Lucky Rabbit Reflex (Luckyrabbitreflex.com)

A new girl begins her final year at Northmain College.  Will she find friendship or love in one year?

The game takes place in England and the story depends on which club you join, which part-time job you take, and which boy you pursue or girl you hang out with the whole year.  In all reality, there’s not a whole lot to say about it.  Just that the main character reacts differently to each boy.  You can pursue Marius, Shuppin, Rhett (my personal favorite), Beck, Per, or the secret character (also my favorite, what I can only pick one?).  The friendships you can strengthen are Merle, Dys, Lufika, Lamb (my favorite), or Petime.

As I said earlier, you can pick what club to join or what part-time job you get.  Each club has a connection with a specific boy.  You can go on dates with them, buy birthday presents for them and even make a pancake for them.  You don’t have a romantic attachment to any of the girls but if you complete their friendship path without pursuing a boy, you can get an item from them.  During the week, you select an activity to do that will increase a certain stat.  Putting on makeup increases your charm, hanging out increases your social, studying increases your intelligence, going to the gym increases your athletics and resting decreases your stress.  On Saturday, you can check your mail from Facemate and read the monthly fashion column (you don’t have to follow that to the letter unless you’re dating Beck).  Each boy likes a specific style that you can shop for on that day.

You can also make dates, check your relationship status in your diary, or go out and boost your skills.  You also have mock exams and A-level ones to complete throughout the year.  How high your stats are affects how well you do.

It’s not deep and yet it’s addicting.  I give it 6 out of 10, perfect to play when you have little brainpower.

Cinders (Moacube.com)

Like the fairy tale of Cinderella, Cinders is under the rule of her stepmother and stepsisters.  Only this time she’s not going to be a helpless doormat and wait for some magical being to save her life.

Everyone knows the tale of Cinderella and the most common complaint about it from feminists like me; she doesn’t do anything.  In this game, Cinders has reached her breaking point and decided to do something.

She can choose the fairy tale end, but when she does, it will be her choice.  The stepmother and stepsisters also have a new take.  Instead of being one-sided villains, they all have their own back-story to explain how they became the way they did.  The romance options are also not the same.  The prince is a love interest but so are Tobias (shop owner and Cinders’ childhood friend) and Perrault (honorable captain of the guard).

During the game, you are the one who makes the choices.  What you pick will shape Cinders’ personality.  You are also responsible for who she ends up with and her relationship with her stepmother and stepsisters.  Does she mend the fences between them or does she let her bitterness get the best of her?  You also get to choose whom she ends up with and which of her fairy godmothers she trusts.  You can pick Madame Ghede, a witch withdrawn from society,

or the fairy, who’s granted wishes come with a price.

Every choice you make affects not only the variation of the four endings you get, but what reward you collect.

The game is fun and intriguing.  I give it 8 out of 10, a feminist take on a classic fairy tale.

X-Note (Zeiva.net)

Requested by kristi78968

10 years ago, Essi’s mother died in a tragic accident.  Now a man named Yuon recruits her to help him solve the murders that have been occurring at Xen Institute.  Is there a connection between this and her mother?

Okay, before I got the request, I originally bought it because, at the time, I had just gotten back from seeing X-Men First Class.  The game had X in the title and there were hints that the Xen Institute was a school for gifted students.  The game wasn’t exactly what I expected, but I definitely wasn’t disappointed.

For one thing, the story is an intriguing mystery.  What is the Xen Institute?  How did Essi get her psychic powers?  Why does Yuon need her?  Whom is the mysterious boy only called X?  The character interaction is also something the game handles quite well.  Essi has a choice between three characters, Yuon, Oure and Anon.  Each one as a different personality, so Essi reacts to each one differently yet still remains the same person.  Yuon is a mysterious recruiter so Essi has no idea how to handle him.  Oure is a sweet young boy that Essi treats as such.  Anon is the school pervert, so he tends to piss her off big time.  Each one also has a hidden depth that you can discover by playing each of their plots while answering a few questions about the mystery.

The game is a visual novel and a dating sim.  In between days, you participate in mini-games to train Essi’s psychic powers.  Each power has a connection with a specific guy.  Clairvoyance is Yuon, Psychokinesis is Oure, and Telepathy is Anon.

During the game, you can also collect notes related to the mystery.  At the end of each chapter, the game gives you a password so you can continue where you left off.  After you’ve reached eight endings, you get a password that unlocks the extra gallery of the game.

The game is intriguing and addictive.  I give it 9 out of 10, it choked me up a bit but I never cried.

Duplicity: Beyond the Lies (Roseverte.net)

Requested by kristi78968.

Yukina Kudou may seem like your average high school student with health problems, but she hides a dark secret.  She works as an assistant to her principal’s science experiments; her current job is to observe Youji Kataoka.  If she fails, her principal can’t be responsible for the consequences.

I try to avoid giving anything away in reviews, but I’m not sure if I can do so in this one.  If you have not played the game, let me warn you there might be spoilers.  The game is about identity, people who put on a fake personality in front of others and hide their real one from the world.  Yukina seems like a shy and sickly girl, but is actually a determined assistant.  Youji seems like a nice and polite guy, but is actually a withdrawn rebel without a cause.

Kouichi seems like a polite gentleman, but is actually a scientist with a dark secret.  The mysterious boy seems like a happy observer, but hides his own pain deep down.  Even Yukina’s friend Nao actually has a separate personality inside of her.  Yukina has four routes she can go on, she can become Youji’s girlfriend for real, she can have a deeper relationship with Kouichi, she can discover the truth about the mysterious boy, or she can find out the truth about everyone else.  I have to admit, the relationship with her principal is somewhat creepy.  Yukina has memories of him raising her and admits that Kouichi is her legal guardian.  Not to mention the fact that she’s a clone of his dead girlfriend.  It gives me this stalker vibe and it feels like wife husbandry.  Maybe I’m supposed to be feeling like this, it’s difficult to tell with this game.  At least with Cafe 0 you’re supposed to find the protagonist’s relationship with her school counselor creepy.

You might think the game is just another visual novel, but you couldn’t be more wrong.  It starts out as a life simulation, you choose what path you want to take and after it’s set you play through a story.  You can choose between gossiping, studying, observing Youji, helping Kouichi, or resting.  During weekends, your only choices are studying or resting.

Your skill rises depending on the activity and you activate events depending on either skill or love points.

In the middle of the game, you take a test.  How well you do affects Yukina’s status among her classmates and the ending you get if you fail to find a set path for Yukina.

The game is intriguing and addictive.  I give it 8 out of 10, not as good as Cafe 0.

The Flower Shop: Winter in Fairbrook (Winterwolves.com)

Requested by kristi78968

Natalie just finished a semester in college and all she wants to do is relax.  If only her parents didn’t insist that she get a job and become more responsible.  Fortunately, her roommate Clara manages to get her a job working in Susana’s flower shop.

Like Steve, Natalie is a slacker whose parents want her to grow up.  Unlike Steve, Natalie actually has a choice about where she wants to work.  Many of the characters from the previous game return along with one extra, Ryan who runs the General Store.

Natalie also has her own romance options, the timid Jacob, the bold Trent, the reserved Ryan and the hard-working Steve.  Steve has changed since the last game and it shows.  He’s taken a more responsible role in his family’s life, yet still retains his joking nature.  His relationship with Natalie is my favorite because they bond over their similar situations.

Like the last game, the boys have lives outside of you.  Your job is to become a part of their lives while having your own.  There are even a couple of scenes showing that, like the show Friends, many of the characters have bonded with each other over their screwed up families.

The game play is similar to the first game.  When you get up, you have to grow flowers in the morning.  You can use your weekly scheduler to decide what to do in the afternoons.  You hang out in the library, go running with Steve, go to the general store, stay at the flower shop, rest or continue working.  Like the last game, you need to have a life outside of the boy you pursue in order to raise a stat they particularly like.  Jacob likes determination, which is associated with Steve, Trent likes empathy, which is associated with Jacob, Ryan likes culture, which is associated with Trent, and Steve likes intelligence, which is associated with Ryan.  This time you only need to raise over four hundred dollars to get the special endings.

It’s addictive and can be funny at times.  I give it 9 out of 10, even better than the first one.

The Flower Shop: Summer in Fairbrook (Winterwolves.com)

Steve just got his grades back from college and they didn’t turn out as well as he hoped.  His girlfriend, Jill, is tired of his slacker ways and dumps him.  To top it all off, Steve’s dad sends him to go live with his uncle on a farm so he can learn responsibility.

Steve’s definitely a slacker type and it shows.  At first, all he does is complain about his predicament.  Then he develops into a hard-working guy.  There are four women Steve can hook up with, Clara (the small-town girl with big dreams), Susana (the vegan with a temper), Marian (the shy librarian), and Jill (your ambitious ex).  These women actually have something that you don’t normally find in a dating sim, a life outside of you.  They have their own problems along with their own hopes and dreams that you have to help them through.  My personal favorite is Clara’s relationship with Steve because they both bond with each other over their hatred for Fairbrook.

Every morning, you wake up and work on the farm.  When you’re finished, you do the activity you scheduled for that day.  You can rest, go jogging with Clara, go to the library, go to the flower shop, stay home and call Jill, or continue working on the farm.

As I said earlier, the girls have lives outside of you.  If you want to win any of their hearts, you have to have a life outside of the girl you pursue.  Each girl has a particular stat they admire, Clara likes coolness which you can get from talking to Jill, Jill likes determination which you can get from jogging with Clara, Susana likes culture which you can get by going to the library, and Marian likes romance which you can get by going to the flower shop.  You can get a normal ending and a special ending with each girl depending on whether you raised over a thousand dollars while playing.  If you don’t meet the requirements for any of the girls, you get the alone ending.

The game is fun and has a good story.  I give it 8 out of 10, some similarities to Harvest Moon.

Love and Order

Dana Larose has just gotten a job at the Crown Attorney’s Defense Office in Montreal. While organizing her desk, she discovers an unsolved case that intrigues her inquisitive mind. Can she solve it while helping her co-workers with their various cases?

In the game, there are four datable characters: Ross, Pierre, Jonathan and Dorothy. The only one who actually has a character is the last one, the rest are just there. The only thing that really separates the male characters is how they look. One of the characters has an extra storyline you can unlock through the game, but that’s it. Look, I get that these people aren’t real, but if you treat your characters like that you end up with crap. Either that or the game’s true target audience is people with a preference for girls.

During the game, you get tasks at various locations in order to solve the main mystery. Be careful, you never know when one of your co-workers will approach you and bombard you with tons of tasks. Don’t try to tell any of them that you’re busy or their relationship bar goes down. Oh, and if something’s broken and you don’t have a close enough relationship with any of the co-workers, you’re screwed. It’s like actually having a job. Seriously, it’s bad enough that I have to avoid people so I don’t have to do a bunch of chores I have to do; I don’t want to spend an entire game doing the exact same thing. You’d think the fact that you get to unlock some extra footage in the gallery would be worth it, but it’s not.

This game is stressful and the characters have the personality of toothpicks. I give this game 1 out of 10, not worth spending your money on.

Catherine

Vincent’s life is taking a turn for the worse. Not only does his girlfriend, Katherine, want him to commit, he’s also getting nightmares that he can’t even remember the next day. To top it all off, one drunk night led to him cheating for the first time in five years. Meanwhile, there are reports all over the city of men dying in their sleep, and the victims have similarities to Vincent.

I know, this sounds like Nightmare on Elm Street gone soap opera, which actually might be a fitting description. Only difference is when the intended victims wake up, they don’t remember their dreams. So they can’t prepare and they won’t even try to avoid them. So every night they go to bed not knowing that when they wake up they’ve just survived another night, or that they might die. To me, that sounds far more horrifying than Freddy Krueger every was.

The theme of this game is quite simple, it’s about marriage and commitment. Vincent has two women in his life who represent each side of the issue. Katherine represents a life of order and stability. Catherine represents a life of freedom and chaos. Vincent is the confused guy stuck in the middle. As Vincent, you can reply to each of their text messages. How you reply affects the karma meter. If it’s in the pink area, he wants Catherine. If it’s in the blue, he wants Katherine. If it’s in the middle, he doesn’t want either of them. The other characters that share the nightmares with Vincent are facing the same issue in different ways. Plus, you’ll read many quotes about marriage from famous people, with only one exception.

At first the game sounds like a dating sim, but you will definitely be surprised. The true game play is in the nightmares, where you are pushing blocks trying to get to the top before the block you’re standing on falls to the ground. Every night you face a boss that represents Vincent’s fears. Instead of fighting the boss, you’re pushing the blocks trying to get away. So, think of it as Pushmo meets Resident Evil. Between levels, you can talk to sheep in order to learn more climbing techniques. You can also talk to the sheep and encourage them in order to help them survive. Oh, the sheep you’re talking to are human, but you only see them as sheep. They also see you as another sheep. Not only that, but before you can advance to the next stage, you have to answer a question in the confessional that affects your karma meter. The first choice you pick is sent to the network and you get to see what other people answered. Though I have to wonder how many people answered honestly and how many were just trying to get a certain ending. I was most certainly the latter.

During the day, you hang out at a bar called The Stray Sheep. The only way to pass the time is by talking to people. There are some people you’ll recognize as sheep in the nightmare world. If you talk to them and respond correctly, they will live another day. If not, they end up on the news. How you respond to people’s questions also affects your Karma meter. Let me tell you, more people tend to die on one path than they do on another. I know, after hearing what some of these guys say, they seem like complete ***holes and you want them to die. Then you get to know them and realize that there’s more to them than meets the eye. You can also listen to songs you unlock on the jukebox. There is a bathroom you can use to wash your face and get a preview of the next boss you’ll be facing. You’ll also be playing a game called Rapunzel that has the same style that your nightmares have. Just think of it as practice. This is also where you can check your phone and send text messages. If that’s not enough, you can order a cocktail, whiskey, sake, or a beer. When you’ve finished your glass, you can receive trivia about the alcohol you just drank. The more you drink, the faster you move in the dream world. So the daytime game play is basically this.

As I said earlier, the theme is marriage. One of the women in Vincent’s life wants it and the other one doesn’t. Personally, I don’t want it and I can’t really see why a successful career woman like Katherine does. She has her whole life all figured out and she’s in control. Why she would want to marry and give it up is beyond me. The only explanation I can think of is that her friends and parents are pressuring her, and she picked Vincent because he was the least likely to control her. So no, Vincent, women who don’t want to tie the knot like Catherine are not unusual. So, in all reality, women who are mature and career oriented, like Katherine, would more likely not want to get married, while women who are childish and bubbly, like Catherine, would want to get married as soon as possible. Then they end up with a loser and regret it for the rest of their lives. Before I get a bunch of angry comments, I’m just going by the marriages I’ve seen. So, it’s hard for me to see married life as order when all the marriages around me have been chaos. Yes, I am well aware of Catherine’s back story, so don’t tell me in the comments. I’m just stating my opinion.

This game not only has an intriguing story line, it also has characters with all sorts of hidden depths and a very mature theme. Not to mention that trying to get to the top before dying has its own excitement. I give this game 9 out of 10, great story, great characters and great game play, even if it can be sexist at times. I just have one question for any readers (well the ones that like women or go both ways). Who do you prefer, Katherine or Catherine?

Cute Knight Kingdom

When you were a child, a strange creature told your adoptive parents that one day you would find your wings. Travel the kingdom and discover your destiny.

Like the last game, the story depends entirely on how you play it. Except this one has more suitors to choose from, and one of them is a girl. Another difference is that the last main character had no one to go to while this one has parents that are always there for her. There is just one thing that makes this game inferior to the last one. Cute Knight had two funny endings, one of which was laugh out loud while this one doesn’t. There is one ending that tries to be funny, but it just falls short.

Again, you have a choice of many different endings, and every single one that you collect ends up in the gallery. There are many different event endings, and if you turn 21 before reaching the end of said event, the game ends. Instead of clicking on random places, you are actually taking control of your character by moving her around the 2D graphic kingdom. You have many choices of classes and jobs, but you have to actually expend energy and concentration in order to do well in either one. What stats you have determine what ending you get when you turn 21.

Not very different from the last game, except for a different style and having to actually contribute to your jobs and classes. I give this game 7 out of 10, not worse than its predecessor and not better than it.

Spirited Heart

In the land of Aravorn, there is a town called Triberg.  Pick your character, choose your background and fulfill your destiny.  Your destiny is all up to you.

When the game starts, you are given a choice of controlling an elf, a human, or a demon.  Then you get to choose where your character was raised, but it makes no impact on the game.  The elf is submissive, while the demon is arrogant and possibly sociopathic.  The human is somewhere in between.  My personal favorite is the demon character.  You’re also given twelve suitors (six boys and six girls).  Each gender has two human characters, two elf characters and two demon characters.  It kind of kills the point of demons being rare and not wanting to walk among other races.  Not to mention that the game says that Triberg has a prejudice towards demons, but we see no evidence of that.

After you finish character creation, you are given a variety of jobs.  Each one helps increase your skill, and if you’re tired, you can choose to take a vacation.  You can also use whatever money you earn to train yourself in a certain skill.  Every few weeks, you have to pay taxes, and the character mentions that she hates bureaucracy (something that plays no part in the game whatsoever).  There is a dice system in the game where you have to reach a certain number in order to do well with the job.  The number is completely random, but you can just save right before doing a job and keep loading the game until you get the perfect score.  It gets repetitive after a while, and chances are you’ll get bored with doing that over and over.  When your character turns twenty two, the goddess of the race you’re playing shows up and offers to grant one wish if you obtain the title she asks you to obtain before you turn thirty.  If you can’t do so, the game ends automatically.

As I said, you have a choice between six men and six women, but the men’s stories aren’t really that interesting.  All you really discover about them is that they like your character and are passionate about their jobs.  There’s only one exception, but I don’t want to give away anything.  There was more focus on the women’s stories, and even more romance there.  My favorite is Hade, the geeky demon with no social skills (she reminds me of Sheldon, except for not being asexual).  Sometimes you do have a rivalry with a potential suitor on the girl’s romance, but they’re all fat perverted men.  No wonder your female romance choices all prefer women.  Your character does interact with other people in the girl’s romances (something missing from the boy’s romances), but occasionally, the artist doesn’t bother to draw a picture of said person.  You’re also told that a character’s wearing a different outfit, but the artist didn’t bother to draw them in one.  Not to mention there are quite a few spelling errors in the game.  Apparently the writer doesn’t have spell check.

The game can be a little repetitive, and chances are you’ll give yourself carpal tunnel with all the clicking.  However, the game is still something to do when you’re bored.  I give this game 3 out of 10, it can be fun, but it gets boring really quickly, especially when you’ve already completed the romance endings and the three goddess endings.