A while back I posted a review for Zoo Tycoon, and sadly, I still haven’t found a version to work on my computer since then. Not being able to build my own dinosaur zoo where the animals eat the guests—or any zoo at all—has dug a nearly unfillable hole in my life. And even though watching the Jurassic Park movies could fill it, the only movie in the franchise that’s not complete shit is the first one, and after watching it a dozen or so times, I need a little more variety in my dinosaur experience. Enter Jurassic World Evolution, a game I’m shoving all my hopes and dreams onto, so it better not suck.
As someone who isn’t very religious and who’s had very few positive interactions with religion, I always get a little bit worried when it takes a significant role in the media I consume. That same worry filled me in Mass Effect: Andromeda when I began speaking with one of my crewmates, namely the science officer aboard the Tempest, Dr. Suvi Anwar. As I continued interacting with her, I was pleased to find that her character wasn’t limited to being “the religious one”, and that she found joy in the fact that she and my Ryder both had differing opinions on spirituality and the prevalence of religion—a mindset that is often sadly lacking in real life. I left my first Andromeda experience feeling like Bioware really stepped up the nuance in their conversations concerning religion and spirituality, but as the game’s plot twists ruminated in my mind, I came to the conclusion that Bioware and their stories still have a huge problem with avoiding exploring and accepting other religions outside of the Christianity “norm”.
I won’t lie to you, readers: I’ve been excited to write this Web Crush for a while now. Strong as my love is for dating sims, I’ll be the first to admit that the setups usually draw from the same pool. School romances with various magical trappings; the new woman in a business where all her other co-workers are men: the tropes are familiar and comfortable, but sometimes we all need a little spice in our lives. A little something to shake things up. So today I present to you a dating sim that breaks out of the more typical shoujo romance mold and thrusts you into a world of corporate intrigue where romance may be the last thing on your mind.
You may recall earlier this year when I spoke of Mystic Messenger, the mobile dating sim game created by Korean company Cheritz that blew up in certain circles on the internet. Though I thoroughly enjoyed the game, I lamented that Jaehee’s route—the only woman on the datable cast—left off on a wholly unsatisfying note. To that effect, not too much later I recommended a fic that I hoped would soothe the pangs left by Cheritz. This time, I aim to do the same, but through a different medium. Though the fandom has quieted, if you’re like me and still eagerly, but silently, waiting for more Mystic Messenger content, I bring to you this fan-made game starring none other than the queen of the RFA: Jaehee Kang.
It happened: I finally heard those familiar notes of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” floating around, so that must mean that the winter holiday season has finally started. Amidst the constant reminders of such-and-such shopping days until Christmas, I would be remiss if I didn’t do a little shilling myself. To be fair, though, this shilling is a long time coming.
One of the largest breakout hits of the year was Stardew Valley, a love letter to farming sims everywhere developed by one person, ConcernedApe, over the course of four years.Stardew Valley offers its players a true choice to approach the game however they want, and while there is a very loose main plot, you don’t really have to follow it if you don’t want to. If you want to spend your time chilling in the mines, you can do that. If you want to actually use your farm for farming things, you can do that, too. You can also choose to pursue a significant other in a way that isn’t limited by the typical heteronormativity of most dating mechanics. There are lots of ways in which Stardew Valley really shines in the farm sim genre, and one of the ways I wasn’t expecting was how it approaches the idea of community as aided by the valley’s supernatural inhabitants.
The Junimos (small Jell-O-like creatures) in Stardew Valley silently stand back and watch the town, gently guiding the player character through the main plot of restoring the town’s community center should the player choose to help them. Thinking about it a little, these cute creatures reminded me of the Harvest Sprites from the Harvest Moon series. While much more proactive and full of personality, these creatures, too, set the player on the path to saving the land, waking up the Harvest Goddess, or whatever else the plot needs you to do. Yet their main goals and how they intertwine with the mortals they watch over—especially through the player character who can actually talk to them—differ in ways that raises the question: does nature itself nurture and shape a community, or does a community shape the nature around them?
Video games are great. Over the years the medium has flourished into a bountiful crop of entertainment; if you’re looking for a specific story or method of gameplay, it’s sure to be out there somewhere. As the game catalog continues to expand, however, sometimes it gets a little difficult, or appears incredibly daunting, to find that specific something you’re looking for. This is especially true when searching for queer representation through the swathes of games that would just rather not explore this aspect of their audience. Today’s web crush hopes to make this search a little easier on those wanting a little more LGBTQ+ representation in their gaming experience.
Given the current state of the nation, I think it’s fair to admit that a lot of us are reeling and suffering from the recent election results. While I absolutely respect and encourage those who are able to go out and protest in any way they can, sometimes we all need a little diversion from the shittiness that’s been thrust upon us. While for me this usually manifests in playing Harvest Moon or fiddling with the slew of dollmakers on Rinmaru, I just so happened to come upon another great game for when you really want to disconnect from the real world for a bit. If you’re a fan of internet dress-up games too, then you’ll adore Style Savvy: Fashion Forward.
Though I tend to stay away from actually playing them, I have a soft spot in my heart for horror games. Whereas controlling the games myself makes me too anxious to enjoy the experience, watching at the digital side of various Let’s Players allows me the freedom to appreciate these games at my own pace. During one such viewing, I felt like I was doing more than sitting on the edge of my seat waiting for an inevitable screamer—I became enthralled by the game’s atmosphere. The game was ANATOMY, and by the end of the unsettling romp I knew that I had to look up the game’s creator, Kitty Horrorshow. What I found did not leave me disappointed.
At its core, No Man’s Sky is a game about exploration and, yes, colonization to some extent. Hello Games gives their players essentially no guide on how to traverse the systems of planets surrounding them, and this becomes especially apparent when interacting with the few intelligent species you come across on the way. You can choose to ignore these fellow travelers entirely, putting your mark on everything by renaming landmarks and entire planets with seemingly no consequence outside of other players being able to see what you named it if they arrive there themselves. Or, you could simply button mash though the dialogue options you’re given during a conversation with one of the other races, and hope you choose the right answer (or just one that doesn’t spark some sort of galatic hostilities between you and that race). Yet doing either of these would mean that you’d miss out on one of the most compelling parts of the game. Every space traveler starts out knowing nothing about these other cultures, but with a little effort—and a little magic—No Man’s Sky gives a highly accurate analogy to what it’s like to learn and use another language.
As opposed to many people who shared my excitement, therelease of No Man’s Sky was just about everything I expected. However, what I didn’t expect was that, for me, its release would be completely overshadowed by another game. Back in July, messing around on Tumblr, I found some screencaps of a mobile dating sim and thought to myself, “what the hell, I’m not doing anything else right now,” and downloaded it. Looking back on it now, this could have been the biggest mistake of my summer, but only because Mystic Messenger is perhaps one of the most engaging dating sims, mobile or otherwise, that I’ve ever played. Three months of playing and still going strong, I figured now was about the time to write about it.
As the game itself does have a potential pay-to-play quality to it, I’ll be writing from the perspective of someone who has only done all of the character routes—not the after stories or secrets.