Road to Guangdong from Publisher Excalibur Games and Developer Just Add Oil Games
Driving Simulator + Visual Novel Mashup. Decent story but would have been more enjoyable without the poor driving sim.
A Visual Novel and Driving Simulator
The main character is Sunny. After her parents passed away, she was given the family‘s cherished restaurant by her Aunt (Guu Ma). Before she takes over the restaurant she needs to visit other family members and ask for their guidance and maybe their secret recipes too so she can attempt to revive the once thriving restaurant. To accomplish this you will set out on a driving adventure across the province of Guangdong in the 90’s with her aunt in Sandy which is the family’s old run down car. It needs a lot of maintenance and TLC just to keep it on the road which is going to be one of your primary tasks.
While driving with your aunt you can have a conversation with her. This makes the time spent in the car a little more realistic and enjoyable. You can do a few things in the car like turning on the headlights at night, turning the key to start the car, and even changing the radio station. If there is a song playing that your Aunt doesn’t like she will let you know and even change the station herself if you don’t do it first. The music is good and fits the time and place and is relaxing during the frustrating driving sections. Some trips seem to drag on and require several stops to fill the car’s gas and oil. We would have loved more stations on the radio as there were only a few songs being played on each and with the amount of time you spend in the car you will hear them over and over again.
The driving mechanics could use some work. Getting from one location to another takes more time than it should. You’ll spend more than half of the game in the car just getting to the locations. While in the car you will need to keep the car in working order. To do this, you will have to make stops at scrap piles and garages to pick up and replace parts when they start to wear out and you’ll have to keep refilling the gas and oil. They did a good job capturing the experience of driving a POS car that has to be kept under a certain speed or it will overheat and has to stop often to repair parts and top off the oil just to keep it running. The amount of time you will have to spend dealing with the car gets in the way of enjoying the game unless you’re a sadistic weirdo that enjoys that sort of thing.
There is an element of in-game economy introduced with the scrap piles and garages. You can pick up parts from the scrap piles and sell them at the garages to make some money. You will need this to afford the cost of the car’s maintenance. Unfortunately, participating in this economy is both required and subject to additional load times and inconvenience. Each time you stop at the garage each area (fill up gas/oil or buy/sell a part) requires separate load time. This really slows down the gameplay as you will need to do this a lot.
You will be visiting 6 locations during your adventure, there is a map that pops up and lets you pick your next destination. The driving is very linear as you will be driving in a straight line during your time on the way to your destination. The only deviations are pulling into a garage or scrap pile or stopping on the side of the road because you ran out of gas or oil (hopefully you packed some extra last time you were at a garage).
The writing is the best part of the game. Once you get to your destination the game switches from driving sim to visual novel. The conversations that happen in this portion feel natural and at a few times hit you in the feels as you start to feel for Sunny and the situation she has been put in. When speaking with people and family members you will have several responses to choose from. At times you will need to change areas to speak with someone else to unlock another choice. Keep in mind that your choices and decisions matter as once the conversation is over it’s over. If you leave a location and attempt to return some of the areas are no longer available to access. The conversation controls felt a little odd as you would use one button to select your choice but a different button to continue the conversation.
The worst part of the game was all of the driving. The time involved with maintaining the car was excessive and the load times required for interacting at the garages really killed the momentum. The driving controls are simple as you only have gas, reverse, and a thumbstick to steer yet somehow the mechanics were still kinda bad. The only positive here is that your car doesn’t seem to take damage when you inevitably run into something.
The artstyle is colorful with low poly characters and backgrounds. The simple graphics work fine since you will be more focused on the story.
Road to Guangdong is available on Xbox, Nintendo Switch, Playstation and Steam. A digital copy of this game was provided to SimpleGameReviews for the purposes of reviewing the game.
A Summer With The Shiba Inu from Publisher Ratalaika Games and Developer Quill Studios
A long story with a nice soundtrack. Convenient mechanics for scrolling back to reread passages. Lots of Dog puns.
A Visual Novel with Puns
This is a visual novel set in a world of dogs. It is riddled with canine puns which are amusing at first but some of them seem to be trying a little too hard at times. They used a lot of flashbacks to tell the story which made it a little confusing at some points and hard to follow. It would have been better with less re-reading needed if there was a clearer indication of what is a flashback and what is present day. We actually restarted the game at one point to try and see what we had missed because we got lost about what was happening. There is a button on the bottom of the screen that will show you to see all of the conversation logs as well as the choices you made. We used this several times later in the game when we got confused and needed to go back and reread what happened. This became almost overwhelming toward the end as the story is over 70,000 words long.
The game has several endings for the story. The choices you make while playing through the story will determine the ending you receive. This adds a level of replayability to the game.
They have an auto-play mechanic that allows you to be hands free and just read along with the story. The dialog is purely text based. There is no voice acting. The only sound you’ll hear is the soundtrack and an occasional “dog sound”. We found the soundtrack to be pleasant and varied. It added to the relaxed feeling of sitting back and reading a novel.
The art work for the backgrounds looks a lot like photographs that have had an effect applied to them to make them look painted. The characters also looked a lot like photos with painted effects added just not to the same degree. Oddly, the clothes that the dogs are wearing looked like they’d been photoshopped onto the animals without having the blurring painted effect applied to them.
A Summer with the Shiba Inu is available on Xbox One, PS4, and Nintendo Switch. A digital copy of this game was provided to SimpleGameReviews for the purposes of reviewing the game.
A Winter’s Daydream from Sometimes You and ebi-hime
A text based visual novel story by ebi-hime
The story is told by our narrator, 19 year old Yuu, who is a University student returning home to spend some time with his family over the holiday’s (New Years).
You start out with Yuu returning home and learn about his family relationships, mostly the relationship with his spoiled sister Otoko. As you guessed it Yuu can not stand his sister and how lazy, rude and spoiled she is and she can’t stand Yuu. While back for the holiday Yuu decides to go visit his Grandmother who lives in a distant isolated village. Due to a snow storm Yuu is forced to stay at his Grandmother’s overnight. This is where the story takes a weird change when Yuu wakes up and his Grandmother is young again.
The music is very relaxing and fits the atmosphere nicely.
They recycle the same backgrounds here or there with a character appearing, disappearing, and reappearing with a different expression or animation. This is common with most visual novels.
The game also has an auto-scroll mode in the options if you just want to just relax and enjoy the story without having to press anything on your controller.
It is a rather short story and can be completed in a few hours depending on how fast you read/scroll the text.
A visual novel with an interesting story. Auto-play mode is nice if you want to experience it more like a movie than a game.
A Winter’s Daydream is available on Xbox, PS4,Nintendo Switch and PSVita. A digital copy of this game was provided to SimpleGameReviews for the purposes of reviewing the game.
The story is set in Neo San Francisco during the year 2064; just in case you couldn’t guess by the title. You are met by a Relationship Organizational Manager (ROM) named Turing. Your friend Hayden, who is Turing’s creator, has disappeared and Turing is requesting your aide to find him.
While playing you will meet up with a massively diverse cast that you will need to interact with. These supporting characters have their own personalities that you can discover during the conversations you have with them. Some are one time characters, others are recurring.
During your conversations with the NPCs you will have several different dialogue options to choose from. The choices you make during these conversations will affect the outcome of the conversations and determine the nature of your characters relationship with them. If you successfully befriend the NPC’s they will be more willing to help you and will provide you with additional dialogue that reveals more about their back story. Some of the back stories and pretty messed up and will pull at your emotions. You cannot choose every possible conversation option. Some of them will end the conversation immediately or lock out other paths of dialogue.
The pacing is a little slow during the first few chapters but starts to speed up towards the later chapters. You will spend a lot of time reading and or listening to the conversations in game. While they do give you the option to mash a button and skip through the dialogue we recommend taking the time to listen to or read the conversations as that is how the story is told to you and the voice over work is very well done. The game also has a good soundtrack that fits nicely.
We noticed a few issues with the dialogue selection. If the dialogue choice you wanted to make was already selected and highlighted it wasn’t always clickable. Another choice needed to be selected before the choice you wanted to make would become clickable.
True to the cyberpunk genre, science and technology are a big part of the story. From Turing being an AI who develops a personality to genetic modifications using animal DNA to find cures for diseases you see the emphasis on futuristic sciences throughout. Sadly the genetic manipulation has repercussions causing the people who undergo it to manifest animal characteristics. The resulting chimera are called “hybrids” and treated badly. Some are even sterilized. There are also “pure humans” which are humans that have not been modified in any way.
And you guessed it, there is a divide between the “hybrids” and “pure humans”. While playing through the story you will need to interact with NPC’s from both sides to get more information to help with your investigation.
There are several locations to visit some are based on real San Francisco landmarks and locations. This was an interesting choice and great to see.
The pixel art style is nicely done but sadly it doesn’t come close to filling the screen. There is a lot of unused space above as well as on the left and right side. The lower area is used for the dialogue choices so we understand having that space available but it feels there is a lot of wasted space that could’ve been used for .
The game is more of a visual novel then a point and click as you will spend most of your time reading/listening to the game than playing it. Although, like some point and click games it does have some puzzles/mini games which are simple and pretty easy to figure. A few towards the end start to become more challenging.
This game does not have auto save at all so make sure you remember to save. This is something we forgot to do the first time playing and it necessitated replaying several hours of the game…
The game has multiple endings depending on the choices you make during the conversations with the NPC’s and Turing. Which is another reason to save often and make a secondary save.
A futuristic cyberpunk graphic novella. Great cast of voice actors. Arcade art style and soundtrack.
2064: Read Only Memories on Xbox One, PS4, Nintendo Switch, PSVita, Steam, iOS and Android. A digital copy of this game was provided to SimpleGameReviews for the purposes of reviewing the game.