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An example of a game that's outright enjoyable

  • Dragnfly
  • 05/08/2016 01:20 AM
TL;DR - Telling an age-old story very well and from a fresh perspective. Having some good scenes really shows promise for the developer.

Version reviewed: 1.0

The Good:
-Great art
-Multiple Endings
-Good use of tilesets
-Lots of flavour

The Bad:
-Story (yeah, it's in both categories)
-A handful of technical errors
-Two puzzle-related things didn't jive with me
-Some odd architecture choices

The Other:
-I remember some typos but I neglected to note when and where in my notes so this isn't reflected in the score

Imaginary Friends is a horror puzzle game that's tilted heavily towards the characters. In fact, one of its best points is how even the story exists just to flesh out our heroine, the reclusive teen Hailey.

Visually the game works very well. The tilesets and parallax areas use colour and variety very well. The custom sprites look and animate well enough. The character portraits are very expressive and have many nice touches, like Hailey's brother having a bit of snot on his nose. Gross, but that's a good detail and says a lot about who he is despite that he's nothing more than a bit character. The CGs are very pretty for an RM game too. I can't really fault the game on a visual sense in any way.

Audio-wise the game also holds strong. Nothing outright amazing but it all works together. The sound effects during my favourite part are particularly good.

Gameplay is solid for the most part. I did have a few problems with puzzles. While they do make general sense I had a sense of "why am I doing this?" with some of them. For example, at one part you get a sledgehammer. Your options for that area are some locked doors, a cracked frozen lake, and a dream-like parallax. All of these seemed to be valid targets for your hammer but the target you need to use it on didn't even ding with me as a valid option. As this puzzle leads into my favourite segment of the game it only bothered me more after the rush from that scene was done.

Another odd puzzle involved a series of multiple-choice quizzes. I found that only the math question was properly presented. The rest had a "know it, save scum it or google it" problem. I didn't find any in-game hints leading to the answers unless they were astoundingly vague and I missed them. There're even some objects which hint that they might have clues to the answer but they didn't when I checked them. Ironic since I'm okay with all other subjects but math is by far my weakest and yet by its nature it doesn't require a hint.

Most of the puzzles are pretty good. They can almost all be brute forced so the one time you'll get stuck is if you're looking for a certain item. This can be solved by the adventure game staple of "checking everything". More on the puzzles later, though. I especially enjoyed the
shadow boy attacks Oliver in the cloud house
segment because the resolution was kind of funny and the gymnasium puzzle because it was simple but still nice.

There is also some odd architecture going on, especially in the school area. One example is having a gymnasium on the 2nd floor of a building and quite possibly being only one storey tall. Another example includes rooms where you enter from one direction but begin the room from a completely different one.

In the library, there are bookshelves facing the wall. I get that they're supposed to be turned to face the room but since the tops of the shelves look identical to the ones where you can see the books and none of them have any important or flavourful content. A better decision would be to turn reposition the room and exclude those shelves entirely, as it seems they're only there to measure up with other exposed bookcases.

Even in an unreal scenario, these are jarring mapping oversights.

Another design flaw is that it's not always clear if you're supposed to be standing on or beside an object to access it. This actually got me stuck at one point.

There is also a passage issue with some objects.

The story as a whole is quite good and presented very well. The opening is especially well-done for setting a sense of unease. I also applaud the game for having an interesting take on the idea. Given the game's name it shouldn't be a shock to learn the twist but there is a sub-twist
that Hailey's current loneliness is her own doing
which is, I must say, absolutely brilliant. I'm not fond of the whole
"All this was just in the character's mind and they just had to remember some things"
angle but it serves the story well here.

The characters and NPCs have some nice back-and-forth and I felt invested in getting Hailey to safety. I had guessed the identity of the boy pretty much right away and the entire story surrounding him so I think that could have been concealed a little better, perhaps with a few red herrings.

Horror-wise it's fairly light but not without its scares. I give special credit to everything from
smashing the TV to going out the window
. That entire section is pure horror gold.

The game also boasts multiple endings. At least 3 (as my ending was numbered #3) although I suspect there are 4 or more because I had some extra things to do but the ending I got was very satisfying regardless. I'm putting the other endings on the back burner but it's certainly well worth going for them if you have the time.

As the game is reasonably short, the chases are easy and the multiple ending stuff is optional I can recommend this one to pretty much any RM gamer I know. Good work.