Welcome back to my series of reviews of visual novels that take a few hours or less to read. This installment features zombies, apocalypses, games within games, a city on the moon, and a deadly dating show!
My Sweet Zombie!
For a free game by a relatively new studio, this short multi-route romance has impressive production value, with lovely sprite art, partial voice acting, and even occasional animated expressions for the characters. While one of the love interests is of course the eponymous zombie, that supernatural element of the plot is less prominent than you might expect. Instead, it feels a lot like a coming-of-age story, in which young adult protagonist Sam navigates interpersonal conflicts with customers, coworkers, and her undead roommate, and tries to figure out what she wants to do with her life beyond just following her parents’ expectations. I especially liked the polyamorous ending you can unlock after completing the first two routes—that, and interactions with a very familiar side character, of course!
Doomsday Dreamgirl is a short and unsettling story about two strangers sharing cramped quarters in the days leading up to a predetermined apocalypse. Unable to express their feelings in any other way, they develop an increasingly violent sexual relationship over a series of disjointed vignettes that very effectively pull the reader into the dark and dismal atmosphere of their crumbling lives. While I felt that some of the writing could have used a bit more editing and polish, it’s still an enthralling read, and its sparse black-and-white artwork suits the mood perfectly as well. I hope to see more from developer Nadia Nova soon.
Roll for Confidence
Like Good Lookin’ Home Cookin’, which I checked out last year, Roll for Confidence is a short vignette in the setting of the upcoming Call Me Cera. This one introduces the owners and regulars of a local arcade, and explores their relationships and anxieties through a few days of work and TTRPG sessions. The story gets a bit heavy-handed with its moral about the importance of communication with friends and gaming buddies, but I’m sure it’s something many readers will appreciate. My favourite part was immersing myself in the atmosphere of the arcade and the collectively imagined worlds within it, which are brought to life with some great sound effects and music choices. I’m looking forward to seeing some of my favourite characters again in Call Me Cera!
Sunrise on the Moon
In a neon-lit future where humans live on the moon, an old woman named Maria strikes up a conversation with a young stranger named Aeda at a bus station. You’ll be given several dialogue options that let you experience the various conversation topics available in whatever order you like, but with limited time before Maria’s bus arrives, you’ll need to choose carefully if you want to learn as much as possible about both characters—and depending on the choices you make, that constraint can become increasingly tense as the story takes on some more disturbing elements. I had a lot of fun replaying this one a few times to try out the different options, and I definitely recommend that you make sure you get every ending to uncover all the mysteries of what led both these women to where they are.
Find Love Or Die Trying
Find Love Or Die Trying opens with a classic amnesiac protagonist—whose name and pronouns are up to the player—waking up to what feels a bit like a cross between Danganronpa and The Bachelor. A callous reality TV show producer introduces them to five beautiful women, and threatens them with execution if they don’t manage to find their soulmate among them by the end of the show’s run. At first, it might seem like you’re limited to fairly generic dates with only two of the five contestants, but just keep playing, as things will get a lot more exciting before too long. I was totally hooked by the end of this one, and I’d be hard-pressed to choose best girl! I’d be interested to know what other readers’ opinions are if you let me know in the comments.
Thanks for checking out this installment in Short Reviews of Short Visual Novels! Don’t forget that you can find a collection of almost everything I’ve reviewed in this series on itch.io. I also have an archive of all my other posts, and you can follow me on twitter to make sure you don’t miss any new ones. Enjoy your reading!