Demo Review: Guilty Parade

From Nozori Games comes the first chapter of Guilty Parade, a visual novel with point-and-click elements set in the middle of a heated military conflict. Nemo doesn’t know who he is, and after being picked up in the woods by a squadron of strange soldiers, he’s still no closer to an answer. Tasked with getting to know his new comrades, however, he’s drafted as an unofficial member of the squadron with a chance to prove his mettle. Yet, among his many other unanswered questions, he still doesn’t know what he’s fighting for.

This demo covers the first chapter of the final planned release. A review was requested through the VN Game Den Review Request form.

A Fantastic Overall Visual Point of View

At the title screen, Guilty Parade starts strong with an early-century aesthetic that borrows most heavily from World War I without necessarily being a direct reference to it. From there, it hits heavily with an excellent running-through-the-woods scene with a shaky camera and a blurry look at the sea of faces over your prone form. It continues to deliver a consistently effective cinematic approach to its visual scene construction. There’s movement with slide-in sprites that change position, pose, and distance from camera as the characters themselves move in and out of a scene. It has a great grip on where everyone is at any given time, making sure you, as a player, see everyone as you need to and don’t forget that anyone is present. With the addition of fog effects as needed, camera pans, and screen shakes, it provides a lot of fun visual texture.

Point-and-Click

The game also boasts a pretty entertaining point-and-click exploratory system. You’re introduced to the characters as you move through the barracks, getting to know the different rooms and hallways at the same time. It’s a different approach to tackling the section of of story where it becomes necessary to engage in some infodumping. It’s technically sound, and it makes good use of relatively limited assets to still make it feel like you’re moving through a largish building. There are only a few rooms, though, so to actually fulfill the weird fetch quest you’ve been sent on, you have to backtrack through all the rooms multiple times. It’s also not always clear which room you’re intended to go to next which leads to just a little bit of brute forcing. Overall, I wouldn’t call it difficult to play, just maybe in need of some very very slight tweaking. The point-and-click gameplay only happens once, so far. There’s more game promised down the line, so this feeling may change, but as it stands, the point-and-click segment feels more like a tack-on than something that integrates with the story as a whole. It was such a nice addition, I would have liked to see more of it even in this small sample of game.

The Writing Is a Mixed Bag

Because the rest of the game is so highly polished, the flaws in the writing stand out even more than in a game that’s a little rougher around the edges. It appears the game was written by a Russian studio, so the English version is half the product of however they chose to localize it (either by someone on the team or with an outside service). Either way, the writing frequently reads a little stilted, particularly in the character dialogue. Luckily, it’s not so much that the reading becomes troublesome or unenjoyable or knock you out of the immersion.

Where I’m a little bit perplexed, though, is figuring out what the actual story is. The world is well-constructed, and the premise as presented so far is intriguing. I want to know what happens next and to find out who Nemo really is. Why is there a war? What’s going on? There’s not a very strong plot, though, tying everything together. The game page describes Nemo being tasked with helping solve a murder (thus needing to get to know everyone), but at no point was that a mission objective presented to me in-game. The choices, so far, make a major difference in the path the exposition unfolds, and there’s a really interesting parallel story from the “enemy” perspective. It’s hard to enjoy those aspects, though, when it feels like things are just sort of happening instead of progressing a story.

A Fun Cast of Characters

What does keep a person playing, however, is the characters. It’s a large, fun cast that has wonderful chemistry. It actually seemed overly large, at first, but then they grow on you quickly, and you start to get to know them. They have interesting designs, and there’s a little bit of something for every taste.

I’m a little concerned about the character of Ruf, however. I’m willing to wait to see how it plays out, but the developers are doing something very strange with his gender. I hope it’s in good faith. Other than that, I’m eager to see if the two sets of casts intersect with one another and drop the reveal on the second half of the story.

Guilty Parade is a highly polished, visually appealing game with a frenetic cast and a stern, semi-realistic look at the horrors of war. There’s loss and death and tragedy but also friendships and a tiny glimmer of hope. The full release promises to be a roller coaster of intrigue and emotion.

Download the demo from itch.io.