Variable Barricade is at its best when it leans into its inner romcom. Driven by a great protagonist and enjoyably quirky love interests, it has no shortage of sweet and funny moments. Unfortunately, the fun parts come with a generous side of tedious and manufactured melodrama. Overall though I still enjoyed Variable Barricade.
Henchman Story is a hilarious ride with a real heart to it, and its comic book style and full voice acting make it stand out from the crowd of English language visual novels. It’s an easy recommendation, especially if you’re looking for a change of pace from the usual anime-adjacent fare that visual novels are known for.
Bright Memory: Infinite has a nascent vision of what it wants to be. And honestly, that vision is kind of good. With the right elements around it, Bright Memory: Infinite’s combat could have shined. Unfortunately, everything else is an incoherent mishmash of undeveloped ideas, lazy design, sloppiness, and technical problems. Even at the budget price of $9.99 I can’t recommend this mess.
Love Flute tells an intimate character-driven story that has more to it than you might think. The simulation gameplay lacks depth, but if you like collecting things you might still enjoy it, and if you don’t, you can mostly ignore it. If you’re in the market for a short visual novel I’d recommend giving Love Flute a look.
Olympia Soiree stands out for its nuanced characters, detailed world-building, and ambitious storytelling that thoughtfully tackles difficult subjects. Oh, and the romance is great too! I wish the bad endings and choice system had been more robust and that there was more of the excellent art and music, but these are minor quibbles. If you’re open to a serious story that touches on challenging themes—and want to romance some dashing men along the way—I’d highly recommend Olympia Soiree.
Besides its stylish cutscenes and bold color palette, Fire Tonight has little to offer. The gameplay is simplistic while the characters and story have no chance to develop over the game’s paltry one-hour runtime. Even at the budget price of $5.99, I don’t think Fire Tonight is worth it.
While I have my complaints about the Eternal Cylinder, I'm ultimately glad I played it. It takes a bit to get going, can meander at times, and the storytelling often frustrated me. It also consistently nails the most important moments, and by the time the credits rolled, I realized The Eternal Cylinder had been something special that I’ll remember for a long time. Maybe The Eternal Cylinder isn’t a masterpiece, but it’s an experience unlike anything else--one well worth having despite its flaws.
Parquet unfortunately suffers from a weak protagonist and a sometimes slow story that doesn’t delve as deeply into its transhumanist setting as you might hope. That said, it hits on almost everything else. Well-developed heroines, fun side characters, and meaningful friendship evoke warm feelings, while top-notch production values make the experience a feast for the senses. Parquet is a departure from the usual Yuzusoft romance and might not be their greatest work. Still, I think it’s worth experiencing on its own terms: as a heartwarming story about friendship and finding one’s purpose whose setting offers a welcome change from the usual slice of life experience.
Zengeon catches the eye with stylish art but offers little else. Combat is a sluggish chore, progression feels meaningless, and what little variety comes from the different characters is quickly exhausted. Add in a clunky interface and shaky performance, and there’s not much to recommend Zengeon. If you and a friend have cash to burn, you might be able to eke out a few hours of amusement, but I’d say this is one you’re better off leaving on the shelves.
Sure, if I look closely I can find nits to pick over the course of The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles’ 50-hour adventure—Sholmes occasionally hogs the spotlight, the cases could do more to support divergent reasoning, I would have changed a few details of the ending—but I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of the journey. If you’re a series veteran, Great Ace Attorney builds on everything you know and love with exciting new mechanics and the most ambitious story and characters yet. If you’re new to Ace Attorney, or even adventure games altogether, this is as good a place to start as any. Great Ace Attorney is outstanding in every facet of its design and production, and deftly avoids the problems that can make adventure games inaccessible. The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles is an experience not to be missed, and if you plan to skip it, I can only say one thing: OBJECTION!
Unbound: Worlds Apart is a competent game that, despite its intriguing portal mechanic and charming looks, only occasionally rises to offer more. If you like metroidvanias and think the portals sound interesting, you’ll probably enjoy it. However, it doesn’t quite measure up to the admittedly high standards set by its alternatives.
While Chihiro Himukai Always Walks Away has the seeds of some intriguing ideas, it’s ultimately a straightforward iyashikei experience heavy on sexual content. Still, it stands out as uncommonly thoughtful and kind. If a warm, soothing experience with an emphasis on sexuality appeals to you, I think you will enjoy Chihiro Himukai Walks Away.
Jeanne at the Clocktower has an interesting premise and does some things well. The novel setting is highly detailed while the story is exciting and dramatic. However, the characters and themes lack depth, so the end result feels like an average fantasy anime. In addition, gratuitous and extreme sexual content further detracted from my experience. I would recommend Jeanne at the Clocktower if you like action-heavy fantasy and the type of sexual content it offers. For this demographic, a score of 7/10 would be appropriate. If like me, that’s not your preference, I’d say to wait for a sale before you consider giving it a look.
The Blind of the New World captivated me with a beautiful and moving story about the struggle to look out and build connections across different worlds. Exploring the strange and vivid setting through the characters’ eyes as I followed them on their journey was memorable and thought-provoking. The writing is often open-ended, which may not appeal to everyone, and there are occasional errors and inconsistencies. But I felt these paled in comparison to everything the game does well. The Blind of the New World is an experience well worth having, and I highly recommend it.
Sugar * Style is a rush of silly excitement with a sweet romantic aftertaste. It’s not particularly clever or ambitious, but it isn’t trying to be. And though it has its flaws, the comedy hits hard and fast and the romance is endearing. If you’re looking for something lighthearted and upbeat—and don’t mind a perverted protagonist—Sugar * Style is a solid choice.
I enjoyed TASOMACHI: Behind the Twilight, especially the soundtrack. I found it a pleasant way to unwind after a long day. Despite its charm, I don’t think it warrants an unreserved recommendation. The platforming is clumsy and uninspired, and the story is bare-bones. The visuals are attractive but lack the above and beyond quality they’d need to carry the game on their own. If a simple and laid-back experience sounds appealing, I think TASOMACHI is worth a look. If you want substantial platforming or narrative, you should play something else.