The Way Back Home 036
 

The Way Back Home 036

  • Guard: Before that, the boy is coming to the guardhouse with me!
  • Viviana: Because of some graffiti? Isn’t that a bit excessive?
  • Viviana: Dad’s gonna give him a proper punishment! You can bet your life on that!
  • Guard: Well, all right…
  • Guard: But if we ever catch him again, he’ll feel the full force of the law!
  • Viviana: That goes without saying!
  • Ryker Buffin: What … what was that just now??
  • Viviana: We just spared you another entry in your police report, buster!
  • Ryker Buffin: Who are you?
  • Viviana: Just some old friends of the Shadowdancers.
Do you like Gaia? Then spread the word with a link to our website or vote for our comic at TopWebComics: Vote for Gaia at TopWebComics!
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words, words, words…

Sandra and Woo game reviewed by Adventure Gamers

Adventure Gamers has published a review of our PC adventure game Sandra and Woo in the Cursed Adventure. It got an overall score of 3.5/5 stars. I think the reviewer Peter Mattsson did a very good job, giving a nuanced overview of the games’ strengths and weaknesses. So check it out if you’re interested in the game. Here is a summary of his pros and cons from the article:

  • (+) Lovely cartoon graphics
  • (+) Faithful to the original comic
  • (+) Quirky characters
  • (+) Interesting story and setting
  • (+) Challenging puzzles
  • (+) Substantial length
  • (-) Some puzzle solutions come out of left field
  • (-) Setting feels underused
  • (-) Minigames more frustrating than fun

Poll results

From 2 July 2016 to 10 June 2017, the following eleven polls ran on the Gaia website. It’s time to present the results. Most of the polls also ran on Sandra and Woo. So also check out the results @ Sandra and Woo since I’ll usually just point out the differences to those results here.

Poll from 2 July 2016:

Poll Nr. 30

The correct answer Greendew only received 4%. As a reader, I probably would have guessed the tower in the sky as well.

Poll from 2 July 2016:

Poll Nr. 31

72% of our readers read at most seven other fantasy comics. That’s not a big surprise given the rather low number of straight fantasy webcomics. Gaia is one of just a handful of webcomics that tell a serious adventure story in a classical fantasy setting. That’s a bit surprising given the popularity of the genre.

Poll from 2 July 2016:

Poll Nr. 32

The number of Gaia readers who also read Sandra and Woo is very high and almost identical to the 82% when this question was asked in a poll from 1 October 2013.

Poll from 2 July 2016:

Poll Nr. 33

This result is almost identical to the one of the same poll that ran on Sandra and Woo.

Poll from 24 December 2016:

Poll Nr. 34

This result is almost identical to the one of the same poll that ran on Sandra and Woo.

Poll from 24 December 2016:

Poll Nr. 35

The vistors of the Sandra and Woo website show more interest in visual novels if the poll results are representative for the whole readership.

Poll from 24 December 2016:

Poll Nr. 36

This result is almost identical to the one of the same poll that ran on Sandra and Woo.

Poll from 24 December 2016:

Poll Nr. 37

The average age of the computer of Gaia readers is a little bit older than that of Sandra and Woo readers.

Poll from 24 December 2016:

Poll Nr. 38

This result is almost identical to the one of the same poll that ran on Sandra and Woo.

Poll from 20 February 2017:

Poll Nr. 39

“Breaking All Barriers #139” and “Breaking All Barriers Cover” are also my favorites from the 15 pages placed between 11 and 25 from the last two chapters “Breaking all Barriers” and “Monster”.

Poll from 27 February 2017:

Poll Nr. 40

I’m not at all surprised that “Breaking All Barriers #125” won the reader’s choice for the best page from my selection of the 10 best pages the last two chapters. I added “Breaking All Barriers #139”, the winner of the poll above, as an additional choice. I suspected that it would not come last, but that it managed to make it all the way up to place #2 is a bit of a surprise to me. The three pages from “Monster” all got a solid 11% of all votes. My personal favorite “Breaking All Barriers #106” only got 8% of all votes. The pages “Breaking All Barriers #36” and “Monster #79” may be examples for pages that you just appreciate more as an author than as a reader. However, I wouldn’t have voted for them as my absolute favorite as well, so the low amount of votes they got isn’t shocking.

There are four new polls that appear randomly in the voting widget in the right sidebar:

  • Who is your favorite main character?
  • Who is your favorite secondary character?
  • Which is your favorite chapter?
  • What’s your favorite hair color on Viviana?

Beware of Rice Digital!

Think twice before buying anything from Rice Digital, a store for Japanese video games! I bought the “Steins; Gate 0 Amadeus Edition” from them. The extras are quite neat, however the gaming disc was missing in the box. Something like that can happen, I guess. However, they subsequently ignored all my emails to their support email address. What kind of customer service is that?

I guess I now have to search eBay for used versions of a PlayStation 4 gaming disc of “Steins; Gate 0” since I certainly won’t give this dishonest business any more money! (The publisher PQube was also unhelpful.)

Update [6 June 2017]: All right. Finally, someone from Rice Digital talked to me on Facebook and they’re now sending me a disc.

This is really a common problem in today’s world of business. Many companies offer very good products and services. But better pray to God that nothing goes wrong. Because in that case, it will often be an absolute pain in the ass until the issue gets resolved. Nobody is quite as bad as internet service providers in this regard, of course.


Iraqi refugee gets it right

I found the following opinion piece/sketch by the Iraqi satirist and human-rights activist Faisal Saeed Al Mutar to be exceptionally witty and to the point:

Facebook post by Faisal Saeed Al Mutar


12 reviews of visual novels

I played a couple of visual novels and similar games during the last months. Here are short reviews of them, sorted from great (10 stars) to terrible (1 star).

Note that I make use of the full rating scale. A game with a rating of 6/10 is still a completely solid choice for fans of the genre.


Steins;Gate

What’s it about: Steins;Gate takes place in Akihabara, Tokyo, and is about a group of friends who have customized their microwave into a device that can send text messages to the past. Of course they soon have to learn that messing around with time travel is very dangerous.

Steins;Gate was the first visual novel I played and I already fear that I won’t play one as good as it ever again. It shines with a cast of extremely likeable and interesting characters and an engaging time travel story that is on the same level as other time travel classics such as Groundhog Day and Back to the Future. The Japanese voice acting is top-notch and the natural sounding dialog always finds the right line between humor and seriousness. The pacing is also very good: The story takes its time, but it never bores the reader with large amounts of text about insignificant details. Instead it uses the time to build believable characters and show lots of exciting action. I also enjoyed the well thought out pseudo-scientific explanations.

The only drawback is that the story is very linear and that the so-called “true ending” is impossible to get without a walkthrough since the choices to be made for it are completely arbitrary.

You have to play this one! It’s the choice of Steins Gate. El Psy Kongroo. (There is also a faithful anime series based on it.)

★★★★★★★★★★ (10/10)


Planetarian

What’s it about: In a dystopian future, a looter discovers a planetarium in the middle of an abandoned city. There, he meets a companion robot who assumes he’s the first customer in 30 years. The little robot attempts to show him the stars, but the planetarium’s projector is broken and needs to get repaired.

The little robot in the shape of a teenage girl will not only melt the heart of the looter, but also yours while you read this touching anti-war story. It’s remarkable how natural the dialog reads with respect to the extreme contrast in character between the war-hardened freelancer and the pure and naive robot girl. Although they are so different, I found both main characters to be very likeable. I was equally fond of the pacing. While the story could have been a bit longer for my taste, I’m glad that the developers didn’t add unnecessary filler just to make it longer.

The story is completely linear and has no interactive elements. Like said above, it also felt a bit short.

★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)


Life Is Strange

What’s it about: The game’s plot is focused on Max Caulfield, a photography student in an American small town, who discovers that she has the ability to rewind time at any moment, leading her every choice to enact the butterfly effect. She soon finds herself wrapped up in a murder mystery with supernatural elements.

Life Is Strange is not really a visual novel according to the strict definition of the term. It rather resembles the Telltale adventures. But I found it similar enough to include it in this list. Its main strengths are the stylish 3D graphics and the innovative time reversal feature which make exploring the environment and solving the simple puzzles a lot of fun. The protagonist is likeable and the world and other characters were designed with a lot of attention to detail. The mystery story is also very engaging with several unexpected twists and exciting moments. All in all, Life Is Strange offers an exciting time travel story.

However, many of the characters are too clichéd and the dialog sometimes feels unnatural. However, my two main issues with the game were something else: The protagonist’s best friend and second most important character Chloe is an extremely obnoxious, stupid and self-centered punk girl of the worst kind. I hated her. The second biggest problem was the unsatisfying ending. It wasn’t a complete failure or made me angry, but don’t expect much from it.

★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)


Long Live the Queen

What’s it about: Long Live the Queen follows a young princess who is training to become queen after the death of her mother. The game’s objective is to keep the princess alive for 40 weeks until she turns 15 and is crowned.

Long Live the Queen has been called the Dark Souls of visual novels. Don’t let the cute anime style fool you: You will die often in this raising sim. In the game, you have to train the skills of your princess and if you fail a crucial skill check, you’ll get stabbed to death (or worse). Therefore, the game has a great replay value since you want to do better next time or try a completely different approach. There are lots of dialog options so you can roleplay your princess either as a sweet little cutie or as a bloodthirsty tyrant (and everything in between). The artwork looks nice and the princess and secondary characters are relatable, except for all those backstabbers and murderers of course. 😉

Unfortunately, it’s impossible to predict which skills to raise at which time to pass the crucial skill checks that decide about live and death during the first playthrough. While you’re mainly interested in roleplaying your princess in a specific way, the game heavily pushes you towards training really strange skill combinations that are needed to survive these life-or-death situations. I would have preferred a game that rewards reasonable skill combinations. I also would have preferred more dialog in the game. The dialog is often as short as possible, conveying only the most important bits of information. Many of the characters feel somewhat flat because of this.

★★★★★★★☆☆☆ (7/10)


Fault, Milestone 1 and 2

What’s it about: Fault follows the royal bodyguard Ritona, who uses magic to escape the kingdom of Rughzenhaide together with princess Selphine when it gets attacked by mercenaries. The two find themselves in a distant land where science has advanced and only little magic exists.

Fault Milestone One and Fault Milestone 2 are the first two chapters of a long(er) fantasy story. It remains to be seen if the remaining chapters will ever be finished. Fortunately, the first two chapters tell mostly self-contained stories so you can enjoy them without being able to play the rest. The main strengths of Fault are the beautiful artwork and the instantly likeable main character, Ritona. I was immediately drawn to her no-nonsense approach to problems and to her intelligence. I also enjoyed the musical score. There is also a highly innovative cutscene at the start of the second chapter that really blew me away. All in all, Fault tells a solid fantasy story that is worth checking out.

The story is completely linear and has no interactive elements. More importantly, I just wasn’t fond of the two other main characters, the overly naive princess Selphine and the almost similarly childish Rune. Fortunately, Selphine becomes a more interesting character in chapter 2 which is why I gave it an additional star. Especially chapter 1 suffers from confusing switches of the narrator. The twists and turns of the story and the narrative structure sometimes felt strange, but not necessarily bad. Definitely bad are the game’s bizarre terms for familiar fantasy concepts and the ridiculous pseudo-German names.

Fault 1: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ (6/10)

Fault 2: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆ (7/10)


Katawa Shoujo

What’s it about: The user Notmiefault wrote the following on Reddit about Katawa Shoujo:

4chan is making a visual novel.
> This is bad.
It’s a dating sim.
> This is really bad.
You attend a school for the physically disabled.
> This is really, really bad.
The name of the game translates to “Cripple Girls”.
> This is really, really, really fucking bad.
Game comes out.
> This is really, really, really fucking……… good?

Well, no, not really. Fanboys may see it differently, but I didn’t find Katawa Shoujo to be really, really fucking good. Just good. The main strength of the game is the really sensitive approach towards girls suffering from severe physical disabilities. They feel like real people with their own strengths and weaknesses that may or may not have something to do with their illness. There is no shortage of touching or funny moments which are accompanied by a fitting musical score. The cutscenes are impressive, especially the one starting the route about the girl Hanoko. For a free game, the production quality and the length of the story are really surprising.

However, I found the visual novel to be overly wordy. There really was no need to draw out many scenes that much, considering that nothing overly interesting was happening most of the time. I also learned to dislike the protagonist in his excessively introspective phases and wanted to beat some sense into him way too often. Not that some of the girls, like the tortured artist Rin and the depressed Hanoko, were much better in this regard. I was fonder of the first chapter and the much more lively route about the sports star Emi. I also disliked how the consequences of the dialog choices were often completely unclear. Clicking on one option or the other felt like gambling.

Attention: This game features a couple of (short and rather mild) sex scenes.

1st chapter + Emi route: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆ (7/10)

Rest: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ (6/10)


Crystalline (Demo)

What’s it about: In this fantasy parody, the protagonist gets mysteriously teleported to a fantasy world. He soon runs into a female mage knight who investigates rumors of concentrated magical energy in the area. Together, they go on a journey to understand how he got there and find a way for him to return home.

Crystalline is still unfinished, but a demo of the first part is available for free.

The main strength of Crystalline is its very beautiful artwork with 2,5D characters that make lifelike movements on the screen. It was really a pleasure to look at this visual novel. The English voice acting is also good. Apart from Life Is Strange, the production quality of Crystalline is one level above all the other visual novels reviewed here. The length of the demo is also quite impressive. The characters are likeable, in particular the cute main female character and the even cuter pangos, small blob-shaped animals.

I was less fond of the story, though, which has severe pacing issues. For example, other characters were talking about the many dangers of reaching a mysterious place and then it turned out to be a cakewalk. I was also put off by the extremely immature dialog choices. The normal dialog usually sounds okay for a semi-serious fantasy setting. However, this isn’t the case for the dialog choices where you usually get one choice that sounds rather normal and one or two choices that sound really ridiculous, like “My waifu.” in the last dialog choice of the demo. It’s like somebody lobotomized the writer of that part of the game.

★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ (6/10)


False Elegy (Demo)

What’s it about: Areon is an angel warrior who hunts fallen angels. Together with his female partner Eden, he purges the world little by little. Everything goes well until Areon is asked to participate in the Divinity project, a project to rehabilitate fallen angels, after a certain catastrophic event in his life.

False Elegy is still unfinished, but a demo of the first part is available for free. Since it failed to meet its Kickstarter goal, the full game may never be published.

The best thing about this visual novel is the breathtaking background artwork. The character models can’t keep up with the standard set by it, but still look solid.

Overall, I didn’t enjoy False Elegy very much. There isn’t anything really terrible about it, but I was neither interested in the story nor did I like any of the characters. I just couldn’t get into the story that turned out to be a weird hodgepodge of Christian and fantasy themes. But even worse was that all the characters were unlikeable, including the protagonist. I guess him being a closed-minded asshole most of the time fitted his role as a religious extremist. But in the end, there just weren’t enough redeeming factors to his personality to make me want to spend any more time with him.

★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆ (4/10)


Lucy

What’s it about: Lucy is about a high-school student in the near future who finds a highly advanced robot in the shape of the teenage girl and befriends her.

I’m startled by the many positive reviews for this visual novel since I found it to be really bad, apart from the solid artwork. The story started promising with some touching moments and decent dialog, but then it became worse and worse, culminating in a depressive, rage-inducing ending.

The character development of the protagonist went into the completely wrong direction in this misguided attempt to create a touching story about the nature of consciousness. I was actually mad at this wimp of a boy at the end. The other characters are completely one-dimensional too, like the strikingly evil father and the sickly sweet robot girl that felt like a bad copy of the one in Planetarian. Overall, this emotionally manipulative story may appeal to lonely young men who dream of getting a completely submissive girlfriend like the robot girl.

★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ (3/10)


Eternal Hour (Demo)

What’s it about: The protagonist, a high-school boy in Japan, climbs a mysterious mountain together with his friends and receives the gift of manipulating time as a result.

Eternal Hour is still unfinished, but a very short demo of the first part is available for free.

If the development team doesn’t do a complete overhaul of the game, this demo does a good job in showing that one should stay away from the full game as far as possible. While it has no truly terrible parts like Lucy and Lucid9, this visual novel suffers from its amateurish prose. It reads like bad fanfiction written by a middle schooler, just with better spelling and grammar. This is obviously a complete killer for any visual novel. I also disabled the voice acting in the settings since the voices were almost worse than the writing. The mediocre artwork couldn’t save anything.

★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ (2/10)


Lucid9

What’s it about: In this mystery thriller, a cynical high school student in Japan has to deal with personal drama in his clique of friends and a string of brutal murders at his school.

The most mysterious thing about this mystery thriller are the many positive reviews on Steam for it. It’s free, but that doesn’t save this truly terrible visual novel. Interestingly, it has several strong points, but they are ultimately outshone by its glaring issues. For one, some of the characters have an interesting personality and I was fond of the occasionally witty dialog. The mystery story also became quite exciting at times. I particularly liked the dialog choices which were implemented much better than in many other visual novels reviewed here.

However, the inconsistent narrative structure of Lucid9 already killed most of my enjoyment. Where Steins;Gate managed to combine humorous slice-of-life scenes with a thriller plot in the best possible way, Lucid9 combined them in a very bad way. Several students were murdered, but that didn’t seem to interest the characters much most of the time. Instead you have to click your way through dialog about increasingly boring high-school drama. I was also astonished by the bizarre actions of the characters that made no fucking sense! Lucid9 feels like the Prometheus of visual novels this way. What completely killed the game was the absolutely terrible ending. I actually felt betrayed by it. It didn’t help that the female characters look like 6-year-olds instead of 18-year-olds.

★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ (2/10)