By William Haderlie / November 7th, 2016
Publisher Fruitbat Factory approached us with the opportunity to check out a preview build of a new Visual Novel they are releasing from a very small developer, ENIGMA:. The doujin developer Uzumeya has only two titles that I could find, but this visual novel shows me that they have a lot of promise. I have been quite critical in the past of indie developers of Visual Novels, especially after some western developed ones left a really bad taste in my mouth, but the fantastic Katawa Shoujo opened up the possibilities for what they could potentially become. So I entered my playtime with this Visual Novel wary, but ready to be convinced.
The setting of the Visual Novel seems to be approximately Middle Ages Europe. But it uses only fantastical names and no dates, so it’s only an aesthetic choice. It’s also more than an artistic choice because of how major the outbreak of the black plague was at that time. In this story there is a disease spreading throughout the world, but no one knows how it is being transmitted. It seems that contact or proximity has no effect on the transmission, so it has been called Enigma. As you go through the story you will also learn that this disease did not hit any utopia; this world is rather brutal and war and death are extremely common even before this huge disease hits.
Chester is the protagonist of this tale, which threw me for a loop somewhat since you are allowed to enter in your name at the beginning. I figured that you would just have a silent protagonist that is unseen and their name would just match what you entered. In many ways I prefer this choice over the unseen protagonist style. At least with a named and seen individual you can watch him in a lot more interactive scenes, and he has much more personality than you would otherwise have. He is still unvoiced, but there is no voice acting for anyone in the game. Unfortunately Chester is one of the many people with the terminal Enigma disease. He seems to be a bit of a slacker and is happy go lucky, especially considering that he does not have long left to live, but you will eventually become privy to some of his dark past.
Colette is the first person you meet after your boat crashes on this remote island. I was mostly impressed with her art design, as well as the rest of the character’s art. This has always been very hit or miss with indie Visual Novels, but in this case I consider it a hit. She has a gentle plain girl look, and then some other characters have a bit more fantastic design (especially the doll). Even though there is no voice work, her personality bleeds through her dialogue and actions, so even though it would have been nice to hear a pretty Japanese voice coming out of her mouth, I didn’t miss it as much as I could have. There are three primary routes in the game, and romancing her or becoming family with her and her brother is one of them. There are 19 different endings, so there are many different ways that it could turn out.
The Colette routes are rather domestic and sad or romantic depending on your choices. But other routes will involve the world story a little more, and can have quite a bit of magic. Especially when it comes to the doll, Envirio, the plot can take some surprising turns. A typical story run can vary widely in its length, but they are typically between 2-5 hours long. That may seem on the short side for a Visual Novel, and it is, but with 19 different endings there is a lot of replay value to be had. And that playtime will balloon even if you don’t intend on seeing all 19 of them. It’s definitely worth at least viewing the 3 major routes.
Even though this was a preview build of the game, it was really solid. All the content was there and they plan on only adding a few more things like a user’s manual and such. I had zero crashes or bugs, and the grammar and spelling were satisfactory. There were a couple sequences that I might have changed, but nothing that will pop off the screen as bad. For such a small studio, this is an impressive effort. And while there is no voice work, the music is quite good. Their loops are not extremely long, but they are also not short enough to become distracting. And there is enough variety in the music that you will typically reach a different song before the previous one ends and starts looping.
The art and music are well done, especially from such a small studio, but the highlight of this Visual Novel is definitely the story. It is really quite good, no matter which route you are on. I could see this becoming a much larger series of games, and I would be on board with continuing to read them. The game is ESRB rated M, but I did not see much that was really all that sexually explicit; perhaps it was on a different route. There was certainly some violence, but it did not glorify it or devolve into torture porn. So I’m not sure that I would quite say that this one should only be played by adults, and if I had a teenager I would definitely allow them to play it. The game is coming out on November 15, 2016 and I think that it would be worth your time. Especially if you are a fan of Visual Novels that are a bit more serious. They don’t list a price for the game yet, but you are going to get even more value out of the release with the newly announced mini-soundtrack and electronic manual additions to the game. So if I was doing a full review, this game would get a very good score. As a preview, it certainly left a great impression and I think they have a really good story on their hands.
EnigmaFruitbat FactoryPCSteamUzumeyavisual novel