• Add Review
  • Subscribe
  • Nominate
  • Submit Media
  • RSS

This Game ALMOST Gets it Right

  • Frogge
  • 01/04/2019 05:09 PM

Digital Chain by hiromu656
Length: ~40 minutes

Literally sang this in my head the entire time I was playing.

I've never been one to play visual novels. I've been wanting to, because there's so many great looking ones I want to try out, but I honestly just don't have the attention span to stick with them to the end. In comes Digital Chain, a (luckily) brief mystery visual novel that seemed perfect. The game page says it's about an hour long, which is basically just about how long most visual novels tend to keep my attention, so I figured this would finally be one that I could play to the end. And I'm actually fairly sure it's the only visual novel I've ever played to the end other than Danganronpa 2 (granted I may have forgotten a few really short ones, which I think I actually did, but let's just say it's the only 30+ minute visual novel game I've finished other than Danganronpa 2).

So, as one of my main introductory games to the visual novel genre, does it do a good job? Yeah, I actually really enjoyed this one a lot and I can definetly see myself trying out a few more thanks to my pleasant experience with Digital Chain... up until the ending.

Oh god, 4chan? This is absolutely the scariest thing in this game so far.

As a visual novel, since you're gonna be pretty simple in terms of gameplay and your visuals are gonna be limited to the backgrounds and character art, I feel it's most important to put a lot of emphasis on your story. And Digital Chain definetly does that, the story's actually pretty good!

But before I get to the story in detail, I guess I'll quickly go over what inspired me to play this game in the first place - the art. And yeah, the art in this game actually IS really good. The style of the characters is pretty unique and reminds me more of like older anime series rather than the much cleaner artstyle they tend to have nowadays. In fact, it looks much more like an anime movie than it does an anime series. The color scheme of the game sticks out with a huge emphasis placed on shades of blue and sticking to a color scheme like this absolutely makes the game's visuals more memorable. I love the little images that pop up when you're using the phone and stuff to add a bit more action to the scenes, and it works really well. I like everything about this game's visuals from the backgrounds to the character art to the windowskin to the colors.

My only extremely minor complaint here is that almost all backgrounds in the game are pixellized. Now, this on its own is fine, I really don't mind at all. The weird thing for me here was that there is a single background in the entire game that's not pixellized in the ending - the exterior of the school. Again, I really don't mind the backgrounds being ran through a pixel filter, but I would at least wish that the developer stuck with it the entire way through.

And on the topic of the game's presentation, I guess the soundtrack is fine too. There's no songs in particular that I really liked, but they work okay to set the mood, and the sound effects do add a bit more flavor to the game.

Oh it's the Tommy Wiseau movie- I mean the fourth Silent Hill game- I mean the final chapter of OFF- I mean the room where the children were killed.

Now one thing you generally would no expect from a visual novel is for it to have much gameplay, and Digital Chain really isn't TOO gameplay heavy, but I do like the keyword system. The way it works is that you have several keywords to ask your pals about as well as several items that will later be used to summon the spirits.

I do think the potential of this system could have been realized way better, though. For one, more than half of your keywords and items never actually end up becoming relevant, they simply end up being there just to make it harder for you to guess what you need to talk about or which item you have to use to summon the spirits. That being said, your choices do generally feel pretty clever. There were definetly a few times I had mini-eureka moments after I found what keyword I was supposed to bring up and went "oooh, okay, that makes a lot of sense."

Now I will go ahead and mimic what other people have said here and bring up that the true ending is a bit annoying to get, because you have to present three items in the correct order with a lot of dialogue in between to get it, otherwise you end up getting the safe ending. I don't mind the items you have to choose being a bit obscurely hidden at all, because they DO actually make sense if you pay attention, but I got kinda fed up and looked into the game files to see the answer because of how much I had to replay. My suggestion here would not actually be to add more hints as to what items you have to pick, but rather to have you either choose which ones to use at the ending or let you have one last look at which ones you chose and change them if you want to before the ritual. Otherwise, again, they do make a lot of sense once you know which ones you have to use, but if you get it wrong, replaying previous sections can be a bit annoying.

I can also safely say that Digital Chain is a well polished game, but there's also minor improvements here that could be made. I came across a lot of typos and words that had their first letter capitalized when they shouldn't have, and the game actually crashes if you try to back out of presenting a spirit item. I guess that's what I get for saying I was ready when I actually wasn't, eh? A minor visual improvement I would make would also be to have a character's portrait either get more transcluent or darker when they're not speaking to make it a bit easier to tell who is. As it stands, a few scenes near the end where Hitomi and Shiek from the legend of zelda games (I honestly forgot how to pronounce his name so I'm gonna call him Shiek for the rest of this review) were both on screen at the same time had me a bit lost as to who was talking. It's not too big of an issue, but it would still be a good improvement.

Up is a 2009 animated kids movie by Disney Studios director Pete Docter and Bob Peterson with an 8.3/10 on IMDb. Seriously, you see a couple of words with their first letters capitalized like this for no reason throughout the game.

Okay, enough of all that, let's move onto the main focus of this game, its story. And as I already mentioned, it's pretty damn good. The concept isn't really anything new, but I do like that the game doesn't take it very seriously either, and often at times even makes attempts to satirize media about ghosts. The lighthearted stuff is definetly well done. And I actually did end up liking the characters too! There's definetly chemistry among this group and I had lots of fun reading their interactions. Most of their dialogue is actually pretty realistic and a lot of the cheesy ass lines you would expect from an anime are missing here, probably for the best. Thank god the characters never ended up going into the power of friendship, having dumb philosophical monologues or shouting in ways that no human would shot in real life. And since there's only three of them, at least excluding the ghosts and the villian, they end up being pretty well developed.

Surprisingly, I found myself really getting involved in the plot, to the point where I was just as disappointed from the safe ending as the characters were and desperately wanted to see what would have happened. Their little adventure definetly drags you in and leaves you curious as to what's going to happen, and there's even some great mystery built up after the first half of the game as you begin to get stalked by an elusive figure.

Thankfully, I stuck around for the true ending, and I'm glad I did. Once you get it, there's actually a really good twist that completely caught me off guard. I expected something of the kind, but my initial guess was that we were the ghosts or something, since there were three of us like the dead kids. Didn't take me long to make the connection between the glasses (main character refuses to wear them for some reason, one of the ghosts was teased about their glasses) in particular, though I had my doubts since the personalities of the ghosts didn't match up that much with the characters otherwise.

So up until this point, amazing art, good soundtrack, good gameplay, really intriguing story and likeable characters. I wanted to put this game in highly rated so bad by giving it four stars (well actually I couldn't because piano's review is two stars so the average would not have landed it in highly rated anyway), so why I didn't I go along with it? I'll tell you why - the ending. It's amazing how the first 39 minutes of the game had me so interested and then in just 1 minute I get utterly disappointed.

The problem is not that the ending ruins anything that happened prior, or anything, the problem here is that the ending feels way too rushed. You don't get to find out who the killer was, which is fine by me, but the bigger problem here is that it gives no closure. I don't think the developer should change anything here, I just think they should extend the ending.

After realizing her friends are still at school, the main character decides to jump off the bus and return to save them from the serial killer. She hears screams or something and goes to help her friends, and finds them tied up. She helps them out, and they have to stop the serial killer together and put the spirits to rest, or at least escape with their lives together. Now we're in the climax, with the serial killer stalking you as you try to escape. Maybe he's locked the doors, or he still has one of you in his grasp, so you have to go face him off to save that person. This way, you have to end the cycle.

I mean, you do essentially sort of end the cycle because one of you survives in the game already, so the game doesn't even follow through with like a loop plot. At least if all three of you died in there, we would know that the cycle will probably continue, but as of now you're just wondering "wait, even if the serial killer ends up murdering Hitomi and Shiek, the next students won't be able to see the same twist we did in that the previous three students were also trying the ritual, so what point is there left?"

I'm starting to think we WERE the ghosts all along after all. I mean, look, my two friends are both floating in the air! That does actually explain the ending a lot better too, to be honest.

Literally just extending the ending like this would have easily knocked this game up to a good four, and maybe even four a half stars for me, but I'm just too disappointed by the lead up but the lack of a good delivery that I feel the story was ruined by it. I sincerely hope the developer decides to do either a remake or extended edition of this game because I would honestly be all in for it, but I currently only recommend Digital Chain if you don't mind getting really disappointed.

As it stands, though, I give Digital Chain three and a half phones out of five.