Re: Alistair ++ is a Japanese-style (but not Japanese) visual novel with dating sim aspects, created in the Ren'Py engine. As such, there's not a huge whole lot of actual gameplay; as Merui, you work to win the affections of one of three guys, while figuring out which one of them stole your kill in an MMO boss battle. Each day, you have a choice at three moments: where to spend your lunch hour, what do do after school, and what do do in the evenings. Your choices can either set you up for the next scene with one of the three boys, or increase one of three stats (network reputation, social reputation, or intelligence), and basically each of the three guys prefers one of the three stats. You can also shop at the mall, and certain items improve your chances with different guys.
Just another dating sim designed by refugees from 4chan as a result of an anonymous post on /a/. Also, all the girls are disabled in some way -- Katawa is roughly translatable as "retard" or "cripple;" it's not a nice word. Heartwarming, right?
But, shockingly, it's the best portrayal of people with disabilities I've ever seen, far outstripping those you see in the mainstream media, mostly because those are limited to Professor X.
In Aching Dreams, you're a sword-and-sorcery hero type going off and fighting monsters and such -- but this is no RPG, and increasing your stats is only a tool to an end. The end is using your tool, as it were. It's a hentai-style "date sim," and "winning" means winning the heart (and, you know, body) of one of two girls.
Though there's a minor bit of resource management -- you have only 32 days, some of which you will need to spend working on skills and taking jobs to earn money for needed equipment -- much of the game involves clicking "Next" to read the next bit of text and see the next set of images. Occasionally you have a choice to make. Some of the images, if you're doing well, are explicit, that is, show you merrily rogering one of the game's female characters, in your choice of positions.
Hand-drawn manga-style pictures of naked chicks do not strike me as all that erotic, really, but there they are. The game draws you in, however, because there's a puzzle-solving aspect to achieving your ends, and because the text is well-written and moderately amusing. There are also several different endings and eight possible "achievements" -- some of which can only be accomplished on a second or subsequent playthrough -- and you may find yourself playing through several times to unlock them all.
This repeat playability is nice, but comes at a cost; since all the missions are invariant, you're not likely to want to read the associated text more than once, so on subsequent playthroughs you're basically hammering on the mouse to "next" through stuff you've seen before.
The game did suck me in (no pun intended). Most games that deal with sex are either incredibly dumb or repulsively exploitative; Aching Dreams is neither. Indeed, it's actually kind of fun.
Summer Session is from "Tycoon Games," but Hanako's logo is on it too, and it sure looks (and plays) like Georgina Okerson's work -- so, since there aren't any in-game credits, I'm going to assume it's hers. (Okerson also created Summer Schoolgirls, Cute Knight and Fatal Hearts.) In fact, Summer Session plays a lot like Summer Schoolgirls, redeveloped for boys. The objective here isn't to make friends, however, but to get a girl friend -- perhaps a minor difference, but one that adds a mild sexual frisson.
I first played Super Mario World at the tender age of three, and when I did my mind was blown. Since my introduction to the genre, only three platformers have had a comparable impact on me. All three are indie titles. The first two, namely Spelunky and Braid, redefined what could be done within the platformer framework; they innovate to the point they seem like games from the future. The third title is VVVVVV, and it plays like a AAA title from the past. If this was pressed into a ROM back in the heyday of the NES it would be considered a seminal platformer, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Mega Man 2 and Super Mario Bros. Like the best of the 8-bit era, the game takes a single mechanic, builds upon it, and polishes it to perfection. VVVVVV is superbly designed and immensely fun, and has surprising length for an indie title. This is Terry's opus, a labor of love that put him in debt developing it. I know this is going to sound like bombastic hyperbole, but this is old-school design at the height of its craft; I sincerely hope you don't pass it up.
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