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Demo Analysis: My Alien Roommate—The Subjectivity of Art

Recently, I’ve played a good visual novel. This satisfaction is such a great feeling, isn’t it?
It’s just a demo (only a fifth of the game), but it nevertheless managed to capture my interest, get me invested into its characters and their relationships.

Usually, that alone would not result in a 5000 word article, but My Alien Roommate‘s case is very different from every other time I’ve enjoyed a visual novel. I know Muv-Luv Alternative is a good visual novel, and it is also a visual novel that I enjoyed. I know that DoraKone! My Sweet Summer Adventure is probably not a perfect 10, despite me being absolutely ecstatic over it. My Alien Roommate, on the other hand, is an enigmatic ???/10, with my only real conclusion being that I enjoyed it. The reasons for my inability to give a somewhat objective assessment of this game will become apparent later.
Let’s just say for now that they are equally as complex as they are stupid.

There will be two parts to this article. In the first one, I will pretend to be objective and give you my general opinion of the game; all in a spoiler-free format.

For the second part, I will walk you through my personal experience playing it and how exactly it managed to have such an impact on me. There will be extensive spoilers, but it’s still accessible for those who haven’t played the demo.

Let’s begin!

My Alien Roommate is a full-length rom-com visual novel by Purple Herring Games, an one-person studio. The planned length for the final release is 300.000 words (which is a lot), with no concrete date of release being publicized yet, at the time of writing.

The premise is as old as time Urusei Yatsura – an alien comes to earth to live with a human, non-stop hijinks begin. If you enjoyed this anime or you’re generally into these types of stories, it won’t be a waste of your time!

The single strongest element of this visual novel is probably its use of subtext. Subtext is any content of a creative work which is not announced explicitly (by characters or author) but is implicit, or becomes something later understood by the audience.

Aforementioned Urusei Yatsura, being a very old harem manga, is very unsubtle with its dialogue. My Alien Roommate is not exactly the opposite, but it perhaps has what that story lacked, as subtext adds flavor to practically any narrative.

Its subtext is not complex or deep; in fact, it is very surface-level. It might sound bad, but in actuality, that is exactly what you would want from a light-hearted character drama. Subtext is here not to hide some profound message, but to make characters feel more real. Not fully realistic, but just believeable enough for the reader to be engaged. Hiding everything in plain sight will not make for a great mystery, but it will make the reader pay attention to small details and get engrossed into the narrative.

Another positive is its simple yet effective prose: it is a joy to read through. If the writer wants you to feel guilty, you will feel guilty; if he wants you to feel the tension in the air, you will feel it; if he wants you to fall for a character… Well, we’ll talk about that guy later. Almost every scene was capable of reflecting what the writer intended, which is very rare to find nowadays. It speaks for the writer’s skill.

In addition to a great execution of—in my opinion—a very average premise, the game has a ton of replay value as there are countless choices with different outcomes. I usually don’t like that, as it makes a bad story more annoying to navigate. However, because the writer holds me in a chokehold from start to finish and succeeds in every scene they write, I was fully on board and gladly revisited many scenes. just to explore all possible options. It is genuinely fun to see all the reactions.

There are also a few puzzles in the game. They are very close to being annoying to dummies like me, but they are thankfully solvable if you are willing to write down some things and be fine with save scumming.

The romance quality really depends on the character and your own taste. We will get to that guy in the later portion of the review, but other love interests beside him are… ok at best. If they were the only thing this story had to offer, I’d probably read their routes with a stone-cold pokerface… That is just how I approach most romance-oriented visual novels, even if they are good.

The quality of routes is entirely dependent on the ending. Baldr Force was awfully boring in most routes, but the endings were a total 10/10. Because of that, the game miraculously became a 8/10. Right now, MAR is just a demo, so I don’t know how good the endings for these routes are. It might turn out to be just another case of 90/10, which is tragically frequent in English visual novels; the first 90% of story is great, and then the last 10% is hot garbage.

The soundtrack and visuals are alright. Nothing mind-blowing, but they do their job well enough.

Overall, it’s a rather enjoyable slice-of-life story. If you don’t have any gigantic visual novels to play and you just want to have a good time, this one is for you.

Now that the entrée is over, let’s get to the main dish.

Warning: Spoilers for the demo!

Part 1: Just another visual novel…

We were given a list of demos we could cover for this Summer’s Steam Next Fest. All the awesome-looking games had already been picked by the other writers, so I chose this one. I didn’t read anything on it, didn’t look up any reviews—I just downloaded the demo and jumped right into it.

The game’s cover looked medicore, if not amateurish, so I did not expect anything amazing. My only information about the game was that it was about some alien roommate and that there were at least three main love interests. This alien guy, another one who looks very bland to say the least, and a dude who looks like a DJ for shady parties. Honestly, I liked the latter’s design the most from what I briefly saw of him on the page.

So, the game boots up and I immediately get hit across the face with the following incident: the alien, after his ship crashes, lands into the protagonist’s apartment.
You’ll be able to name the protagonist and choose your prefered pronouns (which is an interesting way to make coding significantly harder for yourself), but I went with the default “Riley”, “he/him” because I could not be bothered to think of anything else.

The alien is named Enoch (he is a dork) who doesn’t know anything about the Earth, but is enthusiastic to learn new… things… hm?

Only 5 minutes have gone by since the story had begun, but my expectations were already lowered. Being someone who judges the story by its first scene, I started to prepare myself for an hour or two of random unfunny shenanigans.

However, I started to pay a bit more attention when I saw Riley’s reaction to the alien. The protagonist takes this extraterrestrial more seriously than I would’ve expected from a typical faceless protag-kun. In any other story like that, the keeping-alien-secret stuff is turned into comedy after two scenes. Here, while not taken to the point of absolute realism and seriousness, it is actually treated with some respect. Riley is in a perpetual state of stress over Enoch landing in his apartment and puting Riley and himself in danger of being discovered. I must say, though: the way the alien completely disregards all the rules Riley sets for him ends up being more infuriating than endearing… Who knows, maybe that’s just a character flaw that will be dealt with later — you can never tell with this game. I’ll go more into this later.

Just right after this strange meeting, we bump into the second love interest–Lucas, The Childhood Friend. Socially awkward (not in a funny way) and introverted, he has a bland character design and almost no texture to his personality.
His dynamic with Enoch can be summed up to Enoch being loud and oblivious and Lucas being uncomfortable… It was not very funny nor interesting to read through. Thankfully, that is not something we see much of for the rest of the story.

Lucas is the character I have the most concerns about in this game. Something tells me his route will be extra boring (for my taste, at least). Although, who knows, maybe I’ll be proven wrong.

Moving on. Riley sends Enoch back to his apartment and then heads to school with Lucas. Lucas is on time, but we’re late for class, for which we gets scolded by another new character–Felix Yang.

This guy is pretty much a common archetype: the arrogant genius who abuses his power as a class president… Sigh— Suddenly, our protagonist calls the guy “metal mouth” (followed by an explanation):

Woah. Woah, woah, woah! Since when does the teacher’s-pet-asshole characters get a layers of depth like that? And not somewhere in the 3rd act (where they get an underwhelming redemption scene after being manipulated by the main villan or something) but within seconds of introduction? Woah. In any other regular visual novel, he would have been super-popular and born with a silver spoon. Been there, done that. But this was surprising and refreshing.

At this point, however, I didn’t put much thought into it. In my eyes Felix was just a curious side character. “Just because he has a sprite doesn’t mean he’s gonna be important. The old neighbor lady who is DEFINITELY not a romanceable character also has a sprite of her own. That doesn’t mean anything,” I thought.

Right after meeting Felix, we are introduced to Kat.

And she, while being a character I thoroughly hate, is the one partially responsible for me liking this visual novel as much as I did. Thinking back at it now, her introduction scene, the scene where she is characterized as “the antithesis to Felix”, is where the snowball effect started. This is where I first went against what the game wanted me to believe (or what I thought the game wanted me to believe)—the game was trying to convince me that Felix is actually a horrible person.

One of the most basic ways to make the character likeable is to show them being treated unfairly. Felix, despite what the protagonist’s inner narration is telling you, is exactly that. He has his flaws, but in no way he is as evil as the protagonist and Kat paint him to be.

I did not see a cruel and arrogant moron. I saw that Felix was a rude but ultimately a responsible class rep, who was not afraid to do what was required of him—even if others may hate him for that. Yes, he turned his rudeness off when the teacher asked him to stop arguing with Riley, but to me it didn’t feel like bootlicking or whatever. Instead, it felt like he was simply respectful of the teacher’s wishes and valued her trust in him over the chance to respond to Riley’s insult.

Other characters pull no punches when it comes to Felix. Every time he is mentioned, someone mentions how much he sucks.

”Yes, teacher, can you please give us more homework?”

It takes a lot of guts to write your blank-slate-type protagonist to be the one in the wrong. Riley here is 100% the one who needs to change (I’m exaggerating, Felix will have his own arc, too) and as the story progresses we see that become clearer. Felix is not a bad guy. He is actually very cool and awesome; someone who chooses to stay true to his beliefs even if it means being lonely because of that.

Some scenes later, we get a small choice between teaching the alien how to cook, and not being late to school. I think to myself, “Well, it’s not like it matters. Enoch is the character with a route, not Felix. He can complain all he wants.”
At that time I was intending to simply get as much points with Enoch as possible in order to see what this game has in store for him (he is the title character, so I hoped he’d be the best character)… when suddenly, a flash of doubt crossed my mind — What if I chose to go to school on time? I didn’t really care for the alien, but that Felix fella did catch my attention. And he seemed to all be about punctuality.

So I choose to not be late. I got to school; I meet Felix. He smiles.


No. Fucking. Way.

Wait, wait, wait… This guy has a route of his own?

This random-ass background side character, who isn’t even on the cover of the game?

No way. I don’t believe you.

This guy, who I thought would be just a cool side character, turned out to be a route character! Wh… This is genius! This is brilliant! Masterful! (Not really, but it felt like that…)

Some of you might not understand my excitement. To explain it, let me remind you of a frustration you yourself might have had if you have any experience with route-based visual novels.

Part 2: The Miki Syndrome

Ever since I started playing visual novels about seven years ago, a particular occurrence continues to follow me from one visual novel to the next. This curse, much like the curse of 90/10, cannot be explained by reason.

Here’s how it goes:

You start a new visual novel;

All main love interests are boring archetypes

You meet a character who just captivates you in a special way.

You check the walkthrough


The End.

Seeing it play out countless times, I developed a tendency to have an undue affection towards any side characters who are being ignored by the story. I recently saw someone on Twitter describing a similar feeling: “I guess I have a thing for girls with little to no screentime” (or something along those lines.) You can perhaps share my frustrations if you have ever played Katawa Shoujo and met these beautiful young ladies:

Miki Miura, who gets barely three scenes in the whole visual novel. An absolute crime.
Akira Satou. She has more screentime, and has a more believeable reason for not getting an ending of her own. Nevertheless, it is criminal that she has the best character design in the game.

Yes… It happened twice. Two times you are presented with an amazing character who is more likeable and interesting than all of the cast put together, and they barely get any dialogue lines–much less their own route. You could also add the local lunatic Kenji to the list. 

Yes… It happened twice. Two times you are presented with an amazing character who is more likeable and interesting than all of the cast put together, and they barely get any dialogue lines – much less their own route. 

I liked him from the beginning; he was funny, even if a bit annoying at times. I wondered if the game had the guts to put in something gay, so on one of my first playthroughs I tried sticking to him as much as I could. And the game KILLED ME FOR THAT. Going after this guy means you two get drunk on the roof and you fall to your death. This is the Loser Ending.

The Loser Ending

There is also a pink-haired girl, but she’s got her own H-scene, which is a branch of an another character’s route, so I am willing to let that one slide (although I probably shouldn’t, as the h-scene leads to a bad ending, and the scene itself paints you as the asshole, who dared to cheat on the main girl of the route.)

Katawa Shoujo‘s crimes will never be forgotten nor forgiven, but it is far from the only visual novel who did such things. It became so widespread, that I’m surprised it took so long for some sort of meta commentary on that phenomenon to appear in a big visual novel.

That visual novel is nothing less than Doki Doki Literature Club.

This whole side-characters-get-no-attention phenomenon is exactly why DDLC was as deadly, as shocking and as cathartic to me–perhaps even in a way that was not intended by Salvato. The whole point of the game is that the coolest, ‘most perfect’ character – Monika–doesn’t get her own route, which makes her kill everyone with her game-breaking powers. I think you were supposed to be angry at her for killing the characters you were supposed to have gained some sympathy for… Personally, it was the exact opposite–I cheered on as she erased everyone out of existence. I honestly thought the moment she locks you in with herself in space until the end of time was the real ending, and was totally satisfied with it. In my humble opinion, the real ending sucked… a lot. It was cathartic for once in a blue moon to have a side character completely turn the tables and get back at the dev that for some reason had decided that it is only the lame just-archetype-no-depth characters who were worthy of a route.

The Miki Syndrome is not as damaging to the story as it is disappointing. It–paired up with a bland route and characters–is a recipe for a game that will piss me off. And it hurts this much exactly because visual novels as a medium are tailor-made for character interaction. Visual novels are not made for action scenes. They are not made for puzzles. They are not made for experimental graphics and animation. Visual novels outshine all other mediums ONLY when they give the player the ability to talk to the characters they are interested in, and giving them as much control over it as possible. When those characters are written well, and you are given an opportunity to spend a lot of time with them, it fills you with a feeling no other medium can replicate.

Felix is great exactly because he is introduced as one of those side characters, but later, as the game goes on, he gets the best and longest scenes amongst everyone else. It is a subversion, intentional or not. When DDLC did it, I felt good. The same is true of My Alien Roommate.

Part 3: You stupid moron

The moment I saw Felix’s counter ticking up is when I realized that this guy, who I thought was going to be another victim of this syndrome, turned out to have, if not his own route, then at least his own affection points, and increasing their number would certainly unlock some new scenes with him. Hungry for some secondary-character-on-main-character action, I continued my playthrough with Felix in mind and everything he might like.

This is the point where I circle back to one of the themes of this article and point out my own stupidity. This is actually not the first time Felix’s affection point indicator shows up in the game. In fact, it is the first thing you see when you start the game.


If I knew from the start that Felix had his own route, then maybe it wouldn’t have affected me as much. Art is subjective. Not only because everyone’s tastes are different but because the majority of our enjoyment relies on the context of our individual lives in which we have experienced these stories.
The same action movie would leave different impressions on the people who have watched it during the day and those have who watched it during the night. Maybe you were hungry when you started watching the tv show, so you missed a few important lines of dialogue because you were focused on the food one of the characters was making. Perhaps, you were sleepy and missed several indications that one of the characters is not, in fact, a side character, but one of the main characters.

Now that I explained how my own blunder (there will be another, even bigger one down the line) and a ridiculous coincidence made me change paths and pursue Felix’s route instead of Enoch’s, let me put another piece of the puzzle in.
Let me explain how the writer convinced me that my initial reaction to Felix (my dislike of Kat and Riley’s insults) was actually intended.

Part 4: All according to the keikaku

I don’t even wanna hear it.

I’ll be skipping some parts, but later in the game, we get a very extensive scene of Kat and Riley ridiculing anything they can about Felix, for what felt like an hour (in a good way). At some point Kat is asked not to hold back and the game literally puts a censor bar over her mouth… I’m not sure I need to explain further.

By that point she was my worst enemy in the whole story and I was almost fully on Felix’s side. What happens next not only is the best possible resolution for that scene, but is also what solidifies Felix as the best character in the game. The man himself emerges from behind the backs of two people badmouthing him and shows he has little to no reaction to all the shit they have said. He is here because he was sent by the teacher, and does not want to waste time on another shouting match with two idiots.

The reason he came there at all was to show Enoch around the school, as the damned alien barged into the school against Riley’s strictest instructions and somehow was instantly enrolled as a new student.

It is Enoch and his innocent perspective that really made that scene shine, as throughout the insidious rant the two “good guys” were having, he would be the one to constantly ask if they are not exaggerating and if Felix was really as horrible as they describe him as, if he truly deserves to be ostracized forever—his questioning forces even Kat to actually admit there are some good sides to him. Riley too starts to doubt his own hatred for Felix. So, when Felix actually does appear, and intends to take Enoch on a tour, the following interaction occurs:

And now we get a thing of beauty. The moment the player gets to stir the protagonist in the right direction—away from all the hate. A thing, that the game was refusing to do up until now, purposefully making the opinion of the player and the protagonist different, so that when the player gets the opportunity to do the right decision, they would feel responsible for the ensuing developments. And there is something really rewarding about it—that without you, these two would have stayed enemies forever.

I chose the second option and got +1 Felix point. Then, I witnessed another simple yet beautiful exchange:

Finally, Lucas delivers the finishing blow:

The best thing Lucas says in the whole game.

How right you are, Lucas.
And this too is a confirmation—everything has proceeded according to the writer’s plan. Genius.

Felix’s storyline is, in a way, a subversion of the ‘popular rich and mean girl becomes a good person’ character arc that has seen a surprising resurgence in recent years. I love those character arcs, but the more I encounter them, the less realistic they seem to me. In those type of stories, the rich bitch is completely in the wrong, but usually has some reason for being that way, that is out of her control. Cruel and controlling parents, expectations, trauma, etc…

Here, the trope is subverted, and our “popular rich meanie” is not actually rich, not actually popular, and, somehow, not even mean (well, mostly). Yes, alright, Felix is not without issues, but the one who has more to fix in their dynamic is the protagonist. Felix, as we see later, isn’t that fan of being an outcast who hates everyone and is hated in return. He is ready to treat people well if they are willing to put in some work and not be lazy morons.

Okay, now we are surely done with Felix, right?

Sorry. Not yet.

There is a third layer of depth to him. Perhaps the most genius one, or the one that simply illustrates my stupidity in the most profound way.

Part 5: The Nail

Recently, I’ve heard a rather interesting opinion which I’m inclined to agree with. It comes from a video by Uniquenameosaurus, which talks about the foundation of storytelling–connection. The more surprising it is, the stronger the impact is.
I won’t summarise all the points in the video here (you should watch it yourself) but that importance in a connection that you should have made, but didn’t, is what is relevant to our conversation. The more obvious the connection is, the more joy you feel when the author points that out. Let’s see just how correct this rule is.

Okay, so remember that besides Lucas and Enoch, there was supposed to be a third main love interest? You know, the DJ-looking guy?
Yeah, so we meet him exactly once throughout the whole extended demo. He has no lines, and stays on the screen for exactly 2 seconds, before disappearing again. He appears in the following scene:

A group of girls approach Riley and Enoch, who at that point were on their way home. The group of girls had a party planned with some other guys, but the guys didn’t show up, so they needed a new company, and they wanted Riley and Enoch join them. There’s a choice of whether or not you agree to join them, but whatever you choose, the guys that the girls had planned to hang out with show up. One of them is the DJ-looking guy and the following fella:

I must commend the sprite artist on this one. The juiciest character design in the whole game. I swear to god, if he doesn’t have at least his own short micro-ending, I’ll be mad mad. Don’t be another Akira, I beg you. I need some good food for once.

This whole incident is quickly forgotten about, and in the next scene the story returns to the main plot.

Many scenes later, after Riley was assigned to work with Felix together on an important project, the protagonist comes to the place where they have agreed to meet, only to find something unexpected:

By now I started to freak out. This is the connection I did not expect the story to make. What does our straight-A nerd have to do with this random partygoer from several scenes ago?

Just a few seconds later, the realization hits me.
A realization that was never meant to be one. None of this has been kept a secret from me. This was the last nail in the coffin of my belief in objective measurement of stories.

I have been Superman’d. Full on Clark Kent’d. 

And this is my ultimate lesson in subjectivity.
Just how many other people have played this visual novel, fully realizing, knowing that DJ is really Felix? And when they met him in school as a class president, I wonder what they have felt…

This is subjectivity. Just a single fact of me not reading the list of love interests and being too stupid to realize the similar appearance completely changed my perception of the game. If not for it, you probably would not be reading this long article, but a short, straightforward review.

Bonus Part: Character Dynamics

For me, stories can make me care in several ways, but the strongest one (along with good themes) is good character dynamics. Not characters. Good characters aren’t worth much if they don’t interact with others in an interesting way. It’s these character dynamics I search for. Two opposites finding a common ground; two similar-thinking people being best friends; old acquaintances realizing they could be friends; old friends driving apart because of a disagreement. That is where the gold is for me.

What this story has made me understand is that character dynamics are actually not that hard to write. All you need is a stable relationship—two characters with set opinions of each other and a relationship in which both have their ‘roles’ to play and their ‘lines’ to say. However, those roles are merely a simplification of their true selves. When the plot forces the characters to reveal to each other the sides they have never exposed before, that’s when the magic happens.
It can be things like “Maybe you are not as dumb as I thought you were”, or “Even you are capable of being nice, huh?”. They are always worth putting in almost every story.

Simply revealing their hidden sides to each other is not enough, nonetheless. The story must force the characters to alter their relationship. They will have to admit they were wrong about the other person, change their roles around each other, change how they interact—and it is incredibly fun to watch both of them adapt to this newly discovered status quo.

Incredible stuff. Actual kino.

I think this can be done in all sort of directions—love, hate, empathy, disgust, apathy. It is how character arcs should work in stories, based around character interaction.

I think My Alien Roommate, while not reaching those highs just yet, is definitely capable of doing it. For now, it does everything right. Character dynamics are executed greatly (for the most part), interactivity is everywhere, and the pacing is basically immaculate.

This visual novel has a lot of potential, and I hope my lengthy explanation has been enough to prove it to those who haven’t played it yet. Go check it out, there’s still so much I have not mentioned in this review.

Bonus Part 2: The Hot Take

I think the developer shouldn’t have revealed Felix’s secret identity on the Steam page. They could have just hidden his name and put “???” instead. That way, many more people would have an experience similar to mine. It just makes the whole story so much better.

First of all, I really hope this game doesn’t take an eternity to finish developing. I know many projects with an insane amount of complexity (countless choices and similar mechanics) that have never seen the light of day. I’m not saying that this visual novel is that complex, but it certainly sets a level that would be rather hard to reach over a full 8 to 10-hour game.

Also, I really hope the dev will put a bit more funds into the presentation. The Steam page, page, and the cover art look like your average mediocre parody game.
A background and three character sprites for the game cover? This game deserves much more than that.

Their Kickstart campaign was a success, as it was 166% funded in March, 2023, so maybe I’m right in keeping up hope.

Other than that, I think I’ve said everything I wanted. I cannot give this demo a concrete something out of 10 rating, as it will not be representative of my full opinion on it. Forgive me for this long, long rant, but it was a long time since I’ve been affected this much by a visual novel.

I even made some bad fanart!

Yeah, I do not know how to draw faces. Thank you very much.

This is it for me. Please, show some love to Purple Herring Games and read this demo! You can wishlist it on Steam and on, go ahead!

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Game dev (aspiring), book author (aspiring), artist (aspiring).... You get the idea.

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