My shamelessly glowing review of Analogue: A Hate Story

May 07

The game (and soundtrack) "cover art"

I am jealous. I am just straight up jealous of Christine Love’s ability as a writer.

To say that she’s “talented” or “unique” is trite. But that’s the best I can come up with. She could probably one-up even this review with her own concepts.

Her latest title, “Analogue: A Hate Story,” showcases her ability to take research of a past culture and fit it into a sci-fi structure, throw in some classic Japanese visual novel tropes (moe, tsundere), add some romance, and even throw in some puzzles using a command prompt. These ingredients, and plenty more I have not listed, are what make “Analogue” such a great experience.

You may be wondering: “is a short visual novel really worth $10?” This same question was asked of the experiential non-game “Dear Esther.” The answer for that game was yes, and the same answer is to be given in the case of “Analogue.” The clever writing, the insane AMOUNT of writing, the dark and original concepts, and the over 100 character portraits (for two different characters) to express different emotions all work wonders.

There’s also the soundtrack from Isaac Schankler. Wow… talk about sealing the deal with a cohesive bit of music. Head to bandcamp if you want to pick up that fine piece of aural love.

Okay, I think I’ve been vague and lame enough to not sell anyone on the game. Here’s the deal: you boot up the game, and you find out that “you” (the anonymous player) live in the far-future and are sent on an assignment to download a ship log from some long-ago-abandoned space ship floating in orbit around some planet. When you dock, you meet female AI construct *Hyun-ae. Unfortunately, while she can send messages to you, you can’t interface with her in such a way as to actually have a conversation. It’s one-sided, but she can propose either/or options for you to reply to her questions.

Yeah, I know, it’s a self-imposed limitation to make the game work. But trust me, it *does* work! Even better, after talking with *Hyun-ae and reading through some of the ship’s log entries, you’ll eventually find your way to meeting a second AI, *Mute. She has it in for *Hyun-ae, but as for why, I will not spoil that here. But *Mute does reveal a whole boatload of log entries as to what happened to this Korean ship. In doing so, Ms. Love touches on some controversial topics related to this backwards society (patterned after 18th century Joseon Dynasty). Said topics include: incest, gender-based oppression, strict social hierarchy / slavery, lesbian affairs, honorable / dishonorable suicide, mutilation, and what might be described as pure idiocracy.

The big “event” present-day involves the ship’s reactor, now running without any maintenance for centuries, mere minutes away from meltdown. After reading some crucial log files that explain why the abandoned ship no longer has any human life on it, you’ll need to work with *Hyun-ae and/or *Mute to disable the reactor and cool the ship down. This is done on a time limit, and it requires some quick thinking and basic skill in using a command prompt. After averting disaster, depending on whom you worked with, you can then go on to achieve one of a total of five endings. The fifth ending, the happiest of all, is a secret ending that requires “breaking the system” a bit.

Fix the reactor, or face a fuzzy, grainy doom!

Fans of “999,” “Ever17″ and other Japanese visual novels will be sure to cherish this game. Is it perfect? No. And I certainly would have preferred the AIs having (good) voice actors instead of the game being in text-only form. But, for what it is, this short but clever visual novel will have you coming back for more, until you’ve achieved 100% log unlocks and all five endings. It’s a great game, and again, I’m jealous of Christine Love for being able to make such a brilliant game. Cheers!

Played: 7 hours
Platform(s): PC
Price: $9.99 (available on Steam)

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