Hello again and welcome back to the second part of my series of short reviews of EVNs I picked up. Once again I have a mixed bag regarding both content and quality to get through, so let us dive right in.
Eliza follows our protagonist Evelyn Ishino-Aubrey and how her life and those of others change due to the eponymous AI counseling program she developed some years prior. This is the most ambitious game I'm going to talk about today, mostly being a meditation on how people search for meaning in their lives in a highly technologized society rather than a plot-driven story, with some interesting choices when it comes to its storytelling and game mechanics. Most of them work really well (like the implementation of choices), while others turn out to be double-edged swords. Especially the lack of a distinct central conflict both underlines the MC's lack of direction nicely and makes the VN quite boring to read at times.
When it comes to presentation though, Eliza is probably as good as it gets with EVNs. The art style and soundtrack are quite unique and really aid the overall atmosphere, and the game is completely voiced, with most VAs doing a really good job. Eliza also contains the best and most challenging Solitaire card game I've probably played so far and on which I might have spent more time than reading the actual VN.
Eliza is one of those pieces of media where it is hard to figure out whether you will like it before picking it up. If its themes and atmosphere resonate with you, you will probably really like it. I couldn't really get into it, but I can still acknowledge what it tries to do and where it succeeds. It just isn't for me.
The Miskatonic (Rapscallion)
Speaking of not being for me, The Miskatonic is a comedy VN with a sense of humor I just can't stand, so I dropped it about one hour in. If I had to describe it, I would say it's Big Bang Theory humor (including its reliance on short skits) in a Lovecraft setting with a good measure of sex jokes (get it, it's funny because everyone looks gross). If that sounds like your thing, go ahead and check The Miskatonic out. For me personally though the short time I spent on it felt like a Lovecraftian nightmare in a very different way then the creators presumably intended.
Misadventures of Laura Silver: Chapter One (Studio Attic Salt)
The Misadventures of Laura Silver series (assuming there is going to be at least a chapter two) takes place in 1920s Czechoslovakia, following a duo of supernatural investigators. Where this game absolutely shines is its cast. Laura Silver might be one of my favorite detective MCs with her arrogant and quick-tempered personality. There are several instances where you get the choice to pull out your gun just because someone made a mean comment. The other characters have their entertaining quirks as well, making for a lot of funny dialogue. This first entry suffers a little from a few issues opening chapters in serialized stories tend to have, namely some technical problems (none of them game-breaking though), some interesting though a little clunkily executed gameplay features, and unsteady pacing. The first roundabout two thirds revolve around a murder mystery, while the last part consists of a lot of exposition.
Overall it's a promising opening, but it definitely feels incomplete. I would say it's one of those VNs where you should wait for reviews of the second chapter when it comes out, but then again if nobody buys the first chapter, there might not be a second one.
Miss Fisher and the Deathly Maze (Tin Man Games)
Another series of short murder mysteries, Miss Fisher and the Deathly Maze actually includes two cases. There won't be anymore though as the series has been discontinued due to poor sales (there is only two user ratings on vndb and one of them is mine). Only after starting to read did I find out that it was actually based on an Australian TV show (which in turn is an adaption of a series of crime novels) taking place Down Under in the 1920s, and it shows in how little the game bothers with proper character exposition. This isn't too much of a problem since every recurring character has a personality that is pretty easy to grasp. The cases feel like they would fit right into a pre-primetime serial, which might be one of the reasons the game didn't do so well commercially. It could also have to do with the fact that the Miss Fisher series feels like it is geared towards women 50+, a demographic that isn't exactly famous for buying a lot of PC games.