I’d never have bought this but it was reduced from $sillymoney to about 80p and I’ll buy pretty much anything at that price. What I didn’t expect, however, was that I’d enjoy it.
To the untrained eye, Kotodama is yet another one of the million Japanese school visual novels that fill digital game stores. Unlike many of those, it has both an interesting story telling mechanic and puzzle game punctuates some of the encounters as you play.
The plot starts generically: you’re new in the school and you’re paired by your teacher with the girl everyone finds annoying so she can show you around. It turns out she’s also a member of the Occult Research Club in the academy, and is, along with the only other member – the president of the club – investigating the eponymous mysteries. They’re all playground rumours about ways to get good grades or ghost stories. Or are they?
As you investigate with her, you can force people to divulge secrets using your special demon power: play a match three puzzle game where you strip the people you’re talking to. Of course. Only you’re only imagining stripping them, so that’s OK, right?
Those expecting Hunie Pop levels of titilation are going to be sorely disappointed though, as there’s no visible nudity and there’s nothing sexy about anything in the game at all. Plus it’s a Pegi 12, so you know, it’s probably fine? Unfortunately, the puzzle game is neither as fun nor as frequent as in Hunie Pop regardless of the window dressing of either game.
The story mechanic I mentioned comes after a few chapters of the game. You suddenly, and seemingly regardless of dialogue choices chosen, reach a surprise Game Over. The credits roll, and then… a character appears and sends you back in time to the start of the game again. Only you remember what happens. You then play through again, with a slightly different outcome. Various routes in the game reset the cycle again, but eventually you can reach the True Ending which reveals some Truths about some of the characters you’ve met.
It’s a bit frustrating, but at least you can fast-forward through repeated conversations. Why you can’t skip them completely though, I don’t know.
I don’t remember the normal retail price of Kotodama, but I’m pretty sure it’s over £30 and the game is definitely not worth that, but at 80p – and even say, ooh, a tenner? – it’s interesting and unusual, especially if you like visual novels that are a little more than a visual novel.