Review: A Very Important Date demo

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A Very Important Date is an upcoming commercial game by Naive Sprites. It will be available through itch.io and Steam for Windows/Mac/Linux and for iOS and Android devices. The demo is available on itch.io.

There will be eight main story routes consisting of twelve chapters. Each love interest will also have a three-chapter epilogue. Routes will be released and available for purchase individually. Kickstarter backers will be informed at a later date on claiming their route rewards.

*The Kickstarter ends this Friday July 21st!  The creators will be doing a Kickstarter Live on Thursday July 20th!

Developer Links:  Tumblr  |  Twitter  |  Facebook  |  Patreon  |  DeviantArt

Game Links:  itch.io  |  Lemma Soft Forums  |  Fuwanovel Forums  |  Kickstarter

Synopsis:  Alison leads a busy but redundant life. She goes to work at a cafe, comes home to take care of the house she shares with her dad and brother, and goes to sleep. However, one morning Alison wakes up under a tree in an unfamiliar city. Realizing she’s in a completely different world, she stumbles into The Looking Glass Cafe and its group of colorful residents. Gwyn, the owner, offers her a job and asks her to pick someone to train her. Whether she chooses to serve, cook, or wash, Alison is in for a whole new adventure!


First, I want to give a very big thank you to the project director Noëlle Hyzy for reaching out to me and allowing me to ask them questions for this review! If you play Voltage games, you may recognize their name, because they were the winner of Voltage Inc.’s 4th Annual International Script Writing Contest for Romance Apps (and the only winner to date if I remember correctly).

The demo consists of the prologue and the first three chapters of Gwyn, Emil, and Rory. Gwyn is charming, Emil is angry, and Rory is flirty. Harlan is the voice of reason, and Sven is the quiet presence. There’s also three other love interests who don’t appear in the prologue. Connor and Lowell appear in the other characters’ chapters, but Julianna doesn’t appear in the demo. For brief character descriptions, check out the itch.io page.

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Image borrowed from Kickstarter page

My favorites are Sven, Emil, and the twins. Sven is shy and nervous, and he often plays devil’s advocate with his thoughts (I can relate). Emil has a sadistic streak, and like a true masochist, I loved every minute of it! But there was something I liked about each of the characters. Rory’s constant attempts to make and hear sexual innuendos made me laugh. And I can’t take Harlan seriously because he looks EXACTLY like my boss.

As you would expect from the winner of Voltage’s Script Writing Contest, the writing is amazing. The dialogue is engaging, and the narrative is fluid. Most of the characterization is done through dialogue and character interaction. Not all otome games are able to create a cast of love interests where you can feel the relationships between them. A Very Important Date does just that. You feel that Harlan is kind not because anyone said so, but because he notices when Sven shows up or because he calmly encourages Emil to stop yelling. You feel that Sven trusts Rory the most because he’s able to hang out with Rory and help him give Alison a makeover.  

One of my favorite aspects of the writing is how relatable Alison and her narrative is. In the very beginning, Alison is listening to her best friend talk about her love life. It happens so much that Alison starts to pretend she’s listening. Chances are everyone has had a friend who goes on and on about something in a similar manner and frequency, and you end up zoning out somewhere in the middle. I also like how Alison uses metaphors that are humorous and relatable but not overly used. Emil having heartburn is my favorite example.

 

The overall concept is loosely based on Lewis Carroll’s Alice stories. I’m in the minority by admitting this, but I’m not a big fan of games based on Alice in Wonderland. The movie scared and confused me when I was little, and it’s an association I still carry. So I was a little hesitant to see how that theme would be incorporated. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it’s rarely overt. Most of the allusions are presented in subtle and clever ways, ways that enhance the humor and intelligence of the game.

For example, Gwyn wears a large hat, an obvious reference to the Hatter. But the “Mad” part of Gwyn is interpreted in his confusing and sometimes contradictory behavior. He mentions more than once that Alison is naive and inexperienced, but in the next breath he’s subtly flirting with her. If you’ve played Voltage games, you may be familiar with the “not mature enough for me” trope. But it’s the way the trope is explored that takes it beyond its basic identity. Though we don’t know the reasons yet, Gwyn obviously isn’t trying to insult Alison. He’s not trying to warn her he’s not interested. It feels more like he’s trying to talk himself out of his feelings. Or given that he’s often sending mixed signals, perhaps it’s a compulsion he’s unable to stop.

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Rory’s hair color and necklace, a reference to the Cheshire Cat

Another aspect of A Very Important Date that stands out is the original music composed by Geoff Moore. At times it’s light and quirky, and at others it’s dark and driving. Even the absence of music is used to highlight moments of reflection or gravity. The musical themes create a soundscape that can both blend in and stand out from the story. But there’s a missed opportunity that I think would add to the music’s impact. There’s a part of the prologue where Alison encounters some thugs and has to run away. It would be really interesting if the music faded in at that point rather than just starting at full sound. It would create a musical narrative that would mimic the growing danger of Alison’s predicament.

In addition to engaging writing and satisfying music, the demo boasts some unique features. For ease of reading, you can choose the transparency of the text box. And along with the usual window mode, you can also choose different resolutions. Plus, there’s also the option to toggle on/off the MC’s eyes in the CGs.

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Settings Screen

It’s also important to remember that this is a demo, and many aspects are still being developed for the full version. Though currently grayed out, both a history/log and a fast forward button will be added to the in-game menu. That menu is only accessible by tapping the P or ESC key, but the creators are considering implementing a right-click option for mouse users (thank you!!). Additional expressions and poses for the sprites will be added as well.

 

Like with Changeling, I contributed to the A Very Important Date Kickstarter before I played the demo. If you’ve followed this game for any amount of time, you know that the creators have put their life and love into this project. They’ve worked and refined and even came back after a previous Kickstarter campaign. That takes determination.

After playing the demo, I was not disappointed! I even increased my pledge! As Hayurika put it, they’ve got a “good game on their hands.” It has some of the most solid and well-thought-out writing that I’ve seen from a demo, not to mention the characterization and the humor. I regret not playing and supporting it the first time. I hope that others will give this demo a try and consider pledging to the current Kickstarter! With such great writing and characterization, there’s a lot to look forward to!

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