Review: Honey-Sweet Lies

Review: Honey-Sweet Lies

The debut game from fyshku productions, Honey-Sweet Lies attempts to be a psychological horror game with meta-narrative elements following the life of Michiru Hoshikawa. Her fun-filled days with the after school tea club start to feel a little strange as she realizes something is off with her best friend, Aoi. Determined to get to the bottom of it, she ends up at the center of a terrible truth that unfolds dangerously around her.

A review for this game was requested through the VN Game Den review request form.

The art in this game is soft and sweet and pastel with round shapes and cute characters. Their designs are fun and charming. Some of the base structural elements feel a little thick and childish, like the style isn’t quite refined yet, but it’s overall well-rendered and competent. The overall scene composition as far as sprite layout, movement, and scene transitions is fine, but nothing special. The construction of the CGs is a little hit or miss, mostly in the way it chooses its camera angles. The mood is almost there, but when they’re broken down in a very nitpicky way there’s a slight edge missing to the potential drama. Generally speaking, though, it’s a good-looking game with a tight, purposeful aesthetic and pleasing-to-look-at style.

This cutesy style is in direct service to creating a contrast between light and fun visuals and a dark, disturbing story. It does this fairly effectively, and it’s always a fun narrative technique. Again, nothing that makes it stand out from other games that have done the same before it, but it has good bones.

Normally I’m a huge advocate for streamlined stories and cutting out narrative clutter. This one swings the opposite in that it doesn’t have enough story to tell itself effectively. Without spoiling the game, there is a big twist. This twist doesn’t really work, though, in the confines of such a short story. There’s simply no time to set up a feeling of dread or get inside the character’s mind long enough for the horribleness of what happened to really set in in a tangible way. You can get one of the endings that reveals the twist in literally a matter of minutes. In those very few minutes you go from everything’s nice and chipper to things being just a little off to something terrible. Additional endings do give you a little more information about what the full story is, but once the main big mystery is solved, the impetus to replay to find the other endings is very weak (apart from for the sake of completionism). It’s not a well-structured mystery, there’s very little tension buildup to speak of, and there’s just not enough story there for it to be very compelling for very long. It feels more like a vertical slice or a prototype than a full game.

I see a lot of potential for what appears to be a new developer, though. As mentioned above, this game has some good bones. The basic structure they’re working with has some very interesting ideas in it. They just don’t push those ideas far enough or really explore the full ramifications of them. It almost reads like a lack of genre savviness. They’re missing some of the essential puzzle pieces that make what they’re trying to do work, but the heart is there. It leads me to think that with just a little more analytical study of the horror and mystery genres, especially how they’re implemented in interactive fiction and narrative games, they have ability to build something very good off their already strong instincts.

Honey-Sweet Lies is a fair to middling game. It has some good things, some mediocre things, and generally doesn’t evoke a strong reaction either way. It’s a nice way to kill half an hour, but I’m more looking forward to what this developer might make in the future based on what I’ve seen so far.

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