“Hidden Gems” is our series that focuses on highlighting visual novels that have ten or fewer reviews on itch.io and/or Steam and which have been published for at least one month. We’ll be highlighting the unique characteristics that make these games worth playing.
Platforms: Windows, Mac (itch.io)
Last month we featured a wide selection of visual novels with monsters, but this one is my favorite monster game yet. In Monster Club, a human finds an isolated cabin in the woods, and inside he is welcomed by a group of lovable monsters.
The synopsis is unique, and that’s the reason I decided to give this game a shot. It’s a heartwarming tale that addresses what it means to be family. Abraham, the protagonist of the story, has grown accustomed to living life among the monsters, creatures who are outcasts in normal society. This theme can hit close to home for many, but the story is told in an endearing way which makes for a cozy slice-of-life game. But even the best slice-of-life stories need something to challenge the characters, and in Monster Club, the family faces financial troubles that could threaten their comfortable way of life.
One of the most important aspects of a visual novel is the authenticity of the characters, and what I mean by that is the combination of a natural flow of dialogue, intriguing backstory, and a compelling relationship dynamic that keeps you engaged. In Monster Club, I quickly grew fond of the characters, and that’s something that’s not easy to achieve upon the first introduction. It helps that, visually, the characters have eye-catching appearances; like Sarah, the human-like spider with six eyes and whose lower torso is that of an arachnid. Tamil, the blind mummy, is my favorite character of them all, and he’s the oldest at 300+ years of age. Tamil doesn’t speak English very well, and I thought this small detail was a nice way to flesh out a character, making sense with his backstory.
Monster Club is originally a novel that can be found on DeviantArt. The visual novel is a short version of the novel, but don’t worry, you don’t have to read the novel to understand the game. All in all, I fell in love with this game and I’m sure you will too!
Rain and Respite
Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux (itch.io)
A guard is granted the night off from his boss, but is warned not to drink or engage with women because both are dangerous. He doesn’t give heed to his boss’s advice, though, because the tavern he decides to relax in is full of ale and female customers, including a bounty hunter and a supposed she-devil.
Elbert, the guard and main character of the story, encounters a handful of eccentric characters on his night off, each of them with an intriguing story of their own. Each line of dialogue felt like a million bucks in Rain and Respite. It’s clear that the writer of this story has mastered their craft because the characters feel so authentic, you wouldn’t be surprised if they popped out of the screen. I love how Granite, Elbert’s boss, uses clever metaphors as a way to give readers insight on the type of world they are in.
The music, rich with medieval culture, helps set the atmosphere. There is an array of choices when it comes to your interactions with the girls in the tavern, and I found myself very fond of Nettle’s ending. Nettle is a mage apprentice, and when you make it to her ending, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the unexpected turn of events. I enjoyed seeing a CG of the guard’s appearance, since he’s faceless for most of the story. My only critique so far is the font choice the developer used for narration and dialogue. While it does match the setting of the story, it’s not easy on the eyes, and I found myself stumbling through the text on more than one occasion.
Overall, I adored this game. It’s an excellent choice for medieval fantasy lovers that don’t mind playing something with a dark flair to the story. Rain and Respite has been one of the most entertaining reads I’ve had in awhile.