I will admit, I did not expect to be covering this game at all. See, when I was working out what game to cover on Thursday, I only saw two MMOs, both of which were not going to be able to be covered by me fairly within three days. Then the next morning arrived and this happened to be available. I was interested in the art style, as it faintly reminded me of Everlasting Summer, and the whole thing made me decide to give it a go, despite the horror elements mentioned in relation to it.
About half an hour later, I was sitting at the end of it going “Huh…that was actually not too bad!”
Lost girl’s [diary] is the first visual novel by developer SmoleVN. I was interested to note that the game is designed in the Unity game engine, which is not what I expected a visual novel to be built in. While the Unity engine is known nowadays for being the source of multiple awful games (often created by developers who rely on pre-built assets which don’t mesh well together), it has been used to create some incredibly good games in the past, so I didn’t flag this up too much as a red flag, especially considering the art is all original. The game is a horror visual novel, although it doesn’t include any interactivity, so it’s hard to really call it a game in the conventional sense.
However, that doesn’t mean I can’t review the overall experience or the artwork, so…that’s what I’m reviewing.
Anyway, the artwork is actually not too bad. There are a few minor glitches in that characters will sometimes be placed in front of other characters when they previously were behind them and haven’t moved at all, but this didn’t bug me too much and it doesn’t really have a major impact upon the experience at all. Beyond that, I’d say that the art style, while following the usual anime trends with regards to hairstyle and some of the angles, is actually a lot more realistic than might be first expected. The occasional additions of artwork which serves as a jump scare to reinforce the horror of the stories being told is actually very well done and I will admit that one of them actually did give me a bit of a shock when I saw it due to some well integrated effects (although the fact that the story ends on a damp squib in terms of the horror does dampen the impact of it a bit).
The main story of the game is four young women and two young men (no ages are given, but I imagine the vast majority of them are older teenagers) meeting up and telling scary stories to pass the time while they wait to summon a demon. The actual stories being told are honestly not especially scary, which is arguably the big failing of the visual novel when you consider that it is a horror experience at its core. While the atmosphere is built up very well with the stories (despite some deliberate breaking of it in some cases), the actual stories themselves are very cliche, so anyone who is familiar with a lot of horror cliches will probably be able to see what they are building up towards very quickly. I will say that one of them (I won’t spoil which!) did cause me to get the chills, but the fact it reminded me a lot of a H. P. Lovecraft story did somewhat make the experience a bit less noteworthy because, well, I knew where it was going from previous experience. I will give credit for the twist at the end of the game catching me off guard, but the fact it was a fake twist didn’t exactly make the experience better. Overall, though, it does feel like the kind of thing a bunch of people would do, so credit for being somewhat authentic! The text of the visual novel itself does need an English proofreader, though, as there were more than a few errors through translating which made it into the final release of the game. Nothing major, but, as an English speaker, it was a bit distracting!
The sound direction for the game is not too bad. While I get the feeling that the actual sounds in the game were pre-made for the project (as I recognised several elements which sounded like stock sound effects), the music itself helped to enhance the atmosphere brilliantly, with an appropriately haunting track playing whenever the stories were actually being told. Whoever did the music for the game really deserves praise for it, as they managed to enhance the game very well with it!
I honestly don’t have a lot more to add to this, so I’ll stop here. It’s not a genre defining game, the lack of interactivity is a bit of an issue in terms of making it a game that will warrant a lot of replays and the fact I breezed through it in about half an hour when it is claimed to take an hour leaves me wondering whether the game is shorter than being advertised (although I am also a fast reader, so it’s equally possible that it’s just my fast reading speed meaning I got through it far quicker than I should have done), but, as a free experience, it’s actually not bad and is worth a look into if you want something horror focused to read.