Welcome to Budget Bytes, a series where we highlight visual novels that cost US $10 or less. These are a few worthwhile games that won’t bite into your wallet. Even better, all of the games listed this time are completely free!
Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux, Browser (itch.io)
goodbyes is a yuri visual novel about two girls struggling to maintain their friendship with each other when change threatens to tear them apart. Alex’s best friend Naomi is moving away for college, and as a result the two haven’t spoken in a while. Suddenly, Naomi invites Alex over to help her with packing. Can they resolve their frustrations with each other, or will they go their separate ways for good?
The first thing I liked about this game visually is how the muted-colored art style and point-and-click elements gave me a missed messages. vibe. What I enjoy about the point-and-click aspect of goodbyes is how much the objects around the room reveal about the characters and their backstory.
It’s a very short game that lasts about 10 minutes in the first run through, and there are four different endings. I recommend this title for those interested in a story about overcoming real-life issues, growing pains, and relationship complications.
Cafe in the Clouds
Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux (itch.io)
Cafe in the Clouds is a point-and-click visual novel starring Remerie and Somnia, two bakers at Cafe Nemo with a love for sweets and a knack for curing sleep anxieties. The puzzles in this game are beautifully designed—reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland with painted red roses, cute bunnies, and clocks—but the entire story has an original twist.
Any story that involves a cute bakery is going to win my attention. Cafe in the Clouds has such an original concept and an admirably wholesome story that it instantly made it to my list of favorites. I love how dedicated the characters are to helping people who suffer from anxiety. Remerie and Somnia are inspiring and lovable characters; I would join them on baking/dream adventures any day.
I encourage everyone to pick this game up; it’s truly a masterpiece and took me about thirty minutes to an hour to finish. My only complaint is that I wish the game were longer!
You can read our full review of Cafe in the Clouds here.
Lights in the Sky
Platforms: Windows, Mac, Android, Browser (itch.io)
Lights in the Sky, a submission for the 2021 Winter VN Jam, follows the antagonistic relationship between a thieving pirate and a beastly chief of police. The pirate is captured by the chief and immediately the two are at odds, giving us a thrilling story that leaves players wondering which of the two will outsmart the other.
The art style reminds me of “Steamboat Willie” but with more of a visual “pop.” The characters are papery cut-outs in appearance, but the designs seem to really pop out of the screen. It’s unique and the entire gameplay experience is a constant flow of art and motion; there’s never a dull or static moment, and that’s something I always take notice of when it’s done well.
The story is engaging from the get-go, and continues with the same pace throughout the rest of the game. There are a lot of choices, so the game can end in more ways than one. If you are drawn to action-adventure stories, then I suggest picking up Lights in the Sky; you won’t be disappointed.