Indietail – Necrobarista

At last year’s GamesCom I interviewed Ngoc Vu, the lead artist from Route 59, who at the time worked on Necrobarista. Now that the game is out I got a key for review purposes and, well,…

TLDR: I love it. It’s a great game. Why? Find out here!

Developer: Route 59
Publisher: Route 59, Coconut Island Games
Genres: Supernatural, 3D, Story Rich, Visual Novel
Release Date: July 22nd, 2020
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC - but PS4 and Switch are planned soon as well!
Copy was provided by the Devs.

Necrobarista is about time. Time to move on – or time to stay. Somewhere in a backstreet of Melbourne, there’s a Café where both the alive and the healthy come to. When you pass away, you have 24 hours to stay in that Café, have a drink and then move on… and Necrobarista tells a story about the owners of that Café and the people that come there. It’s a story about the ethics of Necromancy, hipster coffee, and letting go.

Strap on for a haunting and innovative experience and a haunting, yet cosy, time!

Meet Maddy, Chay, Ashley, and Ned – as well as a bunch of other characters! Get to know them! Listen to them and have a cosy time. I really liked the characters as all of them had a certain depth to them (without spoiling too much here). There’re all kinds of characters in all kinds of shapes and colours, so there’s some degree of inclusiveness here with representation for all kinds of people, which is something that I really fancy.

Necrobarista has a certain cosy slice-of-life-ness to it that I really enjoyed while playing. On top of that, though, it also has some intense moments here and there as well as some rather emotional moments. Think about it: It’s your last day on earth. I’ll just leave that there and you can think about it all you want, get emotional or shrug it off. Whatever you feel like. The story leaves a lot of room for interpretation and analysis, which is something that I personally really enjoyed doing. At some plot points, it made me feel down a bit but other plot points felt really nice and wholesome in a way. And while overall cosy, it gets intense later on as well.

What’s interesting is that you don’t spectate the story from the lens of one character that looks at all the characters interacting with only them, like in a lot of other visual novels, but rather you get different perspectives and points of view. You get to see the characters from the POV of one character or from above or the camera moves around a bit, panning while you read the text. There are no text boxes on the bottom side of the screen. Instead, you see them floating near the characters. You always know who’s talking but they are always somewhere else, making the game feel more whole and organic. It’s lovely.

A lot of these feelings are conveyed through the colours and the soundtrack. Necrobarista’s soundtrack has been composed by Kevin Penkin who’s known for making the soundtrack of Under The Dog, Made in Abyss, and The Rising of the Shield Hero. I’d put Necrobarista’s soundtrack on the same level as Made in Abyss. I love it to bits. It’s cosy and joyful, endearing and amusing but it also can be intense and mystic, enigmatic and threatening. That – combined with the lo-fi style that uses not only gorgeous images and colours but also some slight animations here and there – makes this just a wonderful experience.

And while I would have loved this game to branch out into choices and a story with different kinds of stories that you can explore over time, it really is not that kind of game.

It’s linear but still quite rich. I love the story and the aesthetic. The characters are great. The soundtrack underlines the plot points and brings the best out of everything. Again, I can’t praise Kevin Penkin enough but after what he did in Made in Abyss, it’s no surprise that the soundtrack for this game turned out so great. It sticks to your head and you notice a “sound” that you ultimately recognize as “Necrobarista-like” – or at least that’s what I feel like when I hear those tunes somewhere else now.

The story is linear but doesn’t need the branches. Of course, there is still some degree regarding choices.

For instance, you get to pick words that you’ve heard from different people at the end of every chapter. These words get associated with different meanings and subjects or people depending on the context and the character that said them. When you pick them, you then gain memory fragments from different categories. You then can use these fragments in the Café while walking around before continuing the story. You use them to unlock side stories or “memories” (essentially extra lore) that you can read on to learn more about the characters.

You click on “Blood” and get a fragment for “Magic” as it was mentioned in that context. You click on “Weather” and get a fragment for “Melbourne” as they were talking about a storm brewing. You click on “Minor Demon” and get a fragment for “Lore” as it’s part of the world that those exist… and “bowl of peas” belongs to “Food” as Ned loves them. Use these different fragments up for some nice and short stories in between chapters and collect more to unlock more stories. At some point, you’ll get through the main story but you can always load previous chapters and load previous save states, so it shouldn’t be a problem to unlock all of them, especially as you can view what you need and what you have already in the “memories” section of the pause menu.

I liked this feature. It creates a bit of replayability which is quite nice overall.

And you also get to explore the space a bit to unlock more short stories. Visit the basement or the bar, the Café’s upper area or the outside area. Look at different objects.

Enjoy the view. Take some pretty screenshots! I did, too! A lot of them!

But seriously. It’s a great game. I guess this is not a game for you if you’re not into reading or if you don’t like Visual Novels or anime or stories revolving around life and death… or if you feel like there’s not enough action in this game… but that’s your loss then. I highly recommend this game. I didn’t find any issues with it. The story, presentation, the characters, the gameplay, and the score were just great if not even superb and I loved it.

Necrobarista just came out on Steam! Check it out or wishlist it! Highly recommend it!

I’m glad that I saw it at last year’s GamesCom. I’m glad that I did that interview. I’m glad that I started this blog. Next week, the blog turns a year old and if it wasn’t for the blog I wouldn’t have been able to write about all kinds of topics and about these kinds of games. I love it. I hope you’re enjoying the blog posts, too. Until then.

Cheers!

Indietail – Chinese Parents

Today we’re disappointing our parents! Not our real ones but our virtual Chinese parents! Today we’re taking a look at 中国式家长 / Chinese Parents, a casual Indie-Simulation where we become a random Chinese couple’s child, grow up and become a parent in the next generation – in hope of being better than our former parents!

Developer:  墨鱼玩游戏 (Moyuwan Games)Co
Publisher: Coconut Island Games
Genres: Casual, Simulation, Indie, RPG
Release Date:
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC
Copy was purchased.

As already mentioned, you are born into a Chinese family. The game follows a “Spore”-Esque gameplay formula in which you’re living through different stages of your life. At first, you’re a baby/newborn, then you enter kindergarten, different stages of school and later you need to get married to a partner you’ve met along the way which starts a new playthrough with a new generation where you’re a child again! 

Along the way you’re trying to accumulate different stats, knowledge, skills, and traits, while also making friends along the way, meeting your parents’ expectations (or not), working, participating in fights, competitions and other events as well as maybe even finding love. It’s a mishmash of way too many aspects of the Simulation-genre which results in an overall enjoyable experience

Yep, I called my character “nobody” in this playthrough.

To accumulate different stats, you need to play a little minigame in which you spend action-points to remove a variety of bubbles in different shapes and colours. The colours determine what stat these bubbles are raising. There are different stats that can be raised through these from Memory to Imagination to Constitution to IQ and some others. There are also bubbles that give you more knowledge which is needed to learn skills. Some bubbles cost more action points but have special effects like revealing the whole stat-map, giving you more action-points, collecting all bubbles of one colour or collecting the bubbles around it. There’re also bubbles that grant you more stats per round, which is quite neat, I’d say.

These stats determine whether or not you’re good at certain tasks like Sports (Constitution) or Arts (Imagination)! The other way of increasing them is by planning your schedule for the day. To do that you need to assign tasks that have to do with the skills you want to increase into a time-table. Most of the time these increase multiple stats but also increase your stress-level which has to be kept minimal by mixing in some entertainments into the schedule. If your stress-level increases too much, your character becomes anxious, depressed or may even die, which you don’t want to happen, right?

Once your time-table is all set, your stats increase and a new day starts with new events and more stuff to do!

Overall this gameplay loop would be quite repetitive if it wasn’t for different events that are occurring. Every now and then there are events that involve you and other people. Sometimes your dad comes home drunk and keeps shouting insults at you, other times you are rewarded with a flower from your kindergarten teacher and your imagination and mood becomes better.

By learning new skills and using them in your schedule, you unlock traits… but what are they for? 

Well, actually traits are for bragging rights. Your parents sometimes get involved in “Face Fights” with distant family members, neighbours and strangers. There they brag about their child to decrease the “enemy”‘s HP to win the fight. Your traits are basically your “attacks”, which I found quite hilarious. The rarer your trait is, the higher the damage! 

There are also talent shows called “China Got Trait!”, an obvious parody, where you show off your trait in order to earn better stats, some money and more “face”. 

So, your parents are quite proud of you when you unlock traits but what about the aforementioned expectations?

Now and then you are faced with a “mission” of sorts where you need to reach a certain amount of stat-points in a certain amount of turns or where you need to learn a certain skill. The race for that is quite interesting and I found it rather enjoyable to strive for appreciation and acceptance! For once, I tried to not disappoint my parents and most of the time, I failed. It takes at least two to three runs to figure out what to do in what order to achieve one’s goal in Chinese Parents. Hence, there’s a learning curve that I found rather enjoyable, too.

But enough of the gameplay, what about the presentation?

Overall it’s relatively simple. The art style makes use of meme-ish and toddler-like drawings for comedic relief while using a bright colour palette in most settings. Usually, you see one type of scenery per stage with your character in the middle of it. The character models also change in every run, which is quite interesting. Quite lovely, I’d say.

But then there’s the music and it’s… the same in all cases. Sometimes there’s a different tune mixed into the game here and there but overall you get to hear one tune over and over and over and over again and it might as well drive you into insanity. After around 4 hours of gameplay, I noticed that the music still hasn’t *really* changed and that the main theme is super obnoxious, resulting in me turning the music off and playing some other games’ soundtrack in the background. This was quite disappointing, as I had a blast playing the game overall. 

Chinese Parents is a casual game in its core.

You play it now and then but you don’t play it for too long. It’s not stressful. It’s rather relaxing. It’s a game you can return to whenever you feel like it. There are achievements that can be unlocked, as well as a few different careers you can go for and a treasure hunt to complete as well! 

I had a blast playing it as it plays with different stereotypes of (Chinese) parents and as it has this interesting art style and a lot of different funny moments. The events that seem to be procedurally generated also brighten your day whenever you play it, I’d say,…

and I’d say I recommend this game as well. 

Anyways, have a nice day and try to call your parents once in a while. I should try to do that more often, too. …