. However, you can’t do that forever or everything goes to hell. That’s what this chapter is all about, oh and you get a lot of depressing facts during it, enjoy.
Chapter three is “How to Protect Paradise Mountain”, the place from chapter two. In this one you play as someone in control of the news. It talks about how people interact and react to the news, how people like to listen to things that rile them up or make them happy but don’t like listening to important shit because it’s boring or depressing. It talks about how people have a right to free speech, but that doesn’t mean they should have a platform. It talks about how news places feel they need to do certain things to be able to function because of how people react and how that has damaged journalistic integrity and how that’s, well, honestly a great deal our own fault. After all if we won’t listen to important pieces, they get fewer views which means they get canned, so puff pieces are put in, stupid shit like buzzfeed comes into existence which is filled with the most trite garbage, because people will look at that, not at important things. And it’s true, after all, look at the fact that again Buzzfeed fucking exists. It’s 20 this, 20 that, life hacks, white people stop asking this, men stop saying this, questions for white people, blah blah blah, it’s a completely worthless trite trash heap and it shouldn’t exist it’s so pointlessly stupid. However, that shit is what people want to read, they get or at least use to get great viewership, while most online news places have dropped of significantly. Yes I don’t like Buzzfeed, if you don’t like that, well, don’t read my stuff anymore, problem solved see? Fucking fantastic.
Chapter four is “How to Defeat BtM”, BtM was the company you played as a member of in the first chapter. This game ties all the plots from the four prior games, three chapters, together and is uplifting (thank fuck finally) until it stops being uplifting (goddamnit). It’s about how there isn’t a way to make everyone happy, there’s no one true thing, there’s as many truths, as many joys and happinesses, as there are people. Not everyone can win because the win state isn’t the same for everyone. It talks about how you don’t HAVE to win, you just have to have fun, to enjoy things. That the purpose of a game isn’t actually to win, that life isn’t about just winning, it’s about having fun and being happy. That those things are what we should strive for, not ‘winning’ because that’s an arbitrary thing that means nothing. That sometimes, you have to quit playing games and look at the real world and live life too, which hurts coming from a game, to a game reviewer. Like playing games is what I do 90% of my waking day if not more… It’s kind of painful to be told to quit playing games and go the fuck outside and live life, by a Game that I’m REVIEWING. At this point in my life this is really my only real life skill anymore, and I know that’s, well pathetic, I’m well aware of that. So yeah, it still hurts that the game kinda rubbed that in my face a little by telling me I need to go out and do things, cause playing games isn’t always what needs to be done.
Overall, uhhh… honestly I don’t know how I feel about the game so I’m going to flip a coin. Heads for the seal, tails for no seal. Tails it is. The game has an important message with each chapter, though it’s sometimes roundabout, sometimes in your face about it. it’d be nice if they just picked one or the other, then again if it was roundabout I don’t know if my stupid ass would understand it and too in the face would make people not like the game. I don’t know where the sweet spot is for a game like this, but again there’s always an important message in each chapter, and that counts for something pretty highly. Graphically it’s kinda meh to me, some of the characters were fun looking but they were all just so basic, everything was basic. The visual novel aspect was okay, you had choices that changed tiny chunks of the game but everything led right to the same endings so none of the choices matter, they just give you some amusing chunks in the game is all. I’m not usually okay with that, that usually annoys me in games, but here it’s fine. It’s weird the good things are good and the bad things are bad, but it’s all on a fundamental level. The bad graphics, the pointless choices, the base story, the meanings behind the story, it’s all fundamental stuff, and it’s all over the place. Usually they’re either clearly good or clearly bad and this one is dead down the middle for me. I think it’s worth playing simply for the messages that are in the game, I think they’re important to hear every now and then, even for my ass. My favorite characters are Susan, Tina, and Chalky, just throwing that out there for the devs if they happen to read this.
A review copy of the game was provided by the devs.
darkmikasonfire does not give How to Win, due to coin flip, the Indie Gamer Team Seal of Approval.