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Countdown to silence: a VN recommendation/review

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Zakamutt

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Countdown_to_silence_2020-03-26_01-18-38

The story of how I came to read this EVN is kind of like Countdown to silence itself. It started out with a bit of comic relief mingled with human drama (The dev came in and posted a link on the Fuwanovel discord and I grilled him for a bit because my ego is large and my opinions voluminous, but he managed to at least catch my interest). Then trouble struck (My Internet’s been down for hours now and it’s doing a number on me), but this led to some exciting events (I played the VN on a whim and it turned out to actually be good). The ending… well, my Internet’s still not back on, can someone tell the wankers over at Comhem to hurry up and get my router a bloody IP address? Thanks in advance.

13 hours later, I finally have the connection necessary to post this. Holy fuck.

Countdown_to_silence_2020-03-26_01-24-27

Countdown to Silence takes place in a world where (entirely benevolent and harmless) experiments intended to give humans superpowers have succeeded, but in an unexpected fashion: only their kids got a splash with the supe brush. This ability is called IO for “Information Overlay”, and true to its name it presents itself as an overlay showing you certain information – with varying levels of usefulness depending on your specific ability. The protagonist and (voiced!) narrator, Josh, didn’t get particularly lucky with his: all it shows him is a countdown to when people will speak to him next. While there are _some_ uses for this, it mostly doesn’t give him much benefit. His best friend Kyle has a much better ability: seeing potential conversation choices when talking to people, potentially revealing their secrets but also making him a great guy to talk to. The setting and abilities are used surprisingly well in the story, but don’t expect anything about uncovering government conspiracies or rebelling against society or whatever, it’s just accepted as a Thing in universe. You could probably rewrite the thing without the abilities, but it wouldn’t have the same zing to it, so I can’t say I’m bothered.

Countdown_to_silence_2020-03-26_02-01-57

No, but self-isolation does, so basically half of us are in the system now.

The VN walks a delicate line between drama and comedy, and will frequently take the edge off tense moments with a comedic segment before ramping up the tension again. Thankfully, it succeeds in the balancing act; neither the comedy nor the drama are cheapened too much by its counterpart. The humor does have indulgent parts; the main character is a weeb into magical girl shows for kids. This doesn’t get too grating in my opinion, and it’s only mentioned in like three scenes, but after reading this many EVNs I still feel it’s a bit cliché. Otherwise, I would describe it as… a bit camp, I guess? On the low end of the scale though. I swear to god if the creator of this isn’t British I need to get my tea-dar fixed.

Countdown_to_silence_2020-03-26_01-25-44

Nisemonogatari >>> Bakemonogatari

So why do I like it so much? Well, first of all, the plotting is tight: it doesn’t waste time, keeps you interested, and things slide into place from foreshadowing in pleasing ways.

Second, the voiced narration actually adds a lot for me. There’s a constant echo-ish effect to it, it’s clearly not a super high quality recording, but I find it charming. Combined with the rest of the voices in this fully voiced VN (not badly acted, but certainly not recorded with the best equipment), the weird style convention of leaving off most ending periods in text boxes, and the uhh, funky backgrounds, it feels very doujin. Alone, any of these elements would be less than ideal, but together it forms a gestalt I find strangely palatable. Though I still must insist that you really should still end your text boxes with periods – I got used to the style because it was consistent and repetition legitimizes, but it’s not going to be a good fit for most stories and arguably made even this one worse. Anyway, the aesthetic fits the drama-comedy flow of the story pretty well. I’m left with the impression that it all shouldn’t fit together so well, and yet it just does.

So yeah, I really recommend this for a fun and engaging 30-60 minutes or so of content. Extremely positively surprised.

Download free at: https://plotline-progenitor.itch.io/countdown-to-silence

Countdown_to_silence_2020-03-26_01-37-50

Okay, but as we all know I have autism, so let’s nitpick the craft a bit instead as I think the writer has potential and might read this. If you’re not into that, feel free to skip the rest of this.

Hotkeys:
Page up/down do nothing, despite the fact that they’re listed on the Help page! No hotkey to show message history, the SUPERIOR history function.

UI:
There’s no way to replay voice lines besides going back from a later line with rollback (and then they always play due to renpy rollback.) Rollback is the default backlog for mousewheel (my JVN soul cries for it to activate the backlog instead and then have scenario jump and voice replay buttons in that history). Uses default UI rather than anything custom as far as I can tell, though at least the modern Ren’Py default doesn’t make me want to tear my eyes out.

Sound:
Some voices are too hard to hear at the default music volume (full) while others are perfectly fine. I remember a scene where this made me have to go into the settings and lower the music volume to like half (which I left it at). I feel like this could have been avoided with more careful sound design.

Qca4pm3.png

Why put this on your download page when you can just change the default settings???

Music doesn’t fade out, it just cuts, which makes scene transitions feel unnecessarily and jarringly sudden. Especially the final line of the game suffers from this – it really needed a soft fadeout to mimic the emotion at that point. Overall, think about transitions more when scripting.
Voices sometimes do not fully match the written line, though the wording is often better than the actual text. One voiced line even adds a word that was accidentally omitted in the text!

Text:
Apart from the aforementioned thing where sentences just end without punctuation half the time, there’s a few typos that could’ve been caught by a careful eye. The phrasing style, and well, the style in general is unusual and feels like veering into the relaxed conventions of, I don’t know, fanfic writing? With everything else it kind of works, but it certainly won’t work for just any tone, and you’ll need to be careful with this in the future. The voiced narration does help sell some fairly long sentences without punctuation, so it’s good we have it.

…And that’s about it, I think.


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21 minutes ago, Plk_Lesiak said:

You invalidated the whole review with just one line of text. So sad. :(

The comedy is better and everything is just tighter and everyone else is CRAZY sorry NOT sorry (probably the actually good subs from CMS available help but)

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11 minutes ago, Zakamutt said:

The comedy is better and everything is just tighter and everyone else is CRAZY sorry NOT sorry (probably the actually good subs from CMS available help but)

Hah, how interesting! I actually found Nise meandering and (relatively) boring. Basically everything between Bake and Second Season felt like filler, not bad really, but nowhere near as captivating. I'm always amazed with how people's opinions differ. ^_^

That EVN though, looks quite interesting. Might check it out this weekend, considering how short it is... My reading output is at disastrous levels though. I should start working on NaNoRenO coverage soon and if this quarantine apathy doesn't leave me I think I'll be working on it for the next three months. :P

Edited by Plk_Lesiak

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