Budget Bytes #3

Budget Bytes #3

Welcome to another edition of Budget Bytes! Budget Bytes is a series where I recommend titles that are $10 or less, because who doesn’t want to find a good title for cheap? Let’s get into the games!

Cryptid Crush: Prologue

Price: Free

Available Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux, Android (itch.io)

You play as a character (name and pronouns changeable) who moves to the town of Longhope with a ghost cat named Taro. Longhope is a small settlement full of mystery and monsters. After hearing a radio broadcast done by a ghost named Madhouse, you track it down and end up at an abandoned station. This is where we meet the rest of the main cast, Atlas and Jamie. The four of you investigate the mystery surrounding the broadcasts, its host, and why Jamie is cursed.

Cryptid Crush features a small bit of gameplay. There will be times where you have to roll a pair of dice in order to successfully succeed at an action. It’s a lot like Dungeons and Dragons and other tabletop games. There is also another tiny section in the game where you’re in a battle and selecting the incorrect choices gives you and your companions a health penalty. If I had to critique the gameplay, I personally would have liked a tutorial on the dice rolls. When they’re introduced, it’s abrupt and someone who isn’t familiar with tabletop games might be confused on how rolls work. It also would have been nice to see the number the player has to roll in order to succeed in the event rather than displaying it afterwards.

Right off the bat, I dig the art style. It has this cute, almost cartoon look to it that perfectly compliments the tone of the game. I love Jamie’s design the most. I dunno, there’s something about a kickass demon wearing a skull on their head that I just love.

Overall, I was impressed with what I played. I’m looking forward to the full release!

Jisei

Price: $4.99 or $5.99 (price varies between platform)

Available Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux (Steam) (itch.io), PlayStation 4 (PlayStation Store), Nintendo Switch (eShop), Xbox One (Microsoft Store), Android (Play Store)

There will always be something special about your first few visual novels. They’re the ones to introduce you to the genre and what it can do. At first, I was used to Flash dating sims with cute anime boys that had no real story to speak of, and if there was, it was paper-thin. I was then introduced to sakevisual, a developer behind many lovely visual novels. While writer Ayu Sakata made the cute, romantic RE: Alistair++, it was her mystery series Jisei that made her become one of my favorite developers. It was my first title that had a solid story, and despite waiting years for the newest game, it’s kept me interested, which is hard to do.

Jisei is the first game in the mystery series. You play as a young man (whose name isn’t revealed here) with an extraordinary ability. This man has the power to sense death and relive a person’s last moments by touching them. We get to see this in action when he awakens in a coffee shop and senses someone has died nearby. When going to the bathroom, he sees a dead woman, and of course, he touches her body to try and piece together what happened. Someone sees him touching the body and tells everyone in the shop he’s the killer. It’s your job to clear the main character’s name, figure out what happened to the victim, and find the real murderer before time is up.

The gameplay is rather simple. You go around and ask everyone questions. How you approach them will determine how the story moves forward. If you act accusatory to someone, they might hold back information. However, if you tiptoe around the subject, you won’t really get anything useful. So it’s important to try and find a middle ground. Outside of that, the game is pretty linear, and to be honest, it’s a lot harder to get a bad ending in this game than it is to get the good ending.

Now, while I love Jisei, there are a couple of flaws with it. First of all, the game is incredibly short. For the asking price of $5-$6, that’s not bad. The issue lies with how the story is handled. So much is left up in the air, such as who the main character is, why he’s on the move, and why he won’t say his name. It’s very much clear that he wants to keep himself a mystery, but if the player got at least some backstory, perhaps a flashback to his past would have sufficed. It would keep players interested in knowing more about our mysterious figure. The sequels, Kansei and Yousei, do a much better job at giving the player answers rather than more questions. They also develop the cast a lot more than in this game.

Overall, Jisei is the foundation for a great series. Like with many first games of a series, it isn’t the best, and compared to its sequels, there are some flaws. However, when I played this game recently with a friend, she enjoyed her time with it and echoed the same issues I explained here. So, if you’re looking for a great mystery series, then I highly recommend you check out Jisei.

Pinewood Island

Price: $9.99

Available Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux (Steam) (itch.io)

Pinewood Island is the debut title from Jaime Scribbles Games, who also made As We Know It. For her first title, I was thoroughly impressed with what she came up with!

You play as a young woman who goes to a secluded island with her professor, his T.A., and other students. Of course, whenever a secluded island is the location for your game, something is going to go wrong, and here, it goes south fast. What should have been a four-week-long science program turns into an uneasy stay when the professor is found dead after a beach party. No one’s phones work, because of course they wouldn’t, and there’s no way back to the mainland. All the students can do is try to live until a boat comes to pick them up in four weeks, with a murderer in their midst all the while.

Pinewood Island is a mystery-romance visual novel, so while you investigate what happened to the professor and who killed him, you’re also trying to get close to one of the three romance options. So, as you explore the island for clues, you will also be spending time with your classmates. You can always spend your time with one person, but that wouldn’t really do much in terms of investigating or keeping your classmates alive. Yes, if you don’t spend your time correctly, your fellow classmates can drop like flies. The only way to prevent this is to make sure their sanity is normal, or at least as normal as it can be when you’re on a secluded island with a killer. Personally, while I like the idea, I wish there was a way to tell how everyone’s sanity is doing so the player can get a better indication of how to manage their time.

Much like in As We Know It, their main character is customizable from hair color to skin tone, which is always a nice feature to have in your titles.

Overall, I liked Pinewood Island. It’s a good romance story, but an even better mystery. If you’re looking for a romance game with some stakes, check out Pinewood Island.

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