OK, so when I reviewed Mystic Destinies: Serendipity of Aeons, I kind of blew a fuse over the way the game was being handled. So I figured I should start this review by saying that, with the benefit of hindsight and some time to cool off, I can appreciate why this route was taken. Don’t get me wrong, I still am unimpressed with the decision and I feel that there should be some way to have a complete experience of some sort in the game without having to pay for it to do so, but, having had some time to weigh everything up, I’m not as annoyed about it as I was. It’s actually not a bad way to do things when handled correctly and, while I personally don’t think it is, there is certainly a valid case to be made that it does not warrant the angry response I gave to it.
It was when I was looking into games to review and Lucid9: Inciting Incident crossed my list that I was reminded of this, as it is doing something surprisingly similar to what that game did. See, the game (at the time of writing) is just the first part of the franchise, with this game being just the start of a full series…but the game itself will be expanded out in the future through additional content added through patches. So this is technically like Mystic Destinies…but it is also different as well, and in a way which I actually like!
Anyway, to give a quick review of the visual novel, the game’s story is one which starts out like a somewhat typical story of a flunking high school student with a bit of an attitude problem…but gradually develops into a story where the protagonist finds themselves solving some brutal murders at their own school while also having memory blackouts which lead to the horrifying belief that they may be the killer (spoilers: they’re not)! I won’t spoil who the actual killer is, but I will confirm that the game managed to quite successfully wrongfoot me on the killer’s identity and I was just as shocked as the story’s protagonist as to who the killer really was. The final encounter with the killer (which is horrifyingly brutal, even in the best case scenario) is hands down one of the most tense and disturbing moments in a video game I’ve played to date, although it probably didn’t help that I got to this point at two o’clock in the morning…
You’d expect this to mean that the story gets progressively creepier as the story goes along…which isn’t entirely true, actually, as the story has more than a few moments of levity, even a tiny bit before the final encounter with the killer. It’s arguably what makes the final encounter so unsettling: you have these lighter moments throughout the whole visual novel that mean that, when the truly terrifying parts come into play, it’s all the more effective for it! A personal bugbear of mine is the belief that, whenever a story gets dark, you have to remove the levity from the story, which I always find irritating because it forgets that progressively getting darker and darker eventually means that you can go past the point where most people want to care about the story. After a period of time, people stop finding suffering fun to experience and stop paying attention, so having lighthearted moments, when balanced well, keeps everyone invested in the story and has the added benefit that the darkness has contrast, which makes it more powerful when it does pull out stuff like brutal murders because we have a reason to care about the story. In that regard, I think Inciting Incident might have the most engaging story I’ve experience to date in a visual novel: at the very least, I can’t say that the story left me unengaged at all! There’s even some degree of choice, although the vast majority of it doesn’t amount to a lot over the course of the visual novel.
The art style is your typical anime-influenced designs, so you probably know the drill: female high school students wearing tiny skirts that most high schoolers would revolt over wearing in real life, very weird coloured hair, school environment which is clearly based upon the Japanese system, students living in dorms or in their own flats and over exaggerated facial expressions. Nothing all that new, really, but it’s done well if you like that kind of thing.
Lengthwise, this is a fairly long visual novel (even before the patches and whatnot making it even longer!), taking around three to four hours for a single playthrough. This isn’t actually a bad length for a free visual novel, if I’m honest: most free visual novels tend to be lucky if they even reach the first hour! I think the length helps the story, if I’m honest: it’s got a lot of time to build up the mystery and, some slips in logic aside (I think most people would assume that rescuing someone from a river only to then see them trying to throw themselves under a moving train the next day MIGHT have some suicidal tendencies, so I couldn’t help facepalming a bit when the protagonist didn’t realise that they were suicidal for what worked out to two days in game!), it handles the logic very well, giving time to build up fake leads and then, when the truth is revealed, showing that the story was a lot better plotted than it seems on first glance.
Overall, I liked Lucid9: Inciting Incident. It’s a fun visual novel that, for a studio who made the game entirely for free and in their own free time, is incredibly well accomplished and is certainly one of the best written visual novels I’ve read to date. I would definitely be interested in following the story of Lucid9 in the future and I can only say that the developer, Fallen Snow Studios, is one that I definitely want to keep an eye on in the future!