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Bell Park is 12 years old. She wants to be a private detective when she grows up. She loves to spend time with her best friend Cassidy and she likes how fast her heart beats when she's near her.
Bell Park is in her early 20s. She is a private detective and she's struggling to make ends meet. She just broke things off with her girlfriend in a sort of self-loathing fueled impulse. And she's just been given a case from her childhood crush/first heartbreak Cassidy.
Together, they solve crime.
It just works. The core gimmick of Bell maneuvering an emotionally weird case while trying to wrangle her younger self is just a great avenue for comedy AND emotional drama. It captures a general odd clash of managing gender and sexuality in your 20s vs being a kid and just wanting to understand your base attractions. It works!
The mystery itself isn't very complicated and also not that interesting, but its sort of that way by design. The lives of the heterosexuals you're investigating are just so much dumber and more straight-forward than you could possibly imagine. Investigating their shit just exposes how shallow the pool really is. At the same time, it also acts as a good awakening for both Bell Parks. The world doesn't have to be as complicated as it is in their heads. Little Bell's initial rejection of what Adult Bell represents is gradually eroded with the realization that this taboo she's afraid of can be fulfilling and happy in a way she couldn't imagine. Adult Bell, wracked with self-doubt and overthinking things, can finally recognize how simplistic the answers to things can be. The one complicating things is ultimately just herself. And that's freeing too.
Its a coming of age story in so many nuanced ways. And it just works.
Golf rogue-like :)
Not much to say, just a charming little way to pass the time in little chunks during my lunch breaks.
cw: sexual assault, grooming, etc
A retro-themed visual novel about school girls trapped on a train with a mysterious killer.
Visually, Murder on the Marine Express is really charming. With cute designs, colorful animations, skillful use of music and sound effects, the entire experience is warm and cuddly.
Its just hard to say if it should always be so warm.
I love anything that can bounce between different emotional tones and I'll always appreciate something that makes that tonal ricochet particularly erratic. But that balancing act can be really hampered by the exact content a story has to deal with. And as the game unravels, a lot of the game has to confront the idea of sexual predators.
The game certainly spends the time analyzing the different repercussions of this kind of violence. The way victims react differently to trauma, the way people can hurt others while trying to protect themselves, the way institutions fail us, the way predators use all of these factors to keep themselves in power above all else. Its a weighty topic and I think the game does an excellent game laying out all these elements and the barriers against capturing these monsters. But Ranko's ultimate conclusions just feel a bit lackluster to me. Her moralizing speeches about appropriate responses to such dilemmas just speak false to me. Even Ranko herself seems to struggle with how to handle the issue, lecturing victims to make reports through the proper channels in one breath, to lecturing doubtful officials wondering "why didn't these girls report this?" in the next. I'm making it seem harsher than I mean to, and I do think this storyline was made with positive intentions in mind. But, missteps.
And it also just comes back to tone. Trying to keep a light tone with a weighty storyline like this is certainly admirable, but its a skillset I don't think many would be able to nail. You have three bully characters, the Wild Cats, who are attached with various "meow" sound effects after their catty remarks. One of those girls is an above-mentioned victim. I'm certainly not suggesting that these characters should ONLY be portrayed as victims, without any other nuance to their lives. But its more than a little jarring to go back to the cat jokes after that reveal, you know?
Despite it all, I do think its an admirable little indie project. The sequel comes out soon and I'm certainly interested in seeing how the devs have changed in the years since this release.