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Promises much, delivers little.

  • pianotm
  • 07/13/2018 12:19 AM
  • 1231 views
Name: Digital Chain

Developer:Hiromu656

WARNING ::: VERY SPOILER HEAVY REVIEW ::: WARNING

Story: Your friend, Shuhei is fascinated by ghosts to the point of obsession, to the extent that he leads you and young Hiromi to illegal trespass on a closed down school to attempt to summon the spirits of murder victims Sumio, Kyoko, and Ryo. But all is not as it seems. Please note that after multiple attempts to get multiple endings, I could just find no way to get anything but the Safe Ending, so this review will be based on that experience.


A great deal a significance placed on an item that has absolutely no use.


Writing: Competent. There're a few syntax errors here and there, but nothing really noticeable or worth mentioning. This is a visual novel and actually attempts to use more gameplay than the standard visual novel. The story is extremely descriptive and relatively competent at building atmosphere, though I feel it could do a lot more in this area. You get the impression that Shuhei, who talks constantly about spirit behavior, doesn't particularly know what he's doing. Unfortunately, many of the segments of the story start to outstay their welcome, leading to you repeatedly yelling at your computer to get to the damned point. It's telling that I got bored writing the review for this game.

Next, we have a list of things that are not relevant. The aforementioned notebook, the tape, the flashlight, and the glasses, which are all of the items you start the game with and then find that you have absolutely no use for. That these items serve absolutely no purpose in the game is baffling. Why include them at all and then do nothing with them? The tape is used for a cheap laugh that doesn't go anywhere, and the flashlight is merely worth a dismissive comment. If you choose the glasses as one of the spirit focuses, which I had to because I couldn't find one for Ryo, then you get a throwaway line about how you were supposed to have forgotten your glasses.

That leads me to the dropped threads. Again, I was only able to get the safe ending after multiple attempts, so these may actually have relevance to the other endings, but since this seems to be the only ending I can get, I have to go with it. The mystery man that Shuhei sees leaving the building looks "shady as hell", and later, you see him watching you from the window. You follow up on the strange rumor and Hiromi tells you about what she found online, and this leads to a discussion about serial killers. This thread never comes up again after this. I guess it probably would have in the other endings, but I can't seem to get any but the safe ending.


"Tommy, how's the peeping?"


The next dropped thread is the locked gym. You're looking for a spirit object for Kyoko. She's an athlete, so logically, you go to the gym. The gym is locked. Okay, fine. A big deal, however, is made about the lock on the gym door. It's a student lock that doesn't quite fit the door. This feels like a puzzle game vibe. OH! How do you get through the locked door, but it's immediately dismissed as, "Well, we can't get in", and any future inquiry about the gym is completely dismissed. Your characters settle on a couple of sports flyers.

There's a reason, and writers take note, that elements unrelated to the plot are best not mentioned outside of regular character building: they generate interest in a story element, one which you have not followed, disappointing the reader. You created a mystery. You could have just said, "the door is locked", but instead chose to lend significance to the way the gym is locked.

Finally, the two we learn the most about is Sumio and Kyoko. There's nothing about Ryo, and you're forced to grasp at straws to learn more about him. That leads me to gameplay.

Gameplay: This visual novel actually has gameplay. It's fairly simple: you have to set up the summoning ritual. You need to find objects important to the spirits. To do this, you are given a group of keywords to explore. The more you explore, the more keywords you open up. Unfortunately, a significant amount of these leads nowhere. Shuhei and Hiromi are understandable. They're among the first keywords in your list. When asking about some things directly, however, you'll read things like, "Yep, that's what we're looking for," or "Yes, that's where we are". This is particularly frustrating with Ryo, of whom you have almost no information. The only thread you are able to follow is the notion that Ryo may have been romantically interested in Sumio. Unfortunately, this idea is immediately completely misunderstood by Shuhei, who I'd swear is as dumb as a box of rocks. Hiromi seemed to understand, but there was absolutely no way to follow this path forward. Unfortunately, these are the only paths even remotely related to Ryo since any other line of inquiry simply gets dismissed as either, "We already did that" or "That's not relevant".


Oh, right! The only item that isn't in my item list is the only one that's important to the whole game!


Gameplay is a very interesting concept. Unfortunately, paths of inquiry are so repetitive, vague, and circular, that it really doesn't help this game at all. What do get for spending three hours trying to follow Ryo's path absolutely no clues as to what you should be trying to do and absolutely nothing advances it? The safe ending, where your seance doesn't work, and you go home blandly, and absolutely nothing of interest happens.

Music: Atmospheric industrial. Sets the mood for scares that never come.

Graphics: The artwork is very nice, though the facial expressions are quite cliche.

Conclusion: This game fails on a number of levels. 1) Following the safe ending path gets you an incredibly dull and forgettable experience. 2) Anything interesting is locked out in the other endings. 3) The other endings may as well be inaccessible to most people because apparently, I'm missing some kind of point in the keywords, and I just don't see how to get them. All of these points brought together lead to a drawn-out, dull experience. There are characters with interesting ideas behind them that we never learn anything of merit about. They're interesting, but there's no real reason to care. I cannot recommend this game. Who knows; maybe there's something wrong with me and I just can't seem to get what's right in front of my face, but based on my experience, I doubt most people will get anything but the safe ending. It's the easiest one to get; you'll probably try again because you're so upset that nothing ever went anywhere and surely you didn't just waste your time, but sadly, you'll get the safe ending two or three more times like I did, and yes, you will have just wasted hours playing a game that gave you nothing in return.

Posts

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I know this review is pretty old, but there is an important piece of information you get at the gym.



And that piece of information is that the flyers you got at the gym are entirely useless. So the entire thing is a dead end. Which I suppose is fair since finding the right items is meant to be a puzzle. As a result the only item left in your inventory that can be associated with sports is the energy drink. Though maybe if they had went with it being a Gatorade it would have been more obvious.

And there are major clues for the right item for Ryo.

Thanks for the review. As of now only 2 people have told me they had gotten the True Ending. So it is possible to achieve, but I admit I needed to spend more time getting that discovery loop to be both more satisfying and helpful. That way you can recognize important information and understand how to apply it.

I’m glad to finally hear this opinion on the game, as I personally wasn’t sure if the game’s writing really landed all that well, or if some parts would become annoying or tedious. So thank you for your honesty, and thanks for giving the game a chance.
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