Saturday, 6 May 2017

England Exchange - Now On Steam

If you can't see the above, there's a link to the Steam page here.

Spend a semester in England pursuing eight different romance interests and try not to get your heart broken!

If you've already purchased England Exchange from the hanakogames website, please contact hanakogames support to receive your free Steam key.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

England Exchange

Long time no update (look, 2016 was a rough year) but we finally have a new game to announce!

You play an American college student (choice of male or female protagonist, renamable) who has signed up for a semester abroad in England, where you'll be living in a hostel and meeting fellow students from around the world who have, like you, been drawn to London. Along the way, you'll get a part-time job, run afoul of various cultural confusions, get drunk for the first time (lower drinking age!), go on a Beach Episode trip, go on a lot of dates, encounter a mystery, and maybe even find the love of your life. Or at least a new direction. (But not One Direction. Can't afford those licensing fees.)

There are eight possible love interests. Pairings are 4 BxG, 4 GxB, 2 BxB, 2 GxG. And things may occasionally get a little bit saucy...

More information, a list of datable characters, and free demo versions available on the England Exchange game website.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Anna's Quest

About 4 hours in so far. It's a cute, well-made adventure game, the puzzles MOSTLY make sense and the least fair one at least has an option to skip it. (It would be fair in an old-school game, but it's very out of keeping with the modern style.)

The main problem I have with it so far is that it's cute and pleasant but the story isn't very compelling. Anna's bland and sweet and a little dim, leading to repeated sections where you have to watch her give away important magical items to people who are obviously evil. Her motivation 'save grandpa' is noble enough, but their relationship is kind of generic? There are hints of a bigger backstory and some characters being connected but again no real reason to care about those characters and their connections. There's nobody in the game that I'm thinking "Gosh, I want to know more about X". I don't even hate the baddies enough to want to show them up.

It's nice enough and fun to play but once I stop playing it I don't have a huge urge to get back to it.

Monday, 20 June 2016


Played so far: Single playthrough. About 5 hours (this is not unusual from what I can tell)

I'm going to do my best to avoid talking about the plot and JUST talk about the process of playing the game.

This is a narrative-focused semi-adventure game. The 'puzzles' are very light, it's mostly about running around and making decisions to progress through the story, plus a single mechanic with the radio which you use a lot. There are some pseudo-platforming elements, in terms of having to maneuver and jump around to get to the places where you're going, but I don't think it's possible to lose due to jumps or walking off edges or anything like that. The walking is mostly to embody you in the character and pace your discoveries, because a lot of talking and such will happen while you are walking from point to point.

One of the most notable things about the decisions, especially coming from a VN/RPG background, is the power of interruptions. As the characters are talking, you'll get little popup bubbles of possible things you can say. If you don't choose any of the options, the bubbles will eventually fade out and disappear, and your character stays quiet. (This feature appears in some VNs as well, perhaps best known in School Days) How long the options stay available depends on the conversation, since your interjection might not make sense if the point you were responding to passes, but if people are asking you a question they're obviously going to wait longer for you to reply, sometimes with optional extra lines to prompt you a few more times Similarly, when you DO choose an option, sometimes your character will wait for the person currently speaking to finish their line and other times she immediately jumps in to cut them off and/or change the subject.

This makes the conversations much more natural-feeling and tumbling-over-each-other than most video game dialog (RPGs are notorious for having poor pacing with multi-person conversations, like when you have to wait for each character to separately laugh at a joke and click to continue to the next one), which of course also means that it's a lot easier to miss things. If you cut someone off, you'll never know what they were going to say.

This game is probably a nightmare to play if you have any sort of hearing difficulty and/or are not a very fast reader. There ARE subtitles. Mostly. For the major character dialog. But NOT for a lot of the audio cues that are involved in puzzles (they usually have visual cues as well, at least), or a lot of the radio broadcasts, some of which are extra flavor and world building but some of which are fairly important, especially if you're trying to really understand the story. And while the major dialog is subtitled, those subtitles will appear and disappear in a flash if someone's speaking quickly or gets interrupted, and there's (as far as I know) no way to see a log, so if you can't process them, you're going to be constantly missing things. I AM a fast reader so I don't know how much of a problem this presents. Of course, you can just flounder along in confusion, because it's a spooky horror game and you're going to be doing a lot of that anyway.

Gameplay choices in things like this are a double-edged sword. As I mentioned, the walking around and interacting is not really a puzzle to solve so much as it is a method of pacing discovery and giving your characters time to talk, or not talk. You can decide you're fed up with people and press ahead, or you can hang back and give them extra time. The physicality of decisions gives you more room to waffle and be unsure and start to do one thing and then go the other way instead. All of this puts you more in the moment and makes you feel more like you're taking direct actions to move the plot along than a simple VN would. HOWEVER... well, hang on, I'll get back to that.

The other point is that you can't make manual saves. There are countless dialog options and you're always picking one and leaving others behind, but you can't make a save and go back and try the other, you have to go with what you've got. You have one automatically saved game as you go through and that's it. And you have no idea what your decisions actually affect. This does help with the roleplay aspect of pressing you to speak more naturally and not completely fixate on making the 'right' choice at every juncture because you can't... but it also means that you're constantly, constantly abandoning options that you'll never get to see.

In combination with the earlier point, we hit one of the big problems I have with "more immersive" adventure games with choices. They tend to be a PAIN to replay.

I missed a whole bunch of stuff on my first playthrough. Some of it is things where I'd like to see more of the dialog options, some of it is obvious BIG CHOICES within the story where I could have gone the other way and didn't, some of it is stuff where at one point the narrative tension was high and pushed me to actually finish the game but that meant I didn't look around and pick up all the collectibles... etc, etc. There's a ton of content in the game I haven't touched yet with my five hour playthrough. However, I am really not interested in going through all those hours of walking around again in order to get only one more slice of the pie.

From a business perspective it probably makes sense to focus more on keeping the player involved on their first playthrough and less on making it easy and convenient for completionists to see the rest, because they're a much smaller proportion of players and generally willing to put in more work. But it annoys me!

Saturday, 11 June 2016


Vaguely working on a second character but may not have the energy to play much.

Friday, 10 June 2016

Dragon Age Inquisition, Act 2, plot spoilers

so right, NOT talking about the romance (i hope)

Poor Evie did not suspect anything was weird about Blackwall at all, and in fact took him with her to Adamant to help inspire the Wardens. Hawke and Stroud went along, and bad things happened.

Meeting 'Justinia' in the Fade and getting her memories back was a huge relief for Evie. The certainty that it was not Andraste who pushed her out of the rift actually boosted her struggling faith. Being chosen by Andraste herself was just too big for Evie to handle. The actual sequence of events was more believable, and involved real people with real motivations... and maybe the hand of the Maker putting them in the right place at the right time, who's to say? Her answer to most religion-based questions after this point would still be agnostic (Maybe it was really Justinia's ghost, maybe it wasn't, and I'm not putting words in her mouth to help your religion) but much more contented with it.

This increased openness to spirituality included showing respect to Elven lore because hey, weird shit happens, maybe the elves DID have gods. Lesser gods than the Maker but who's to say what a god is anyway? No reason to be rude about it. (This caused some conflict with Sera later.)

It was Stroud who stayed in the Fade, of course. And in line with her decision about the mages, Evie promptly made the Wardens part of the Inquisition. You people might be useful but I can't TRUST you if I'm not keeping an eye on you! ... Her habit of recruiting people she doesn't trust A BIT because she needs them for the immediate crisis is again, another thing in favor of disbanding the Inquisition as soon as possible because all this was bound to blow up eventually.

(Meta level, Varric's intense relief that Hawke had survived was the first time I started thinking the Hawke/Varric shippers had a point. Not all relationships have to be the same, not all relationships have to be sexual, but there's something special there. And after this point, Varric and Evie started feeling more like friends and less like two people in the same organization.)

Come the Orlesian ball, Evie was basically rooting for Celene the whole time. Celene is a diplomat. Her advisors kept saying Gaspard would be a better ruler for Orlais. As a Free Marcher, Evie didn't want a strong Orlais, just a peaceful one, one that would cause her less headaches while she was managing the Inquisition. Celene wants to make peace with people? Good, go with that. Hooking her back up with Briala and improving the state of the elves seemed a nice bonus touch.

Evie took Dorian, Solas, and Cassandra to the ball - Dorian and Cassandra since they seemed experienced in such matters, Solas because she trusted him as her advisor. She was bemused by his calm reaction to the way the Orlesians treated him, but didn't think too much about it, particularly with her Prince Charming to keep an eye on. (Poor grope-magnet Cullen...) Since Evie as a rogue and a noble was pretty good at handling this sort of environment, she left with Florianne alive and made her yet another agent who couldn't entirely be trusted.

(I think the only person I executed was that dick mage who lured the Grey Wardens into their stupidity. Evie would have made him Tranquil if she'd been given the option, but otherwise, just kill him and get it over with.)

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Dragon Age Inquisition, Act 2

(remember, massive spoilers, I'm just trying to record my rambles here. I may make mistakes, this is all as best as I remember it)

So, Act 1 ends with a bang (to Evie's great dismay, she got Flissa out but was too slow to save Minaeve. Like, was literally standing on the fire trying to disarm it when it blew up, leaving a charred corpse, which was kind of traumatic, and she was my favorite of the Havensfolk too. Saved Threnn at least. But I was way too caught up to savescum so what happened happened.) Lots of big emotional scenes, dramatic stands, charging out to defy the Big Bad, potential heroic sacrifice to save the others... although I don't think Evie really thought she would die. She was kind of too angry to be scared, and as the player of course I knew the game wasn't over yet. And then the big stirring scene and the plans for the future.

By this point, Evie was absolutely ready to lead the Inquisition... not for religion, but to do what was right. It was her duty, and no one else could do it better. If people were going to make her a creature of myth and legend, she was going to use it. Maybe she was chosen, after all. (She'd lived through that craziness and come out with superpowers, hadn't she?) Maybe she really was the Herald. Maybe she would be Empress. There was no more reason to deny her destiny.

So emotionally, Evie was riding a high.

On a meta-level, I'd stopped thinking of all the heart options as necessarily flirtatious, since many of them just seemed NICE (After all, I was hearting on Cassandra all the time and it wasn't really being more than friendly) so when the option popped up to tell Cullen I was glad we'd both made it out of Haven alive, of course I picked it. I was glad we were both alive!

And then his voice drops, and with this painful intensity Cullen swears to protect Evie from anything like that ever happening again.

In her heart, right then, something went ping.

But it was silly, of course. He was just some boring old ex-Templar and she was pursuing an elf girl, when she wasn't flirting madly with Dorian or palling around with Cassandra. They parted ways. Meta-level, I didn't even figure out where Cullen's position on the Skyhold map was for a good while and couldn't visit him if I'd wanted to.

Evie went back to hanging out with her friends. Met up with the Bull and his Chargers. Started getting to know Varric a little better, and mediating between him and Cassandra. Preparing to find Hawke and the Wardens.

(Oh yeah Blackwall happened at some point but Evie found him a little unnerving, she mostly only hung out with him to try and find out info about the Wardens.)

At some point, still chatting up Sera, I got the pranks quest, and Evie set out to have a little fun... only to be dragged into Cullen's office and told to play a joke on him.

She couldn't do it. Josephine, sure, but Cullen? She could not bring herself to diminish or discomfort that man in any way, not even for a moment, not even for Sera. It was unthinkable.

And that's when she knew she was in love.

(Meta level, from checking the wiki it looks like this may actually be the last step with Sera before you start a romance properly. I honestly didn't know, because it pretty much happened just like this - after that point i went for Cullen with no hesitation, and never even had a conversation with a flirt option in it that I can remember until after Evie and Cullen were a couple. That kiss just about killed me.)