During a secluded mansion vacation, Dave and his friends are offered the contents of a mysterious password-locked vault if they are able to find the Zodiac medals hidden throughout the estate. Each friend, however, holds secrets from their past that threaten to bring the trip—and each other's lives—to a tragic end in this mystery/thriller visual novel.
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I don't really know how to fully put my thoughts on Password into concise words. I played this thing for over 65 hours to reach full completion, seeing every character route and every main story path, and after all of it I just feel kind of... empty? Lukewarm maybe at best? I think the saddest thing about Password is that I desperately wanted it to be better. There's something in here, buried beneath its sheer ridiculous level of ambition that is intriguing and so close to working, yet somehow so far away from that potential. For a game that's made by one person, it's genuinely nuts how much content this thing is full of and how it does mostly manage to keep itself together in a cohesive manner despite how absurdly complex the story ends up becoming. I've seen other games with similar plot devices that have done a far worse job at being consistent with their rules than Password is.
The biggest problem with Password is the split between its mystery and its romance. Initially it wasn't really too much of a bother other than finding it a little strange and disappointing how separated character romance stuff was to the actual main plot. It became more noticeable on completion runs to the true ending just how little the main plot really changes at all despite hanging out with different characters on different runs, and over time I started to realize just how much this separation really affects so many of my little complaints with the game's writing and structure. I like these characters (mostly!) and they were the reason I stuck with Password all the way to the end, but I only really started to like them on an individual basis as I went through their respective routes. On the main plot itself, all of the characters just don't have enough distinctive qualities from each other to really make the mystery work; everybody in this main cast is just genuinely too nice to each other to really question who would be responsible for the murders, and a lot of the red herrings fall flat because of this too. The mystery fell apart for me fairly early on into the game because I felt like I was able to make an incredibly safe bet on who the mastermind behind everything was, and instead of trying to throw me off in another direction or make me question my judgment, Password kept giving me more blatant evidence until eventually just straight up yelling who was responsible. It made running through other story paths less satisfying because the answer is given away freely so early on, and the other smaller questions and mysteries just couldn't match up.
The romance stuff is hit and miss because of the character-specific routes too. While I grew to like more of the cast over time, I didn't like that I had to watch them develop one-by-one individually on replay runs of the game rather than at least getting more of clear picture of who they were from how the main plot itself played out. I honestly really wish the game structured itself more like, as ridiculous as it sounds, like how Danganronpa or Persona handled hanging out with characters over a set span of time. Being able to pick and choose who you hang out with on a per-day basis would have made so much more sense considering this is a group of friends who all should know each other, and are on vacation. Locking yourself into hanging out with one person for an entire month only got more goofy and kind of weird as I kept doing more replays to see the rest of the game's content; I get that a lot of the cast, especially Dave himself are kind of oblivious at times and tend to let a lot of stuff slide because they all like each other, but I think anybody would find it more than a little strange to be getting together as a group to relax somewhere, only to have one of you suspiciously close to one other person and no one else for almost an entire month.
This would be an entire paragraph and more about Tyson, but I frankly just don't want to say very much on him. I didn't mind him for a large chunk of the game because while he notably has issues, his little redemption arc behind the scenes was fine and made sense for the most part. This goes out the window on his own route, and frankly what the game pulls with his character so early into his route is genuinely so gross and upsetting that if I didn't intentionally do his route last and was already so close to the end of the game, I would've dropped Password entirely. Putting an almost rape scene into your game is bad enough, but the fact that the rest of his route goes out of its way to continually find excuses to forgive his actions is fucking insane and not in a good way. The game could've done literally anything else and it would've been far more acceptable and believable than what Password ended up doing. Furries seem to love their problematic favs with giant flashing red flags and I'm not saying that you can't have a problematic character as a romance option in your video game, but if that's the case, you need to fully own up to it, have actual serious consequences for it. The game almost DOES do this too! Only to turn around and go "actually nevermind it's fine" twice! Which still isn't enough times for how serious it gets on Tyson's route! Why does he even act like this on his dedicated route when the other routes work with him just fine?
The true ending should have been better and more fulfilling than it ended up being. While it doesn't fully feel like it dumps everything into the garbage and act like your choices don't matter like I know I've heard some people say, it conveniently ignores a lot of reasons why stuff happens the way it does in the main and character routes and doesn't end completely conclusively. I don't like hearing that a sequel might happen at some point.
And yet, somehow despite all of that, I still don't really understand why I spent all of this time playing through the game. There was something about Password that was still enjoyable in some regard that I can't put my finger on. Maybe it's just as simple as I like my weird tastes being pandered to, maybe something about the weird directions the plot goes here and there was interesting enough to keep going, maybe I still just liked these characters enough even with their issues that I wanted to stick with them. I don't really know how much in good faith I want to recommend this to other people though, there's too many serious flaws here for a game that is so incredibly long to fully complete that most people would be better off spending their precious time elsewhere on something else, even within the weird niche that is "gay furry visual novels," let alone dedicated mystery or romance VNs. Password is just... mid. A part of me hates that and wishes it could've been something more. Another part maybe doesn't mind that.
The fact that Password is a thing that exists in the first place is kind of insane--likely well over 700 thousand words written, and over 100 CGs and sprites drawn by a single person--the scale of this thing compared to how many people worked on it is pretty ridiculous. For how obscure it is, it still strikes me as one of those huge indie passion projects which only come around every once and a while. Password is also a game I can understand the appeal for. But even as someone who fits into the miniscule target demographic of "gay furries who like Zero Escape", I still can't help but feel like it's just not for me.
Currently, Password is still technically under development, but back in February it got its last major story update, and everything from here on out will be polish. So in effect, some of my points may become invalid with time, but I still think I would still have pretty fundamental problems with a version of this with all of my easily fixable nitpicks gone.
My two biggest issues with this VN are its characters and its structure. I just don't really like these characters. Which is a point I admit is entirely subjective: of the people who have read this so far I seem to be in the minority here, but I found most of the main 7 kind of boring or cloying or both. Everyone outside of the main 7 was written well and was interesting to me, so what gives? I think it just comes down to personal preference. A recurring thought as I read this is that "these people don't know each other well enough to be mean to one another". Which admittedly, isn't something everyone wants in a story! But that still doesn't change my personal preferences and my frustration at the feeling like every single person in this friend group save Tyson is just trying to mediate everything and make sure everyone gets along.
The other is with the structure. Functionally, the romance is (mostly) divorced from the rest of the game, so you can see almost all paths of the game romancing only one character. There are minute details here and there that are different, but the general trajectory remains similar. What this ends up doing is making the two parts, the romance, and the rest (what I'll refer to as "the mystery" from here on out, even though it also includes some other stuff), act independently from one another, so bits in one cannot largely influence the other. I think this can probably be done well in some execution, but it is a damn hard needle to thread and I don't think Password got it. So often will a scene be a Romance scene or a Mystery scene with very little interaction between the two--there are exceptions, but I would say that the vast majority are one or the other, especially past the 10-day mark or so on any route. Even more is this evident in the lead up to the true ending: which constituted probably, like, 7 or 8 hours of replaying the VN on other romance paths to trip some flags, and seeing how little changed on the mystery side of things. But from my opinions on the characters, you probably know that I'm mostly playing this for the mystery anyways! So yeah, really didn't like that bit, but I still felt fairly satisfied with how things wrapped up in the true ending so maybe it was worth it?
I feel like I've been overly negative here, there are plenty of good bits in here. But they're parts of the mystery, and therefore basically impossible to talk about without spoiling stuff, so, uhh, take into account that even with these two pretty major issues I'm still giving this game a 6/10? The mystery is mostly pretty good, the small bits of horror are even better, and if you like the Zero Escape games, well, you can tell Uchikoshi was probably an influence. And Dean is cool. I like Dean.
You'll probably like it more if you like all of the characters, though.