Hidden Gems is a monthly post series highlighting visual novels that have fewer than ten reviews on itch.io and/or Steam and have been available for at least one month. This series doesn’t seek to fully review these games, but to highlight the unique characteristics that make them worthy of the spotlight.
Tendrils of Fate
Platforms: Browser (itch.io)
A group of travelers seek shelter in a quaint town, but soon find themselves tangled in the mysterious attacks that scourge the area. The game was created in two weeks for the August 2021 Summer Slow Jams, themed around cliffhangers. Tendrils of Fate has about fifteen minutes of playtime and is stated to be part of a bigger story.
There are so many components of this game that make it an absolute gem. First of all, if you’re a Dungeons & Dragons fanatic, then this game is going to be right up your alley. The game launches with the backstory of the leading heroine, Mai, and the dark tragedy of her past. The writing feels like it’s scripted by a very creative dungeon master. The artwork is stunning, an impressive feat for a game that was created in the span of two weeks.
The music is epic, a perfect fit for a D&D-style story. The dialogue sound effects are very reminiscent of older games and are a great way to keep you reeled in on the story when there isn’t any voice over. The overall pacing of the game is very masterfully done; nothing feels offbeat, and every little sound and musical note fades in and out flawlessly during high-impact moments.
Appropriate for the jam’s theme, this game ends on a cliffhanger, leaving players curious for more. I enjoyed this game and felt intrigued by the plot and characters throughout the entire game.
Mirt. Tales of the Cold Land
Price: Free on itch.io; US $1.49 on Google Play
Anton is a young student who travels to the land of Mirt to relax for the summer. There’s more to this town than meets the eye, and soon Anton is knee-deep in the mysteries that transpire. This is a story-rich detective novel layered with choices.
My favorite thing about this game is the amount of artwork and how intricately designed it is. The constant flow of art onscreen keeps the game interesting and helps match the compelling narrative. I love the tarot card designs and the level of detail involved in creating that initial scene. During my second playthrough of the game, my tarot cards were an entirely different set than they were the first time I played, adding to the game’s replay value.
Another great aspect of this game is the writing; it’s very descriptive and comparable to a traditional novel, so it’s a game that’s suitable for those interested in more in-depth reading. Don’t let that insight fool you, however, because this is a nonlinear story and there are a lot of impactful choices to be made in this town plagued with mystery. In the end, I can’t stress enough how alluring I think the literary style is. Rather than directly telling readers what is occurring, the writer uses evocative metaphors to describe the scene in a clever and fun way.
The downside to this game is that there are a few instances where textbox narration isn’t translated. As a whole, though, this game is beautifully done and is a cozy winter mystery for those who are keen to play as detectives in a backcountry town.