For those who are unaware, the O2A2 VN Jam is a short-term visual novel jam, designed for any developer to make a micro VN. Each team is restricted to using one of any asset (i.e. 1 background and 1 sprite or 1 CG, 1 music track, 1,000 words) to create their story.
As someone who has participated in the jam multiple times now, although the asset limitations are daunting, there’s surprisingly a lot you can do with what you have at your disposal; all you really need is a rich, fulfilling story that can work inside these limitations.
Today, I selected five games that caught my eye through their interesting premise and/or their art style. How do they fare? Let’s find out.
From the overall pool of 156 titles, I’ve chosen the following five:
- Dual Chroma: Haereticus (Galen Games)
- Going Out Out (rottentief)
- found you (Fuwawuri)
- My Last Heatwave (NotHack Europa)
- Never Seen (aida)
- Save the Last Dance (Carrot)
Galen Games is known for Deliver Us from Evil and their Dual Chroma titles. As you’d expect from the title, Dual Chroma: Haereticus is another entry in the Dual Chroma universe. This horror fantasy title has you playing a scribe who has been summoned to see the Ashen Lord.
The game is isolating, haunting even. The one track that’s used reminded me of cathedral music — which would normally be soothing — chilled me to the bone and it’s fantastic. The art is breathtaking, and I absolutely loved Ashen Lord’s sprite. Although his white hair shines, giving off the vibe that he’s a higher-being, it’s immediately contrasted by the way his face is drawn. He has this sinister smile that makes your skin crawl. Additionally, the upper part of his face is darkened out and you can only see one of his light blue eyes really kicks up the creepiness factor for me He’s beautiful yet intimidating figure whose icy, cold stare will freeze anyone in place out of fear.
Rico’s writing had me on the edge of my seat, wondering what would happen. With each step the Ashen Lord took towards the camera, I wanted to inch back. It’s tough to nail horror in such a short word amount — yet the game’s director, artist, and scripter, Crysil, perfectly nails it. For horror fans looking for a good thrill, you need to check this one out!
The Ashen Lord’s story is a prelude for what’s to come in Dual Chroma. If you’re interested in learning more about this world, I highly recommend checking out the other titles set in the Dual Chroma universe. Additionally, consider pledging to Dual Chroma’s Kickstarter if you want to see this story continue!
Status: Released Platforms: Windows, macOS, Linux, HTML5 Author: Galen Games Genre: Visual Novel, Interactive Fiction Tags: Dark, Dark Fantasy, Fantasy, First-Person, Horror, LGBT, Mystery, Romance, supernatural
Created by rottentief, Going Out Out focuses on a plus-sized woman named Phoenix, who is having second thoughts about going out with her friends to a gay bar. She feels unconfident in how she looks, and it’s your goal to make give her that much needed confidence to go out and have a good time.
The theme of body image issues and how distraught Phoenix was about the various aspects of her body really cut deep for me, since I too suffer from body image issues. It’s difficult to love yourself when all you see in front of you is something “ugly.” Even when her friends want to see her outfit and encourage her to go out, thinking she looks beautiful as she is, Phoenix doesn’t see that at first.
In order to see what her friends see, she needs to take what she perceives as “ugly” and spin it into a positive light. An example of this would be when she comments on her arms, where the player can either say they make her look strong, or bring up a bad memory of Phoenix’s mother, where she had similar arms to Phoenix’s and called them “her bingo wings.” The former lightens the mood and helps Phoenix begin to see the beauty within herself, while the latter only feeds into her self-doubt and anxiety.
Depending on your choices, you will get one of three endings. The best ending is the hardest to achieve — personally, I thought this made sense given how hard it is to overcome body image issues. Aside from the narrative, the music perfectly fit the tone of the story, giving that somber and isolating feeling that Phoenix is undoubtedly feeling.
Overall, I really enjoyed this. Although a short tale, it manages to deliever a powerful and emotional experience that I believe many can relate to. You can play it here, so give it a shot!
Status: Released Platforms: Windows, macOS, Linux Author: pann Genre: Visual Novel Tags: Anime, Bara, Gay, Horror, LGBT, mlm, Multiple Endings, Ren'Py, Romance, Yaoi
What attracted me to Fuwawuri‘s O2A2 entry, found you, was its lovely art style. The dark color palette fit perfectly with the game’s somber atmosphere and story.
In this tale, you play as Aster, a scaredy cat who is hiding out in his bathroom after his friend Noel’s one-man game of hide-and-seek goes wrong.
For those who aren’t aware of what this type of game is or haven’t heard the amazing Vocaloid song Hide and Seek, the game is a ritual where you contact the dead by using a stuffed doll. You must follow a series of steps, which will eventually lead to the doll getting possessed and you needing to find it. Of course, messing with the dead has a 99% chance of not ending well, especially when the ritual has multiple steps involved.
This was an intense and heart-wrenching experience. Fuwawuri does a fantastic job at making you feel sorry for Aster, who is too scared to do anything but hide. And honestly? You can’t blame him for feeling the way he does. He’s young and is an innocent victim who is forced into a terrifying situation that was the result of his friend’s mistake. found you is an excellent, albeit sad visual novel that I think many would enjoy.
Status: Released Platforms: Windows, macOS, Linux Author: Fuwawuri Genre: Visual Novel Tags: Horror, Narrative, Short
My Last Heatwave is an unique entry for its premise alone, where the story is about our main character Bro living their final day on a slowly dying planet that’s being consumed by the ever-growing heat. It’s very rare that we get a game solely focused on climate change. The only other titles coming to mind that really dig deep into this topic are probably BREATHE and the upcoming indie title, Highwater.
Much like BREATHE, this game is incredibly sad. Not only that, but My Last Heatwave gets dark pretty quick as you start to realize how doomed the remaining population of this planet truly is. Their food and water is rationed, they can’t use a computer because it would increase the temperature meaning all they can do is sit around, waiting for their inevitable end, where they succumb to the dangerous temperatures.
What makes this tale even more tragic is that they aren’t able to see one another until it’s “safe” to do so. Until then, they’re forced to sit in a room with a government-created robot who is not at all compassionate to their situation. As Bro begs for more water, their robot Halley-J only reminds them of the rules. I personally saw this as how many governments refuse to help those that they are paid to serve — an accurate portrayal of what is happening in real life in regards to the current climate crisis and its approach — and of course, machines not truly understanding human emotion.
Developer NotHack Europa has produced a few horror titles before, but I personally think this is their most horrifying game to date due to how real it is and how this could be our future if we don’t do something now to prevent it from happening. My Last Heatwave is available on itch.io, so go give it a read!
Status: Released Platforms: Windows, macOS, Linux, HTML5 Author: NotHack Europa Genre: Visual Novel Tags: heatwave, micro-vn, Short, Singleplayer, summer
One of the shorter entries on this list coming in at around 530 words, Never Seen is an interesting title. The premise of the story is that your character is watching a video on their computer. This video shows someone with light-purple hair, someone who you believe you should know but have no recollection of. As the video plays, they talk about their stagnant, hermit life.
Without giving too much away about the plot, I certainly enjoyed it. I think it’s a great way to approach depression and the lack of motivation caused by it. The only issue I had was that I found both endings to be abrupt. With approximately 470 words left to use, I think that could have been used to flesh out the good ending more and give us a clue on what could possibly happen next. If you’d like to play it, it’s on itch.io for all to try!
Status: Released Platforms: Windows, macOS, Linux Author: aida Genre: Visual Novel Tags: 2D, Indie, Short, Singleplayer
Save the Last Dance is developed by Carrot, the same mind behind the Our Wonderland series. This side entry focuses on Genzou having a private, albeit intimidating dance with Orlam where your words will determine how this story ends.
While I’ve only played the first act of Our Wonderland, prior knowledge of the main title isn’t necessarily required to enjoy this title. The game does an excellent job at painting a beautiful picture of Genzou and Orlam’s tense relationship, so even those who come into this game without any knowledge of Our Wonderland can still understand what’s going on. However, there are some tidbits, such as the “white rabbit” that Orlam mentions throughout the story and one of the game’s three endings, that will hit harder if you have the aforementioned knowledge.
As I mentioned earlier, this game is intense. Orlam dominates the conversation and radiates power. You feel like you’re tiptoeing an incredibly high tightrope with no net underneath to catch you if you fall. On top of a nail-biting experience, this game is beautifully animated. The way Orlam sways you around the room makes you feel as though you’re really dancing. On top of that, the text effects give Orlam’s dialogue an extra oomph and you can practically feel his tone.
There was so much love poured into this project and you can really see it through every aspect of this game. Save the Last Dance is one of the standouts as well as one of my favorite entries in this year’s O2A2 VN Jam. If you are able to handle blood and some of the dark themes mentioned in the content warnings, I wholeheartedly recommend this title.
Status: Released Platforms: Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, HTML5 Author: Carrot Genre: Visual Novel, Interactive Fiction Tags: Dark, Dark Fantasy, Gothic, Horror, LGBT, Multiple Endings, Mystery, Psychological Horror, Short
That’s it for me! Please look forward to the next report!