I finally invested in a decent lap desk, which has made playing PC games on my laptop much more comfortable. As such, I’ve been on a bit of a tear playing shorter indie games on Steam. Many of my media round-up posts in the coming weeks/months will include reviews of games similar to the ones below.
One Night Stand
One Night Stand is an excellent experimental indie visual novel that is a refreshing and intimate take on the genre. Instead of engaging in various courtship rituals and trying to impress or please a potential mate, One Night Stand is about navigating your way through an awkward situation. You’ve woken up in an unknown woman’s bed with a raging hangover and no idea how you got there. Once the woman wakes up, you are able to interact with items in her room (the number of things you can look at is limited) and converse with her. Different combinations of items and dialogue options will determine how the game unfolds. There are 12 endings in total, many of them offering substantially different dialogue other than a few set conversations (which are easy to fast forward through).
I heartily enjoyed One Night Stand. I have a soft spot for atypical visual novels (Digital: a Love Story is one of my favourite games of all time) and, while I did experience some hitching and performance issues, the game’s art is gorgeous and unique. The game’s subject matter and its art style combine to create an experience that feels intimate and personal in a way that I think demonstrates what a great medium video games is to present this type of story. I recommend One Night Stand to anyone who likes experimental visual novels or short, story-focused experiences.
Reigns is a game with a great concept that doesn’t quite hit the mark. The game is essentially a Tinder visual novel. You play as a king who is trying to rule a kingdom and survive as long as possible. Various characters from your court will approach you with conundrums, most of which you can respond to with a simple yes or no (swiping right or left). Typically, your decisions will impact one or more of your four resources (the church, the people, the army and the treasury). You must balance out your resources, because if any one is completely depleted you will die and have to start over as the next king.
This sounds great to me as a concept, but in practice I just didn’t find the game to be particularly fun. I found that sometimes my character would die quite arbitrarily or the decisions presented to me would make it nearly impossible to balance my resources sufficiently to keep moving forward. Some characters and scenarios can send you on interesting little side paths, but I felt like I wasn’t finding those paths very often — even though I was still early in the game I found that I was getting a lot of repetition. I also wasn’t particularly impressed by the game’s writing, which made the repetition particularly irksome. All and all, for me this game was a bit of a disappointment, but I am glad that I tried it out because the idea itself is so interesting.