Justice Playthrough #195: Blue Rose

An interactive novel that was not at all a waste of my time, and was on the balance quite adequate.

Which immediately makes it one of the best interactive novels I’ve yet encountered on this trawl. If my expectations for the genre go any lower, I’ll need a backhoe.

Page 11, Game 9: Blue Rose by WhiteCat

You’re Lena, a member of the famed Blue Rose Templars. You’re running a bog standard escort mission, when your team is jumped by a dragon and basically wiped the fuck out.

IT’S PLOT O’CLOCK MOTHAFUCKAS

So we haven’t even gotten out of the prologue and Blue Rose has already exceeded my expectations. My recurring complaint with other entries in this genre is that they tend to move about as fast as a sloth on horse tranquilizers. Even Animal Lover, a prior entry I was ultimately glad to have played, made a habit of stretching my patience to near breaking. Blue Rose, however, doesn’t fuck around. Click on new game and BOOM! DRAGON! What’s my name? What am I doing? Why am I here? SHUTDAFUCKUP! DRAGON! FIGHT FOR YOUR LIFE!!!

Or, well, read about fighting for your life. The interactive bits haven’t really kicked in yet. But, hey, in a game like this, the really important decisions involve which pretty anime boy you’d like to bone; when it comes to petty shit like fighting dragons, you’re just along for the ride.

Anyway. The fight goes badly, and you get blasted down the first of many, many hills and receive the first of many, many traumatic brain injuries. When you come to, you are in the care of Tobias, a taciturn woodsboy who seems to hate you on sight.

Tobias in his natural habitat: his cabin, acting like a bag of dicks

What’s going on? (Stuff.) Why did Tobias save you? (Played the game to completion, still have no idea.) Did anyone else from your squad survive? (… you eventually ask after a ridiculously long time.) And most important of all: ARE THERE HOT BOYS YOU CAN FALL IN LOVE WITH?!

Yes. Obviously.

Blue Rose crushes the whole “pacing” issue I keep having with interactive novels. I have complaints about this game, but I give it all the credit in the world for respecting my time and NOT fucking around. I finished it in about two hours or so, and lesser games need that much time to even establish their basic premise. Shit happens here, and I respect the hell out of it for that.

What’s more, it looks lovely. These characters appear in enough story-related poses that I do NOT think the dev was using canned assets; I strongly suspect this is all original material, and the artist absolutely nails the whole manga feel. It really helps sell the story.

Erin, I love that you wanna be the peacemaker, but hon, this is gonna bite you in the ass someday….

… when it can be arsed to bother.

Sadly, the game is often very lazy visually; we’re firmly in the land of “Tell, don’t show” here. There were WAY too many moments that would have benefitted immensely from some art to help support the story, but just presented text on a generic setting background.

That sounds exciting. Wonder what it looks like?

Sometimes, we don’t even get that much effort. Here’s the in-game still from the huge plot twist that comes about two-thirds of the way in:

Spoiler…?

And sometimes, the game opts to neither show NOR tell. At one point, I go to a party. Apparently, my dress is very pretty. Very, very pretty. Oh so distractingly pretty.

Not only is there no picture of me in this literally indescribably awesome dress, there’s not even a rudimentary attempt at a description. So I’m just gonna have to assume it’s made out of PVC with a neckline down to my navel.

Behold my official headcannon

So, yeah. The constant visual punts were a recurring source of frustration.

More problematic, however, was that the protagonist’s priorities were often so bizarre that they kept kicking me out of the story. I get that her concerns are not my concerns, but seriously, I just watched my entire squad become dragon chow! Why am I obsessing over my sword and not wondering whether any of my squadmates are alive or dead?!

Later on, a Bad Mystic Thing happens which clearly has implications for a major character — a ROMANCEABLE character, if I’m interpreting the game’s home page correctly. Lena expresses absolutely no interest in this until she has to. I still have no idea what that character’s fate was. I assume it’s not good.

Also, as a Templar of the Blue Rose, I have paladin powers! Occasionally. When the plot needs me to remember that I do. One would have thought that if my crew had magic powers, someone would have busted out something flashy when a dragon was trying to eat them.

The story is honestly littered with little details that don’t quite line up, what look like early-draft plot threads (like a suggestion that somebody may still be alive but taken by the dragon) that didn’t get developed for the final version but somehow still hung around.

The non-romance bits of the story just feel weird and half-baked. But I gotta give credit where it’s due; when it’s time to start forging connections with the other characters in this story, that’s when the game comes alive.

And it even feels like a game! I kept making choices and shit! And my choices seemed to matter! Who would I like to hang with? Who do I wanna get closer to? I get to decide that!

BEHOLD THE MAP OF PLAYER AGENCY

My only complaint here is that Tobias is a romanceable option, and FUCK NO. Look, I’m a dude, and I know that women sometimes get turned on by the thrill of winning over somebody who’s not into them, but … come ON. If Tobias’s never-ending firehose of disdain actually moistens your panties, then you’re the reason why pick-up artists can respond with “But it works!” when called out on the misogyny behind negging. This guy is an incel waiting to become a domestic abuse horror story. And he’s yours for the taking.

But other than that, honestly, the romantic bits felt solid. I followed one of the options to a conclusion, and I’m glad I did. (A very chaste conclusion, I might add. Totally legit artistic choice and who knows maybe one of the other paths includes graphic stills of me getting Eiffel-towered at the inn, but if you give this a try yourself, set your expectations to kid-friendly.) My love interest wound up endangered in a way that seemed very natural for the story being told AND made me want to get my ass out there and save them! I was engaged! I was invested! Fuck yeah!

Whatever its narrative failings, it’s a romance game that handles the romance part well. It didn’t do everything it was trying to do, but it nailed its core element, and didn’t waste my time in the process. If you’re more of a fan of the genre than I am, you might actually love it, so I can definitely give it a qualified recommendation.

Is this next game gonna let me kiss somebody?

Page 45, Game 11: Those Spacecrafts by DaGammla

“A fun acrade shooter”

I’m guessing no. Unless you count kissing some motherfuckin’ aliens with my DEATH LASER! The I expect some hard-core makeout sessions!