Ember is a gorgeous indie RPG in the vein of classic RPGs such as Baldur’s Gate as well as action RPGs such as Diablo. This game is utterly gorgeous to look at. The environments are detailed, vibrant and lush. They’re (obviously) not up to modern AAA standard, but they’re charming, engaging and immersive.
It’s that time! I finally talk about something that’s not books (or Sera Myu) again! OMG! And… Okay, it probably will surprise people that what I’m talking about is a dating simulator, but come on. I think just about everyone on my Twitter timeline was/is playing it at the moment I write this and it’s easily the queerest dating sim I’ve seen and played.
Yeah, I’m not really into dating sims that much, I have to be honest. The occasional visual novel with RPG elements and romance, sure, so I do have some experience with the genre, but it’s not what I usually play. At all.
I just… saw everything having a load of fun and… Well, these are the kinds of games that I don’t really want spoiled that much, so eventually I picked it up to avoid accidentally getting spoilered.
I went into the game… Honestly, I went into it expecting not to love it as much as I saw everyone else loving it. That’s usually how hype goes with me and… I think that’s the case here too, but differently from what I’m used to. Dream Daddy is just a lot of fun and incredibly uplifting to play. I don’t love it the way that my friends seem to, but I think it makes me about as happy as them all the same.
So. Storywise. You are a single dad to an 18-year-old daughter and you’ve both moved to a new neighbourhood. A neighbourhood which just so happens to be filled with other queer single dads. And Joseph, who isn’t single, but still. You meet all these single dad and hang out and… go on dates and then commit to one and… then either you end up in relationship or… you don’t. Depending on how well you’ve played.
That’s basically it for the premise. Each dad has his own ‘theme’, as usual in dating sims, and each storyline adds to the narrative. I played through the game focusing on one dad at a time, but I recommend going through all first two dates for all the dads on your first playthrough, so you get the maximum narrative impact. (After the third you go straight to the epilogue and the game is kind enough to warn you.)
That said, it lacks some of the features that I’ve come to expect of visual novels. There’s no in-game sound control and no option to skip all previously seen dialogue. It does have a fast-forward button, but you have to pay attention to where in the dialogue you are and learn when to stop because once that new dialogue line is gone it’s gone.
The save system is quite generous, though be sure to let it save in its entirety before you do anything else. (You can and I’m pretty sure it messed up one of my saves. Not an important one, thankfully.)
Something that struck me as a really fun and unique touch in Dream Daddy were the minigames. There are a couple of minigames included in the dates, such as connect-3 or mini-golf and they’re tied intrinsically to the narrative. Sometimes, when developers include minigames it feels at a remove from the narrative, but not here. Granted, I hate minigolf in all of its incarnations, including this one (especially this one THOSE HOLES ARE EVIL), but that’s not the game’s fault.
Narrativewise… Amanda’s plot doesn’t really have that much meat to it (and, I admit, I kept reading her as several years younger than 18) once you’ve played through it once, but it’s adorable to see her relationship with her dad.
Also, can I just remind everyone that the main character is a single dad who’s what, like in his early 40s? WHEN DO YOU SEE THAT IN A GAME?! LIKE EVER. AND he’s queer and, like, if they let you choose between nonbinary pronouns that would’ve been even more awesome. Because see you get to determine what your character looks like and it becomes the standard sprite for your character in dialogue and it’s just this really nice touch and <3
And did I mention this game is diverse? I mean, you can tell from the screenshot I took of the opening screen that there’s racial diversity and bodyshape diversity and… It’s just so nice.
So let’s talk narrative! Each dad route is relatively short. If you’re careful you can probably play through each route in about 6 hours in total if not less. You get to go on three dates with each dad and… I’ll be honest, I wasn’t really feeling the romantic chemistry in most of them, so if you’re looking for an in-depth romance story you’ll probably be disappointed.
But! Personally, I don’t care. Sure, I wasn’t that sold on most of the romance (except Craig and Brian), but what I was sold on where the friendships and the smaller stories between the dads and their children. Seriously, watching Amanda bond with Daisy and watching the two of them conspire to bring their dads together was an absolute delight. Trying to understand what happened between Joseph and Mary is still keeping me busy. Craig and the MC bonding together and discovering that their friendship’s become… something else now? Precious. AND ALL THE PUNS, OMG, SO MANY TERRIBLE PUNS AND DAD JOKES AND THEY ARE FANTASTIC IN THEIR TERRIBLENESS.
And then the references to other franchises or stories (most notably, I think, the brag battle). It’s been a long time since a game made me laugh out loud, never mind as much as Dream Daddydid. There’s a self-aware humour to the story that’s really endearing (as well as groan-worthy). The art used in the game is utterly gorgeous. It’s a game that doesn’t take itself too seriously and that’s part of where it’s charm lies. It’s wholly and unapologetically itself and oh so very queer.
I would have loved to see the romantic narratives be a little longer (and rely a little less on the idea of physical attraction) and I would have loved Amanda’s narrative to have been expanded into more options (and reworked so it’d feel like an 18-year-old’s “I’m about to go to college” story not a “15-year-old discovers life lessons” that… somehow… fixes itself off-screen? Maybe? Or just address her age. That would’ve been good too.) But, despite having some quibbles and not loving it as unconditionally as my friends seem to, I think this is easily my favourite game of the year so far.
It’s soothing. It made me happy. It made me laugh and cry and it’s just… It’s honest and bubbly and earnest. I do love it. It’s a precious ray of sunshine and soft blanket-warmth and I revel in how pure and sweet it is.
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Today, let’s talk about a computer game. In this case, Technobabylon, created by Technocrat and published by Wadjet Eye Games. It’s a retro-style cyberpunk point-and-click adventure set in the nearish future. If you’re looking for a game that features a racially diverse cast and/or queer characters, Technobabylon may be worth looking at for you.
Yesterday, I saw a YouTube video discussing the differences between the original two Thief games and modern AAA games in general. You can see that video here, but for the sake of convenience and because I want to tangentially continue what the video talks about here are the main points of what AAA games nowadays do:
- Quest markers make for lazy gaming
- Level design draws your attention to the fact that you’re playing a game rather than immersing you in the world.
- They add so much content that the game loses focus
- They don’t use the environment and game design to further the narrative and instead rely on cutscenes and cinematics
- The games often offer high rewards for low player effort and token rewards for going off the beaten path
I highly recommend watching the whole video as it makes some great points about modern day game design as shown in AAA gaming. I don’t always agree with everything, but it’s a relevant and salient discussion topic. For me, what I like about the video is how much it put into words exactly why I love the original games so much and why the reboot disappointed me so badly. But there’s a few things that the video doesn’t cover that I wish it had.
Like a lot of people, I fell into the hype that is Pokémon Go. It is a lot of fun (to me) and I’ve been enjoying it a lot. I couldn’t dedicate a lot of play time to it when I first got it since I was still working for the majority of the day, but once the holidays began I could settle down into dedicating some quality time to playing it and I found that I enjoyed it a lot. I’m not much of a multiplayer person, so I was a little worried when all the stories of Pokémon Go players meeting up (or, worse, getting mugged) started to show up. I wasn’t sure how playable it would be for a fairly antisocial gamer like myself, but it’s surprisingly easy to play without engaging with anyone. It may not be as much fun as playing with friends, but it’s still good fun.
And then I thought that I could record some of my own experiences with the game and the things that I’d learned about it and share! I know some of my friends are also playing the game and so might be interested and there are some things that I’ve noticed that are true for me and that I haven’t really seen discussed.
Congratulations! You’ve been accepted as the only human student at the prestigious St. PigeoNation’s Institute, a school for talented birds! Roam the halls and find love in between classes as a sophomore student at the world’s greatest pigeon high school. Finding happiness won’t be easy, but it’s not all academic – there’s always time for a little romance in this delightful remake of Hato Moa’s popular visual novel / avian dating sim Hatoful Boyfriend!
Yep. In this game, you basically try to date pigeons. Only not quite. It’s complicated. No, really, it’s more complicated than it sounds, but it is just as much WTF as you’re probably thinking right now. Just… trust me on the WTFery of this game.
The premise, in and of itself, sounds really silly, I know, and it is silly. But there’s an actual story underneath it all whilst still poking at (or feeling like it’s poking at) a lot of the conventions of dating sims.
Ah, Return to Zork, the one Zork game I haven’t played. Rather, hadn’t. I finally played it. I remember having borrowed a copy when I was younger which, given that the game came out in 1993, must have been around 1995 or so. I never did get far beyond the lighthouse and we couldn’t keep it long enough to figure out how to get beyond it.
Despite enjoying adventure games, I’m really rather rubbish at most of them. Zork is not an exception. Although Zork has taken the absurdity of adventure games and turned it into its greatest strength because it embraces the humour and the silliness. Or, at least, some of the games do. (Zork Nemesis is a clear departure and, while set in the Zork-verse may or may not be seen as part of it. It holds a special place in my heart because it was the first one I managed to finish.)
Anyway! Return to Zork. In this game you play a nameless sweepstake winner who ventures out to the Valley of the Sparrows to collect their prize. Yay! Except when you get there, not all is as it seems and things have gone very wrong. It is up to you to fix it! (Why, nobody knows.)
A long, long time ago, I played The Dark Eye: Chains of Satinav, a point-and-click adventure by Daedalic Entertainment. They made a sequel, of sorts, called Memoria and I finally played that recently. In The Dark Eye: Chains of Satinav, you play as Geron, a bird-catcher called upon to stop a plague. In Memoria you play alternatingly between Geron and a new character, the princess Sadja.
It’s at this point that I want to note that, while it isn’t necessary to have played The Dark Eye: Chains of Satinav recently enough to remember the plot to enjoy Memoria, I personally do recommend it. Geron’s sections of the game are set mere months after the end of Chains and the game is relatively slow about filling in the blanks about what happened and why you should care about Geron and his quest.
And below the cut lie spoilers for both Memoria and The Dark Eye: Chains of Satinav because it isn’t possible to discuss the narrative of Memoria without discussing the events in Chains.
Inherit the Earth is a relatively little known point-and-click adventure game from the 1990s. It features anthropomorphic characters and… well, you’ll see below the cut. Before I get to that I’d like to note that one of the creators currently has a Patreon page to fund the first chapter of a sequel as well as running a web comic sequel. I’ve linked to the very first page, which also lets you read a recap of what happened in the game.
That all said, onwards! To the spoilers!
I have to admit, when Once Upon A Time IX rolled along, I didn’t expect that my first proper post for the event would be a game, nor that it was one as recent as Pillars of Eternity. (It was released on March 26th, 2015.) But there you go. That’s exactly what it is, so let’s just get to it.
First, let me give you a general description of the game and then below the cut there will be mild spoilers. Yes, I’m spoiling a game that, as I write this, has been out less than a week. Maybe next time I tell you all I’m evil, you will actually believe me.
So, what’s the game about? Well, you play a character who’s decided to up sticks and move to the settlement of Gilded Vale, where the lord has decided to offer land to anyone who wants to settle there. Things… do not go quite according to plan and you end up able to see and interact with spirits. When you arrive at the village of Gilded Vale, you learn that Dyrwood is not the quiet and peaceful country you may (or may not) have thought it was and something is very very wrong since all births are Hollowborn, which means that all children are born without a soul. Gilded Vale is… not very welcoming to strangers and, well, you’ve got the whole “There’s this guy who made me see ghosts. I should look into what’s going on with me” thing, and so you move on and slowly get mixed up in the politics of Dyrwood and the fate of the world.
There you go. Remember, BELOW THIS LINE LIE SPOILERS. I’ve tried to keep them as vague and undetailed as possible, but still. Spoilers.