Today I’m reviewing the short and sweet debut release from Neo Tegoel Games: Gloom and Doom. A meta dark comedy starring two sarcastic protagonists whose supernatural powers have made them depressed, Gloom and Doom is vaguely reminiscent of something like One Punch Man, but playing with the tropes of horror instead of superheroes. I received a free key from the developer, and I’m very happy I did, since I might have otherwise missed this fun and unique visual novel. Read on for a bit more analysis of its pros and cons!
Gloom and Doom begins with a comedic prologue that parodies cheesy horror films, but soon switches gears with its introduction of one of the protagonists, Gloom. Gloom is a fallen angel who believes he can earn his place back in heaven if he eventually kills enough demons—but after centuries of following the angel Michael’s orders without any guarantees that he’ll reach his goal any time soon, he’s beginning to lose all motivation, and spend more and more of his time just sitting around playing video games. His quest leads him to cross paths with Wynona, a teenage girl who calls herself the Doom Bringer because the vivid nightmares she suffers every night have convinced her that she’s prophesied to destroy the world. Wynona has made several suicide attempts hoping to avert that fate, but survived so consistently that she almost seems to be immortal—and it’s up to Gloom to decide whether finding a way for her to die is really necessary to save the world, or whether it’s somehow possible to save her too.
The story switches back and forth between Gloom and Wynona’s perspectives, but uses first-person narration for Wynona and second-person for Gloom. I sometimes found that to be a bit of a jarring switch to make, especially in some faster-paced segments that alternate frequently, and I tend not to be a big fan of second-person narration in the first place. But I gradually got accustomed to it and was able to enjoy the writing, especially the developing friendship between Gloom and my favourite character, Wynona. I liked the kind-hearted spirit she maintained despite the wide variety of issues she was facing in her life, and the debates she and Gloom had about philosophy, battle strategies, and their favourite movies were the highlights of the story for me.
The art of Gloom and Doom is another aspect of it that might not be for everyone. The characters have some creative designs, but they’re also drawn with a lot of rough and sketchy lines, and the perspective and proportions sometimes feel a little bit off. However, I think it’s a style that does suit an offbeat horror story well, and it’s supplemented by some visual effects that really impressed me. Things like the light of a TV screen flickering in a character’s sunglasses add an extra touch, and there are even a few short animated sequences that bring the important moments to life. And one of the sprites you see the most often, Gloom, is absolutely the coolest-looking one in the game.
I also really enjoyed the ending, which I won’t reveal too much detail about—but it’s a solid culmination of all the events that the plot has been leading towards, and involves several major choices that aren’t easy to make. I often end up just looking up a guide once I’ve reached one ending of a VN, because I’ve read so many of them over the years that some of the allure of experimenting with different choices has faded, and I’d rather just get on with reading. But the end of my first playthrough of Gloom and Doom really made me interested in reloading old saves and messing around to see what might happen! And I was very satisfied with the true ending when I did.
Overall, I think developers Neo Tegoel Games did an impressive job with his their first release, especially since the art, writing, and programming is all credited to one man, Drew Pan. They also seem to respond well to feedback, having already made some updates to the game like sprucing up the textboxes in response to earlier reviews, which makes me look forward to seeing how much more they could improve in the future. Check out Gloom and Doom if you’re interested in a unique take on supernatural horror with an unconventionally adorable friendship at the center of it.