HIGH The vibes and pacing are superb.
LOW Getting four cards away from finishing Impossible Solitaire and then failing.
WTF I mean, pretty much everything.
I’m pretty particular about my Visual Novels. I didn’t realize I was as selective as I was until I started playing a lot of them, but it quickly became apparent that there’s a specific profile that clicks with me.
For my taste, a Visual Novel has to have a strong narrative hook, a great art style, and having animation is a plus. There’s also got to be something to do in it besides read and advance text, and it can’t take as long to finish as Lord of the Rings.
Ironically, it turns out that finding a VN that checks all of these boxes is surprisingly difficult! More difficult than I would have imagined at first, anyway, so it’s always a treat when I find one that not only satisfies the criteria, but does so with ease. Welcome to my relatively short list, Mothmen 1966.
Illustrated in a striking, lo-fi pixelated style, the visuals are what initially grabbed me. The developers do a lot with a little, and by choosing to go this route, they quickly establish a spooky vibe and creepy tone that fits the content perfectly, especially in regard to using darkness to obscure details. Having only a vague idea of what’s out there is much scarier than seeing the thing Illustrated in clear daylight.
The plot is interesting and not overly dense, yet full of a surprising amount of twists and turns. Without spoilers, a man takes his girlfriend out on a date that goes horribly wrong. Along the way, they stumble into a conspiracy that touches on several elements including aliens, secret societies, and ghosts.
Dialogue comes in short bursts, rich enough to give the player a good sense of what’s going on and who the characters are, but never feels like too much clicking through low-cal text. Mothmen 1966 smartly keeps things moving.
As far as my other boxes to be checked off go, there are several small mechanical surprises. They mostly come in the form of simple puzzles and a few which are puzzles disguised as turn-based combat challenges. They’re brief and fairly easy — not a complaint, since this is a visual novel! — but the key is that they never stop the flow of forward progress, while still offering enough of a break to keep things fresh.
In addition to all of this, there’s an extra surprise in store for players — a minigame called Impossible Solitaire. This not only offers an entertaining diversion from the storytelling, but with a little tweaking (the controls for choosing cards are… not great) and a few bells and whistles, it would be robust enough to stand on its own. In fact, after I introduced it to my family after seeing it in Mothmen 1966, we’ve been playing with real cards almost daily. This bonus is fantastic, and a wonderful surprise tucked inside an already-entertaining package.
Mothmen 1966 gets in, tells the story it wants to tell, offers a few surprises, and then gets out long before it wears out its welcome. I had a great time with it, and I would hold it up as an example of a well-done Visual Novel that understands its content and the electronic medium, and leverages both to wonderful effect.
Disclosures: This game is developed by LCB Game Studio and published by Chorus Worldwide. It is currently available on PS and XB. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the XBX. Approximately 4 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the story mode was completed, but Impossible Solitaire was not completed. Yet. Dammit. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated M and contains Blood, Sexual Themes, Strong Language, and Violence. I suppose it’s a fair rating since some of the conversations do come off a bit heated and there are themes of unwanted pregnancies and relationships — mature fare, for sure. That said, I’d say it’s on par with many teen-oriented TV shows or perhaps an X-Files lite, so it’s not especially graphic or dark.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: The dialogue in this game comes subtitled. There are no options to alter or resize the text. There are no audio cues needed for gameplay. I played the entire game on mute and had no issues. This game is fully accessible.
Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable. There is no control diagram. The bumpers control the speed of the text (play/fast forward), the A button confirms, the left stick or d-pad control the cursor, the menu button goes into the pause menu and the Y button brings up a history of text the player has just seen.