Indietail – Milky Way Prince: The Vampire Star

Remember that one time where you had that magical moment where you first fell in love with someone? When the stars aligned and everything seemed perfect? When you told yourself: “This is it.”

I remember that one time where the clouds broke up and the sun was shining after this rainy day. When I spotted her, sitting next to me, doodling in her notebook. As the professor was talking about something boring, I couldn’t help myself but get caught in her countenance. It was such an average moment with nothing special to it – but I couldn’t help myself dreaming of a common future or something that connected us, even if we were strangers. I had similar moments in the past. Love at first sight. A distinct connection that you feel to people you hardly know. Fate. Destiny. Magic. Whatever, you want to call it.

Developer: Eyeguys, Lorenzo Redaelli
Publisher: Santa Ragione
Genre: Visual Novel, Indie, Dark Romance, Anime
Release Date: August 13th, 2020
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC - coming soon to Switch, PS4 and XBOX One!
Copy received from the devs.

In today’s review, we’re talking about Milky Way Prince – The Vampire Star, a partially autobiographical dark-romance visual novel about Sune and Nuki, two young men whose passionate love affair collided with their inner demons. It’s a game about intimacy, idealization and abusive relationships. Hence, there’s a trigger warning.

We play as Nuki, a young man with a fascination for stars, who is being somewhat melancholic during the last days of summer. His obsession with stars goes as far as owning a pet starfish and gazing stars at the horizon and the ceiling of his room. One day, something crazy happens and after following a shooting star, he gets to meet and falls in love with Sune, another young man who seems to be upset about something. We want to know more about the two characters. We want to discover what’s up with Sune. We want to know if it works out. I really had my fingers crossed for the two of them… but some things are not meant to be, right? Sometimes it doesn’t work out. Sometimes, your issues get into the way. Your past haunts you while you’re sabotaging your luck.

The game’s constantly enigmatic, drawing you in, wanting you to cheer for the two unfortunate souls… but then you get rejected or accepted, based on your choices and senses. You want to help Sune and you want Nuki to be happy but in certain key moments, you just end up feeling the weight of your words and the way that you can harm others. It’s not that simple.

You can’t just help someone. Even if you want to be there for them, you can cause them more pain by doing so. Get caught in the moment and make one mistake, suddenly you’re feeling down in the slumps again as you give yourself the fault for the unfortunate outcome… And then you do it again or do better and it’s just a rollercoaster of emotions. It can work out! You can make it work! Or can you? I’m not sure.

And when you think that everything is alright, nothing is. Sometimes you feel like you’re doing everything wrong but there are always (at least) two people in a relationship. There are two sides to an argument, right?

While playing the game, I constantly saw myself in the characters. Getting eager, reading too much into certain feelings, feeling the passion, being up in the clouds and wanting to feel more… and then you’re down in the slumps again. Past abusive relationships that I had made me feel just like that. I see it. I see certain patterns and I get reminded of what I did wrong, even if it’s not about me. It’s about Nuki and Sune. It’s about the past experiences of Lorenzo Redaelli, the developer of the game. It’s about intimacy and idealization. It’s about mental health and problems. It’s about passion and struggle. Love and pain.

The game follows these kinds of patterns. You have moments where you enjoy yourself with Sune or where you are talking to yourself, thinking about things, and reflecting on a lot of stuff. But there are also choices. You can change the outcome. It doesn’t have to end badly. It doesn’t have to end well. You decide. And that’s something that surprised me. Your actions, your words, they reveal secrets and information. No playthrough is like the other, and I loved that about this game.

And when Nuki is with Suni… when they love each other, you’re able to use this special and innovative mechanic where you chose different senses to influence the sex, the love, the passion. Find out something new. Bring light into the darkness… or add more shadows to it? Control what happens, without it being too graphic. I liked that idea and the different outcomes are really interesting. I’m not sure if I’ve seen something like that in other games before!

On top of that, the game’s presentation is just amazing. Very abstract and ominous. At times quiet, at times loud. The game’s original, space-y, baroque electropop soundtrack is amazing and truly adds a lot to your experience… but it also lets you reflect on things at times. When you’re alone, all by yourself… Just you by yourself, the game’s quiet. You look at your phone, at the ceiling, at your mirror, and the game’s quiet. Silence is important. I highly enjoyed that aspect.

And then there’s the colours and the art style. Abstract. Minimalistic. At times just magical. The neon colours and all the different tones of red… they just add a lot to it. Sometimes it’s brighter and sometimes darker. Usually quite fitting to your feelings and your inner world. At times you see very interesting metaphors and images, although I don’t want to spoil it too much either, right now. In the end, my experience got enhanced by this and I highly enjoyed it, especially because of this art style that is so different from other games.

I guess the only issue that I had with the game was that it, at times, was too abstract for me. There have been some similes and images that I didn’t get… I also wasn’t able to tell when something was real and when something wasn’t. At times, I was wondering if it’s just a daydream or some sort of metaphor that Nuki uses to solve the problems he has. At times, I was confused… while at other times, I wasn’t sure which interpretation and which theory would be the most accurate.

Sometimes, I also had an issue with how Sune would react to things that Nuki said. You chose some of the dialogue options but sometimes the results or the reactions of Sune would be unexpected and it made me feel helpless. This is both an issue and a feature, in my opinion, as in real situations these kinds of things happen as well. You don’t get the expected results from a conversation. You cannot completely understand everyone. It doesn’t work like that. So, at times, I felt as if the choices were worded differently from the intention that I thought they would convey… which was an issue at one or two instances… but at the same time, it adds a bit of realism to the experience.

In the end, I couldn’t really talk too much about the game’s story itself but more about its topics and what I liked about it. It was somewhat hard to not spoil anything but I think I did a good job here… especially since there is so much that I didn’t talk about at all!

My first experience with this game was awesome and I still have goosebumps even while thinking back at it. I highly recommend this game… but I’m not sure if it’s for everyone. There are certain triggers in there. If you can’t deal with heavier topics like mental health issues, abusive relationships, borderline personality disorder, and the like, I wouldn’t recommend this to you. Otherwise, it’s a great experience that is definitely worth checking out!

The different endings and plot lines, the small secrets and the different choices really add a lot of replay value to the game, and even after you’re done with one ending or a lot of them, you’ve still got a ton of room for theory crafting, analysis, and speculation, so the game doesn’t end when you’re done with it, which is interesting and one of the many reasons as to why I’m recommending this.

Cheers!

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!