Short Reviews of Short Visual Novels

My latest recommendations for visual novels that take a few hours or less to read. This installment features an eclectic mix of stories that fall on different parts of the spectrums from realism to surrealism and serious to wonderfully silly.


One Night, Hot Springs [VNDB||Steam]

One Night, Hot Springs is a really sweet and heartfelt little project that I’d recommend to pretty much everyone. Its art style is adorable, and it tells the story of a young transgender woman named Haru who’s nervous about joining her best friend on a hot springs vacation. While the VN takes a serious approach to depicting some of the issues transgender people face in society, it also has an overall positive message about things gradually getting better. Make sure you get all the different endings to fully experience some of what makes Haru’s life difficult, as well as the ways she works to overcome those difficulties with a little help from her friends.


You Left Me [VNDB|]

Made in 48 hours for the game jam Ludum Dare, You Left Me tells a surreal story about trying—or failing—to survive after the death of a loved one. Developer Angela He’s unique art style makes all the environments and characters you encounter equal parts beautiful and disturbing, and I have no idea how she managed to do it all within the time limit. The only minor issue is that I wish the game had been structured in a way that forces you to spend more time investigating its strange world, since it’s possible to stumble across some of the endings without doing much, thereby missing a lot of detail. I definitely recommend taking your time to explore everything this one has to offer.


Mermaid Splash: Passion Festival [VNDB|]

Mermaid Splash: Passion Festival has to be one of the cutest visual novels I’ve ever read. Its sweet and simple plot about a young mermaid trying to decide which skill to show off at an upcoming festival introduces you to a wide variety of interesting characters and locations, all rendered in a bright and pastel-coloured style that reminded me of cotton candy. A little bit of drama in the various routes keeps the story from being too uniformly happy all the time, but dedication to communicating with your partner and pursuing your passion will always lead to a positive ending. I read this one while recovering from dental surgery, and it was perfect for cheering me up and distracting me from the pain I was in, so I especially recommend it to anyone else in a similar situation!


Dr. Frank’s Build-a-Boyfriend [VNDB|]

This game grabbed my attention with its wacky premise of a mad scientist reanimating a corpse so he can date it, and held my attention with a storyline that was, in a way, surprisingly down-to-earth. Grave-robbing aside, Dr. Frank is just a guy who feels sad and inadequate, and who’s desperate to prove to himself and the world that he’s smart and cool and totally over his ex-boyfriend. I really enjoyed getting to know him as I explored his spooky mansion in point-and-click segments, looking for clothes that would fit the monstrosity I chose to build with “tragic anime boy” coloured hair. Check this one out if you’re interested in a good mix of offbeat, morbid comedy and genuine emotion.


Moonlight Crossing [VNDB|]

Finally, the most recent short VN I read was a 2017 NaNoRenO entry about a faerie trying to repair a crashed spacecraft so she can visit a friend on the moon. Some of its extremely energetic dialogue came off a little too childish for my taste, but I might very well be an old curmudgeon, so I’m sure some other readers would find it cute. And while some of the characters’ outfits are scanty enough that I wouldn’t recommend reading this one in public, they do have some lovely design; I especially liked the protagonist’s long purple hair. If you want to watch some pretty magic girls run around and get up to silly shenanigans in a world that combines fantasy and sci-fi elements, Moonlight Crossing is for you.

As always, I hope my short reviews can inspire some people to pick up a short VN or two they hadn’t heard of before! And if you do, enjoy!

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