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"The Neverending Story", this is not!

A while back, I played CityMayor’s game’s other game, “Where’s my Mom”. I was certainly baffled by how messy it was on the technical side. Out of curiosity, I played this game, hoping that it would at least be more competent. After all, the previous game was pretty much rock bottom, so there’s no way but up. Sadly, although this game was overall better than “Where’s my Mom”, the negatives have somehow landed the game in the same bottom as the other, although slightly higher than it.

Audiovisual:
The game pretty much uses RTP graphics and audio. However, it does feature a few improvements. First off, screeeeeeen tint! Using a tint in some maps already improved the presentation a bit. And there is somewhat original music playing as well (although sparingly. So you’ll have to hear RTP music for most of the game’s run time). It is mostly from pre-existing music (You know, stuff from Bandcamp Free Music, etc.), but at least the dev decided to raise the quality. I do wish he/she could go the extra mile.

Story/Gameplay:
I’m grouping this since the game follows the game’s story bit by bit. No battles, no adventure elements. Nothing. You just move the game’s characters to specific points.

Before I jump to the story, I want to talk about the gameplay first, and why the current implementation is a bad idea. I’m sure some of you that are aware of the DOS PC game, “I have no mouth and I must scream”. The game based on the book of the same name. If not, I’m sure you are aware of The Witcher and/or the Metro series. Why am I bringing them up? Simple: the execution. What the three book-based games I mentioned do a lot better than Paradoxia Whispers, is that they understood their material and devs of those games built them in such a way that it followed the material and added elements that expanded them. “The Witcher” was practically an Action RPG with crafting. I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream was an adventure game, following the book, but allowed more freedom to the player, affecting the story a bit. It even added an alternate ending as well. So, why I think Paradoxia fails in that department? It’s because it’s more of a Visual Novel Lite, rather than an interesting game. Now, yes, the dev removed battles to make it stand out a little, but there wasn’t something there to fill the gap. All the player does is move from point A to point B. And I’m asking: why did it have to be made in RPG Maker MV? Renpy would do the trick. So… why wasn’t it a Visual Novel in the first place? Aside from possibly not being aware that engines like the aforementioned Renpy were available, it could be that there weren’t assets to use in VN than RM, but I still think that it was a bad pick, if the developer wasn’t going to make, say, an Adventure game. Simply making an audiobook would be better.

Moving over to the story… This is the only thing that (supposedly) was going to be the strongest point. But, it’s a mess. Possibly more so than Where’s my Mom’s story. Let’s start with the first character: Mabele. She likes to read fantasy books. Her parents dislike that and want her to read real books. Sounds familiar? Keep reading. She returns to the library, only to find a mysterious book named “Paradoxia”. The librarian sees that book and takes it from her. Mabel takes that book and returns home, but her father burns it. If it wasn’t obvious, it sounds like The Never Ending Story. Thankfully, the other three characters don’t have the same origin of sorts, so it’s not the same song and dance. But the story (overall) is dull, it has uninteresting characters and it’s way too short. Let’s start with each “origin” story:
- Mabel's story is the least liked for me. The parents are jerks to her, forcing her to read books that they approve. Yeesh. Cut her some slack. Also, although I understand that the librarian didn’t want her to read it, it was way too convenient and out of character. And how did Mabele escape from the library if she threw down the books? Somebody would notice her in the small room.
- Arthur’s story is more interesting. Her mother was killed by a dragon and he wants to be a better man. But he feels that he’s inferior to others. Even feeling that he makes his dad a joke to others. And he gets bullied by two people. That’s something interesting. But, it’s cut off too short. And there’s a monologue that it may come from his father that blames his son for being a joke. The frick? He lost his wife! His kid lost his mother! Yet, there’s no sympathy? Why? And Arthur helps the dragon (which, according to the dialogue, is supposed to be the one that killed his mother). Arthur is the least liked character in my book. It’s like he’s an emo version of Gary Stu. Thankfully, he is taken back to ground a bit in the last chapter.
- Violet’s is the most interesting. And Violet herself is interesting. She lives with an abusive father, a sick brother and a caring mother. She is abused by her father (who is alcoholic, on top of that) and forces her to steal food. Violet moves to the near city and attempts to steal food, only to end up in jail. Once she finds the book Paradoxia, she returns home, only to be yelled at by her father. Aside from a few logic errors, this part was well told. This is probably the best part.
- Durrant’s was OK. He and his father are joining the French Revolution to save his mother. So far, so good. The last part of the story was just a “deus ex machina” moment to bring him close to the others.

So, aside from some of these, the characters are set up for an adventure, since when they read the book, they are transported to a different dimension. The thing that derails the story is that it’s too short. It’s about 2 hours long! As soon as the characters arrived in the castle and met the “writer” (which happened in the world record time of… 1 minute of dialogue and then the characters touched the book). This version of the story was so rushed that the last chapter was “Deus Ex Machina” everywhere! So, any character development was thrown out of the window. And it was getting so interesting when the character met face to face. And there were a few contradictions in what some characters said at one point. If the story had more time, it would help improve it. Oh, and there are messages in the game where they are like “Book reading good. Video Games bad.” Because “books mean creativity, video games are fast food”. I can say with a straight face that games like Trackmania (heck, even the console versions of RPG Maker) prove this wrong. Oversimplifying here, but I think you get my point. Games can be art and ignite the imagination of the players. And, I have a theoretical question to you: if Earthbound was “fast food”, then why did it influence other games? They are unique in their own right, but why they are inspired by it?

Engineering:
As if somehow was possible, the game suffers from almost the same issues that plagued “Where’s My Mom”. The game installed on the Program Files folder (which, as I said in the other review, rendered the save option broken, since the game can’t write anything on the Program Files folder if the user didn’t run the game with admin privileges), the game relies on switching between maps, events repeat when they shouldn’t, and more. The dev hasn’t learned from the mistakes that he made from the other one and they got carried over here. The new issue I saw here was that when the screen faded out, you could see part of the map when the screen was shaking. Although the chances of breaking the game were lower, it’s still a technical mess.

Conclusion:
Even though I played the full version, the game hasn’t changed much from its demo. And it shows. I know that I called “Where’s My Mom” his second game, but even if this is his actual second game, I think that the dev hasn’t learned at all. And it’s a shame since this one has some interesting ideas. If the execution was right, it could be good. But it’s not. I’d say that if you can find that novel that the game’s based on, read that instead.

The good:
-Interesting concept.
-Nice original music of sorts.

The bad:
-Poor execution in the gameplay department.
-A lot of unlikeable characters.

The ugly:
-A lot of technical issues got carried over.
-Why use RPG Maker if you aren’t going to do anything interesting?

Recommendation: Avoid it, unless if you are curious.