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Simple, yet beautiful story about friendship and the journey of self realization.

If you would like to see a quick 90 second review including gameplay footage, feel free to click here! This review will go into more depth than the video, but won’t include anything visual. If you’d like to see a full playthrough of the game, click here!

Disclaimer: I have been playing RPGMaker games for nearly a decade now, and had a channel in the past that was dedicated to them as a young teen. I now am reviving this passion, and am super excited to this making reviews! I am very new to reviews, seeing as I’ve only ever done playthroughs. Constructive criticism is very much appreciated!

✧─── ・ 。゚★: *.✦ .* :★. ───✧

If you don’t care about how I calculated my rating and want to get to the meat of the review, skip down until you see the next text divider! Five categories were taken into consideration which were then averaged into the final score. I will give a brief explanation as to what the categories are before we get into the meat of the review. This should give you an idea has to what factored into score, etc.

Concept
This category covers the overarching theme of the game. Here are some questions I ask myself when scoring this category: What is the game trying to accomplish? Does it effectively convey that? Is the theme relevant and/or relatable to the average player? Is this an original idea?

Art
This category covers the visuals. To get a high score, I do not consider the visuals to necessarily be professional. I am mostly looking for stylistic choices and if they contribute to the game in any meaningful way. Here are some questions I ask myself when scoring this category: Do the visuals match the game atmosphere? Does the art contribute anything meaningful to gameplay? Is there any sort of symbolism/meaning hidden within the art? Is the art visual pleasing (easy on the eyes, at minimum)?

Gameplay
This category relates to the technical aspects of the game. It is less how “fun” the game is and more of whether or not the game properly functions. Here are some questions I ask myself when scoring this category: Did I notice any bugs? Were there any typos? Are the gameplay mechanics easy to use? Is the difficulty consistent?

Characters
This category is all about character development and design. Characters, especially the main one, can make or break a game. Here are some questions I ask myself when scoring this category: Are the character’s personalities dull? Are the character designs original? Do the character designs contribute meaningfully to the plot? Can I see any sort of character development throughout the game? If I removed the characters from the context of the game, would they be interesting?

Story
This category revolves around the plot of the game as well as the progression within it. The concept category is more of “what is the game trying to achieve?” whereas this category revolves more around how well it is conveyed. Here are some questions I ask myself when scoring this category: Are there major plot holes? Is there any “filler” material within the game? Does the game have smooth plot progression? Does the game meaningfully convey the concept that it set out to portray? Is the storyline consistent, or does it hop around?

✧─── ・ 。゚★: *.✦ .* :★. ───✧

Rating: 7.4/10 (which translates to about 4*)
Game Length: ~45min

Background:

1998 is a wholesome game about self realization and what it means to be a good friend. The main characters are Audrey and Jun— two polar opposite teens. Audrey is bitter and cynical, whereas Jun is a very caring and seemingly optimistic person. Jun is a new face around town, and when Audrey meets him it begins to cause her to reflect on her own character and begin a journey of self realization.

Concept: 6/10
The concept for this game is a little basic. It is a very standard “main character meets someone who just moved to town and their world gets turned upside down” sort of storyline. Despite this being a common trope, I don’t necessarily consider it a red flag. Tropes are popularized for a reason, and that is because they work. When using tropes like this, execution is key. The plot can easily become predictable and bland. Fortunately, I think this game did a decent job at pulling something meaningful out of an otherwise basic premise.

In my opinion, the saving grace of this game is how short it is. By keeping the gameplay under an hour, it avoids the player feeling as if the plot is underwhelming. I was able to stay engaged, and at the end of the game I could very clearly see what the game maker was aiming to achieve:

**Spoilers**
Audrey was the friend who only ever cared about herself. Throughout the game she was very bitter and selfish, consistently talking about herself and her problems without ever considering anyone else’s view on things. Jun is always a listening ear for her, but gently pushes the idea that she is being inconsiderate of others with her negative mindset. You are consistently given dialogue options to either take accountability for how your actions affect the people around you, or you can reject the consequences of your actions.

The game is all about realizing that any sort of meaningful relationship is a two way street. It is unfair to expect someone to always be there for you without doing anything in return. At the end of the day, everyone has problems. Everyone needs support. Being cynical and cruel towards others is unproductive for all parties.



Overall I think this theme is super relevant. I genuinely believe that anyone playing this game has either been Audrey or Jun at some point in their life. I’m going to be 100% transparent and say that I have probably been in both of their shoes on more than one occasion. I like to think that in my current life I am Jun, however it’s unfair of me to say I’ve never been an Audrey to someone else. The meaning is a huge gut punch in my opinion. There’s nothing necessarily special about the delivery, but the relevancy is what hits you hard.

When I got to the end of the game, I genuinely almost cried. As I read the text, I imagined every time I’ve ever treated someone like Audrey did as well as every time I’ve been treated like Jun. I was filled with so much emotion, and that was the moment when I realized that this game was golden. There was no doubt in my mind what the game was aiming to achieve, and I do think it was done well.

I consider a five to be a baseline on my scoring system, and because of the simplicity of the plot it definitely falls there. I bumped it up a point due to delivery, however. A premise can be basic while still having excellent delivery and relevancy. In this aspect, it went above and beyond (hence the rating of six instead of five).

Art: 10/10
I absolutely loved the art in this game. It was simplistic, however extremely meaningful. The first thing I noticed when loading up the game was that Audrey was the only color in the entire game. When she first met Jun, I realized he was the only other color in the game besides her. There is a lot of meaning hidden in the usage of color within the game, and I thought it was beautiful.

Audrey is extremely bitter and depressed. As someone who also experiences depression, I completely understand why the world would be grey to her. Everything is arbitrary in her mind, and that is represented by the game being monochrome. It is a great way to physically show the inner turmoil our main character is facing. There is one other thing that has color within the game other than Audrey and Jun, and that is:

**spoilers**
the flower shop. This is Audrey’s safe space, and you can tell by the interaction she has with the shopkeep. The color in the game represents what she finds joy in, and I think it’s a great touch. Color represents life, and Audrey might as well have been dead before meeting Jun considering her outlook on life. I received the secret ending on my playthrough, and it was heartwarming to see the color flood back into her world. As previously mentioned, I’ve been Audrey more times than I’d care to admit. I’ve been so focused on how grey things were that I never even tried to see the color. Sometimes it takes a catalyst (in this case, Jun) to remind you of how pretty the world can be and open your eyes to the rainbow that has been around you all along.


The other thing I noticed about the art was that in every full art cutscene, it looked as if the art was a rough draft. I’m not sure if this was a stylistic choice or just the artist’s style, however I like to think everything had meaning. The whole story revolves around self realization, and the grittiness of forming relationships with those around you. Both of our main characters were also in a rough patch during the main events of the story, and I believe the art reflects this state that they are in as well.

When a game is more than “pretty” I instantly give brownie points. I love searching between the lines for meaning, and I found a lot of it here which earns the game a 10 in this category for me.

Gameplay: 5/10
I’m going to be honest, the gameplay is super simplistic as well as short, however this game is a story based RPG. The purpose was to tell a story, and having any sort of difficult mechanics could easily detract from it. I usually play a lot of puzzle/adventure RPGs, and complex mechanics are expected within those. A game like this doesn’t need them. Within the 45min it took me to complete the game, I was able to achieve the third (or secret) ending. As an avid RPG player, I’m someone who believes everything has a purpose. By interacting with everything in every scene, I was able to collect enough scrapbook materials which I presume to be the clearing condition for the secret ending.

Normally secret endings are much harder to achieve, but for a game like this I think that the only reason I got it first try was because of my curiosity. Most people I would breeze past the different areas without examining the environment, so I suppose the average joe wouldn’t achieve this ending so easily. The progression of the game was pretty smooth and I didn’t feel like anything was rushed, nor did I feel like it was full of fluff. Everything was important in some way or another, and I like that. The game got to its point very quickly, and that contributed to the hard hitting message of it.

As for dialogue options, they were also a bit basic. Any time a choice was given, I felt as if there was an obvious “right” and “wrong” choice. This could just be me over analyzing things, but I honestly doubt it. In this regard, the game was completely average. I usually prefer options which are grey areas, but considering the game’s message I honestly don’t see this aspect as too much of a problem.

In summary, the gameplay was fairly average. Nothing was necessarily wrong with it, but I didn’t feel as if it were above and beyond. This left me with a rating of 5/10.

Characters: 7/10
Both characters very obviously follow one trope. I touched upon this briefly in a previous section, but will now go into a bit more depth. Audrey is bitter and cynical. She has been hurt by the world, and therefore she has turned her back to it. It had turned her into a pessimist who doesn’t consider anyone other than herself. Jun is dealing with his own things, yet he still finds compassion to listen to other people and try to be a friend. He doesn’t agree with Audrey’s outlook on life, but is only ever gentle when correcting this attitude.

Despite both characters being basic at their core, there is a lot of character development which bumps the score up.

**spoilers**
When Jun and Audrey go out to eat together, things fell into place for me. I even commented on Audrey’s behavior while recording my playthrough of the game. She was very quick to complain about how much she hated her circumstances, going so far as to cut off Jun when he tried to mention something that was bothering him. It honestly said a lot about the kind of person she was, which made it all that more beautiful when she finally realized how horrible of a friend she’d been. Whenever Jun disappeared for a few weeks, it felt as if Audrey only cared because she no longer had someone to hang around with. My heart shattered when he told Audrey his mom had died of cancer.


I think that was the turning point for Audrey, and seeing her character completely 180 was amazing. She took accountability for her actions and chose to correct them, and I really enjoyed that. Besides her self realization, I also really liked how Jun was portrayed. Even though he was hurting, he made sure to try and be a caring friend every chance he got. He understood that it was up to Audrey to change her outlook on life, but he encouraged her to choose the right path for herself. At the end of the day, everyone deserves someone like him to help us realize what is best for us. Even if Jun was hurting, he made sure to not use it as an excuse to put other people in harm’s way. I honestly admire that in a person, because so many people are willing to wallow in self pity at the cost of others.

Overall, the characters are basic by design, but they have their own complex struggles which makes them feel more real. The ability to relate to characters in a game is very important, and how easily I could insert myself in either of their shoes was a huge breath of fresh air. This category won a 7/10 because of that.

Story: 9/10
If you have gotten this far in the review, a lot of the storyline has already been revealed through explaining my ratings in other categories. Because of this, the story section might seem a little shorter than others in order to reduce any potential redundancy. The game was a gut punch, as I stated previously. As a writer, I acknowledge that the most important thing to do when effectively telling a story is to make sure that whoever is looking at it feels some sort of emotion. If a story doesn’t make you feel something, then there is something fundamentally wrong with the design.

For a game that was less than an hour, I felt a ton of emotion. I was able to get attached to the characters quickly, and the plot was easily streamlined so that I could keep track of what was going on. A lot of indie games run into the problem of either having too much fluff or rushing important bits of the game. I understand that there are reasons for this, but regardless it can be a huge detriment to games. In my mind, if a portion of the game can be entirely removed without affecting anything plot-wise, there is is a problem. I also don’t like to finish a game and still have unanswered questions, or feel like something wasn’t fully explained to the extent it should have been.

1998 did a great job of getting to the point while leaving no plot holes. It’s genuinely a feat to do this, so I give my regards to the creator. I feel as if many people fall into the trap of obsessive on game length when it’s entirely unnecessary. If your story can be told in one hour, don’t try to tell it in two. I’d rather have a short and meaningful game than a lengthy one where half of the game was irrelevant. Honestly, a shorter story was also a breath of fresh air. It’s not uncommon for me to boot up a new game and mentally prepare to spend at least a couple hours on it. I was genuinely shocked at the length, but not in a bad way.

I think 1998 accomplished exactly what it set out to do. There were a few minor time skips in the game where there could have possibly been more explanation or gameplay, but I honestly don’t feel like I’m missing out on that much. Generally speaking, I left the game feeling satisfied and not carrying any questions with me that had been left unanswered.

The game did a fantastic job on pacing and relevancy, so I give major props and rate the story a 9/10. The one point that I took away is for the few time skips I would have enjoyed a little more insight to, but I don’t think it’s that big of a deal.

✧─── ・ 。゚★: *.✦ .* :★. ───✧

Final thoughts:
Overall the game was great. My typical genres of interest gear more towards horror/puzzle, but a nice story game is always super refreshing. I think I made a really good choice in playing this game, and I’d highly recommend it to anyone looking for a short and low-commitment game to play. Since it is less than an hour, it’s easily completed in one sitting which is a big bonus in my opinion.

Lastly, I wanted to give a huge shoutout to AverageAvacado. I’m genuinely impressed by your craftsmanship. I can’t believe you did everything yourself, minus a bit of the music. You are definitely very talented, and to be a one person team the game turned out absolutely amazing. Keep up the good work!