This isn’t for me and parts of it are a bit raw, but this is not terrible. If you’re a fan of romance-based visual novels, it might be worth a look.
And I definitely appreciate the take; it’s one I’ve never seen before. The game simulates both a role-playing game and the people playing it. As the game’s page puts it, it’s “the ultimate fantasy – a group who can consistently play tabletop every week!”
Page 15, Game 26: Roll+Heart by Owl Sanctuary Studios
So, you’re a player joining a new RPG group, one that uses a d20 but is NOT D&D. (I assume that’s for implementation purposes; D&D’s copyright holders are actually pretty generous in their licensing terms for using D&D mechanics in third-party products, just as long as you avoid certain things. Actually implementing a D&D game via code, however, seems like it’d be a real bitch.) Out of the game, cultivate relationships with your fellow players! In the game, go fuck up goblins and stuff!
The game has two halves, neither of which I found super compelling after about an hour or so of gameplay. Though I am realizing that an interactive novel REALLY has to kick ass for me to enjoy it; it’s just not my genre. I feel capable of flagging the excellent stuff and calling-out the dreck, but Roll+Heart hits that middle ground where it’s not good enough to pull me in but could be quite appealing to someone who digs games like it.
The visual novel stuff lines up five other people who are all potential love interests, which honestly feels slightly yucky to me. The game seems to be trying to mitigate it by only offering player avatars that are at least somewhat femme-presenting, though I don’t recall the game ever using any gender-specific language in reference to me.
And, yeah, I suppose it’s less yucky if it’s a female or non-binary individual treating the game session as a hookup opportunity. But I myself very firmly and comfortably identify as a guy, and in real life, I emphatically don’t want to be THAT guy. You know, That Guy who treats RPG groups as an opportunity to potentially bang any fellow players he finds attractive? That Guy makes it uncomfortable and shitty for everyone. So even if the game is offering me an “out” — I’m not That Guy, instead I’m That Person Of Unspecified Gender Identity — the basic premise still winds up feeling a bit off-putting to me.
The game-within-the-game is fine, I suppose. You move, you do a thing. The tutorial claims the game shows you all the spaces you’ll be able to move to, but that’s not actually true. Then when you do the thing, you’re not really allowed to choose who you’re doing the thing to, and just have to trust the AI will select the correct ally to heal or the correct foe to smite.
The plot was kinda cute; I didn’t get far into it, but we recovered a locket for an old dwarf showing him and his late wife, young and in love. D’aw. Bonus points for staying on-theme, game.
However, I do note: the fantasy game-within-the-game is absolutely linked to the get-laid game-within-the-game; you can make progress in the latter by making sure you side with and support the correct characters in the former. Once again, you are That
Guy Person Of Unspecified Gender Identity. “Hey, you’re just going along with their plan because you’re trying to get into their pants!” Yup.
In a sense, it’s weird that the game is eliciting this response. Last night, I stayed up late doing a little retro gaming, and even though I tend towards the White Hat choices, I still wind up doing some pretty horrifically violent shit. I guess the difference is that I’ve never once been tempted to use a ginormous axe to obliterate motherfuckers who my visions have identified as “bandits,” nor do I have the opportunity to turn into a giant wolf, tear apart people with my bare claws, and eat them. (Look, I don’t have access to my healing potions or spells in wolf form; it’s the only way I can heal.) But make women feel uncomfortable because they’re sharing a gaming table with me? That, I CAN do. I would much prefer not to — not even accidentally.
The more I type up this review, the less great I feel about this game. Not enough to tip me into fuck-this-game territory, but still, I’m pretty sure any game that asks me to pretend I’m using a TTRPG as an opportunity to mack on my fellow players is just gonna feel squicky to me no matter how well it’s done.
Still. If you’re a fan of the genre and don’t share my aversions, it might be worth your time.
Will the next game ask me to do stuff I find uncomfortable?
Page 23, Game 27: Pet the Pup at the Party by Will Herring
“you are at a house party. you do not know anybody. the clock is ticking… can you find the pup at the party??”
OMFG DODGE SOCIAL INTERACTION BY PETTING THE PUPPER YES YES YES WHO’S A GOOD BOY THIS DOGGO RIGHT HERE!!!