NaNoRenO 2016: Between the Lines

4/10/2016

Between the Lines is a NaNoRenO release, the first one that I'm going to review on the list.


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GAME INFO
Name: Between the Lines
Developer(s): missxtake, Seroft, Toots, Fell 
Release Date: March 31, 2016
Genre: GxB, Fantasy

Bianca is living with her parents and halfheartedly studying to try to get into college. She doesn't really know what she'd want to do there, to be honest, but her parents want her to be there -- and they make it very clear that she's to start doing something about it, very soon.
Deciding to take a break and try to focus on something else, Bianca picks up a novel (with a pretty ribbon attached to its spine) titled "Sage of the Sea" at a vintage bookstore. While she's reading, though, she suddenly feels a bad headache coming on, and decides to sleep through the pain...
When she wakes up, she's somewhere completely different.

STORY
(You get the option to skip to the route selection, which I didn't pick, by the way.)

One day, taking a break from "studying", our protagonist Bianca decides to head into the library/bookshop to find something to read. She gets a book called Sage of the Sea, receiving a strange look from the cashier as she hands in her payment. While reading the said book back at her place she gets this horrible headache so she decides to just sleep it off. However, when she wakes up, she finds herself in the universe of the book she was just reading. What the heck is going on?
between the lines nanoreno oelvn
Well, this is pretty interesting.

I'm actually a fan of this kind of stories, one where somebody just suddenly wakes up in a fantasy universe or alternate dimension or something. I guess it appeals to the part of me that always wonders, "What if X happened instead of Y?"

Now, I do think this theme was tackled quite nicely in this visual novel. I don't want to give away any spoilers, but I can say that unlike in some other stories I've encountered before, here, we were actually given a reason as to why that happened. Heck, the characters were constantly talking about it in the second half of the game. The MC transporting to another world wasn't just treated as another plot device; it was the actual plot. Which is pretty cool, I think. In the end, it was wrapped up quite nicely, though I was still left unsatisfied. Wait, maybe unsatisfied is an understatement. I was like, "Wait, what?" (I'm talking about Ettore's ending here.) I was actually playing this game on auto-mode and was surprised when it suddenly ended. I even thought it was a mistake and replayed that scene, but nope, it really ended there. Strange.

CHARACTERS
To be honest, I'm a little bit torn about stereotypes. Normally, I'd say that I don't like them, but this game doesn't have them at all, and I'm not sure if that's a good thing, because I can hardly differentiate their personalities from one another. They just... are.
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Ettore is the astronomer guy who studies potions. But he's not a stereotypical serious guy. He's actually rather caring, taking Bianca under his wing and immediately coming to Cecil's aid when they see him wounded in the forest. Also, he blushed at the chance of holding Bianca's hand. Yes. It was his ending that I got first, though, because I felt that he was a bit more interesting than Cecil. Hey, I like smart guys. Hahaha. The only thing I actually disliked here was the ending, which, as I said above, left me really unsatisfied. And hanging. Ooooooh.
between the lines nanoreno oelvn
Cecil is the lone wolf. Like, literally, because he's the only left in his pack. But he's not your stereotypical, stand-alone guy who protects others from harm as a hobby. No, he's actually rather shy as well, always embarrassed to spend time alone with Bianca. He does feel quite like a child in the latter part of the game, though, which is super cute. And also, his backstory (which I will not spoil here, haha, sorry guys) was kinda heartbreaking. </3 Poor little Cecil. His ending was also just as abrupt as Ettore's, unfortunately.

So, yes. Hooray guys, I don't think there are any stereotypical characters in this game. But man, replace their sprites and names with one another, and I don't think I would've noticed the difference at all. Uh-oh.

WRITING
The writing is alright. No noticeable typos, though it did feel a little flat sometimes. Also, one of my pet peeves is having a "thought" line and a "description" line, as I call them, together in one sentence. I don't know why, but I've always felt it necessary to separate those lines in the script.
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ART
I personally like the art style of the sprites, even though they look sort of incomplete. The lines aren't even cleaned up yet. This, I could understand, since it is a NaNoRenO release, after all. However, most of the backgrounds are just... hmm, dare I say bad? I'm all for using free resources--heck, I use them myself-- but the backgrounds here are so mismatched that they're distracting. It's a mixture of poorly drawn art to badly-filtered photographs, which I can hardly stand. There are some decent ones here though (two I've actually used in my own projects! Hahaha) so that's that. But still... it kinda gives me a headache seeing all the mismatched art. I wish the developers could have made more effort looking for... you know, nicer backgrounds or something.

MUSIC
Nothing spectacular, but good enough. There were some scenes which I thought deserved better music though, like the fight scene near the beginning of the story, but... oh well. It's a NaNoRenO release after all.

GUI
Standard Ren'Py material. Nothing else to say about this.
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WRAP UP
To tell you the truth, I'm not sure what to think. A lot of the shortcomings in this visual novel could be excused by the fact that it's a NaNoRenO title, like the other titles in this year's roster. However, it's hard for me to actually give my final thoughts because I didn't feel... anything while I was reading this. It just felt like, "Okay, so this is happening. And this is happening. Ah, okay, that happened. What will happen next?" Fine, maybe some parts did elicit a smile or two from me, but aside from that, nothing. I honestly think the story of Between the Lines is a good idea that could still be expanded upon. I mean, it's not exactly a super short visual novel, but at the same time, I feel like it could have been better if the story was explored more. I'd love it if it were expanded! Maybe the creator would be interested in remaking this outside of NaNoRenO? Who knows, right? For now, I think there's still a lot of room for improvement. But for a NaNoRenO release, I'd say Between the Lines is at least worth a look.
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You can download this game here!

(P.S. I'm gonna reserve using the strawberries as a rating system here, because... well, frankly, I don't have a copy of them yet on this new laptop.)

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