Vampire: The Masquerade – Coteries of New York (Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £15.49
Where To Get It: Steam

Ah, the World of Darkness. A world of gothic woe, and equally gothic reaching for hope that is, in the long run, doomed to failure. Where supernatural creatures, indubitably powerful, nonetheless hide in the modern world, because yes, people would kill the hell out of them once they learned how if they were public. Well, actually, considering kink culture, probably not if they played their cards right. But anyway!

This woman is honestly pretty sympathetic. She’s gone through a lot.

This is a visual novel that, like another World of Darkness product I’d reviewed before (Preludes) is meant to be a sort of introduction to the world with the story of a newly embraced vampire, from one of three clans: Ventrue, the Blueblood powermongers. Brujah, the philosopher warriors turned anti-authoritarian. And Toreador, those who value art, even as their own artistic talent is crushed by the Embrace. And this is where people might start disliking the game, because the overarching story will remain the same in each playthrough, the main differences being how they lived and were embraced, and the person they’d known before their embrace. Add in that you can’t recruit more than two characters on a single playthrough, and definitely can’t do all the sidequests in the time you have, adds a little replay value, but if it being a shortish game is a big turnoff to you, or the general narrative arc remaining the same, then… This is not for you.

A fine example of the luscious painting style. Goshdarn, this is good stuff.

I don’t personally think of that as a bad thing. Nor do I think of the fact that it’s only really possible to fail at the very beginning as bad. Because I ask myself “What is the goal here?” And the answer comes up the same: It’s to tell a story, to immerse you into a world. Yes, that world is, in the World of Darkness, a world where even supernatural life, especially in the beginning, can be nasty, brutish, and short. But a game with that aspect would prove, as it has for me when sitting at the more adversarial tabletop sessions, unenjoyable. There is an interesting world, and the developers want to show it.

It helps that, aesthetically, the game is gorgeous. The characters and places are lushly painted, the writing is good, providing insight into this setting, and the UX is not bad at all. The soundscape, similarly, is pleasant, fitting with the scenes in question. Accessibility wise, resizable text is good. My only gripe, settings wise, is that there is no windowed mode.

I will note, however, that this guy has some serious Plan 9 vibes. Those eyes! <3

So, as such? My opinion is that it does precisely what it sets out to do: To tell a short story, from three potential perspectives, with potential choices for exploring other clans in the game, and aspects of a vampire’s life. It is, basically, a way to get you into the setting, to explore it a little and entice you to explore it further. And, again, I don’t really see that as a bad thing.

So yes, I don’t see the turnoffs as turnoffs myself, although I can perfectly understand if they are for you, the person thinking “Should I buy this?” My answer is that it’s a solid, short, story led visual novel with great art, good writing, and tight design.

The Mad Welshman values three things: Is it aesthetically consistent? Is it tightly designed? Is it interesting? This ticks those boxes.

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Kindred Spirits on the Roof (NSFW Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £26.99 (£36.13 for all audio dramas and Full Chorus DLC, Full Chorus £7.19, OST £3.99)
Where To Get It: Steam

Content Warnings: Lesbian Sex, Masturbation, Teacher-Student Relationship.

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Divination (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £1.69 (£3.36 Collector’s Edition, £2.09 for artbook, soundtrack, other extras)
Where To Get It: Steam
Other Reviews: Itch release

Content Warning: This game has themes of self harm and suicide, and a depiction of suicide. As such, the review has been age gated, and this content warning has been added to the original review.

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Detective Kobayashi (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £9.99
Where To Get It: Steam

Detective Kobayashi is a detective game in the rough style of Phoenix Wright, where a key mechanic is rebutting statements by an antagonist, and you can read the protagonist’s thoughts. Which, er… If it was a flagship feature, I wouldn’t exactly say it’s all that hot. Thankfully, it isn’t, and the game is… Pretty solid.

Detective games in this vein work in a pretty similar fashion: Explore scenes and talk to people until you have all the evidence you need, at which point it kicks you into deduction mode, either picking dialogue options that opens the door of truth a little further, or present evidence to contradict statements.

Which would be just dandy, if it weren’t very easy to trap yourself in these contradiction exposing segments. Each one has three possible statements to contradict: Only one of them is the one you should attack. Generally, you are only using a few pieces of evidence, out of… A lot. And you have to make sure you’ve got it in the right order.

Yes, everyone outright states the introverted child has a lot of trouble making friends, and yes, he left his newest and his favourite toys at home… But neither is the way to progress in the first case… Although I do seem to recall one is mentioned in the domino chain that comes next. In the second case, you play the deduction game if you pick the wrong culprit… But while you can get to a certain point, and the third case (of four) unlocks regardless, you will lose the case. A classic Dead Man Walking scenario.

Sometimes, it’s multiple choice answers for debating a viewpoint. This is one of those scenarios, and… God I hate this smug fuck.

Oh, and you can’t save during these particular parts. That’s a problem too. Along with having to remember the numbers you’re given to text people you haven’t met.

The first two cases, however, are interesting, in that the first doesn’t result in an arrest even if you solve it (I won’t spoil it, because it is legitimately a good twist, and the foreshadowing is subtle), and the second, the solution is foreshadowed very early on, as is the culprit, and I’m kicking myself for not noticing it the first time I yelled “J’ACCUSE!”

As to the writing overall? Detective Kobayashi himself does have a heart, as the first case shows, but it’s hard to like him considering what a pushy horndog he is, always trying to get his female partner, Matsuda, to admit she likes him (She… May or may not. Again, won’t spoil things.) There’s also a transphobic and fatphobic line in the second case early on that predisposes me to dislike him. The other characters… Some of them are quite interesting, some are a bit flat, so, overall… The writing is… Okay? I’m not hating it, I’m not loving it, so, yeah… Okay.

Protip: None of this line is cool, it’s somewhat shitty, on multiple levels.

Aesthetically though, it works. Good music, character designs that fit within the world, and give a little bit of added character (There seems to be a lotta hangdog expressions here. Not a criticism, just an observation), and, while I can’t say whether the VA is good or bad because I don’t speak enough Mandarin, or Chinese dialects in general, to be able to tell. Sorry folks.

Overall… Detective Kobayashi is pretty tightly designed in terms of the actual investigations, but the contradiction segments never really sat well with me, Dead Man Walking, even if it’s just the one, has definitely never sat well with me… But it does work aesthetically, and the writing’s alright (apart from that transphobic and fatphobic comment, which is definitely a turnoff), so… A “Worth trying if you’re into this sort of thing, but be aware of the above.”

A good detective understands other viewpoints. So… A good detective knows not to shit on other people. Just sayin’.

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The Legend of Arcadieu (NSFW Going Back)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £4.79 (It’s also on Itch, but it appears to only be the SFW version, as opposed to SFW with free DLC for NSFW)
Where To Get It: Steam

Content Warnings: Bondage, Edging, Monstergirls, Rough Sex, Hair Pulling.

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