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Played in 2024
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This review contains spoilers
Running up to that moment, I was relatively enjoying the game, even despite its romantic undertones - I was still hoping to be able to act as the main characters' close gay friend, talking through their relationships and helping them vent and navigate this turbulent period of their lives.
Then the game throws up a timer out of nowhere, and without giving any option to state the reasonable thing ("hey, sorry, can we continue this conversation later? I promise I want to help you, but something came up", or something along these lines), the game instead forces the player to essentially lie to both of them and predictably make one of them upset for not actually listening to them.
I just, I don't know. This felt so gamey, so out of reality. I'm not angry that Evelyn got upset, I'm just disappointed that the game didn't give me the options to try to approach the situation the way I envisioned. I really dislike lying to people like that, and being forced in that situation just took me out of the narrative completely.
The art direction is all over the place - pixelated items among anime-styled portraits, 3D rooms alongside 2D textures. It really is a mess, almost dream-like in its absurdity - and yet this artistic dissonance, perhaps intentionally, only improves its sinister tone.
Due to its constant ping-ponging between humor and horror, the player finds themselves always unprepared for what is to come, lowering their guard with an absurdist skit only to get promptly hit in the face with a character death or an act of terror by the game's main antagonist, Monokuma. Just like the rest of the game, Monokuma seems innocuous at first - a cuddly teddy bear toy - only to prove himself throughout the course of the game as an absolutely vicious creature, yet still maintaining his composure as a 'tee-hee' cute mascot.
This humor, this humanity, I think, is the main drive of the game. Hope is given, and hope is taken - despair taking hold ever more frequently as cases unfold, with beolved characters getting killed off, or proving themselves as traitorous killers. While logic and deduction certainly have their place in the game, I don't think that's the game's focus, with its myriad of minigames and visual novel-esque systems - instead, it lies firmly in its characters, its atmosphere, and its style - which are all very gripping.