A while ago, my friend Bishounen-P wrote a review that’s a work of comedic art in itself about a self-described “shitpost visual novel” called Pizza Game. I wanted to find out what kind of bizarre monstrosity of a game inspired her to write that fantastic nonsense, so she gifted me my own copy, and I can now present my own slightly more readable review! While there are a lot of elements of Pizza Game’s comedy and overall presentation that definitely aren’t for everyone, I personally found it hilarious, as well as a lot deeper and more complex than it looks. I’d definitely recommend it to fans of internet-meme-style-humour, mystery, and pizza.
It’s a bit difficult to describe the plot of Pizza Game, since while there is an overarching story that eventually culminates in the true route, each of the individual routes before that point are all pretty different. I initially assumed that it would be a game about working at a pizza place, but it actually opens with its protagonist—the perpetually pajama-clad Kiane, who has a bachelor’s degree in boys—starting a new job as personal assistant to Mr. Arimnaes, CEO of software company “the big Microsoffit.” Some routes do have her swiftly losing that job and getting a new one at the pizza place, while others focus on her driver’s ed classes, and one of them involves organizing a poetry slam. It’s overall sort of a surreal slice-of-life comedy, with various wacky situations involving a large cast of uniquely bizarre characters. My personal favourite is Warped Lamp, who seems like the most obnoxious weirdo in the world at first, but actually turns out to be very sweet and sympathetic.
Pizza Game also has a lot of interesting metatextual elements, both in its humour and its actual game mechanics. Most notably, Kiane is in a constant dialogue with “Inner Kiane,” an inner voice who has her own face and personality and who often comments on aspects of the visual novel medium. One of the funniest moments in the first route I played through was when she asked Kiane why she didn’t just use the rollback feature after making a silly dialogue choice that lowered her “affinity” with Mr. Arimnaes. Characters will also sometimes react to the player taking a screenshot, demanding to know why they’re taking a picture of them in the middle of conversation. This is especially hilarious when it happens not because you were intentionally looking for extra dialogue, but because you just wanted to show a good line to your friends, and now the screenshot you were trying to get is ruined and the characters are making fun of you. And that’s not even the only unconventional gameplay element that you’ll discover over the course of the different routes.
In the commentary mode that unlocks after completing the true route, developer Plasterbrain provides some insight into the process of making Pizza Game a “sustainable shitpost”—something that seems like it was pretty difficult to accomplish. Pizza Game adopts the borderline incoherent, stylistically “bad” style of a certain brand of internet post, but also has to tone it down a bit, since what’s funny in a few sentences on tumblr could quickly become irritating in a 10+ hour visual novel. For the most part, I think it strikes this balance pretty well and remains amusing throughout. At the same time, there are a few segments and characters who seem designed to be annoying, but I think that’s a really interesting part of the experience too. Points like a secondary villain monologuing at length about absolute nonsense—during which Inner Kiane actually encourages you to start skipping the text—push the boundaries of how many negative feelings art can inspire in you before you stop appreciating it at all. And a visual novel, in which you can read at your own pace and easily choose to skip scenes or entire routes, seems like the ideal medium in which to explore something like that.
There was just one aspect of this game that actually annoyed me—not in a funny or interesting way—and that was how it limits you to three save slots. In a visual novel with so many different dialogue options and alternate endings, most players probably want to make frequent saves, so having only three slots can get really frustrating for someone trying to experiment with all the options. It wasn’t until a conversation I had with Bish after 100%ing the game that she said, “I really appreciated that even though you only have three save files, it didn’t feel limiting because you can scene select,” and I said, “What the fuck, how do you do that, I’ve been wasting so much time restarting this shit.” Yeah, turns out that you can select from a list of previously read scenes to start from, and I totally missed it because you have to click on “extras” in the main menu first and then you’ll see that option in the menu on the side. I think it’s a bit too easy to miss for such an important feature, and I don’t really get why there had to be limited save slots in the first place. But it’s a testament to how much I like this game that not only is that my only real complaint, but also, I was willing to go through the hassle of frequently restarting from the beginning just to see all the endings and get all the achievements.
And even if your patience is tested by some of the more off-the-wall elements of Pizza Game, it really is worth getting through it all to see the true route, which is a fantastic example of affectionate parody. It repeatedly makes fun of the big climactic true routes in other visual novels like the Zero Escape series, but it simultaneously actually uses some of the same tropes really well. I had a great time reading Pizza Game, and I really hope to see more strange and quirky projects from Plasterbrain in the future. It manages to fit some moments of sincerity as well as interesting explorations of the visual novel medium into an absolutely absurd story, and it never stopped making me laugh.