Something that I’ve always found unique about video games is that there are no limits to what you can do. The only things that can stop you are a limited imagination and money. You can make a game about anything, with a cast comprised of humans, or for the sake of this article, non-humans. Non-humans can range from animals, eldritch monsters, or inanimate objects suddenly being given life, like fridges. Yet despite them being not being human, you can’t help but feel connected to them and feel engrossed in whatever journey these characters find themselves in. Today, I want to highlight some great visual novels that feature a non-human cast.
As much as I go on and on about Hatoful Boyfriend, I believe it’s time I give Aviary Attorney its rightful time in the spotlight. While Aviary Attorney has its fair share of birds—two of which star as the game’s main protagonists, Jayjay Falcon and Sparrowson—there are more eccentric animals that create the game’s ensemble, from nervous rabbits to sly foxes to a giraffe who is so tall that the top half of her sprite is off-screen.
Aviary Attorney follows Jayjay Falcon and Sparrowson, two bird attorneys living in revolutionary 1840s France. While they try their best to handle each case thrown at them—particularly Jayjay, who…isn’t the brightest bulb in the box—the ongoing plot of the city evolving and changing around them soon entangles them. Can a revolution happen without spilling some blood? Can Jayjay be the one to transition France into a new age peacefully, or will he be lost in the chaos?
Fans of Ace Attorney will find themselves in familiar territory with Aviary Attorney. The game has four acts, all of which have their own case to solve. You spend each day gathering information and evidence that could help you win your case in court. However, unlike in Ace Attorney, where you have to succeed in order to progress, Aviary Attorney allows you to fail stupendously. You can fail to get a guilty verdict for the culprit, thus making your potentially innocent client take the fall. Your actions, even your verdicts in court, will affect the overarching story. This all adds an element of danger that creates an enticing game experience. You have to make sure that you use your time wisely during investigations and don’t chase red herrings.
What I loved about this game is its writing. It’s incredibly witty and had me crying a lot. There are references, puns, and silly moments that had me crying from laughter. However, the game isn’t afraid to switch it up and get serious. I think it’s important for that tone shift to happen in order to keep the reader engaged and not get tired from all the jokes.
If you’re a fan of Ace Attorney but wish that series had actual stakes, then I highly recommend checking out Aviary Attorney. It’s a visual novel that’s flown a lot under people’s radars, and if it didn’t, they just jotted it off as another Hatoful Boyfriend-like game, when in reality, it stands on its own as a great, comedic mystery.
Café in the Clouds
Available Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux (itch.io)
Originally created for NaNoRenO 2020, Café in the Clouds is a small game about Café Nemo, a small eatery run by Remerie and Somnia. One day, thirty minutes before the café opens up, the pairing find a mysterious figure, Marcella, sleeping on the pavement at the entrance. What should be a normal café that serves food actually gives its customers much more. Remerie and Somnia help their clients with any sleep issues they may have. They are what this world calls dream eaters. They use ingredients they find in their clients’ dreams to create dishes that they then eat. Once the dish is eaten, any worries or anxieties their client might be experiencing disappear.
Café in the Clouds is incredibly sweet. It’s nice to see the romantically involved duo of Remerie and Somnia (whose name sounds close to insomnia…) help those in need. Everything, from the look to the music to even the sound effects, is cute. It really adds to the wholesome vibe this game is going for.
In terms of gameplay, it’s a simple point-and-click where the player goes around the dream to collect ingredients and solve puzzles. What I liked about this portion is the look of Marcella’s dreams. They, and we can assume other clients’ dreams, reflect their inner mind. Marcella’s dreams are clustered with papers, a clock tower, flowers, and a tiled pattern much like a chess board. The cluster visually shows just how much is on their mind. I appreciate just how much detail is in this portion of the game. You can only do so much verbally with explaining Marcella’s anxiety. Yeah, you can say they have issues sleeping. However, visually showing the reader just how much is on her plate does so much more and gives us an insight into their life.
If you have some time to spare, then I recommend checking out Café in the Clouds. If you need some more convincing, you can read our review for Café in the Clouds here.
Chicken Police – Paint It RED!
It seems Ace Attorney fans will be eating tonight as I have yet another game for fans of that series. Chicken Police – Paint It RED! is a dark noir adventure game that has you following Sonny, a detective who has fallen on hard times. His wife and daughter are nowhere to be found, his ex-partner shot and nearly killed him ten years ago, and his only true companion is alcohol. He just wants to live the rest of his days in relative, inebriated peace. However, that isn’t in the cards. He’s approached by Deborah, an impala with a message.
Natasha Catzenko, the owner of the Czar club and girlfriend of the mob boss Ibn Wessler, has recently been receiving threats and she’s scared for her life. She wants Sonny to get to the bottom of why she’s being threatened. Of course, Sonny can’t do this alone. He needs a partner, and well, with no one else he can rely on, he decides to team up with his ex-partner who nearly killed him, Marty, to solve the case.
As someone who is a fan of Bojack Horseman, seeing Chicken’s Police cast, who are animals with human features (i.e. human hands, breasts) doesn’t weird me out. Honestly, it would have been weird to see a chicken try to shoot someone without human hands. So the art is fine for me, but I can understand why it might unsettle some people.
Despite him being painted as a bad guy from the start, I really enjoy Marty. He has that chaotic energy that I instantly get attracted to. He also wants to solve the case just as much as Sonny does, and seeing them work together despite their past is nice to see.
While fans of Ace Attorney would have a blast playing this, I also think anyone who liked L.A. Noire might enjoy this title too.
Available Platforms Windows, Mac, Linux (Steam)
Release Date: TBA
This is truly an odd one on the list. We’ve had elves and talking animals. But talking household appliances? Now you’ve got my attention.
In Cold Hearts, you play a nameless protagonist whose father has recently passed away. Grief-ridden, the main character is lost on what to do. They take up their father’s business, selling household appliances. However, when the day comes to a close, the main character is swallowed up by all their anxieties. The only thing that seems to help them go to sleep is getting something quick to eat in their fridge. However, one night, their fridge comes to them. Yep, their fridge is alive and talking.
It’s an interesting concept that isn’t at all normalized in the game world. The protagonist thinks they’re insane, their friend Kazuya thinks they’re insane, and I think even the appliances aren’t sure what to make of this strange development. Nonetheless, it seems as though this new change might do some good for our protagonist, as the appliances help the protagonist come out of the shell they’ve been in ever since their dad died.
I like the concept and art. However, there is one issue…
The only unfortunate thing I have to say about Cold Hearts is that it’s been in development for a few years now. Typically, I wouldn’t bring this kind of thing up. Games take time, and sometimes issues arise that force a game to be delayed. However, this game was originally slated for a 2019 release. It’s 2021 now and there hasn’t been any news that I can find on the game’s official Twitter regarding its development status. So, whether this game will ever be released is up in the air. I’m hoping that in the future, we will see a full version of Cold Hearts, as I’m interested in seeing how the story unfolds. Until then, we just have to wait and see.
Available Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux (itch.io)
I love this game! Monster Café reminds me of games like VA-11 Hall-A where you take the time to talk to your customers and make them drinks. Much like that game, Monster Café is calming. For the short time I played it, I honestly forgot about my own troubles and relaxed for the first time in weeks.
You play as a nameable protagonist who mysteriously lost their job. By mysteriously, I mean they went to work one day and the place was empty. Literally.
In search of another job, they come across a small café with a “help wanted” sign. When they enter, they see an apron with a little card attached. The card is addressed to the main character, saying that their first shift starts the following night. Weird, but hey, a job’s a job! When they arrive for their first shift, they notice the café is filled with monsters and their boss, Jonas, is a talking coffee cup…I think? He quickly explains the ropes, such as making coffee and getting to know your clientele. As the night progresses, you meet Fennel, a shy moth who is scared of meeting new people. Then, you come across Poppy, an energetic demon that loves to travel. As you make these two their coffee, you learn about them and their current problems. You can try to help them or completely ignore them and just do your job.
The writing, the gorgeous art, the characters (especially Jonas, I was slightly upset I couldn’t smooch them), I loved everything about this game. The writing is really funny; I laughed a lot at the player character’s inner commentary about the oddities happening at their job, like how they got lost in the inventory closet for an hour or how they forgot to feed the coffee rooster. It adds some depth to the small cafe and I really wish we were able to explore more of it.
I’m looking forward to whatever this team produces next, because if they can make something this great in a month for NaNoRenO, then I’m very excited to see what they can do without a time restriction!