“Going Nowhere” – The Vestibule (Visual Novel) – 6/10 Desks

Genre: Psychological

Review Status: Complete

Licensed: This is available for free download at Ren’Py.

Art/Animation: It was obviously done in Paint or another similar art program, but it’s actually pretty skillfully done. I know I can’t make people like that! It’s still not exactly professional art, but it is fine for what it is. There isn’t really any animation to speak of – the transitions are standard.

Summary: You’re on a train going towards you future – both literally and figuratively.

Review: Heavy-handed metaphor is heavy-handed metaphor. If you’re vaguely aware of what a spiritual journey is, then this is an obvious metaphor from the get-go. You enter the train, confused about your future, and your actions on the train will determine what happens next.

This can be a slightly frustrating game. While slow and meditiative, it seems to take a specific combination of events to unlock the next stage of the game. I’m unsure of what it was, exactly, that allowed me to go on after the first car, but it did take nemerous, repetitive questions to the person in the first car and sleeping a few days to do it. Without new interactions, this got fairly boring, fairly quickly. The second car in the train wasn’t any better, requiring the same amount of guess-and-check actions to get to the ending. There is only one ending here – and only one ending fit for this type of game – but I still remain more unimpressed than usual by how long it took to get there.

I definitely appreciate the background, the art, and the atmophere. That was very effective and really helped while I was playing. But the repeititve gameplay and heavy-handed (and somewhat stereotypical) metaphor and situation really didn’t make this a thrilling game.

Overall, it’s fine for what it is, but nothing special.

Recommended: All Ages. While there really isn’t anything here for children and there is some metaphor here that would go right over their heads, there is absolutely nothing inappropriate in this story.

Other titles you might enjoy:

Mushishi (anime)

Natsume Yuujinchou (anime and manga)

Kino’s Journey (anime)

“Come Fly With Me” – Hatoful Boyfriend (Visual Novel) – 10/10 Desks

Come live in my heart, and pay no rent. ~Samuel Lover

Genre: Comedy/Drama/Fantasy/Romance/School/Mystery/Horror

Review Status: Complete

Licensed: Yes, it’s licensed and available for download here. It does cost $5.

Art/Animation: The art looks great! While it’s mostly pictures of various birds, their human pics looks great and very professional, and the backgrounds are wonderfully rendered. The various transitions are done great – perfectly timed, appropriate for the situation – and all in all, I really have absolutely no complaints in this department.

Summary: You’re a new student – the human representative – at St. Pigeonation, a prestigious school for birds. You attend classes, fall in love with your fellow students, and as you unlock more options in the game, discover there’s more to the school and students than meets the eye.

Review: This is defintiely one of the most unique VNs I’ve come across. I mean, a dating sim with pigeons? How does that even work?! Shockingly enough, it does, and rather well. One thing that helped were the character pics that showed up – I liked having the human equivalent up there on screen to make is ever-so-slightly less odd. I mean, interspecies romance is more than a little strange, even in VNs. But somehow, this makes it work – all the characters are pretty unique and interesting (well, okay, they fill otome game stereotypes, but the various interactions and the interesting scenarios make it more memorable).

I’m fond of all the characters, from the wacky Okosan to the debonair Yuuya. And yes – each and every character you encounter has a possible romantic ending! Though for one character, it won’t be with you. Not all the character ends are available at the beginning; You need to play through the five classmates and teacher before you get more options. Just make sure you go through all the credits! When you get to the ending picture, it will load in your gallery and count as another step to unlocking the next part.

What really is the driving force in Hatoful Boyfriend is the plot. The more character endings you do, the more clues you get that the school isn’t all that it seems to be. Strange plots and sinister characters abound. Murder is the order of the day in some of them… and not always that of strangers. The unlockable chapters are the ones that can get outright freaky, but the highlight of it all is the BBL stage! That is where things are taken out of your character’s POV and you play as one of the other characters, and the whole secrecy and story behind the school comes out. It’s both awesome, terrifying, and one of the best stories I’ve played in VNs! Two thumbs up all the way! It was entirely unexpcted but a fantastic ending to a great game. And bittersweet, to boot. I thought just the right tone and dialogue really made this storyline.

Overall, it’s a strange premise, but a wonderfully great play.

Recommended: Uh, we’re going to go with 16+. While you never *see* any of the terrible, gruesome things described, it can be pretty bad. Your character can be (is) killed in a few options. And you have t go through them to get to the BBL ending.

Other titles you might enjoy:

Honestly, this is so unique I just can’t put anything here. It’s a great VN! Check it out!

“Ribbon In My Hair” – Ribbon of Green (Visual Novel) – 9/10 Sunflowers

The death of a friend is equivalent to the loss of a limb. ~ German Proverb

Genre: Drama/Mystery/Supernatural

Review Status: Complete

Licensed: This is fre for download on Ren’Py

Art/Animation: The art looks very good. The colors are deep and vibrant, and the character art is some of the best I’ve seen in a free VN.

Summary: A friend meets you in the park about a very serious matter. But she has a secret about why she’s so urgent about helping you.

Review: As short as this is, I have to admit this is one of the better visual novels I’ve played. It’s story is simple: a girl is trying to get her friend out of her depression and goingback to school. There’s an underlying desperation in her actions, and a background behind it all that is never really explored. The background isn’t that important, though. What is important is whether she succeeds at helping her friend. There are two endings to this: you either get out of the depression or you don’t. Either way, there’s a whole lot of tragedy in what she’s trying to do, and if you reach the good ending, it’s bittersweet.

The dialogue is very good, and I was completely drawn in to these characters. I’ve been depressed, myself, and know the funk that comes with being down. I have also been on the other end, coaching another out of it and providing a shoulder when needed. Cmbining that with solid story development, I can’t help but really like this, and am definitely will be playing it again! Both endings really got me, and I am hard to impress like that. I usually favor one ending over another, but both of them ended up being fairly satisfying.

Overall, this is a great short visual novel, and a lovely story about a friend trying to save another from going down her path.

Recommended: 14+. There is suicide, even if it’s only mentioned.

Other titles you might enjoy:

Ano Hana (anime)

“The Great Escape” – Zzombie Infestation (Visual Novel) – 2/10 Sunflowers

Run away! ~ Anonymous

Genre: Action/Horror

Review Status: Complete

Licensed: This is free for donwload on Ren’Py

Art/Animation: What art and animation? There is one (grossly undersized) photo used as the background, and it never changes.

Summary: You wake up one morning, and ZOMBIES! You need to try and escape with your wife.

Review: Practice makes perfect, right? I’m hoping so, since this sincerely needs a lot of work before another version is unleashed on the unsuspecting public! The premise is completely standard for a zombie game (not that this is bad, a lot of great games can be made with a standard premise as long as the execution is solid), but has a nice variety of options to try and escape from the zombies. This is brought down with dialogue and actions that are trite and riddled with misspellings. It’s a very shallow story, a simple tale of survival where you need to escape with and protect your wife. There’s nothing more to it, and some of it can come off a bit wrong – you protect your wife and take on all the duties of survival. She doesn’t help at all. There’s a hint of sexism in the way that’s written that really didn’t help the game’s case. There isn’t a whole lot to say about it – it was one-dimentional, shallow, uninspired, and boring.

Overall, this has a long road to go down before being a truly competent game.

Recommended: 13+. There are some gorey descriptions of zombies being killed, but they aren’t lingered on and it’s not like you see anything.

Other titles you might enjoy:

High School of the Dead (anime and manga)

I Am A Hero (manga)

Tokyo Zombie (manga)

“H2O and H2SO4” – Perfect Chemistry (Visual Novel) – 9/10 Sunflowers

Genre: School/Romance

Review Status: Complete

Licensed: This is available for free download on Ren’Py

Art: I definitely was a fan of the character designs. They aren’t quite professional-level, but they are cute! While the backgrounds are nothing to write home about, they’re perfectly fine for the story.

Summary: Sara’s chemistry partner has recently had ex-girlfriend issues. Could Sara’s involvement be the start of their relationship?

Review: This is one of the VNs that make me take hope in homemade ones. Honestly, this has a lot of things going for it – the story is very fleshed-out, taking place over the course of a few weeks, there are a number of different paths and endings, the writing is pretty good, and it looks and runs well. I was pretty impressed with how they managed to make a screen with text messages pop up, and the story flow? Thumbs-up! It was interesting to note how the answers to get the ‘good ending’ weren’t always obvious, which I thought was pretty neat.

I don’t have that many complaints. The story was interesting – I thought Sara was very relatable and utterly charming, while her love interest seemed pretty realistic. None of the situations seem very out-there, and honestly? This is one of the most slice-of-life stories I’ve come across in the slice-of-life genre. It really does seem like something that could happen in real life! There are pop quizzes, text messages, a nosy brother, and ex-girlfriend drama! But none of it is overplayed. That being said, in a few places the dialogue dd drag a little. There were a few places where there was a lot of dialogue with little to no plot advancement, which made me a little bored. This is probably personal preference, since this could easily be a very fine, solid fleshing out to other players.

I did enjoy the endings, and seeing how making a different choice in one part could give me an entirely different ending. I enjoyed that there were a number of different endings possible, though getting them all was an… interesting adventure! Sometimes all it took was one different choice in one of the last menu screens to change everything. But I feel that all the different endings were good, and realistic, very much in-keeping with the setting and characters.

Overall, if you’re looking for a sweet slice-of-life VN, this is the one to go for!

Recommended: 10+. There’s nothing shocking or inappropriate going on here.

Other titles you might enjoy:

Kimi ni Todoke (anime)

“Lost In The Forest” – Spero: The Forest Dwellers (Visual Novel) – 7/10 Sunflowers

A virgin forest is where the hand of man has never set foot. ~ Author Unknown

Genre: Fantasy/Action

Review Status: Complete

Licensed: This is available for free download on Ren’Py

Art/Animation: The art is decent, nothing spectacular but nicer than some of the other VNs I’ve played. It looks like it was done in Paint (though far more skillfully than anything I could do).

Summary: The forest has been sealed for ten years, but one day, one of the forest dwellers discovers a young boy within the gates. A dark creature is after him, and she must protect him and restore him to his home.

Review: This is a very short chapter in what looks like a far more expansive story. It’s short, with only 3 endings (good, bad, and true), and is a little rough around the edges. Some of the dialogue and writing needs clean-up and a proofreader. I winced more than once at the punctuation. At the same time it does some nice things with the dialogue choices – depending on what you choose you might end up unlocking some new things to talk about!

When I say that the story is far more expansive than what we have here, I mean that the background given on the characters and situation is spare and blatantly clues you in that there’s a larger story going on. The True ending also implies that the main character has a hidden background that is important to the kingdom, and leaves off on a bit of a cliffhanger about it. It gives the impression that it will be continued in a later VN, but so far there’s no sign of one.

But what is here is fairly standard for a fantasy. There’s a lost prince, a deadly danger, and someone who’s called on to protect the boy. I like how it does a few things differently than a typical fantasy, like the main character is a female warrior, but it’s no big deal; it’s just part of who she is and what she does. I would have loved to see more of this world fleshed-out, because this is very bare-bones; you get to the main quest right away and it takes maybe five minutes to finish the whole thing. There’s a lot of playability to try and get the different endings, but without more reasons to care about the characters I’m not feeling as entertained as I really want to. When I have to ask ‘so what’ about saving someone, it’s not a good sign.

Overall,  it’s still a solid VN. I definitely appreciate the groundworks for the story being told, and while it’s not perfect, it’s entertaining enough where I’m looking for more!

Recommended: 10+. This is a fairly standard fantasy title, and the ‘bad end’ isn’t violent or gruesome.

Other titles you might enjoy:

Seirei no Moribito (anime)

12 Kingdoms (anime)

“Seven Sins” – Re:Set, Chapter 1 (Visual Novel) – 8/10 Sunflowers

Genre: Romance/Supernatural/Spiritual/Action

Review Status: Complete

Licensed: Yes, this VN is licensed and available for download at Ren’Py (free).

Art/Animation: This stands out with some lovely backgrounds that were made to look like paintings. They look very good. While the character designs are fine, they are a bit rough, style-wise. This VN stands out because it’s the first one I’ve come across with opening animation, and it’s done very well, with a great background song. The dialogue screens were also really unique, though the various colors and switches between POV during the game made it hard to tell who was saying what on occasion.

Summary: Two kids show up in town looking for something. Their paths cross with a girl who’s boyfriend disappeared last night.

Review: This is almost as much of a kinetic novel as a visual novel, with lots of exposition-based scenes and story to it. Chapter 1 is mainly a prologue, as explained in the scenes in the ending credits, and introduces you to the two characters that you’ll be following through their adventures trying to recapture the demons representing the Seven Sins.

This is a little trickier to play than some other VNs. You need to make very specific choices to end up with the ending where you see everything through to the end. There aren’t that many different endings to get, and aren’t that many choices, so if you pay attention on your runs through it, then you should figure it out pretty quickly. What’s nice is that for the incomplete endings, the creator added in little clues to how you can get the main one in the ending credits. And the ending credits aren’t that boring, to boot- they interspersed little scenes to keep you going through them! I was very impressed.

The story isn’t half-bad, either. Some of the dialogue was a little cheesy at times, and to be honest I wasn’t that impressed with the showdown with the demon. It was written well, but it was a prolonged scene with a background and character image that didn’t change at all, making it feel less dynamic than it probably should have been. Factoring in the fact that they were facing off against Lust and there really wasn’t any sign of it other than boys disappearing, you could have replaced her with Random Demon #1 and not have lost any of the story.

Even so, the characters were interesting, and there was an interesting twist on the two newcomers to town. It left you with little hints to who they were and why they were travelling around. And even better was how the story and the exposition was decently written, something that’s hard to do skillfully.

Overall, while the story had its weak points, the way this is put together makes this a top-tier free VN. Definitely check it out!

Recommended: 13+. This story might deal with lust, but there really isn’t any lust dealt with. All that’s *told* is that she ‘stole their hearts’ and made them slaves. The thing that might cause issue is Gerald fights with Lust (the demon, not the emotion >.>) and smashes her head with his boot. There are one or two instances of the d-word.

Other titles you might enjoy:

Ghost Hunt (anime)

“There’s A Murderer In My Soup” – Yandere-chan (Visual Novel) – 7/10 Sunflowers

Genre: Horror/Romance

Review Status: Complete

Licensed: Yes, this Vn is licensed and available for download on Ren’Py (free).

Art: Pretty good. It’s a little rough around the edges character-wise, but you only see one character anyway. The backgrounds are just fine. I just wish there were… more. There’s a lot of dialogue that happens while you’re looking at a very plain background, with no character sprites in sight.

Summary: As a new student, you find you’ve caught the attention of Mia, and she’s obviously enamored. But her affection is a little over-the-top….

Review: “100 Ways To Die: The VN”. From the beginning, your treading perilously close to death. One wrong choice and you’ve had it! In some ways, it’s a lot of fun seeing how badly you can mess up a choice and seeing what happens when you have caught the attention of a crazy stalker girl. On the other, a lot of this behavior is genuinely disturbing, and in some cases, the only thing standing between me and being totally and utterly creeped out was my having forgotten to type in a name and having it filled in with the generic ‘Protagonist’. That provided many levels of hilarity that were really needed in a few places.

There is really only one ‘good end’, and I can’t even say that it’s good. This is very much a horror tinged with the ‘romance’ that the Yandere can muster, a romance that’s all about obsessing over the protagonist and him catering to her love. It’s obsessive, it’s freaky, and there’s really not a whole lot that you can do to escape it.

Honestly, that really works. It’s a fascinating story and I really did have a lot of fun playing it. Except when things really got intense. There were a few parts that just managed to cross the line into ridiculous, such as a very, VERY prolonged death monologue, but for the most part this can get to you.

Overall, it’s definitely something for the horror aficionados, but not for those with weak stomachs.

Recommended: 16+. There’s death, death, and more death. Thankfully, for the most part it’s kept offscreen except for some blood spatter on Mia.

Other titles you might enjoy:

Higurashi: When They Cry (anime or manga)

Perfect  Blue (anime)

“Walls That Talk” – Painted Walls (Visual Novel) – 10/10 Sunflowers

Genre: Horror/Psychological

Review Status: Complete

Licensed: Yes, it’s licensed and available for download on Ren’Py (free).

Art/Animation: Excelent. This really has some fantastic art in it, the best I’ve seen in a free VN so far! They are all in shades of grey, black, and red, which really emphasizes what’s going on.

Summary: A girl hears her house’s walls talk to her, and they like the color red…

Review: If you’ve ever read “The Yellow Wallpaper”, then you will have an idea of what this is like. It starts out in the mind of a girl who’s deep in psychosis, who believes the walls whisper to her about things. She has no friends, and is enthralled with the color red, and believes that the walls are as well. This is mostly a kinetic novel, with only two times where you have options come up, and only two different endings. That’s okay, because the story is really very disturbing no matter which one you end up with!

This is most definitely not for the faint-of-heart, especially since some of the psychosis centers on the main character’s younger brother. There’s a lot of tension within the family because of his birth and how his sister behaves- the parents are not comfortable with her around him. With one of the endings, it’s for a good reason. But neither ending is a happy one, and there’s no way to get around that. But how it’s written and the inventive take on psychological horror really are fantastic.

Overall, while it’s a dark story, it’s brilliantly told, and definitely worth checking out if you’re into horror!

Recommended: 18+ due to one of the endings. Murder is involved, and it does get a bit gruesome even if it’s not shown on the screen.

Other titles you might enjoy:

Higurashi: When They Cry (anime or manga)

Aoi Bungaku (anime)

Serial Experiments Lain (anime)

White Rain (manga)

“A Glass Slipper” – Being Beauteous (Kinetic Novel) – 9/10 Sunflowers

Genre: Romance/Fantasy

Review Status: Complete

Licensed: This is licensed and available for download on Ren’Py (free).

Art/Animation: While this was only done in sketches, the art was still very good, far better art than I’ve seen in more fully-colored VNs.

Summary: A retelling of the Cinderella story.

Review: How many ways can you retell Cinderella? There’s the Disney version, Ella Enchanted, Ever After, and now this VN makes an attempt. Honestly, I’m rather impressed with it. This takes a more realic look at the aftermath of the ball, with people able to make replicas of the other slipper and Cinderella eventually being kicked out of her stepmother’s house and needing to support herself.

This is still short, fairy-tale legnth, but still manages to work in a happy ending. It takes time and coincidence, and their lives aren’t easy, but Cinderella does manage to get with the prince. In some ways, it’s more romantic and sweeter than when they get to be together right off the bat.

Overall, this is a great retelling of a classic story, and I give it two thumbs up!

Recommended: 13+, it mentions that Cinderella had to resort once to prostitution to save herself. But only one time.

Other titles you might enjoy:

The Snow Queen (anime)

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