…is kind of a fun way to burn an hour.
Just finished playing it co-op with The Lady, now I have a few minutes left to bang my impressions out real quick. In no particular order:
Spoiler Alert: Significant plot elements discussed forthwith
First off: How I played it. I started out playing co-op style with my girlfriend, who tried to reject the Arianna romance (or whatever her name was) but ultimately succumbed and took her home despite her complete revulsion and judgement (of me, and the protagonist, and all men in general–her words, not mine). I didn’t really help Nolan out, chose gentle/angry/angry with Taylor, and generally tried to avoid messing with the students’ affairs.
That whole Arianna romance subplot? Hot. Also creepy. Also sad. And in the end, once you realize that she was basically riding you like a rodeo show the whole time, it was truly the most glorious pwnage ever seen in the pages of a visual novel.
The Lady got too repulsed to continue with the game after the protagonist accepted Arianna’s advances, so she left it to me to continue. Basically, she was too turned off by the creepy/pathetic nature of the protagonist that she couldn’t keep playing as him, so I had to finish the game myself. Which leads me to:
An alienating protagonist. You play as John Rook, a 38-year-old teacher with two failed marriages and an abrupt career change. Early on, you have the chance to initiate a sexual (to varying degrees) relationship with your student mentioned above–and if you do, you’re treated to increasingly graphic bad erotic scenes. However, they’re (intentionally or otherwise) so badly written that it made my girlfriend feel repulsed and made me just feel a little bit sad–and therefore inclined to try and choose a path for him that would eventually lead to redemption. This is unusual for a visual novel–the ones I’ve played, anyway, work more like harem anime where the protagonist is simply a blank slate for the player to use to achieve his desired ending.
In Phoenix Wright, for example, Phoenix is our avatar for vindicating our client, which eventually resolves the plot that he is rather minimally affected by. It isn’t until he’s no longer the protagonist (see: Apollo Justice) that Phoenix is able to grow as a character.
In this game (I hesitate to type the name because it’s so long) I found myself resisting Rook’s internal monologue. Instead of making decisions to create a particular end (as in, I want to end up with that girl, as per most dating sims) I made decisions because I wanted my Rook to be a better man than who he seemed to be. (I should state, for the record, that despite finding the Rook/Arianna bit hot, I was inclined to turn her down every time, but The Lady demanded otherwise because, quote, “that’s the point of the game”.) Basically, Rook turned out to be the object of the game, not the player.
Too much Internets. I dig the Facebook game mechanic, the commentary on the ever-evolving nature of privacy, etc. I was able to forgive the Internet-speak found in the actual game. The “foreshadowing” scene near the end was mildly charming. Overall, however, there was just too much. Also, the “12chan” posts were way too contrived–not the content of the posts but the fact that you had to read them. I don’t know if that was meant to convey the dismal state of the protagonist’s affairs or not, but it didn’t really work for me.
I liked it. No matter how many different things you can do with film, the capacity for variety in a video game is simply much more. This might seem less “video-game-y”, but it more than makes up for it with some (overall) solid writing and a fascinating experience.