Wow. 2020 was a rough year. If I’d had a time machine in working order, I would have been out of here in March. But I managed to get through it somehow, and along the way, I did a lot of writing. This post will give a brief summary of the games and blog posts I worked on this year for anyone who might have missed them!
The Light at the End of the Ocean [itch.io|steam]
So let’s start with my proudest achievement of the year! (Other than just generally surviving.) The Light at the End of the Ocean is my first commercial visual novel release, and one that was several years in the making. It tells the story of a woman who wakes up on a mysterious island without any memory of how she got there, and includes some point-and-click elements as she explores in search of answers. It’s got a cute lighthouse keeper, a lot of dramatic flashbacks, and also some poetry. It’s a bit rough around the edges, but I’m still really proud of it, and I learned a lot that I can use to improve my other projects in the future. If you read anything that I wrote in 2020, read this melancholy mystery about facing the problems of the past and finding a better future.
Take A Hike! [itch.io]
I also ended up releasing a second commercial VN a few months after my first! This is a short one that uses some great royalty-free art by DejiNyucu, and follows three very grumpy teenage girls on a hike through the woods during a class camping trip. It’s a lot more light-hearted than The Light at the End of the Ocean, and can probably be read in one sitting. It’s also extremely Canadian, with a setting based on some of my own real life camping experiences. The characters in this one are all pretty silly and fun, and I would love to revisit them for another story in the future—hope you enjoy them too!
While my other projects had been in development for much longer, Were|House was made in one month for the Spooktober Game Jam. I was a co-writer on this one, focusing on the route for adorable werewolf boy Cormac while other collaborators of Sad Ghost Studios did the rest. You might also be able to spot a little bit of “art” that I contributed at one point if you make the right (or wrong?) choices in one of Cormac’s scenes.We also came second place in one of the jam’s award categories, Best Monster!
I’m kind of surprised by how many blog posts I wrote this year. I always feel like I don’t really write them very often—and especially in this incredibly weird and long year, I feel like some of them were longer ago than they really were. If you’re just as constantly baffled by the concept of time as I am, you might have missed a few of them, so here’s a list!
First of all, at the very end of last year, I wrote My Favourite Visual Novels of the 2010s, in which I highlighted one especially good release from each year of the previous decade, alongside some honourable mentions. It was a lot of fun to reflect on some of my favourite stories and think about which years were the best years for VN releases! If you’ve just gotten into visual novels recently, this post might be a good place to get some general recommendations for stuff you missed.
My next post after that was a review of Magical Diary: Wolf Hall, one of my personal most highly anticipated game releases of the year. It was the first of four standard review posts I made this year, alongside The End of an Actress, Cross The Moon, and Pizza Game. I really enjoyed all four of those, so if you haven’t heard of them or are on the fence about buying them, take a look at what I had to say!
I also wrote several installments in my “short reviews of short visual novels” series, in which I give brief impressions of five short games per post. My first one of the year included Crystal the Witch, Café Bouvardie, Rose of Winter, Kill or Love, and Moe Era. Not long after that post, the ongoing disaster that was the year 2020 really hit my area in full, and my next collection of short reviews highlighted games that had been given big discounts in order to be more accessible to people in need of entertainment during those first few weeks of isolation: the Jisei series, A Mortician’s Tale, As We Know It, Extreme Meatpunks Forever, and Talk To Me. Thanks to those developers for doing their part to help people out during a rough time.
A third short reviews post I wrote in May includes I Want To Pursue The Mean Side Character!, Full Service Shop, 1bitHeart, Dear Devere, and MetaWare High School. Then more big historic events led to me making a fourth post about some games that were included in charity bundles in support of protesters in June: One-Eyed Lee and the Dinner Party, Serre, Coffee Talk, Death and Taxes, and Whipped and Steamy Cosplay Café. The game bundles that came out during that time—especially itch.io’s massive one—really deserve to be remembered for the participating developers’ generosity in service of a good cause. I’m looking forward to hopefully seeing some small indie games having a bigger influence in the coming years because of how many people discovered them through buying those bundles. Finally, I put together one last short reviews post this past month, highlighting a few games from fall 2020 game jams: Sew in Love, Fishy, Kim Is A Girl, Therapy with Dr. Albert Krueger, and Ell’s Kitchen. If you want to catch up on some recent releases, that list could be a good place to start.
I also wrote a few more posts this year that aren’t exactly typical reviews. In May, I wrote what I called Translation Appreciation Post, listing a few of my favourite visual novel translators and calling for more people to understand and appreciate the work that they do. I also analyzed how one VN subverts reader expectations with No Thank You and the Amnesiac Protagonist, and then I explored some unique comedy erotica with Into The Tingleverse. I also wrote a general overall review of my experience playing the entire Myst series (did you even know there were six Myst games?), and a long reflection about rereading one of the first VNs I ever read, Katawa Shoujo. These are all posts in which I felt like I really had something interesting to say beyond just recommending a game, so consider checking them out even if the subjects they’re covering don’t particular stand out to you—you might find something to enjoy about them anyway. (Well, maybe that doesn’t so much apply to the post about Myst. That one is just about how bad I am at puzzles.)
Oh yeah, and then I went through a phase of doing absolutely nothing except reading Warhammer 40K books and lore, and I wrote a bit of a summary on some of my general thoughts about that. And when I say I “went through a phase,” I mean I’ve gradually reintroduced reading the occasional other book into my routine since then, but I’m still absolutely not done and in fact only getting deeper into it with everything new that I learn. Stay tuned for probably at least one more post about that in 2021!
Other Stuff & Future Plans
I also put a little bit of work into organizing my online presence this year, which I’m pretty happy with. I made myself a nice little website at janetitor.com, which features some lovely art I commissioned from DarkChibiShadow (including the image above), and some general information about all my writing projects. I also revamped my organized list of past reviews by genre, and I think it looks pretty good, so check it out if you might have missed some of my past posts and want to find the ones you’re interested in!
I have a lot of writing that I’m hoping to get done in 2021, but with how chaotic the world continues to be, it’s nothing that I feel like I can commit to announcing a release date for. I’d like to say that you’re likely to see some kind of demo or something from one of my upcoming projects before the end of the year at least, but we’ll see how things go. But one thing I can guarantee is that whether it’s long in-depth reviews, short features on short games, or just gushing about my favourite Warhammer character, I’ll be making more posts on this blog whenever I can. Thank you for taking the time to read this one, and I sincerely hope everyone has a very happy new year.