Grey Block – Indie Spotlight

Grey Block is a new psychological interactive fiction. This is a story about Theo Church, a young man who is involuntarily committed to a place called the Green Valley Psychiatric Hospital. Within the framework of a mysterious conspiracy, he tries to escape with the help of a hired assassin, who Theo tells a nurse was originally hired to take Theo out but instead rescued him. She is the primary secondary character outside of Theo who provides the information Theo needs to escape Green Valley. Together they navigate the watch of green-lit security camera spotlights, collecting security badges and hacking unattended computers to solve the conspiracy. Will they solve it? I don’t know, but there’s one way to find out: play it.

Note: This game was provided to me with a press copy by Silver Rat Studios, thanks to them!

Platforms: PC (Steam)

Don’t Lose Your Nerve

Honestly, this game has a little potential to be slightly triggering for some folks, but I feel although the context of the story is dark, the mechanics of the game are quite fun. Although categorized under psychological horror pretty easily, the main feature I was focused on was sneaking around which is quite interactive. Theo and Nikki (his aide in escape) use puzzles to escape, starting off with mini-game puzzles like computers and utility access points to divert power and manipulate guards plus cameras.

The Steam page confirms for me my suspicion that the conspiracy aspect of the game goes deep and far. Although I personally hate conspiracy theories in general, it makes for interesting gameplay. It’s also quite the setup for it with Theo and Nikki, who for all I know are part of some sort of massive hallucination. I think perhaps this is more contained in the aspects of the game which I would deem psychological horror. In essence, no matter what the truth is, the game has made escaping it essential!

I found the puzzle involving computers and the electrical box in the intro area to be challenging without overdoing it. I often feel that when it comes to game puzzles, they should always be solvable using less energy than the next step, but there’s a little bit of everything here, even in the puzzle areas.

Features

  • Escape the hospital by using stealth mechanics to sneak by the staff
  • Disable environmental obstacles with puzzles and strategy
  • Get tips on how to progress from your friend
  • Full 3D environment
  • Rich story with thrilling mysteries and character development
  • Do anything to get out!

Check Out Grey Block!

This is a very interesting game. I imagine there aren’t a ton of games out there like this, but it’s a brilliant concept and there is no question about the intrigue of the storyline. Really glad I got to try this because I feel ecstatic about sharing this intelligent and engaging game. Be sure to check out the gameplay video above I made with gameplay from the first area. Once you get some of the details down, you should be on your way!

If you’d like to play Grey Block by Silver Rat Studios, head to the steam link below!

Thank you so much for reading Mr. Dave Pizza, I hope you enjoyed this article, and feel free to look around. And again, thank you to Silver Rat Studios, this is surely a polished game of this nature on the indie scene or otherwise!

(P.S. if you are a dev, I showcase games all the time and would be happy to take a look at your game! Contact Me.)

Stories From Sol: Part 1 – Interactive VN Demo

Thank you to Space Colony Studios for reaching out to me about this upcoming interactive fiction demo for Stories From Sol: Part 1 Gun-Dog. I’m so excited to tell you all about this new demo. It has touches of retro nostalgia, with a sci-fi storylines, and the beginning of a really good series.

What’s really going on here though is we have a new game entering onto the scene with no background really, although everything about it is seductively brute–it’s worth checking out, hands down. It’s a hard space sci-fi story, a genre not without a plentiful fandom, although this sneak peek led me mostly through sharp comedic timing and even a romantic interest?

Platforms: PC

Genre: Visual Novel/Interactive Fiction

Link: https://space-colony-studios.itch.io/storiesfromsol1

What We Know About Stories From Sol: Part 1 Gun-Dog So Far

The UI and monochrome color pixel interface looks like something from an old DOS game to me, which appears to be correct. Apparently, we’re dealing with a format attuned to a PC-9800, a 1983 Japanese model that runs localized versions of MS-DOS and Windows. Okay, we’re going deep cut here I guess.

Though the sound is sparse in the intro, the sound and music that are there are quite delightful. I enjoyed the smooth pallet of olive green and tinny explosions. As mostly an addendum to my YouTube, I made it through the first few sections of the story, but I liked what I saw.

Story Elements of Stories From Sol

Interactive elements are few at first, but soon your Where in the World is Carmen San Diego? for a PC user interface on the side lights up with new options like the look, move, and use buttons. This makes it easy to interact–using a mouse–with areas of your environment that will light up as you drag over them.

I didn’t experiment with the choice-making in the intro for some reason, I guess because I wanted to progress through as much as I could quickly, but the dialogue is there and there are choices. Choose between a standard answer–or action–or click the ellipsis button below it.

The Gun-Dog is actually the ship in Stories from Sol you are stationed on. It’s rather big, and most (all?) of the story takes place on this ship. You will undoubtedly see just how much you can explore on your first trip to the bridge, where interacting with an old friend unlocks so much potential for more exploration.

This Article is Accompanied by a YouTube Video from the MDP Channel (Subscribe!)

And That’s It

Looks pretty cool. Please note that not only is this a demo, but it also’s part one of the whole story, so if you enjoy it, make the dev know so with a comment on their ItchIO. Or drop by our tweet on Twitter as well.

I hope you enjoyed this commentary. My peers and I are around to help devs like this and share games we think need to be shared, so you’ve come to the right place. Please have a look around, and be sure to come back. Thank you so much for reading https://www.mrdavepizza.com

P.S. Don’t skip out on MDP’s marvelous visual novel section: https://www.mrdavepizza.com/category/game-reviews/visualnovels/

NeuroNet: Mendax Proxy – Interactive VN Demo – Review

This article was published in ChoiceBeat: The Visual Novel and Interactive Fiction ‘Zine Issue #5. Thank you to them for the opportunity. Check out more great articles from the issue by either:

Get the ‘zine free on ItchIO: https://willyelektrix.itch.io/choicebeat-issue-5
Or read in your browser on FlipSnack: https://www.flipsnack.com/choicebeat/choicebeat-issue-5/full-view.html

“Dream Harvest,” the developers of NeuroNet: Mendaxy Proxy have provided a demo that gives a special preview of this futuristic fiction that showcases a highly visual and highly interactive story experience. The synopsis goes something like this. Wake up, you’re the newest programmed artificial intelligence developed by a very prominent corporation in the high-tech metropolitan Catena.

Take it into your own hands in the bizarre POV of the AI, who is named Arc after a few calibrations in the prologue, or “beta” if you will. As you evolve, you’ll be given various responsibilities that will make you think and test ethical tropes that perhaps you aren’t as committed to as you think. 

The game goes beyond average production of interactive storytelling to provide a rich, polished, cyberpunk adventure for fans of the format and theme. Additionally, in NeuroNet: Mendax Proxy, everything you do matters a lot. The choices are deceptively simple, you could even say the choice system is downright hard for a game of its kind. 

I’ll cover a few highlights from this engaging cyberpunk story preview and share some of the innovations I witnessed.

The platform is PC–slated for Steam, Epic, and Itch.IO sometime in 2022. The demo on its own takes about 1-hour to complete and suggests a much longer full version playtime.

Platforms: PC, Mac, Nintendo Switch, Linux

Waking Up & Making Choices That Matter in NeuroNet: Mendax Proxy

Honestly, the best way to try NeuroNet: Mandax Proxy is to jump in without a clue as to what it is about, or at least that is what will happen anyway. The disorientation could potentially be overwhelming as you initially try to figure out what is going on in this glowy animated techno feast of environments.

Interacting with actual humans happens rather quickly, seeing as they are the scientists at the corporate lab you are brought to sentience in. Initial tones of the A.I. are eerily set in a placeless, electronic chasm as a metal, floating brain–or something that looks like one, but soon the variety of locations expands greatly with your access to surveillance systems around the city–we’ll get to that.

Your human masters run a series of questions after you’re booted up to test self-awareness and ethical frameworks. This is certainly a more soft sci-fi approach in my opinion, as opposed to a hard sci-fi approach–since the exact physical phenomena of sentience are not addressed. Knowing that this is the type of speculative reality the game is built, it makes playtime more casual, but potentially equal in authority. This is important because the game does provide an allegory for technology gone too far. A what-if as it were, which is almost necessary for any speculative fiction.

Most of the demo involves testing the purpose of the A.I.’s creation. This purpose is to automate the ethical mechanics of running a real city’s public processes through a series of choices that are broken down to–but not immediately revealed–choices that affect society, the law, and corporate profit. What you, “Arc,” decide to choose will affect what kind of opportunities open up to you in the future–and also, potentially determine how altruistic or malicious you are. It is a popular game mechanic to offer these types of choices and offers itself to players who are potentially new to visual novels and interactive fiction. This is amplified by its presence on the Epic Games platform for its release.

What’s Promised and What Questions You Might Have

The highly adaptive story framework is tantalizing as a mere demo to NeuroNet: Mendax Proxy, and enough to raise some questions. Exciting questions, like how much control will the player have to manipulate the fate of an entire city? The developers promise a think-fast choice system, and from the preview, this is very much realized. “Deceptively simple” is the term coined on their Steam page.

Additionally, it is one thing to confront a riot with your own hands and another entirely to disperse it from inside a cold laboratory mainframe as something which doesn’t even have a real brain. Once again though, this is soft sci-fi, and it is totally fine to chill and just try different things (it doesn’t actually affect the real world of course,) but perhaps you might want to think about the game’s message if you’re the philosophical sort. How and why your choices might lead to a dystopia are worth considering for gameplay and also personal enrichment.

Features of Neuronet: Mendax Proxy

  • Choices Matter – The most highly emphasized aspect of the game’s story.
  • 23 Fully Voiced Characters – Voice acting and character illustrations are very polished.
  • 5000 Different Story Events – Lots to work with here.
  • Rich Worldbuilding – Lore and backstory are important and explorable.
  • Stunning Environments – Lush cyberpunk backgrounds make up every new area.

Keep an Eye on This One


That’s pretty much it for NeuroNet: Mendax Proxy–the demo at least. It became obvious at one point in the demo that this game is going to be a massive story, and I’m sure the developer team is working on all the details. Even in this indie renaissance era, some sophisticated visual elements can bring to life stories with many perspectives. For the genre, the environments and character art are very impressive. 
The interactive aspect of the full release may create some very custom and very exciting realities.

The demo’s cliffhanger suggests that choices in NeuroNet: Mendax Proxy will be not only important to gameplay but a vast journey of choices and consequences. Be sure to check out the demo for this one, especially if you’re a cyberpunk fan.

Here is the Steam link:

Overboard! – Get Away With Murder – Really Funny And Dark – Review

This article about Overboard is in the June 2022 Issue 4 of ChoiceBeat: The Visual Novel and Interactive Fiction Zine.

With eye-catching flat graphics and exciting period stylized environments, no one could say the game Overboard! doesn’t have class. (Also known as Overboard! Get Away With Murder.) Literary elements and composition create an intellectual environment on the fictional steamship SS Hook, where your task is to resolve speculation on a murder. It’s not just an ordinary mystery though. From the very get-go, it’s made apparent that you, the apathetic yet charismatic, Veronica Villensey, are the killer–of her own husband! It is up to you to decide what your motive is, or if you even care! For context, however, it is hinted that the financial ruin of the late Mr. Villensey is most of the motive.

In this article, I’ll cover Overboard‘s innovative gameplay and include some peppering of the satisfying nature of Overboard.

Platforms: Steam, GOG, Nintendo Switch, Apple Appstore, and Android

Parallels and Comparisons

Mysteries are a respected genre for their ability to unravel a story at a consistent pace. But, with the exception of some frequent cozy or speculative interpretations, the formula is pretty standard. I can only speculate how much of this fluctuates between trope and innovation in Overboard, but it’s worth mentioning for context.

Amongst similar games in what I’ll call the youdunnit genre, there is not an absence of the you-are-the-killer trope. For example, of an indie youdunnit, the pixel detective game Loco Motive, a free-for-all upon the Orient Express, contains the theme of unraveling a mystery in which everyone is a Clue‘esque suspect. It doesn’t quite put the modus operandi of the killer so specifically in the hands of the player as this game does though. Loco Motive appeared on a 2022 Nintendo Direct and is set for release this year.

Because of this, it is an interesting side note to speculate if adaptation for pre-digital formats of the genre has become a trend. With an identical decade and similar characters, and me being a moderate fan of historical dramas, I personally find this trend to be intriguing. There are certainly other historical games, but organized crime and war are the usual themes. Overboard lets you kick off your shoes and enjoy a 21st-century version of an engaging 20th-century mystery.

Screen Grabs from Overboard!

How Overboard! Works

The ability to really hone every aspect of the story really impressed me. From the moment you wake up as Veronica, the ability to direct your own fate is based on a combination of luck, guessing, and skill. For example, themes of foreshadowing are important story-telling tools in Overboard. Because of this, what might seem like a character trope can actually help you direct the desired income by taking advantage of the character flaws of other passengers on the ship. You are really put on the spot to cover up what seems like a barely meditated act along with the quirks and nuances of complex characters.


Most of the dialogue contains response options that float between defensive, collected, and guilty. As you interact, mostly in an attempt to cover your tracks, the clock counts down until your arrival at the port which effectively ends the game. Also, the solution to Overboard is not as simple as it sounds, and most likely is meant to take several rounds of experimentation to get off free. Losing is not terribly discouraging though, because experimenting exposes the secrets of each character.

The game makes way for a new style of experiencing visual fiction and has been lauded by players and game critics. The interactive story gets credit for unlocking critical innovation in the interactive-fiction/VN genre with every production perk that a creative dev outlet would pull together. Also, UK developer inkle Studios has a bibliography of several high-quality stories, including the successful 80 Days, a take on the Jules Verne classic, similar in scope to Overboard as an open-ended/high-quality period game.

Summary of Features in Overboard!

  • Open-ended story with many possible endings
  • Stylish flat-graphic animated illustration
  • Historically accurate environment
  • Several characters with purpose and unique backstories
  • Replay accommodation with saved history and no penalties
  • A dark but witty theme
  • A wonderful navigation system that uses an animated diorama of the ship
  • Meaningful choices and time-sensitive objectives
  • Risk, romance, and intrigue!


Other Thoughts about Overboard!

Overboard helped me step outside my comfort zone for mystery narratives. With the art so trendily stylish and the subtle Wes Anderson likeness, a genre in itself, Overboard put me in the zone. So, I felt like after Mr. Villensey went literally “overboard,” I was ready to have some fun quite soon. Nothing feels excessively sinister in the story–even though it kind of is. The ability to really mess around with characters can be really fun. The time-sensitive countdown for each game encourages fluid gameplay that can be used as a lesson for each next game. In that sense, the flow is perfect. So, overall, if you don’t mind paying upfront for an armchair adventure, the value is consistent. It’s definitely one of the more engaging visual novels/interactive fiction that I have played though.

Thank you

Thanks for reading my article on Overboard. If you’re interested, I have a whole section of visual novels on my blog here:

https://www.mrdavepizza.com/category/visualnovels/

If you liked this article, be sure to have a look around or check out MrDavePizza on Twitter or YouTube. Please come back and thanks for visiting!

Eternia: Pet Whisperer – A Normal Pet Game

There’s a short, charming story in Eternia: Pet Whisperer. Even if you’re a cockatoo/border-collie lover like me, or whether you lean more toward the exotic koala/frill-necked lizard, or rat brothers. These animals have a slight backstory, and cute appearance, plus a natural subtle wit. It’s got that solo dev quirk that I love best of all, where the plot derails to form a full loopable plot-line but keep things manageable; that’s a plus, folks. And I’m not going to spoil it for you, because you deserve that, but also because I think it’s one of the charms of the game.

Yo, Eternia: Pet Whisperer is a Visual Novel

Describing gameplay always escapes convention in visual novels. But there’s a lot to say about the plot. So, let’s lay it out there. You, the self-named character, are in the market for a new pet. It’s not easy living alone in that apartment with no one to talk to, nails to bite, boring TV shows. So, you’re off to the “Rainbow Dome,” populated by animals ranging from domestic to exotic. Learn quickly that, this is no normal pet shelter.

The animals talk.

Connie the cock-a-too is your initiator. She lets a few quips slip her beak, but most of the intro revolves around whether you’re a veritable Dr. Dolittle. Your character spends a little time questioning his groundedness while having some full-fledged conversations with a range of animal, don’t assume too much though, because things aren’t as they seem.

It’s pretty funny, and I enjoyed getting to know the animals. Their demeanor is on par with a stranger on the bus, but the dialogue is pretty well written. And even though my instincts would usually direct me otherwise–along with the fact that I adopted the border-collie at the end–Maria the frill-neck lizard was actually my favorite. Why wouldn’t it be?

In summary of the gameplay, you just talk to the various animals, and whoever you end up talking to the most becomes the first one up for adoption. When you head back to your apartment, all is revealed. It’s a very weird but amusing and totally acceptable ending. And in it, you’re given the option of starting over from the beginning with the intention of adopting a different pet if you wish.

Features of Eternia: Pet Whisperer

  • Meeter and interact with up to 6 potential pets to decide if they’re the one
  • And by interact, I mean talk
  • Hand-drawn illustrated world and characters
  • An unusual and vague but amusing back-story
  • A cockatoo, frillnecked lizard, border collie, Scottish koala, sphynx cat, or the rat brothers
  • Choose which animal you want to talk to next after each conversation

Overall Thoughts

Although this is a section for thoughts, there’s no need to think too hard about this cute/fun adventure in pet adoption. I felt like playing a game that wasn’t going to stress me out too much, and this one worked. Please note, that this is a game from ItchIO’s most recent charity bundle. It’s also available on Steam, but you might want to explore the aforementioned source so you can get it with a cacophony of hootin’ and hollerin’ games of all sorts for a good cause.

Hey, I prioritized this one over Skatebird today (which I’ll get around to), so my priorities are clear. Oh yeah, and just one more re-iteration: things aren’t what they seem in Eternia: Pet Whisperer.

Tweet, Woof, Meow, That is All

Well, that’s it. This is the kind of stuff I love to write about. Hopefully, you’re on board with it too. Thanks for checking out my blog, Mr. Dave Pizza. I hope you enjoyed your visit. Please have a look around and read as much as you like. Or leave a comment below. I’ve covered hundreds of games and will continue. Best wishes. Be good now.

Fayburrow – Cozy 3D Mystery Visual Novel – Free on Steam

Today, I plunged headfirst into the free games pile of new releases over on the Steam store. On my arrival, I discovered a cozy little visual novel among the listings called Fayburrow, and I decided to take a look at it. Fayburrow is a free game created by the self-named “Fayburrow Troupe” at VIA University College in Denmark. It just hit the Steam store today. What was first intrigued, turned into a fascination with the conjunction of such delightful graphics with a genre I have not covered in far too long! So, after downloading, I fired it up and took it for a spin at the courtesy of the game’s student makers and you dear reader. Let’s take a look at Fayburrow.

Platforms: PC (Steam)

Getting Started with Fayburrow

With a gorgeous intro on a fantastic Victoriana-style train, the story starts with a letter from Agnes, a childhood friend, presumably at an academy. The world is a mix between steampunk and a fun fantasy-themed style within a substantially, open world. Upon arrival, you, a red-haired Anne of Green Gables type character named Beatrice, and your companion fairy Lu, wander through a small village with Stan, a young jack of all trades, to be led into a very pomp academy/mansion of sorts.

The academy seems to be where Beatrice has spent her youth learning under the wing of a warm cast of faculty, information of which is revealed through player exploration. Agnes hasn’t been seen in days, the suspiciousness of which is unclear.

You collect clues around the academy in the village by interacting with characters, investigating items strewn in suiting places, and maintaining a detailed journal which is pretty much always accessible. Piece clues together to discover the nature of Agnes’s disappearance.

Additionally, the presence of fairy/fay companions in Fayburrow is the norm rather than the exception.

First Impressions

Incidentally, my crew over at IGCollective had a field day with the game called Grow not too long ago. I was not able to get in on that one personally, however, the graphics of Fayburrow remind me of what I saw of Grow combined with the delights of one of my favorite games Fable–in other words: cozy, pastel, and folky.

This is a nice cozy game with some real muscle to the dev process shown, and frankly, with some tweaks, it’s ready for market probably. And I really want to emphasize the Fable thing. While the narrative is super low key, this is one of my favorite aspects of playing student games. Every time I see something grand from such projects I feel snug as a bug in trying them out because there’s a certain charm to playing something ambitious and homegrown like other student games I’ve tried.

Features of Fayburrow

  • Open world exploration and unique environments
  • Thoughtful dialogue with light-hearted charm
  • Multiple-choice responses
  • Several unique characters
  • Gorgeous 3D rendered graphics
  • Visual novel narrative with interactive elements
  • Sound effects and soothing soundtrack
  • Free on Steam
  • Fairy companion to assist in your investigating

Final Thoughts of Fayburrow

It’s perfectly suitable for those cozy lovers out there. It was a treat to see such beautiful graphics on a visual novel that was provided for free. I played into about 20 minutes of the game, but the trailer assures much more exploration beyond this. Way to go Fayburrow Troupe for putting this together, and welcome to the game dev world. Occasionally games like this end up going even further on the market, such as it did when I reviewed Beasts of Maravilla Island. This game is just what I need though, and I encourage you to check it out, Check it out and share with friends, I think this one is a lot of fun

Thank you so much for reading Mr. Dave Pizza. Be sure to take a look around the site and please come back!

Date Night Bowling: Dating Sim Review

For the record, I am a big fan of Way Down Deep and their dating sim releases over the last year like the socially distanced romance sim Romantic Distancing and the popular release Half Past Fate. I’ve been eyeing Date Night Bowling since I first saw it in an upcoming games roster. So when the opportunity to play it on Switch arose, I snagged it and slipped on some bowling shoes. Eww, digital ones! I jest. Anyway, what we’ve got here is a combination of a very pleasant to look at video game with plenty of replay value and a pretty darn decent bowling simulator for the Switch. It’s about $8 right now on sale. I decided to play through a date and flip through the options, I’ll tell you what I observed here. Overall, to begin with, it’s a good game.

Also, to clear things up, the CRT aspect I’m describing has to do with the fact the whole game uses stylized pixels from an old-style CRT Television! It looks pretty nice actually.

Why Do I Love Date Night Bowling?

I enjoy bubblegum pop colors and superfluous ambient digital lighting, I admit. It’s a nice alternative to games where someone’s head explodes for no reason, but you already know this. What if I told you going on an imaginary date with a stranger at a bowling alley on Nintendo Switch was not a bad idea? What if I told you your date isn’t even a real person? I can’t open the characters selection for you, but I can show you how to get there. The choice is yours. Ahem, thanks “Neo.”

What I noticed in my playthrough for the video is the incentive for the game is really dependent on unlocking characters for different dialogue and abilities. They have stats like power and I can’t even remember the other one, but it won’t hurt anything to play different characters–if you really must play a character right away you can play on a single-player gamer. Actually, I didn’t particularly notice any variation of difficulty in my default choices. It’s basically the same mechanic that has made every game on Nintendo have replay value like Mario Kart and Smash Bros; I guess they’re big on offering those types of games, it’s not terribly unusual for a dating sim though. Anyway, so sorry, just sharing some thoughts there, also I wasn’t a big fan of the default male character despite his harmlessness. Or rather, I wanted to play the characters on the game logo.

You could definitely play two-player on this, in which case I can pretty much guarantee you’ll be able to choose whomever you want.

All That’s Missing Is The Scent of Shoespray

It seems almost nostalgic now. But thankfully, bowling alleys are much cleaner operations now, or so I’ve been told. I took a bowling class when I was in college and I learned an abstract idea of bowling strategy, but it’s probably more an exercise in Zen than anything I think. Of course, the dude abides.

There are neat little breaks in Date Night Bowling. Everything is dependent on the player-controller push when the meter is lit kind of design. In the breaks, you can do things like get a toy out of a claw machine or get something to drink. The bowling can get slightly repetitive (although overall fun,) so these little breaks are nice.

Leave Your Shoes on the Counter

This is a super laid-back, cute game and I think it is worth your money if you like bowling, visual novels, and/or dating sims. I’ve never determined people’s opinions on my article Romantic Distancing, but if you do like that one, this is stylistically the same level of sophistication. Actually, I just realized that Half Past Fate is a different game, I think? I don’t know. This new game has made me realize that I still enjoy visual novels quite a bit and will probably play more visual novels for this site.

On that note, I want to thank you so much for reading Mr. Dave Pizza. Please leave a comment below and stop by again for new content. I’m also on Twitter. I hope you found some useful information in this article and found what you’re looking for! Take care.

Not It: Spookiest Edition – This One Is Pretty Scary

Earlier this year, I took a look at a visual novel from this developer called The Last Act. Incidentally, they have a new act called Not It: Spookiest Edition just in time for Halloween. In fact, this whole game’s story revolves around an old legend of a curse that arrives every Halloween. I suppose, being on hiatus and everything, I can still find some room to squeeze this one in because this whole month I’m doing a Halloween theme. Also, it is released today, so that’s a scoop I can’t resist. Therefore, from a very distraction-free space, mostly, let me enthrall you with a first look at Not It: Spookiest Edition.

You may have guessed, Snowhaven Studios was awesome about hooking me up with a copy of this new VN because of my work on The Last Act. If you want to read about my experience with that title, you can check it out here: https://mrdavepizza.com/the-last-act-visual-novel-review/

Hello Visual Novels, Old Friend

VNs are essentially my favorite genre in the history of this site. I don’t even know at this point how many of my visitors are regulars, but a fair few might be able to notice this, really I have a link to all of them in my menu. Anyway, one thing I like about reviewing visual novels is it is kind of closer to a movie than a strategy-based game.
Not It: Spookiest Edition is really on board with this balance of interaction and passive entertainment.

One example is the fully voice-acted dialogue! You can not count on this a lot of the time because VNs are often solo projects. I found this a really good way to get immersed in the story.

Visually, everything is great too. I felt a major leap from the art style of the environment and characters that appear in The Last Act. It has the same style though, the kind of anime cartoon spectrum. Nice though.

I’m kind of glad that everything was so approachable, because in all honesty: this game is just a tad beyond just spooky, it’s got some very, well, scary moments.

So, That Turned Dark Quickly

Yeah, this game IS a horror game, but it was packaged so neatly that I felt alright with it. There is an option at the beginning of the title opening to select whether or not you want normal gore or less gore. I don’t exactly know what normal gore looks like because I am a coward, but apparently, it’s an option.

A good thing to know before I describe this, the choices you make in the game affect the rest of the way the story plays out and who, well, who’s gonna get ya!

For some background, you start off as a new townee in a small rural town that everybody has evacuated due to a curse that occurs every Halloween. You meet a group of people who explain their own views on the curse and eventually become your only allies in a whodunnit hotel mystery.

Some characters are more tolerable than others, but Willow is my favorite character and Joseph is my least. Decide for yourself, although I really disliked Joseph! No worries, just part of the game!

Anything Else You Need To Know About Not It: Spookiest Edition

That’s pretty much it. I don’t want to give away too much, but there you have it. I’ll emphasize, choices matter! But you have options and you can alter the course of the story, even start over. My second gameplay session came to a tragic end, but if you do what you can to survive, you’ll make it.

I hope you enjoyed reading this. Again, thanks to Snowhaven Studios for the preview. This game is perfect Halloween fun, so give it a go, you should too.

Thanks for reading Mr. Dave Pizza. I’ll be back here with more soon. Have a look around in the meantime!

Blake: Cyberpunk Mystery Visual Novel

Blake is an interesting new visual novel from LegendOri Productions about a complacent computer programmer turned vigilante in a futuristic cyberpunk city. The primary scenario within the game involves a new technology that can make somebody totally anonymous. Even amongst the modern people-tracking computers of its era, a criminal of heinous description is leaving a fatal trace and incidentally has decided to start toying with Blake’s sanity.

The visual amalgamation of all the people and places of this story looks really, really good and the art, in general, is right on the button in terms of a high-quality visual novel. I’m always up for a good visual novel at first glance, so let me tell you about Blake. Prepare for a downlink for this digital discourse. We’re going in.

Thanks to Indie Game Collective and the developer at LegendOri Productions for giving me this opportunity.

Gameplay of Blake

Pre-faced warning: This game has mature themes including language and violent themes, which I didn’t realize right away, but I thought I’d let you know. I’m not always good about remembering to say that.

One thing on visual novels. I love them. What I also love is cyberpunk. They make a really compelling combination as the duo of this generation’s audio-visual preference in media format with the love of the classic mass-market format of a cyberpunk thriller. You might not even care about this, but it’s something I’ve noticed in reviewing games.

As per visual novel standards, there are some great characters to consider with clever quirks and some perfect illustration opportunities. Early on, after Blake’s standard mega-corporate office intro, the whole crew heads out for drinks. You can learn more about any of your co-workers on the same level of the chain. Or not. I chose to skip this, just to see. I generally play the anti-social type in dating sim scenarios. that’s just my thing.

Soon enough, you’ll get pulled into a bizarre tango with a predator, fast-tracked by the office boss Jonathan. Organized crime allusions and bizarre occurrences will, I suppose, lead you on a treacherous path! And judging by the cover, the visual novel cover, there’s a pretty compelling world built in Blake.

Best Audience for Blake

I talked before about the cyberpunk genre/gaming phenomenon. Now I’ll brainstorm on the story. I know for a fact that mystery stories are HUGE in the literary and film/tv industries. The reason is simple. The themes and characters in your standard who-dun-it, or in this case who’s-still-dunning-it, is a great way to drive a plot. The conflict, villain, hero, and plot development all roll out like clockwork. And even if it takes the whole story to unravel, you know it will be resolved… somehow.

I couldn’t help but notice one of the plot points was familiar to me from an old episode from Ghost in the Shell: Stand-Alone Complex. It’s actually one that gave me nightmares! So pretty disturbing I’ll say that. Sometimes visual novels enter a gray area of the character components versus necessary drama that usually takes the backseat in scenes. This has always struck me as kinda weird. But that’s okay because now you know here before you play it. And like I said, it’s a common visual novel trope.

Just one more thing to mention. Most VN’s are loaded with endless dialogue. Blake manages to add quite a few descriptive narrative descriptions along with the dialogue. I think that’s actually pretty good because cyberpunk has a lot of history in creating super locational hyperbole from panels of organic diodes and carbon to dust on the halogen lamps. It’s in its nature.

Final Thoughts

I’ll wrap it up there. This visual novel is top-notch and it will immerse you into a complex story with a heavy reward for the determined. I have the Steam link below where you can find it. And with that, keep your circuits in order.

Thank you so much for reading Mr. Dave Pizza. If you enjoyed this article, please have a look around, and please come back!

Beacon Pines – Can You Figure Out What Words To Use?

Beacon Pines is interactive fiction, but really it qualifies with a new level of cozy interaction and fathoms deep optimistic complexity to its characters. The basic structure of the story relies on an interesting plot device made of… well, plot devices! You start in a storybook tale of a young fawn, though I’d say that’s up for interpretation, named Luka at his grandmother’s. Through exploration and experimentation and interacting with those around you can acquire something known as charms. Charms help change the course of the story. You may need to go back and forth to test what works and what doesn’t, but with each charm, comes some new element that alters everything. Hold on to your BOOK straps, we’re going in.

This is another showcase part of The Indie Houses Event on Steam. Lots of new games there and through my community at Indie Game Collective. Another game I covered for this event was Kraken Academy on Tuesday.

Things Happening in Beacon Pines

When I first loaded this game up, my emotions went twisting around inside me with the stunning cottage core nature setting mixed with Luka’s very deeply personal interaction in a grove. It seemed like a picture that wouldn’t move yet swished beneath your shoes as you walked through the grass. Nothing is quite explained too thoroughly for quite a bit of time. You’ll certainly find that browsing around Gran and You’s cottage leads to interesting discoveries and necessary elements of the game. You’ll have to at least talk to Gran, so you can learn the purpose of the “charms” spread throughout this game.

I don’t really know what the charms are. I got charms with words like “chill” and “ponder.” Anyway, my first charm was “chill.” It didn’t seem to do much at all, or maybe it did, I don’t know. It takes time to wander through the small town of Beacon Pines though, and at this point, it’s the only way to test out each charm. I might be wrong though because apparently, you can move backward in intervals depending on what’s already happened. It’s kind of like a spellbook I guess you could say.

That is perfectly okay, as far as I’m concerned. The characters whom you are able to talk to around the town are really cool looking and have some great dialogue. Great game dialogue is a boon, and when games master it, it can enhance the rest of the game.

Features of Beacon Pines

Here is a list of features from the press kit:

  • Explore an illustrated mountain town to collect word charms
  • Use those words to alter the story
  • More words to make friends
  • And even more words to weave the fabric of fate itself
  • Open the magical book at any time to go back and change your decisions

What I Wonder

The last part of the game I played before making the final quantum leap home was the abandoned warehouse. This part of the game intrigued me more than any other. Why wouldn’t you have an abandoned warehouse with toxic sludge and people who shouldn’t be there as you sneak in with your friends? It’s mysterious, and a tad weird. It is totally part of canon practically in a boatload of visual novels, comics, TV, etc. Unfortunately, reader, I cannot share why exactly the warehouse is there.

As far as the mechanics, this concept is ready to go. The storyline feels like it’s going to take on some substantial developments down the road though. It does not step on any thematic toes for the majority of the story than anywhere else. I think the only game I might compare it to is Bastion, the classic predecessor to Hades. Mostly visually though.

I love what I saw in this demo, and for a low price of free, you should check it out.

Here is some gameplay footage if you want to see what transpired over the course of around half an hour up until its cliffhanger. It might give you a boost.

That’s It

That’s about it for my coverage on this one. No news is not bad news, as Tom Nook says. I think you’ll enjoy this cast of fuzzy creatures. And if you can wishlist it on Steam, even better! Link below.

Thanks so much for reading Mr. Dave Pizza. If you like what you read, please have a look around, and come back again! Thanks.