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01/14/2018 05:19:52 •••

A Surprisingly Interesting (and slightly flawed) ride. (spoilers)

I'm usually not big into horror stuff. For a really long time, there were only two horror themed works that I found both legitimately creepy, yet compelling enough to want to come back to. This game is now the third. The horror works because it starts off subtlety. At first it seems normal, but then hints begin to emerge that things aren't quite right. Then you hit the game's Wham Episode ([[spoilers: Sayori's suicide]]) and things go completely sideways. Even from that point on, the horror elements are balanced between subtle uncanniness and jump scares.

What makes this game compelling is the fact that it has a solid, well-developed cast. All four of the girls gain a surprising amount of depth for such a short game, and what interactions we get in the brief time we see them are surprisingly complex and interesting. It's a testament to the game's writing that it can cram so much development into the game without feeling forced. Even Monika, the source of most of the game's nasty bits ends up ultimately being sympathetic, though obviously not completely justified in her actions. All of the girls' struggles feel realistic at least until Monika starts exaggerating them, and it adds an additional layer of weirdness to Act 2, when the girls realize something is wrong, but are powerless to deal with it.

That isn't to say that the game doesn't have issues. The main nitpick I have with it is that it feels like two separate games that were glued together, and the connection isn't entirely smooth. The first Act is mostly mundane and emotionally driven, ending with a surprisingly realistic and sobering look at clinical depression and the consequences. The issue is that immediately after this point, the game takes a bit of a turn and from that point on the focus shifts to the meta elements of the game. The emotional elements are still there, but take a backseat to the postmodernism. The meta aspects are well executed, but it really makes me wish that Yuri's self-harm and Natsuki's abusive home life would get the same sort of treatment as Sayori's depression. As it is, those elements feel a bit glossed over.

The disconnect isn't bad enough to keep the game from being a surprisingly meaningful experience, but it also feels like there are two games in here that could've each been excellent on their own.

01/14/2018 00:00:00

Spoilers I had a slightly different experience. There's a line early on from Yuri about an author taking advantage of your lack of imanination to completely throw you for a loop. I felt that everything the game did was to throw me off. Thinking the twist of the game was the underlined issues of the girls; that Yuri, like Sayori had depression (instead of a fetish); that Monika followed the theme of troubled girls (her always being late for club meetings); that the game was breaking down on it's down without rhyme or reason, just for the sake of being scary. Even at the end with Monika's bait and switch jumpscare.

I do wish there was a way to follow a different order and be able to look into Yuri and Natsuki's depts without all the weirdness instead of always being Sayori.

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