I will admit, I played through this game once, half expecting it to be an easy game where I played through it and got on with my review immediately afterwards.
What actually happened? I was on the verge of crying as I realised how much I’d missed while growing up, as I’d pretty much fallen out of touch with my friends from high school and never had a person who I was into from high school who I kept in touch with, and the ending that I got just hammered the point home to me like a blow to my heart. Needless to say, I felt a bit depressed after playing the game, so I actually had to give myself time to cheer up a bit before I finally started to properly write this.
That alone is pretty much all the recommendation that you need to play this game: if you ever want to recreate the feeling of having a long distance relationship over AOL Instant Messenger and almost certainly watch it end painfully and awkwardly, then this game might well be the best game out there.
In terms of a more serious analysis of the game? Well, I think the best I can say is to put it briefly: this is a game that runs on the same idea as a visual novel, but it’s done as an instant messenger sort of thing that is surprisingly faithfully recreated. Even the sound of the game running is a faithful recreation of what you’d expect while using AOL Instant Messenger in the early to mid 2000s, which is pretty impressive for its dedication to the immersion. Seriously, the key word with this game is immersion: it truly FEELS like how you’d expect the actual experience of talking with someone over AOL Instant Messenger to be (only a bit sped up in the typing bits from Emily), which is a lot harder to pull off when it comes to emotional stories like the one demonstrated in this game than you might expect, where the game lives or dies on the emotion of the story leaving an impact upon you. Throw in the fact that it’s a game which will break your heart over someone who you know in the back of your mind doesn’t actually exist and who you’ve never actually met and it just gets better (or worse, depending on how you look at it).
The only point of criticism is that you have to physically type on the keyboard to actually get the game to type out your choice when it would make sense for the game to just auto type the option for you after you select it, but it does sort of help with the immersion…well, up until you realise that you can type gibberish on the laptop and have the right option come up on screen!
That’s really all I can say on Emily is Away, as short as it will no doubt seem as a review. It’s very much one of those games that doesn’t leave you with a lot to say on it on a technical level, but which, as a game in and of itself, you have to actually play it to experience properly, because words don’t do it justice. I can’t really judge this game fairly, so do yourself a favour and check it out, because I’m pretty sure it’ll cause most of the people reading this to go on a nostalgia trip.
Caution: not advised if you’re still raw from a breakup or have been lacking a partner of your own for a long period of time.