Budget Bytes #8: Winter Jam Edition

Here are some of my top picks from the 2021 Winter VN Jam!

Hello, and welcome to the eighth edition of Budget Bytes, a series where we highlight visual novels that cost US $10 or less. This month we’ll be listing a handful of games selected from the 2021 Winter VN Jam.

Winter Flower

Price: Free

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

Winter’s Flower is a historical romance inspired by traditional Japanese folklore. Haru is set on finding a magical flower to cure her sister’s illness. A winter storm threatens to foil her plans, and amidst her search she runs into a mysterious yet hauntingly beautiful white-haired man.

For those of you who have read any of my articles up until now, you may have noticed that I have a strong preference for visual novels that are cinematic in nature. This includes visual novels with animation, sound effects and cinematic ambiance, and any elements that contribute to the atmosphere. I’m also a video creator with an appreciation for the cinematic arts.

Winter Flower‘s visuals very much impress me because the story unfolds like a movie. The developers show high attention to detail in their storytelling. Nothing ever feels static, and every scene is constructed with artistic care. The Japanese instrumentals are well placed and amplify the seriousness of the situation.

The downside to this visual novel is that I feel there could be more development between the characters and for the progression of their relationship. While the writing and dialogue feels natural and overall very well-written, it still feels like something is missing and that things develop rather abruptly between the hero and heroine. I am left wanting to know more about them. But, of course, I am trying to keep in mind that this is a short project created under time constraints.

Despite my small nitpick, it is clear that a tremendous amount of time and effort went into putting this visual novel together. The fact that they were able to submit the visuals they produced for a one-month jam is commendable.

When Winter Ends

Price: Free

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

When Winter Ends is a visual novel with a point-and-click minigame about a traveler and a child stuck in a snowstorm. Both have mysterious pasts that leave me intrigued. There’s a decent amount of choices to play through and a total of four endings.

I love how you are able to play from two different perspectives. Both characters have an aura of mystery to them, so the POV change gives you the opportunity to learn more about the other character. This game has a lot of replay value, which I think is something that’s generally challenging to achieve in a jam game. As far as the artwork, it is beautiful, and I love the attention to detail it shows when you switch perspectives in the story and the background art also changes.

The only minor downside is that the point-and-click gameplay feels slightly clunky. The objects don’t light up, and I didn’t realize I was in a minigame at first. I feel more satisfied when objects light up upon hovering. That feels like the optimal style for these minigames, not just for visual purposes, but so the player has a better sense of map awareness.

Overall, I adore this game. At first, the setting feels somber, yet there is something delicate and simple in the conversations between the traveler and the girl that make the visual novel feel serene. Lastly, the moral of the story really resonates with me, as this game discusses the meaning of home, and left me feeling like I could define what home means for me.

Our 4th Yule

Price: Free

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

Our 4th Yule is a fantasy point-and-click visual novel where the main character, witch boy Enid, is trying to surprise his half-plant spouse for their handfasting anniversary. The couple is in a happy relationship, and it’s nice to see a story about a couple that have already been together for awhile.

This is a very short game that I finished in about fifteen minutes, so I won’t get into too much detail so as to avoid spoilers. However, you can expect a fun adventure in town as you collect items on your list, visiting different stalls and talking to townsfolk along the way. The illustrations and animations are fun and are similar to a webtoon, which I really like. The music is also very playful and quirky, fitting the overall cheerful atmosphere of the game.

What I love about this game is how wholesome it is. It’s the perfect vibe for the holidays, and although I played this game well after the holidays were over, it was the perfect remedy for my after-the-holidays blues; that moment in time when the excitement and joy that the holidays bring upon us are sadly over. Our 4th Yule is a cozy winter visual novel, and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to extend that holiday comfort a little more.

Spooktober 2022 Visual Novel Jam

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