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O2A2 2023—VN Jam Game Report #3

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.

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From all the entries, I’ve chosen to play the 6 games that caught my eye:

Warning: Some of these visual novels may contain mature themes such as death, bodily harm, and suicide.

This game opens up with a letter you received from Lauthis, your dead lover. Lauthis is fully voiced and the VA did an excellent job. It is accompanied by a music box lullaby, which fits the game perfectly, bringing feelings of nostalgia and a bit of melancholy.

The thing is, Lauthis has been dead for two years already, and seems to have left a riddle for you. You unearth his weirdly well-preserved body and start doing a ritual to see him once again. This takes the form of a puzzle, where you have to take hints from the letters and interact with a multitude of objects in the right order. It was surprisingly well done — it managed to be interesting without being too complex.

Depending on your choices, you can reach 3 endings. One of them has a bit of a horror twist and creeped me out a little (I loved it.) Another is sweet and emotional, mustering as much feeling as it could in such a short format. The third one is emotional too, but seems to predict something bigger and darker—maybe the VN will receive a sequel in the future?

The art was excellent, making good use of the limitations, with zoom in and out. My only small complaint would be that the text pauses a lot mid-sentence… That’s alright when there’s voice acting, but gets slightly on my nerves when there’s none, as I read fast.

Status: Released
Platforms: Windows, macOS, Linux
Author: pann
Genre: Visual Novel
Tags: Anime, Bara, Gay, Horror, LGBT, mlm, Multiple Endings, Ren'Py, Romance, Yaoi
The hostage screenshot

This game includes multiple versions, including a Director’s Cut. I’ve only played the O2A2 Jam version, to stay faithful to the other reviews.

This game contains voice-acting for the antagonist, which I’d say is fine.
You’ve been captured by a crazy stalker that can only speak like a parody of a 16th century villain. The dialogues are poorly written and the scenario didn’t make any sense to me. There’s not much to say here… I felt more like I was watching some kind of ASMR roleplay video than playing a VN with an actual plot.

I didn’t like it at all, but I guess there’s an audience for that. If you like ikemen–go ahead.
At least, the music and the art were good enough, with a lo-fi red on black ambiance. The UI changes depending on who’s talking is also a nice touch.

Status: Released
Platforms: Windows, macOS, Linux
Author: Melancholy Marionette
Genre: Visual Novel, Interactive Fiction
Tags: Atmospheric, Creepy, Dark, Experimental, Horror, LGBTQIA, Psychological Horror, Short, Spooky

You are stuck in a cavern, and you have few options of what to do. There’s not much context for where you are, or even who you are throughout the game. No matter your choices, you’ll have an encounter. From there on, you can answer the thing’s questions, which will lead you to different endings. It’s hard to describe this scenario, as everything is very cryptic. Maybe the thing you encounter is a representation of your subconscious, but nothing is ever made very clear.

The game’s background music is some sort of cave noises, creating a tense and creepy ambiance. The background art is very simple, but the black and white art style makes it very unique and fits the ambiance well.
I generally don’t like novelty fonts, but this one was easy to read and fits the background perfectly. The sprite of the something you come across is truly eerie, and it was disconcerting to have it staring at me directly, but I eventually got used to it.

This VN has 3 endings depending on the choices you make. I think I’ve reached all three of them, but it wasn’t very clear as the game simply returns to the title screen without any title card of the ending name.
Overall, I liked the creepy ambiance, but the overly cryptic scenario didn’t hook me up that much. I would love to hear if the author has an explanation in mind!

Status: Released
Platforms: Windows, macOS, HTML5
Author: idolapollo
Genre: Visual Novel
Tags: Atmospheric, Creepy, Dark, Horror, Indie, Multiple Endings, Short

This game makes clever use of the restrictions by having multiple expressions with a single pose, moving the story further.
I felt like it explored some theme of lack of self-confidence and maybe some paranoia. One of the endings was very sweet, though.

The soundtrack was quite disturbing and it fit the ambiance well. The graphics were the kind that get stuck in your mind when you go to sleep at night.

Maybe it’s because of the restrictions, or there’s something obvious that I missed, but the way to get the second ending made no sense.

Status: Released
Platforms: Windows, macOS, Linux, HTML5
Author: Alz
Genre: Visual Novel
Tags: 2D, Black and White, Dark, Gay, Narrative, Psychological Horror, Ren'Py, Short, Surreal, Yaoi

The game depicts an online conversation between two friends. One of them, which is feeling suicidal. The story is pretty straightforward, and the message exchanges is realistic enough that it hits close to home if you’ve been in a similar situation before.

It probably wouldn’t have fit under the constraints of the jam, but a choice with different outcomes would have been nice, to represent the difficulty of choosing the right words in that moment.

The game also lacks music or sounds, which could have been a nice touch. Something like a background noise of the computer fans or typing on the keyboard would have added immersion and feelings of loneliness.

Status: Released
Platforms: HTML5
Author: ellis dex
Genre: Visual Novel
Tags: autobiographical, Dark, Mental Health, Short

This is not an unique concept, but this VN did it quite well.
You’re stuck in a dark cave and your lantern broke… You have to listen and feel around in the dark to find your way out.

The soundwork is really oppressive and the gameplay, where you choose which path to follow next, as well as the writing (written in 2nd person) reminds me of interactive fiction games. There’s no character sprites for the most part, which is a bold choice — being completely in the dark—but it fits the theme of the game well. I would have liked a soundtrack on top of the background sounds for the steps.

As you progress, you get the sense that you’re not alone in there. It aptly dragged me in (well, as much as it is possible could with a thousand words) and I would love to see an extended, more slow-paced version—maybe with some choices!

Status: Released
Platforms: Windows, macOS, Linux
Author: Judithan
Genre: Visual Novel
Tags: 2D, Atmospheric, Horror, Pixel Art, Psychological Horror, Retro, Short

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Writer in training & technical writer. I love everything horror and mystery.

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