Visual Novel Review: Asylum Jam 2016


Hi guys! So like I said in my previous post, I recently checked out a couple of games from this year's Asylum Jam. It's a 48-hour international game jam specifically for creating horror games. And as some of you may know, I'm a huge fan of horror, so there's definitely no way I'm missing out on the games from this jam.

As a matter of fact, three years ago, I made a review for The Buried Moon, which was an entry to Asylum Jam 2013.

Now, I can't promise that this review will be spoiler-free, so for those of you who are interested in checking these games out, read at your own risk.

Don't Take This Risk

And speaking of risk, this is the first game that I checked out from the jam. It's called "Don't Take This Risk" by Poison Apple Tales. One of the developers who goes by the name Dreamgazer was the creator of the visual novels Death Room, which I've already played, and the War series, which... I haven't played yet but will, uh, eventually.

visual novel asylum jam 2016 don't take this risk

"Hello? This is...this is the suicide hotline, yes?"

Oops, wrong number. But you may not want to tell that to the man on the other side of the phone. How will you, a young woman, defuse this suicidal crisis? Oh, and better be careful not to tell him you love him.

As a horror game for the 2016 Asylum Jam, you can expect things to turn out twisted more often than not...

It's best not to take that risk.

So, I obviously took the risk, even though I was specifically told not to. I wonder what will happen to me?

The game starts out with two choices: "cool and alluring" and "fun and charming". Whatever you choose here won't have any effect on the story whatsoever. The only difference they will make is the voice actor who you'll be 'talking' on the phone with. And yes, that's the basic plot of the story. A wrong number calls you, looking for the suicide hotline. It's up to you on how you'll deal with the person. Will you send him away? Will you try to help him from the other end of the line? Or will you try to personally make him feel better, enough for him not to need the suicide hotline anymore? Whatever choice you make, you have to do it fast, because there's an in-game timer that will make sure that you won't keep the other person hanging for long. Will you take the risk?

visual novel asylum jam 2016 don't take this risk
Calm down, okay? We all feel that sometimes. But 99.8% of the time, it's usually not true. Believe me.

I really enjoyed this game a bunch, even if it's not like my usual games. First of all, it doesn't have much art; only dialogue, but the dialogue was really good. I was really pulled in by the story from the get-go. In no part of the game do we ever find out who the guy from the phone really is (we do see him at one point, but we never find out about his real identity), but I was invested in him right from the start. I really wanted to make sure that he was alright. I actually played the first few playthroughs with a friend, and we were both panicking in trying to save him, every single time. The story simply sucks you in and holds you right there. That's amazing if you consider the fact that this was done in 48 hours.

visual novel asylum jam 2016 don't take this risk
Your maman sure is a nice person, Unknown. See? I'm sure she loves 'ya.

Second, the voice acting was absolutely fantastic. I tried out both voices, and while they were both good, I liked the "cool and alluring" one better, so I stuck with it for all my other playthroughs. There's just something about it that's both sexy and well, a little bit creepy, at the same time. Quite fitting for this game's theme, actually. (Bonus: this particular voice actor did an interview for Poison Apple Tales, which you can check out here.) Oh, and if you choose him, there's something of a bonus in one of the endings. I unfortunately don't remember which one, but it'll be more fun to get all of them, ne?

visual novel asylum jam 2016 don't take this risk
I don't know how to help you, but... uh... I care enough that I don't wnt to see you hurt, I guess?

There are 8 endings for this game and I got all of them. Not without a walkthrough, mind you. It's pretty hard to get all the endings without one. I kept getting 1, 3, 5 no matter what I did, so I resorted to using the available walkthrough for the game, which you can get here.

Overall, I really enjoyed it! My curiosity wants me to get to know the other guy better, to find out his backstory or something, but man, I guess I'll have to settle this on my own.

You can check out this game here on its official GameJolt page!

The Missing Parts of Maria Gwozdek

The next game I'll be reviewing is entitled "The Missing Parts of Maria Gwozdek" by Senokos Games.

Maria is in a hopeless situation. She's been laid off for two months now, and she still can't get a job. Her mother is ill, and her sister is a jerk. When a man/woman/person/something named Orin offers to grant her wishes in exchange for her body parts, she has no choice but to consider the option.

visual novel the missing parts of maria asylum jam 2016

Whew, okay. Honestly, I found the story to be really disturbing. It's scary enough given the plot, but the most disturbing thing about it is that it can absolutely happen in real life. From everything--news, studies, articles-- that I've read so far, I've become inclined to think that real life can be a lot more horrible than any other horror fiction out there. And based on this game, that could be correct.

visual novel the missing parts of maria asylum jam 2016
Nope. Not me. My name's definitely not Maria. Go away.

Aside from that, there's another theme that disturbed me in this game: wishes. In the game, everything started because Maria made a wish. And actually, all the other horrific things that happened to her were a result of wishes, as well. At one point of the game, Maria was asked by her nephew, "If you had only one [wish] you could ask for, one would it be?" I never knew that question could send chills up my spine.

For my first playthrough, I got the good ending. Or at least, one that's not as horrible as the others. I did play all the others though, and I think I got everything. All of them are disturbing for me, but just in varying degrees.

visual novel the missing parts of maria asylum jam 2016
July 68... my screams are inside the room now.

Other than the story, which was really good, I also liked the super minimalistic art. I know they probably left it 'incomplete' to finish the game within the deadline, but I think it matches the story. But the best thing about this is probably the music, which was very fitting for the game. They definitely added to the already disturbing atmosphere of the story.

I hate to end this review with a cliche saying, but, if there's one thing I got from this short visual novel, it's this: be careful what you wish for; you just might get it.

You can download it here on GameJolt!

The Room

The last visual novel I saw in the jam is called "The Room" and it's by kftX.
asylum jam 2016 the room visual novel
I didn't expect much, considering the very simple menu screen. Hey, I know it's not always right to judge a book by its cover, but there are times when it can be helpful to do so. And, well, let's just say I was right in not expecting much in this case, as this game didn't have much to offer, either. It's just in its alpha stage, apparently, so it's pretty understandable.

Basically, you woke up alone inside a room, with no knowledge of how you even get there. It's very interactive, and there are a lot of choices. Actually, it reminds me of Death Room, the game by Dreamgazer that I mentioned earlier. Except, this one feels more restrictive, since you're alone, with literally nothing to do. At least in Death Room, there were other people. In here, there's absolutely nothing.
asylum jam 2016 the room visual novel
This is how I feel whenever I'm trying to reach my target wordcount.
See, even the worst-case scenario (i.e., being trapped in a single room without knowing why you're there) can be made worse when you're alone.

At the very least, the game gave me a sense of helplessness while I was playing it. I rushed through the endings, until I got the True End, because I simply didn't want to spend more time in the room. There are no sounds apart from a single sound effect at the end, so that only added to my feelings of isolation.
asylum jam 2016 the room visual novel
Dude, what happened to THIS PLACE?
You can check it out here on GameJolt, but I honestly can't suggest that you guys play it now because there really isn't anything do yet. Maybe it would be better to wait for the final release? Anyway, I'll keep an eye on this and update you guys when the time comes.

Coincidentally, The Room (as unpolished as it is right now) is the only game that I can open using its executable file. The other two games, I had to open them from the Ren'Py engine itself, because they wouldn't start up. Huh. Unfortunately, I couldn't take in-game screenshots either, because the whole game folder is hidden. Oh well.


Anyway, that's about it! I did browse through the other Asylum Jam games to see what else I could download, but these three seem to be the only visual novels, so they're the only ones I'll be making a review on. If you're interested in the other games, here's a complete game list.

Let's keep playing, everyone!

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