The rare game in which its greatest strength—seamless coherence of gameplay and theme—is also its Achilles' heel. For a game which aims to capture the ennui most of us feel at some point in our formative teenage years, it's refreshing to witness just how fully it commits to that vision. You'll wander around listlessly after school, looking for anything to occupy your time, get in fights with kids from rival schools and have life chats with your boys, all while trying to keep on the straight and narrow as you finish out your last semester of high school. What could be better?
Many of those elements automatically trigger my brain's pleasure center—and they're even propped up to the next level by some seriously strong writing and fantastic lo-fi aesthetics—but as a whole, it just feels a bit too aimless for me to fully embrace. The vibes alone would be enough to carry most people through this game for awhile (make no mistake: this thing VIBES for days), but I think the story is missing just that tiny bit of propulsion needed to make the day-to-day feel less like a chore. My last week (in game time) before putting it down really started to feel like I was going through the motions; not even playing anymore, just doing the things Ringo should be doing day-in, day-out, waiting for something to happen. But nothing did. Brilliant realization of its themes or just flawed game design? You tell me.
I hope Yeo doesn't stop making games though. There are (rightfully) so many people that love the unique flavor of The friends of Ringo Ishikawa, and I wish all of its ambitious pieces clicked into place more smoothly for me. I may not have felt fully satisfied by it, but it did refresh me in ways I couldn't have expected.
Reviewed on Oct 15, 2020