Saturday, June 8, 2019

Games I've played in the last month: adventure, RPGs, sims, and visual novels

I was going to list all of the games in the post title, but there are so many that the length got a little ridiculous.

Anyway, I'm going to try to group these together by genre. The games I'll be covering are: World's Dawn, Stardew Valley, Equilinox, Unavowed, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy (again), Blush Blush, Lovers of Aether, and Dream Daddy: A Dad Dating Simulator.

World's Dawn

World's Dawn was one of those games I purchased hoping to find something that hits the same magical sweet spots as Stardrew Valley. On paper, it seems like the perfect fit: it has a large cast of friendable and/or dateable NPCs, it has farming, farm animal raising, fishing, mining, world secrets to discover, and more. I think I fell more quickly in love with a good chunk of the NPCs in this game than I did with the NPCs in Stardew Valley.

Unfortunately, World's Dawn's controls are annoying. There is no way to change the game's keyboard mappings, and so you're forced to use the arrow keys to move, the Enter key to perform various actions, and Q and W to use a couple different tools. My tendinitis means that if I didn't have my thumb/wrist brace, this game would be completely unplayable. If you use, say, your Q key to dig (left hand) while using the arrow keys (right hand) to gradually move around and dig in new areas and then actually find something useful, you then have to reach across the entire keyboard to hit the Enter key to get the notification to go away or take your right hand off the arrow keys to hit the Enter key. In my case, my right hand is in a wrist brace, so moving it off the arrow keys and back again can be awkward.

I grudgingly resigned myself to the awkward controls only to rage-quit at the game's large number of bugs, several of which required me to either start over at an earlier save point or accept that a certain aspect of the game was just going to be gone. For example, it's possible to use your dog to more easily find gold throughout town. At one point, I was kicked out of a store that was about to close and realized that this had somehow resulted in my dog disappearing. I figured it would be back the next in-game day and didn't think anything of it, until my character woke up and I still couldn't find the dog. I found an earlier save point and got it back but then had to start over at another save point when I accidentally gave away several very important in-game guides due to the game's annoying controls. I discovered a bug that resulted in a NPC's character portrait getting stuck on the screen, and then discovered another bug as F12 (which normally takes screenshots in Steam) just flat-out crashed the game without saving. I also noticed that stores stopped selling products after I experienced the game's first festival - I couldn't figure out whether it was a bug or whether the products would eventually be restocked, but by that time I was done. This was a much more frustrating experience than it should have been.

It's sad, because I really liked the NPCs and was looking forward to the eventual cutscenes with them. However, they weren't worth the level of frustration I'd have to go through. Unless this game gets a major overhaul at some point, I can't recommend it.

Stardew Valley

My frustration with World's Dawn was so great that it pushed me back to Stardew Valley, and I rediscovered my love for it. I started a new farm and have spent hours leveling up, making improvements, and occasionally talking to the townspeople. Gameplay is repetitive in a way that somehow never stops being enjoyable for me, even though this is now at least the fourth farm I've started. I'm still not a fan of fighting monsters in the mines (and the monsters in the desert make me so anxious that I don't even try to go up against them), but everything else is a joy. This is my go-to game when I need something that will help me completely forget the world for a while.


This is an ecosystem simulation game. Although there is apparently now a "creative" mode in which everything is unlocked and you don't have to worry about accumulating dp (diversity points, I think?) before adding anything new to your world, I've only played the regular game.

So far, I'm really enjoying this. There's a bit of a learning curve - the only reason I figured out what I needed to do to unlock some new plants and animals was because I'd watched a gameplay video just prior to buying the game, and there have been a few animals I had trouble figuring out, like how to unlock deer and a tropical environment. It took me a while to learn how to find out what sort of biome I was dealing with, and how to see what speed/height/etc. all plants or animals of a particular type were in a particular area (very helpful for figuring out which ones you can evolve into other things). I messed up one area of my world so badly that I suspect I'll eventually have to delete everything there - as it is, there was a period when nearly all the chickens in that area died of disease because the biome was so badly put together.

Still, I think I've started to get the hang of it, and I'm enjoying unlocking new plants and animals. When I don't feel up to the challenge of figuring out how to unlock something new, I like to zoom in on particular areas and just watch the animals bounce around. I particularly like the sounds the guinea pigs make.


Ah yes, another adventure game by Wadjet Eye Games, one of my favorite developers of pixel art adventure games. I've almost completed the Blackwell series, and Unavowed is apparently set in the same world.

I haven't gotten through much of the game, but I've liked what I've seen so far. The story is interesting, albeit filled with more gray areas than I'm occasionally comfortable with (should I have allowed that demon to eat those people I killed while possessed by another demon?), and the voice acting is excellent. The few puzzles I've encountered haven't been very difficult - the hardest thing has been finding just the right thing I'm supposed to click on or NPC I'm supposed to talk to. You also have to be okay with reading lots and lots of dialogue. But, like I said, I'm enjoying the story, so that isn't a problem for me. It's very much urban fantasy, and I'm repeatedly reminded of some book series I've enjoyed, like the Harry Dresden books.

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy

It's been a while since I played most of the games in my last "currently playing" post, but the Ace Attorney Trilogy is one I've gone back to several times. It's cheesy and wonderful, and I always feel so clever when I manage to correctly spot the contradictions in a witness's testimony. I'm currently playing my way through the case where Phoenix Wright is defending his occasional nemesis, Miles Edgeworth, against murder charges, and I now can't help but ship the two of them.

Blush Blush

This is one of two games on this list that I'm semi-embarrassed to admit to playing and enjoying. This is a clicker dating sim in which you, a squishy adorable marshmallow person, accidentally give a bunch of handsome male zoo-goers water that magically transforms them into animals. As you come across each manimal (the game's name for these unfortunate zoo-goers), you gradually transform them back into humans with the power of love - as you fulfill various requirements (a certain number and type of dates, a certain number and type of gifts, etc.), the guys gradually begin to like you more and are eventually transformed back into humans. The benefit to you, the player: a few instances of CG art per guy (the kiss, the various dates, and a final flirty couch scene), and some amusing and often flirty comments throughout the game.

But it is a clicker game and therefore not for everyone. You spend a lot of time clicking, doing and redoing repetitive actions, and performing soft resets that speed the game up enough to reduce some of the waiting time between new events. I'm currently as caught up on the game as it's possible to be (many of the guys haven't been released yet), but I've enjoyed it enough to actually put a bit of money into it, even though it's technically free. The couch artwork, in particular, is very nice, and I've loved seeing what the guys have had to say in each stage. Volks is still probably my favorite overall, but I'm looking forward to seeing what the developers add to the game in the coming months.

Lovers of Aether

This was a dating sim based on the fighting game Rivals of Aether (which I haven't played) and intended as an April Fool's joke. Like Hatoful Boyfriend, another "joke" dating sim/visual novel, Lovers of Aether is actually pretty enjoyable, so maybe one of the secrets to a good humorous dating sim is for the developers to not take things too seriously.

The characters are all in high school, and the overall story doesn't change much no matter who you decide to pursue, but it's still fun to play through a few times, and the character artwork is wonderful. Unfortunately, unlike many other dating sims, you aren't rewarded with nice CG artwork as you progress in your relationship with your chosen character - the two of you are either suddenly together at the end or you aren't. Even so, I enjoyed the humor, and the overall artwork was excellent enough that the lack of route-specific CG's didn't bother me too much. It probably helped that my expectations were low since I knew the game was originally released as a joke.

At any rate, it's surprisingly good and also free.

Dream Daddy: A Daddy Dating Simulator

I bought this back when its hype was the greatest but waited until now to play it. I've only just started my first playthrough (I am attempting to romance Mat, the cool but introverted coffee shop owner) and don't have too much to say yet, although I'm happy that I successfully made it through the first date, annoying mini game and all.

I'm not thrilled with the mini game aspect - I prefer my visual novels to be conversation options and that's it - but the character artwork is fabulous and the writing is funny and slick. I really like the relationship between the main character and his daughter so far, although I'm worried I'm going to screw something up and be a terrible dad, ugh.

The various dateable options are all attractive in their own way and, unlike many games of this sort, actually feature multiple different body types and just generally look vastly different from each other. Crossing my fingers that the CG art looks at least as good.

There are only two things I've disliked so far (not counting the mini games): the "create your character" portion and the setup with Joseph.

Although most of the game's artwork is wonderful, for some reason the "create your character" portion is set up like a giant joke. It's possible to create a semi-decent looking dad, but it takes work. The eye and mouth options are, for me, the most upsetting. Would it have been so difficult for the developers to offer more non-joke physical feature options? I almost wish that character creation weren't an option at all.

And Joseph. Ugh. I'm not looking forward to playing his route. As far as I know, he's the one character who is married when your character meets him - everyone else is either widowed or divorced. It's clear that Joseph and his wife are having problems (when you meet her at a neighborhood BBQ, she's constantly drinking and not only has no clue where her youngest child is, but also doesn't care). Still, I'm not wild about the idea of a route that requires you to come between a man and his wife. I already know from others' rants on Twitter how things work out, but in some ways I feel like it almost makes things worse, because Dream Daddy then fails on multiple levels as a dating sim. Joseph should have never been made a dateable character to begin with, and it reflects badly on the developer that they made that decision.

I'm enjoying the game at the moment, but just knowing that the Joseph route is available is leaving a bad taste in my mouth. If I play it, it'll likely be the very last one I try. If I don't play it, I'll still know it exists and that the developer thought his route was a good idea.

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