The visual novel market is going from strength to strength in the Western gaming world, and this is partially thanks to publisher Ratalaika Games. Over the past 8 months, they have helped to publish some weird and wonderful titles, and I have been fortunate enough to experience all of them. Like with books, some are great, and some stink. There is a common theme throughout, and that is; that they are relaxing, and a great way to while away the hours. The latest VN that I have been asked to look at is a detective adventure that mixes puzzles with the supernatural. Vera Blanc: Full Moon has been developed by Winter Wolves Games, it’s a lighthearted tale that is laced with attractive characters, flirting, and crime.
Vera Blanc: Full Moon asks you to take the role of Vera Blanc, she is the daughter of one of the worlds richest men Emmanuel Blanc. If you absorb the prologue, you will discover the sad events that lead to Vera’s development of her extraordinary powers. She is a girl who has always had a gift, she is bright, and like her father she doesn’t know how to fail. After a traumatic event, she discovers that she can read minds. Scared that she will be kidnapped, or used for ransom, her father forces her to keep this a secret, that is until one day when she decides that she wants to use her power for good. She wants to be brilliant again, and wants to help the world, this decision changes her life forever. Vera is teamed up with a special Private Detective known as Brandon Mackey, he specialises in investigating all things supernatural, and your first case together takes you to a small German town in the Black Forest.
The case that you take on is coined as a supernatural event, it is rumoured that a werewolf has been seen in this mysterious German town. With a small amount of questioning, and possibly some mind reading, you soon discover that there is more to this case than meets the eye. People have been murdered, teeth marks have been found on their bodies, and this leads to the locals believing that a Werewolf, or a person acting like a Werewolf, is strategically taking down the residents one person at a time. Like all good VNs, this one allows you to influence the story through dialogue choices, and the decisions you make. This standard gaming mechanic is then enhanced with the mind reading ability, and the mini games (which are like the word puzzle from Wheel of Fortune), are used to help understand what each person is thinking. You are free to use this power as much as you wish, sometimes you will stumble across some juicy information, and other times the effort to succeed at the mini game was a waste of time. I loved how the developers added this additional mechanic, it made me feel like I was part of the plot, and not just a passenger on the journey through the story. Though a lack of variety impacted the enjoyment factor, and it would have been better if several game types were available.
The tale is broken down over 7 days. Throughout this time you must explore the town, entering buildings as you wish, and speaking to any of the locals you find. You are given clues that you note in your book, and you can view these at any point to refresh your memory about what has happened. Once you’ve arrived on the final day, you will experience one of 2 different endings, both offered closure to the different loose ends that you encounter. Though the story wasn’t a masterpiece, it was well written and kept me entertained throughout. Its corny one-liners, overly sexualised characters, and odd sense of humour made for an enjoyable, if not a shallow tale (similar to an 80s cop show). As with most Visual Novels, you have the option to skip through all the story if you so wish, I didn’t do this on my first playthough as I wanted to take in all the text. But when it came to arriving at the second ending, I didn’t fancy having to read through it all again, and could skip my way to the end in a matter of minutes. You are also allowed to play with or without the mini game option, but if you keep them switched off, you cannot unlock all the achievements that are available.
The 80s aesthetic continued through the visual presentation. The comic book art style reminded me of many old school cartoons, and superhero shows from the mid to late 1980s. The bright, but slightly fuzzy imagery had a distinct retro look. The bubble writing followed suit, and made for a nostalgic treat. I loved how the developers presented the story, it worked well with the dated writing style and theme.
The audio blends a mixture of silence, dramatic music, and ambient sounds. The combination of different noises brought the game to life, it added emotion to the plot, and helped to build suspense. Like with a good film, the excellent execution of audio enabled me to build a rapport with each character, and kept me interested in the story, even at the low points where I may have otherwise been tempted to stop playing. Visual Novels are renowned for their excellent combination of audio and graphics, but Winter Wolves Games have excelled themselves, even if it doesn’t present itself in a polished and smooth manner.
Controls are not something that you have to worry about when playing a VN. This one has more reliance on using your controller, thanks to the addition of mini games, but it’s all straightforward, and you can sit back and relax, especially if you set the text to auto at a slow pace. It’s rare that you can sit and drink a cup of coffee while still enjoying progress, but this genre allows you to do that with ease.
When you only have two different outcomes, and you can skip through the text in order to rush to the finish, it will inevitably impact the replay value. A short achievement list of only 11 tasks awaits you, and most of these will be obtained through your first run through. If you want full closure, and a 100% completion, then you will have to observe both final scenes, not that this is a bad thing, and I’d recommend that you do, even if you do what I did, and skip your way to the end.
Visual Novels will not be for everyone, the slow pace and the requirement to keep on top of all the text will put a few players off. If you enjoy reading, or want a break away from the norm, then I suggest looking at any title in the genre. If you are a fan of 80s humour, detective stories, or comic books, then you won’t go wrong with Vera Blanc: Full Moon. Do I recommend that you try this? Absolutely! A lighthearted and fun tale awaits the player who takes on this game. Will you be able to use your secret powers to solve the mystery in a small German town? Why not take a train ride and see what the locals say.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox One code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Vera Blanc: Full Moon Review
Gameplay - 7/10
Graphics - 8/10
Sound - 8/10
Replay Value - 4/10
User Review( votes)
A supernatural detective visual novel that will have you reading people’s minds. Travel to a small German town and solve the mystery behind the werewolf.
- Great comic book art style.
- The audio adds atmosphere and supports the plot.
- The addition of mini games improves the gameplay.
- 2 different endings to discover.
- Limited replay value.
- No variety in mini game style.