Indietail – Best Friend Forever

I’m not exactly a dog person. I always thought that I’m not fit and active enough for dogs and hence I never considered if I wanted to have a dog. Obviously, with how the market is, it would be hard to find a flat or anything that would be dog-friendly and alas, I’ll have to rely on other media to maybe live that experience of owning a dog and taking care of it. One of these mediums is Best Friend Forever, an attempt to mix the genre of dating sims and management-types.

Developer: Starcolt
Publisher: Alliance
Release Date: August 27th, 2020
Genre: Dating Sim, Visual Novel, Management
Reviewed on: PC
Available for: PC, Switch
Copy was provided by publisher.

After having worked at a big corporation and after some other experiences, you, the protagonist, decide to move to Rainbow Bay. Rainbow Bay is the dog-friendliest place in the world (?) and essentially, the to-go city for everyone who’s searching for a cute little doggo and potentially even happiness, success and other good things. At least, that’s what the city means to our main character.

Early on, you’re prompted to type in your pronouns, blood type, Zodiac, and name before you’re getting unleashed into this short Visual Novel where you adopt a dog, take care of it, and where you try to find love… or something like that. On top of that, you also get to meet a vast cast of different characters that are all quite special in their own ways! Awoo!

From the get-go, I noticed that this game is quite different. We had some weird questions that we needed to answer for our Woofr profile, at the beginning. It’s a Visual Novel after all that is all about your little bowwow. You spend a lot of time picking up and throwing away your dog’s faeces or petting it or training it. Yes, you heard right: You can pet the doggo. It’s an interesting mix and I kind of like that about this title:

You get to date all kinds of characters and you get to min-max your dog’s training schedule to pass the dog school’s exam! Hell yeah!

While getting to know the characters, you stumble across different events and you have to decide where the conversation goes. Picking one of the options available to you usually results in people liking or disliking you – but you can also chicken out and go for a neutral approach that is somewhat boring, I guess.

And the game spans around 15 weeks that you have to spend training your tail-wagger. To do that, you plan your days with them by either going to encounters with the different people or by participating in Pawspirational Events (that have a chance of raising certain stats) or by participating in randomly-appearing Dog Events.

These Dog Events range from your furbaby getting scared to it leashing out a bit or to it pooing on the floor… usually, you have to either move your mouse cursor in certain motions or comfort it by petting it – and these events tend to award you with experience for the different stats:
Manners, Smartness, Trust, Sociability, and Fitness.

Apart from that you also have the training schedules that you can set for them where you essentially can choose to work on two different stats at the same time by IE going for a walk, cuddling, playing, and many other options. Afterwards, you need to take care of your good boy’s (or girl’s!) needs (see above) by feeding or tending to your mutt… Generally, all of this is quite fun at first but later it feels somewhat… pointless?

The story is light-hearted and short. It took me 2.5 hours to get through the game for the first time and to play through Astrid’s romance route. There are a whole bunch of other options that I could take or romantic partners that I could ask out next time, so there is some replayability to it, as well… but the flea circuit isn’t really involved in this. Your doggo is just there in the corner to brighten up and lighten up the game at times… and the management-aspects that are required to pass the exam at the end exist… but they do not really involve your pupper too much. You plan out events and sometimes people comment on your furry friend’s behaviour but effectively, it’s just there to be petted. As far as the exam goes… at the beginning I got mostly silver and gold medals and as time went on, I noticed it going down to bronze medals…

Regardless of that, I got my passing grade, which I found somewhat weird. I get that the Academy is only there to determine whether or not it’s alright for you to own a dog and I get that it is a very light-hearted game but it seems odd to me to just pass it like that. I would have loved more of a challenge or maybe an extension period and supplementary classes instead where you make up for the missing training, maybe get to know a nice dog coach that you can fall in woof with, and unlock more dialogue options. It would have been quite nice… and while I don’t know if you can fail the Academy, I don’t really wanna try it out as I don’t want to my pupper to be taken away from me. On top of that, it would be interesting to see what happens if you neglect your pawl’s needs… but I can’t let my little bowwow starve or get ignored just like that… Some horrible human out there will probably have tried it out… so uh… check there?

I didn’t notice the dog pooping less indoors when the manners stat got up, for instance, so that’s something that I would have liked a lot: Actually seeing the results of the training.

Your little fuzzball (She was called “Titan” in my case!) essentially just provides you with a minigame of sorts that to pass the time for a bit or to stretch out the game, which was somewhat disappointing… And I loved the idea at first and everything but midway through the game, your dog is just there while the focus switches to the other characters, which I found quite bothersome. It’s “best friend forever” but suddenly, it’s more of a dating sim – your dog is secondary. Or rather it feels like it’s not about the dog anymore, which I found actually rather add… tending to your dog becomes a chore while obnoxious people step more into the foreground. (I really don’t like Sascha at all… can we kick him? Like out of the city? Just push him off the edge of the world?)

Another issue that I was facing was that I had a hard time dealing with the writing at the beginning. The game is at times mocking the whole hipster culture or ridiculing it to the point where I thought that it’s not taking itself seriously – and yet, there are characters that talk about their actual fears and their actual problems… and some of the joking and obnoxious characters (the secretary and your neighbour, for instance) just end up breaking that feeling of intimacy that you had with your partner. You talk about problems and in the next instance, you get to talk to Sasha again, which is just painful at best.

I couldn’t really handle some of the writing at the beginning due to the in-your-face-hipster-ness. It was a bit too much for my cup of tea but I guess some people could enjoy that.

Towards the mid-game, it was acceptable and tolerable. I had fun with some of the references and stuff… and your relationship moves relatively fast forward, which is quite interesting as well.

And at last, I reached the end and it just didn’t feel alright or finished yet. I would have loved to continue past the 15 weeks but instead, we see the “what happened to these characters later?” trope before the credits roll. Quite annoying. And again, the dog gets less important later on despite it filling in a key role in the game.

But while that was a bit bad, I guess, I really enjoyed the game overall. It was fun, it was cute. It conveyed a message of sorts that you don’t buy a dog but rather adopt it since it’s very close to you. It’s like a family member of sorts, you could say – not your property or anything like that.
On top of that, the game is really inclusive as it not only lets you chose your character model and pronounce but it also enables all relationships to you whenever you want them and while your sexuality never gets asked for, it is made really well in a way that your past partners, as an example, get named with “they/them” to allow any kind of interpretation.

So, what can I say about Best Friend Forever… it mixes two things that are somewhat different and is hence quite innovative, in my opinion, but it fails to convey the importance of your Woover as it doesn’t give it more credit or more special scenes. Instead, it’s just about you training it while you’re doing stuff with your love encounter. I would have loved to see more CGs of the Barksy to make things, right… in fact… CGs and a CG gallery are features that are missing completely! Especially, considering that you’re a photographer in the game…

The inclusive aspects, however, are really well-made, the soundtrack is alright, the characters all are somewhat quirky but feature a lot of nice traits and conversation options, and overall, it is a well-crafted game, in my opinion, even when the management aspects fell somewhat short. The short length of the game makes it possible to play through different routes and try out different things in several relaxed sessions. And yes, you can, of course, pet the pupper. Hence, this must be a great game.

I’d recommend this game to people that want to play a wholesome, cosy and rather short visual novel that has dogs in it. I wouldn’t recommend this to management fans as those would not be happy with this title. If you’re a cat person like me… it might take you a while to fall in love with your four-legged new family member… but once you get there, it’s super lovely. Despite some issues, I had fun, though, so I’m definitely recommending Best Friend Forever to anyone who’s looking for a short but lovely experience.

Cheers!

This post originated on Indiecator and was first published on there by Dan Indiecator aka MagiWasTaken.

Looking out for “For the People”

By now the Steam Game Festival has already ended, but fear not! There will be more posts about the demos that I played! Alas, this post is about For the People – a game about time management and political choices. We take control of the newly appointed mayor of Iron-1, Francis Rivers, who has to try to appease all kinds of different parties from the working class to the military to other people that don’t just seem to get along.

Brezg Studio describes it as an “acute social novel with strategic elements”, which honestly fits really well as you sign documents, make difficult choices, appoint agents for different missions to deal with certain tasks, on top of managing all kinds of appointments, tasks and, at last, more paperwork.

You need to manage your time efficiently while also strategically distributing resources to the people in order to earn their trust and increase your influence over them. Of course, you can’t please everyone. I tried to do that… but it just seems as if you’ve got to take some sides here and there, which obviously results in the displeasure of other parties.

In my case, I ended up trying to provide sufficient healthcare to everyone, no matter their race, gender or class, but I couldn’t appease the military force or the fire force who were in need of resources. I also made some difficult decisions here and there where I denied funds to some people who would obviously abuse them for some bad things… meanwhile other times, I made the wrong choice and accepted proposals that were based on lies and misinformation.

It all comes down to this: You can’t do everything right. You can’t appease everyone. Just go your way and see what happens!

There are five different endings in the full game, although the demo only lets you play through the first few days, so I couldn’t really see what’s going to happen. I’m quite excited about how it all plays out. I’d love to see if there are any possible romance options as well, since I kind of ship Francis with our assistant, Helen.

And then there’s the style. It’s just insanely great. You’ve got these visual novel style cutscenes here and there with incredibly stylized moments in the next scene and cuts to different points in time, which I found rather impressive for a small studio’s first game!
My explanation of all of this probably doesn’t make much sense unless you see it for yourself, so to make it easier to understand: The presentation is great. Just go see for yourself!

And then there’s the soundtrack. It was great! Yeah, I can’t really describe it too well, either…

Honestly, I’m really excited about this game. It kind of reminded me of “Papers, Please” and “Through the Darkest of Times” as well as (potentially) “Beholder”. All lovely games and all so unique that TtDoT probably fits the most style-wise and theme-wise, though the other games may fit more choice-wise and gameplay-wise.

Either way, this is a game that I’ve got wishlisted for sure. The Release Date (2020) is relatively unspecific, so I just hope that it arrives soon!

Looking out for “Hundred Days”

Coming from a region where a lot of wine (primarily Riesling) is made, I thought that this one is a title that I HAVE TO TRY OUT. “Hundred Days” is “a game of choice, nostalgia and winemaking”, which is honestly a perfect match for me.

Broken Arms Games’ title “Hundred Days” features different action-cards that you play out to place tiles into your schedule. Obviously, you only have so much time in the day for the different tasks, resulting in you having to carefully place tiles like Harvesting, Weeding, Marketing, and some other options.

Developer: Broken Arms Games
Publisher: Broken Arms Games
Release Date: "Soon"
Genres: Agriculture, Management, Economy, Simulation

There are a lot of different things that you need to get used to in the game, like the fermentation-process that looks and sounds more difficult than it actually is.

When I first started playing the demo, I ended up just trying things out only to find out what the results would be like. I personally like sweeter wines more, so I tried to get a couple of sweet ones… sadly, there were no white wines in the demo, from what I could tell, so I ended up creating mid-tier wines with not enough acidity and way too much sweetness, which is fine, I guess? These wines would go well with your dinner, probably!

A lot of the processes that are being pictured in the game appear to be accurate from what I gathered. As mentioned, I’m from a region that has a lot of vineyards and alas I know a thing or two about the process of wine-making. I used to be a waiter at a restaurant and a lot of the winemakers came around and told me a thing or two about the whole industry, so that was quite fascinating.

In a way, the game got me to dwell in nostalgia but I’m not entirely sure how it would sell to other people, especially as not everyone has a connection to wine and since not everyone might connect the dots when it comes to making a choice and seeing it getting reflected in the stats on the side. Alas, that would need a bit more clarity!

Features that I’d be interested in seeing would include upgrades to get more workers, bigger fields, and more stock. I’d also like it if you could do research projects or maybe even customize your vineyard. Another great thing would be if you could branch out into liquor and create distilleries. That’d be a nice little touch, especially as a lot of winemakers seem to get into “the good stuff” as well as a side-job, which is quite nice, actually!

Overall, it’s been an enjoyable demo! I’m looking forward to seeing more when the game gets fully released!

Cheers!

Indietail – Train Valley 2

Do you like trains? Do you like simulations? Do you like resource-management-puzzles? If this introduction reminds you of yesterday’s post, then you’ll probably realise quickly that we’re reviewing Train Valley 2 today and that I’m still as uncreative as yesterday!

Developer: Flazm
Publisher: Flazm
Genre: Trains, Strategy, Simulation, Puzzle, Casual
Release Date: April 15, 2019
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC
Copy was purchased.

Train Valley 2 is a puzzle-train-sim developed by Flazm, the developer of the prequel, Train Valley 1. Alas, the premise is still relatively the same. You’ve got different stations that need to be connected using railroads. Building tracks, bridges and tunnels as well as destroying houses and other objects costs money that you earn by successfully guiding trains from one station to the other stations.

The main difference is probably the fact that you don’t have the semi-random tunnels, bridges and stations popping up everywhere.

Instead, you’ve got the task of constructing those yourself. Apart from that, you now have to deliver resources from one station to the next, to get processed resources that then need to end up at different towns. You transport workers from trains to the fields to work on grains. You then deliver the grains and more workers to the farms to get cows. At last, you bring the cows back to the towns to complete the production goals.

But the game’s not limited to only workers, grains and cows but also features a plethora of other resources and processed items that need a lot more steps to get produced!

In the first game, trains started driving off into the distance, causing chaos and destruction, if you took too long. Meanwhile here you have full control, alas having to send them off on your own in a slower-paced fashion, which is rather relaxing and quite a bit of an improvement. The game doesn’t get easier, though, as it’s more about the decisions you make. You need to manage your funds and decide on which station to build from and to, first, before taking action. Alas, Train Valley 2 can create a relaxing and less frustrating experience while still featuring logic puzzles that are as satisfying and difficult as the ones featured in the predecessor!

Overall, it seems as if the developer, Flazm, stocked up on the quality of life improvements while also adding a lot of features that make the game more entertaining. Challenging yourself in the levels and collecting stars now enables you to unlock different train designs, for instance. Things like these make the challenges worth it, while also providing completionists with some better rewards!

In contrast to the first game’s more realistic art style, Train Valley 2 features a rather vibrant colour palette as well as a less detailed poly-based art style.

When delivering materials to the different towns, these towns get upgraded, just like in the predecessor, but it seems to be overall more rewarding. Levels aren’t tied to themes, eras and locations anymore but, instead, feature a more general approach, named by some landmark, like “lighthouse” or “Eiffeltower”. Despite that, the cities and towns still develop in different styles that aren’t necessarily “European” or “Asian”, which I personally really dug.

Another new change: You don’t go through a century per level but instead work yourself through different ages from the steam age to the electrical era to, finally, the age of space. You can find a total of 50 levels in Train Valley 2, and you have access to infinite more levels due to the Steam Workshop and the player-created levels.

The music, however, is still not my favourite part of the game…or even the franchise.

In the beginning, the soundtrack seems to fit the game, but over time you can’t listen to it anymore. The tracks (pun intended) are all way too relaxed and calm. At some point, I got so tired of the soundtrack that I ended up turning it off and listening to some other music that fits the game just as much but is a lot less monotone. The problem with the soundtrack is probably the fact that it all sounds similar if not even the same. If someone played the Train Valley soundtrack, I wouldn’t be able to recognize it at all, which, in my opinion, is what makes a great soundtrack great. It either fits the game atmospherically or it adds more value to your experience. Train Valley 2’s soundtrack seems to fit but gets annoying over time and alas, in my opinion, is not good.

On top of that, there are some issues with the bridge/tunnel-construction.
It’s a tad difficult to see the terrain differences and where you can lay down tracks. In some places, you need to create bridges and tunnels although it may look like you’re able to just place tracks up the slope. When you want to construct bridges or tunnels, it can also become rather fiddly, to the point that it almost becomes frustrating.

That being said, I don’t think that this is a major flaw and while it can be a bit annoying in the beginning, you’ll get used to the controls over time and eventually learn how to use it just fine. My overall experience with the game was really satisfying and I did enjoy my time a lot, especially since I noticed the improvements from the first game.

Both Train Valley and Train Valley 2 are great games that you can get for around ten bucks. Train Valley 2 brings a lot of value to the table on top of the workshop content, which is just fabulous for games like this. If you like puzzle games and/or trains, I’d say go for it.

Cheers!

This post originated on Indiecator and was first published on there by Dan Indiecator aka MagiWasTaken.