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O2A2 2023 – VN Jam Game Report #2

For those who are unaware of what the O2A2 VN Jam is, it’s a short-term visual novel jam designed for new and veteran developers to make a micro VN. Teams are restricted to using one of any asset (i.e. 1 background and 1 sprite or 1 CG, 1 music track, 1,000 words) to create their story.

As one of the several Fuwanovel staff members who volunteered to cover a collective batch of 50 titles for this jam (around a third of the total) I’m excited to play half a dozen of these titles. My attention span for long titles is just not there yet, so these micro VNs offer us an opportunity to concisely talk about visual novels and express my love for those creating them–sometimes for free!

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From the overall pool of 156 titles, I’ve chosen the following five:

To Swat a Fly is a game that stood out to me by its name. Our Discord admin Zakamutt had fantranslated a game called Tatakareta Hae (Like a Swatted Fly) before, so the name was just enticing to me. When I started up the game, I was greeted by a title screen with red and black hues and distinct red title font. It signified danger to me, and this is also what this game is going for with this choice of colors (and UI).

In the story, you hold a post-(serial)-homicide interview/interrogation with Mel(anie) Atkinson, the Red Valley Reaper. We’re being suggested that she’s the perpetrator of several homicide cases in the area. However, from the get-go we’re never feeling like we’re in control over the conversation since she’s proceeds to give us a strike right after our first question. The following dialogue and the incorporated choices then want us to skirt her vigilance to answer and lead us to three endings in total, differing in gravity of each conclusion.

I wouldn’t say that the writing stood out much to me, but it has some hitting metaphors – especially when they namedropped the title. Some smaller detail I noticed was that the character has somewhat of a halo shine around her head, suggesting a religious or occult motif or an inclination towards such belief. This assumption begins to click in place once she talks about God–but you better explore this dialogue for yourself.

The choice tree is not complex, but there’s several ways to mess up and arrive at BAD ENDs, though the finality of such is diminished by the inbuilt Ren’Py rollback feature. You don’t really need to save before choices due to it still being enabled. Another detail I have to point out is how Mel’s more intimidating moments are communicated alone through her facial sprite and especially her eyes.

The one music track used is a soft piano solo piece that has quite the long fadeout, but doesn’t really get on my nerves. Did I mention, that the game has Mel fully voiced as well?*

*For some reason, her voice can’t be heard in the web version. You need to download the game.

Verdict: This had the most polish of all the titles!

Status: Released
Platforms: Windows, macOS, Linux, HTML5
Author: LunaRaydue
Genre: Visual Novel
Tags:Creepy, Crime, Horror, Multiple Endings, Mystery, psychological, Psychological Horror, Short, Thriller, Voice Acting

I don’t have much experience with the genre of Science Fiction, but it is always something I wanted to explore. In terms of VNs, the only Sci-Fi titles I played were ALPHA-NIGHTHAWK, Marco & The Galaxy Dragon, Kikokugai (though that’s more Cyberpunk) and Palinurus. Maybe you can also count Stories from Sol: The Gun-Dog (Review here by Ku-Eyes.) Basically, Sci-Fi is an untapped field for me.

In New Earth Voyagers, we have our nameable protagonist being rudely woken up by a Communications Device. It shows one missed call by Samantha which we have to respond to. We’re given the choice to take the call or to keep sleeping. To take the call, seems to be the choice that’s driving the plot forward, so we do click that.

We work together as Voyagers aboard the Weevil Light Cruiser that’s exploring unknown territory and complete tasks at the request of the Fleet Command. The entire 10-minute sequence is a long briefing section full of space exposition and with little bits of humor in them. The developer said they consumed some space anime show as preliminary inspiration and had written the story in under a day. Given these limitations, the writing is not bad at all–it is even stylized with a Sci-Fi inspired font and multicolored dialogue, though it’s not clear to me how these colors were determined and what their different usage signified.

The main visual spectacle is one background image of a section in space where you see varied planets and receive detailed descriptions about two of them at your choosing. It is visually impressive enough that it makes you want to explore what’s out there – generally, images of space do that.

The one used music piece is fitting, but I’ve heard less grating chiptune in my days.

Verdict: The final sentence of the game is "To be continued... Never!" That's sad.

Status: Released
Platforms: Windows, HTML5
Author: Hello_it's_Jack
Genre: Visual Novel, Adventure
Tags: 2D, Fantasy, Indie, Narrative, Sci-fi, Short, Singleplayer, storygame

The Night before the Blood Moon is actually what you might prejudically expect from a limited asset jam: It’s a mess. I don’t know what raazberry did here, but in terms of audio experience it veers into the “avant-garde.” The rest is simplistic and the plot can be explained with one word: Confinement.

In this game, the most stand-out element is probably the music if you dare call it that. At first, it starts with some ambience into approaching cymbals and xylophone. After the first measures end, its increasing in volume and then transitions into some of the intentionally worst electric guitar riff distortion I had the displeasure to hear. There’s also no limitations to the music playing, it just plays in menus, during gametime and even beyond finishing–like one continuous OST.

The plot itself is just 5 minutes of being stuck in a room with some person threatening your character with violence. The opening lines tell you that it is about a woman that refuses to let go of anything–in particular you.

The character sprite itself is handdrawn with crayon, probably designed in paint or similar. Not sure what she holds, it might be a knife?

Verdict: Not sure, but this game must've been a troll or a vncup 2 reject. My fricking ears!

Status: Released
Platforms: Windows, macOS, Linux
Author: raazberry
Genre: Visual Novel
Tags: Creepy, Horror, Narrative, Short, yandere

Honeycomb Smoke is also an other short experience that’s quickly explained. It’s a micro visual novel in a futuristic film noir setting. It toys around with color and atmosphere and also uses gradual color change to simulate the air of an underground bar named Osmia where the illumination shifts slowly as you talk. This actually works well.

The artwork, game visuals and programming are by CeriseMakes. They look good and inspired from more cliche depictions of mysterious females. In fact, our dialogue partners’ (Lara) design reminded me so much of the beauty in Pulp Fiction. Lara is voiced by Tabetha McNeal.

The game consists of a conversation with Lara that can go towards three different endings, one of which being the true extension that leads into a different scene suggesting there’s more. It’s nothing special, but a good effort.

One of the final sentences suggests ominously that the background plot is deeper, but it’s not like we’re getting an answer to it.

Nice Colors!

Status: Released
Platforms: Windows, macOS, Linux, HTML5
Author: Cerise Makes
Genre: Visual Novel,Interactive Fiction
Tags: Atmospheric, Dark, Futuristic, Multiple Endings, Mystery, Noir, Sci-fi, Short

403Puppet looks like a game that would fit our Fujoneko more, since the deuteragonist is a cute shota puppet in confinement named Raku. The game lets us talk to that puppet with the goal of freeing him from his cramped jail.

At the beginning, we’re getting the chance to name our character. This offers us a bit of individuality, but is largely insignificant.

Freeing the puppet isn’t so easy, as it requires a handful of choices to be picked in the right order. There’s a bit of a riddle character in this, but it’s not deep. The puppet itself also doesn’t move much, barely some facial expressions that change. The lack of movement that only being able to use one asset brings about is most noticable here.

Among all the games, this game has the best music track suiting my personal tastes. The protagonist isn’t voiced here.

I wasn't so impressed. A cute shota isn't enough.

Status: Released
Platforms: Windows, macOS, Linux
Author: PACCHI
Genre: Visual Novel, Interactive Fiction
Tags: 2D, Anime, Comedy, Creepy, Dark Fantasy, Horror, Male protagonist, Multiple Endings

Three out of five of these games had their own merits and some elements that would promise success if expanded upon in a bigger title. I really enjoyed this event since it’s the first time we manage as a team to organize a jam coverage where more than two people are eager to cover games at the same time. But I do need some ear cleaning after that third game, though.

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Once a writer for German site VNinfo, now the guy running the show (we're trying to save him from Hell okay). His energy is infectious, his passions strong, and his attachment to Nanahira manifestly unhealthy. He likes Sayonara wo Oshiete, long walks on the Internet, and excels at koolaidmanning.

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