Why the visual novel Emily is Away is painful to read


It's a pretty great day today. I'm actually supposed to be working on some other projects, but I decided to play a little something just to get my mind off of things for an hour or two.

emily is away visual novel game review otometwist

I've had this game in my backlog for quite some time now, and I actually tried to play it already once, but I never got around to finishing it. So I told myself that I'd definitely finish it today.

I did, finally. And man, I just wanna say, it was painful.

Not in the way you imagine, no.

Warning: there will be a lot of spoilers in this review. It's more of a reflection than a review, to be very honest. If that's fine with you, then go ahead!

A coming-of-age story

Emily is Away is a free-to-play game released in November 2015 by indie game developer Kyle Seeley. It's an interactive point-and-click about two people, the main character and Emily. The two went to the same high school and were the best of friends, until college started and they both had to go their separate ways. The game shows six years of their life, from their senior year in high school until their senior year in college.

emily is away visual novel game review otometwist

From the get-go, it's already obvious what peg this game wants to achieve. It mimics the style of AOL Instant Messenger, hoping to bring some nostalgic feels to 90's kids. You get to choose your own name and screen-name, as well as your profile picture. The interface is a solid throwback to the old Windows XP and AIM client.

A lot of keyboard smashing involved

On the technical side, there is one thing I don't like about this game, and it's a pretty huge gripe. Namely, it's the way that the game progresses. You can choose your responses to what Emily is saying, and you have to type letter by letter, mimicking how it really works in real life. The big problem is that it's extremely annoying.

It's practically just plain keyboard smashing, and there's no other way to go about it.

Anyway, it's practically the only gripe I have with the game, because the writing was totally solid.

A little bit of truth

You know the thing that hits me the most with this game, is how real it is. People come, people go. Some people stay friends forever, some drift apart and never speak to each other again. It's sad, but that's the way it is.

emily is away visual novel game review otometwist

There are six years in this game, and for the first five years, it was always Emily who logged off first. It was strange to me, because it always seemed like Emily was the more interested one. She was also the one who always reached out first. At some points, our character seemed to be just responding for the sake of responding. But she never stopped responding to Emily.

In the sixth year though, the tables turned. For the first time, it was our character who reached out to Emily. And this time, it was Emily who seemed to be just responding for the sake of responding. I admit, it was painful to see Emily answer my questions without asking anything back. Ever had that feeling when you know that someone doesn't want to talk to you anymore, but you still push the conversation because you desperately want to talk with them? That was exactly what I felt in this game. And that is why Emily is away was so painful for me to read.

I'm not the kind of person who "drifts apart". You can stop talking to me for months or years and if you talk to me again, nothing would have changed. The main character in this visual novel reminded me a lot of myself.

emily is away visual novel game review otometwist
emily is away visual novel game review otometwist

But Emily reminds me of someone, someone who used to be very close to me. We drifted apart recently, and it's so hard for me to accept it, because that person has already become my favorite human being-- the best in my world. Near the end of this game, Emily was acting a lot similar to how that person is now acting towards me, and it almost killed me to have to see that kind of situation from an outsider's perspective. I honestly almost didn't want to finish this game because it hit way too close to home.

I can understand the helplessness and desperation of the main character while chatting with Emily, because I know exactly how it feels. I've felt it before. I still feel it until now.

Emily is Away hurts. It hurts because it shows the story of two friends, or two almost lovers, drifting apart after literally years of trying so hard to hold everything together. It hurts because it shows a story that millions of us are experiencing every day, with our own friends and loved ones. It hurts because it's so raw, because it neither hides nor sugarcoats the feelings of losing a dear friend to distance and lack of communication.

Most of all, it hurts because it's real.

And that's why you should play it.

There's no excuse not to play this free-to-play game

You can download the game for free on Steam or itch.io! A sequel was released earlier this year called "Emily is Away Too" -- great play on the name, by the way -- so you can also check it out if you wish. It's not free, but it only costs $5, so you might want to give it a try.

Have you played Emily is Away? Feel free to share your thoughts down below!

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