The visual novel genre isn’t for everyone. The slow pace and heavy reading will put off a lot of gamers. If you enjoy picking up a game casually, and like a high adrenaline blast before bed, then you won’t get your fix here. Then there is the further issue of Manga style art that over sexualises most of its characters. This isn’t an issue for me, though I do occasionally cringe because of its over the top and full on nature. Publishers Ratalaika Games have supported another developer Winter Wolves Games in bringing a new visual novel (VN) to the market. Roommates portrays the tale of two college students who start their freshman year. You must choose how they spend their time, and who they romance.
I’m going to start by saying that I will not be touching upon the story, as I don’t want to ruin it for you. I will give an overview, discuss the mechanics, and state what I liked or disliked about it. If you’ve never played a VN, you are expected to read an awful lot of text, make decisions at key moments, and then watch how this alters the plot. This game has additional gameplay elements to give you further choices, and you can play as both a male and female protagonist. Whichever you choose, you will still converse, and build a relationship with one another, but you can equally ignore them if you so wish. These extra choices, add a vast amount of replay value, and increase the longevity of this title. This extra gameplay could be a good thing if you like the genre, and the style of this particular tale.
The characters that you can choose between being; Max and Anne. He’s a bad ass rock dude with attitude and doesn’t care who he upsets. His life revolves around music and chicks. He’s forever falling out with people and trying to woo the ladies with his bad boy charm and musical ways. She is a nerdy book smart girl, who is quiet and reserved, and she wants to get on in life. She would rather be studious, and a good girl, but finds herself falling into the wrong crowd, and parties like its 1999. You can see what the developers have tried to do with each of the characters, it’s a classic bad boy romances quiet girl story. You can play it how it should be, or you can go off on a tangent and do whatever, or whoever you wish.
Unlike most VN’s, this one uses a schedule for day-to-day activities. You have the freedom to select what you wish your character to do, and you are only limited by the amount of money that you have in your bank, and the energy for that week. As you fast forward through time, you will be stopped by events, and people who wish to talk to you. You can skip this if you wish to conserve energy, but doing so will miss out on vital discussion points, and stats increases for your character. “Stat increases in a visual novel, what is this madness?” Yes, stat increases in a VN, odd, right? It never really felt correct to me. Certain activities would improve different attributes of your player’s personality. Interactions with individuals would also increase your relationship with them, and once that’s reached a marked point, then you would have a chance to romance them. Romancing was always put on hold until you had obtained enough skill points to unlock the spring break romance scene. (This is super clear and wasn’t complicated at all….. Not!) Poor old Max, he could have successfully wooed Anne, but because he didn’t have enough physical points, he could not make his move, and he had to keep working on keeping her sweet.
Having played several visual novels, I have to say that I didn’t enjoy this point scoring and stat building. It screamed of padding out the game and over complicated the base story. I prefer when the plot plays out before you, and the only change of path is made during the conversations. This is ultimately a personal issue, and if you play this, you may find that the more interactive approach keeps you interested for longer, and more involved in the characters and the story. Another issue I had was with the game’s constant attempts to damage relationships with people you have bonded with. I found that I would have built up some points with 2 characters, only to find that I would have to choose between them in a heated debate. This guaranteed that one of them would be angry, and you would lose some of your hard earned points. It was frustrating and felt unfair.
What the game does well, is to portray the feeling of your first year away from home, and the excitement of living in your own house, and making new friends. Obviously, the developers haven’t made it as mundane as real life, and every interaction you have is turned up to 11 out of 10. It all seems crazy, and larger than life. I’ve also enjoyed the light-hearted and witty script. The dialogue was a bit teenybopper for my liking, and I’ve never been one for Americanized romantic programs or sitcoms. However, it still made me chuckle. There are a good variety of characters, even if they are a little cliched. You’ll find the one you empathise with, laugh at, and want to punch straight in the teeth. This for me is a sign of good writing, when you can connect with all the players in a story.
The visual presentation is as bright and as vibrant as they come. The art style is bold and crisp and each of the player models is distinctive and over sexualised. (Bikinis and muscular men with their tops off appear every other scene.) There is a good variety of landscapes to look at, and some were truly stunning. The animation follows the usual VN model, using over the top facial expressions to portray emotion, and fading images in and out of shot to show movement. It worked well, but didn’t break any new ground.
I’ve mentioned American sitcoms. Well, this was how the audio was set-up. It was fun, jovial, and sat in the background supporting the emotion that was expressed in the text. After each major decision, the protagonists have a jingle that matches their personality. It was a nice touch and helped me to further connect with each of them.
With the addition of extra gameplay elements, because of the planning of activities, this VN needs a bit more controller use. You need not worry though, it’s very easy, and you can still sit and relax with a drink and snacks, while you watch the game unfold before your eyes.
This is the first VN to give me the option of 2 main characters. I was interested to see how each of their journeys differed, and this increased the longevity and replay value of this game. With several romantic choices available, and different ways to get to spring break, each game will surely be different. Yes, it has some padding out, but the main plot is well written, and allows for a variety of endings.
I didn’t enjoy this trip into a freshman year experience. Not because the game was poor, or the script was badly executed. No, I just wasn’t a fan of the genre. It was too over the top, and sickly sweet for me. I like my novels to be darker, and less 90s Saved by the Bell. If you’re a fan of romance, High School Musical, or sitcoms, then this will be right up your street. If you’re not, you will appreciate it for the writing standard, but not the material. Do I recommend it? I do, but see my previous statement. It’s time to leave home, be a freshman, and see if romance blossoms.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox One code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to email@example.com.
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Gameplay - 6/10
Graphics - 7/10
Sound - 6/10
Replay Value - 6/10
User Review( votes)
Freshman year is all about learning lessons, learning about yourself, and learning to love. Can you tick all 3 in this visual novel?
- Crisp and bright graphics.
- Plenty of over sexualised images.
- The audio helps to support the story.
- Well written, and funny script.
- Plenty of replay value.
- Sickly sweet.
- Very Americanized.
- Plenty of over sexualised images.