Demo Review: Angelic Waves

Angelic Waves is a bishoujo game and romance visual novel from new developer Bus Arrows Studios. It follows the story of Maxwell as he gets to know the three new young women that have moved into his building, Gilleen, Roya, and Annabelle. They, however, have a secret—a secret connected to an ancient story about mysterious women sent by divine providence. Will he find love and romance, or will this secret tear them apart?

This game is currently available as a demo with preparations in progress to launch a Kickstarter. While we were not offered anything (in the form of keys or other material benefits) to play this game, they did reach out to us to ask if we’d be willing to include it among our reviews. We agreed as a way to support the indie visual novel development community. 

As “demo” implies, the game is not currently complete. You can play up to being introduced to the love interests and the beginning of what will lead into their individual routes. It’s unclear, at the moment, how much of the raw assets and writing will change for the full release, but updates are typically to be expected.

A Great Art Team

Looking down the credits list reveals a surprisingly large number of artists for such a new indie studio, and a short conversation with one of the background artists implies they were individually commissioned for specific work as opposed to creating a central art team. Each of these individual contributions is crisp, clean, and neatly rendered. The backgrounds, in particular, would be at home in a large commercial release from an established studio. Sourcing so many fabulous background artists gives the game a lot of scenery for the characters to inhabit and keeps things visually interesting. 

While, in comparison, some of the sprites feel a little more rough around the edges, their overall look is pretty fun and energetic. There’s a lot of love apparent in their design, even if it’s a bit simple. The CGs follow a similar pattern: a little less refined but still flush with homegrown charm. 

Despite such a diverse art team, they managed to create something with a strong visual coherency. When there does happen to be a visible shift in style, it’s not so jarring as to pull you from the game. Part of this, though, is a symptom of the game’s genericity. The flip side to utilizing artists with such similar, mass-production-worthy styles is the sacrifice of an overarching unique visual aesthetic. This game looks like it could be one of a hundred other similar games. 

Writing in Dramatic Need of Work

The level of competency and polish of the art unfortunately doesn’t translate into its writing at all. It is extremely clunky and poorly edited for clarity and ease. It occasionally has funny moments and sometimes the dialogue moves smoothly, but the vast majority of it, particularly the narration of our main character, is plagued with unnatural sentence structure and disagreement over what the tense the story is supposed to be in. One line will describe a past tense action, and the very next will frame it in the present. In a single text box, this is evidenced by sentences like “As I step in the Law House hall, I can smell the food on the table. I scanned my eyes across the table…” or “As I am about to leave the store, a familiar face has shown next to me.” It’s inexpert to the point of frustration and is a slog to get through if you have any sense of flow or rhythm or organic dialogue. So while the narrator has a very strong voice, it’s just not pleasant to read.

Within this poorly constructed framework, though, there lives a perfectly fine little romantic comedy with the expected amount of light wish-fulfillment for the genre. While the relationship dynamics definitely feel like they’re being written through a comparatively more juvenile lens, the characters themselves don’t necessarily feel childish. They’re not nuanced by any means, but despite their writing, the characters are still fairly likable. 

A Nice Little Voice Cast

Most of the charm of the characters comes from the voice cast. They’re matched extremely well with and power through the script with conviction despite its flaws. They could probably benefit from outside voice direction to solidify the overall vocal style, but they did a pretty solid job with what they had to work with. The developers chose partial voice acting over full voice work, and while I feel like they implemented it fairly effectively, a slightly larger library of reactions would have only made it better.

Some Potential for a First Time Developer

Angelic Waves isn’t groundbreaking. It’s a first game for a first time developer and has most of the hallmarks of it. It doesn’t have a lot of its own character and doesn’t really stand out from other mass-market bishoujo games, but that very well may work in its favor as far as garnering a broader appeal or even a small retinue of devoted fans. With some serious narrative and writing overhaul, it has the potential to lay a pretty solid groundwork for more charismatic games in the future. 

Play the demo on itch.io here.

Thank you to Keiraworks (a background artist) for letting me borrow a moment of their time to verify an assumption on how the art was handled.