Charade Maniacs | title
Charade Maniacs | Cast
Title Charade Maniacs
Developer Idea Factory
Publisher Idea Factory International
Release Date June 27, 2023
Genre Otome Visual Novel, Romance, Mystery
Platform Nintendo Switch
Age Rating Teen
Official Website

If you could have any wish granted – any wish at all – but it meant taking part in a life-or-death illegal broadcast where failure means being erased from existence, would you do it? And if you found yourself on this broadcast against your will, would you be willing to hurt your costars in order to achieve that wish, or would you give in to apathy and let yourself be erased? Not that such a broadcast exists, of course; those are just rumors. The Other World Stream is just the gossip mill working its rounds… isn’t it?

Charade Maniacs | Director

Charade Maniacs, the newest release from Idea Factory, honestly has a really interesting premise. Set a good century into the future, technology has advanced to the point where humans were able to create a second artificial moon named Morpheus, though for mysterious reasons it one day disappeared. Wearable smart watches with projected displays, called Bangles, support daily tasks, provide entertainment, are used in education, and can even regulate bodily functions. Artificial intelligence is commonplace enough that protagonist Hiyori Sena’s family has their own pet robot dog they treat like the real thing. Hiyori has heard the rumors of the Other World Stream from her classmates, of course, and after the family’s robot dog finally stops working, she idly wonders if she could wish him back to life if she were to go on the stream. Her childhood best friend, Tomose Banjo, reminds her that the stream is just a rumor, but as he prepares to confess his feelings to her on their way to school one day just before summer vacation, the two unexpectedly find themselves whisked away to a place called Arcadia, where two moons hang in the sky and their every activity is monitored. Here, they and eight other unfortunate souls will have to participate in the Other World Stream – or be erased from existence.

Charade Maniacs | Tomose Banjo

Did I say eight? Yes I did. Charade Maniacs boasts nine love interests for Hiyori, but manages to keep the cast from being too unwieldy by breaking them down into smaller groups throughout the story. Here’s a quick rundown of all your romantic options:

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  • Kyoya Akase (CV. Soma Saito) – An energetic, positive presence who always tries to see the best in others and refuses to distrust the rest of the cast. He joins the Information Team.
  • Tomose Banjo (CV. Kenichi Suzumura) – Childhood best friend who is fiercely protective of Hiyori and distrusts everyone else on the Other World Stream. He joins the Cleaning Team.
  • Mamoru Chigasaki (CV. Daisuke Namikawa) – A quiet, reserved man who hates confrontation and who takes being on the Other World Stream harder than most. He joins the Information  Team.
  • Mei Dazai (CV. Makoto Furukawa) – A stoic bookworm who cautiously accepts others but doesn’t exactly trust them. He joins the Information Team.
  • Keito Ebana (CV. Tomoaki Maeno) – An antagonistic, distrustful man who wants nothing to do with anyone else in the cast when they aren’t being forced to perform. He joins the Cooking Team.
  • Ryoichi Futami (CV. Tomokazu Seki) – A cool-headed and kind man who takes on a big brother style role to most of the other cast. He joins the Cleaning Team.
  • Souta Gyobu (CV. Yoshitsugu Matsuoka) – An impish boy who shows callous disregard to the whole situation and just wants to figure out the mystery behind the Other World Stream. He joins the Cleaning Team.
  • Takumi Haiji (CV. Nobuhiko Okamoto) – A childish, softpoken boy who doesn’t quite grasp the situation everyone is in. He joins the Cooking Team.
  • Mizuki Iochi (CV. Megumi Ogata) – A bold, mature older sibling type who the rest of the cast constantly wonder if they’re a man or a woman and about which Iochi could care less. They join the Cooking Team.

Whew! That’s a lot of characters! Like I said earlier, the game does a good job of giving the player plenty of chances to interact with each of the LIs, rotating them between scenes and breaking them into smaller groups Hiyori interacts with throughout the story. This game has a very long common route, but it uses that time to establish each character and let them interact with Hiyori and each other before the game branches into the working routes: Cleaning, Cooking, Information. Everyone is going to have to live together for the foreseeable future, and that means doling out the chores, so the cast all draw straws to see who is assigned to what. As the odd one out, Hiyori gets to choose which team she’ll join. These routes give you the chance to interact with the smaller group in a more focused manner as each team tackles a different aspect of life on the Other World Stream. From there, you can finally narrow in on a specific LI. It took me around 10-12 hours to finish my first route (Cleaning Team and Tomose) and another 5-6 to finish my second (Information Team and Akase), and I’ve put another two or so hours into my third route (Cooking Team, I haven’t made it to the LI choice yet). To say you will spend a lot of time with this cast is an understatement.

Charade Maniacs | Dazai, Futami

It’s just too bad one of them isn’t who they say they are. Wait, what? That’s right. On top of having to act against their will in an assortment of dramas, there’s a traitor in the cast’s midst.

Here’s how the Other World Stream works. The cast are all forced to participate in a series of dramas that range wildly in subject and tone – you can have a romance drama one day and be in a thriller the next. The Director chooses the dramas and who will act in them. Acting in each drama earns the cast member points: the better they act, the more points they get. If they can collect 3,000 points, they can go home. If a cast member refuses to act out a scene, they are inflicted with a Punishment Game, where they not only lose points, but also lose a bodily function. If their points go below zero, they reach a Dead End and are erased from existence, as if they were never born in the first place. While the Director chooses who acts in each drama, the Producer picks who takes part in the Other World Stream itself. And the Producer just so happens to also be a cast member. If the cast can figure out who the Producer is, they can all go home. But if they choose wrong, they all die. Who can you trust, when someone isn’t who they say they are, and they’re the reason you’ve been kidnapped and taken to this strange world to entertain otherworldly beings for who knows what reason?

Charade Maniacs | Chigasaki, Banjo

I really like this premise, and I like the way the cast all react to the reality that they have a traitor amongst them. Some, like Akase and Iochi, refuse to give in to animosity and choose to trust everyone; others, like Tomose and Ebana, keep their guard up and remain standoffish to the majority of the group. The rest find something of a middle ground, or just straight up embrace being seen as untrustworthy from the get-go. Unfortunately, Hiyori refuses to distrust anyone, which I felt ultimately made her feel a bit too much like a wet blanket. I don’t mind the optimistic heroine, but in this case, I think it would have been nice to have her push back at least a little against the premise rather than immediately jump to blind trust of everyone. The game gives reasons she would trust certain people over others because of how the routes split, and it would have been a fun change of pace if the routes you choose influence how much trust you have in those characters over the others.

Charade Maniacs | Ryoichi Futami

Presentation-wise, Charade Maniacs is gorgeous. The character designs by Teita are stunning, and the way the game frames the Other World Streams are stylish and fun. The music is honestly one of the best soundtracks this year, with incredibly upbeat and engaging music, and an opening and ending theme that are certified bangers. The acting isn’t shabby, either, with a veritable who’s who of voice actors lending their talents to this charming cast. You have your staple gallery and music player in the menu, as well as a glossary of terms, people, places and other important bits of information. There’s also a ton of replayability here, with so many LIs and three distinct story routes. That being said, the long common route can be a turn off since it takes so long to get the chance to romance any of the cast, and romance definitely takes a backseat to plot here. (For me that’s not a problem, but if you’re looking for a romance-heavy otome, this one isn’t it.) I did not have any major issues with the localization this time around, though I did catch a few typos, doubled words, and other grammatical mistakes. The game has a lot of text, and as noted above, I only fully completed two routes, so it’s possible I just didn’t encounter anything egregious the way I have in other titles.

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Overall, I have had a blast reading through Charade Maniacs. The cast is large and varied, but not overwhelming, and the overarching mystery of what the Other World Stream is and why it exists keeps me going back for more. What’s up with the Arcadians? Why specifically wipe out the memory of people who died rather than just kill them? Why was this cast chosen to have such a drastic imbalance between male and female members? If you like mysteries, you can’t really go wrong here.

Charade Maniacs is available on the Nintendo Switch for $49.99 and well worth the price.

Review Score

Review copy provided by the publisher.

Leah McDonald
Leah's been playing video games since her brother first bought an Atari back in the 1980s and has no plans to stop playing anytime soon. She enjoys almost every genre of game, with some of her favourites being Final Fantasy Tactics, Shadow of the Colossus, Suikoden II and The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. Leah lives on the East Coast with her husband and son. You can follow Leah over on Twitter @GamingBricaBrac