For people who are unfamiliar with what the O2A2 VN Jam is, it’s a short-term visual novel jam designed for both new and veteran developers to make a micro VN. Each developer is restricted to using only one of any asset (i.e. 1 background, 1 sprite, 1 CG, 1 music track, 1000 words) to create their story.
Personally, it will be my first time reading VNs that come out of this Jam. I’m pretty excited to see what developers can cook up with the limitations imposed on the assets they can use. Will they be able to deliver a well-structured short story, or will they struggle to make something cohesive out of what they have? It’s a great opportunity to make talents shine!
Just like the other reports, I chose five games to review based on their titles and whether they caught my eye at first glance. These games are the following:
- Moving Out (cbh.yun)
- Akina Miscellanea (AwkaEve)
- So you want to be a magical girl? (Zejbo32)
- Share the Last Bowl of Primordial Soup (Roat Toat Roat)
- In an effort to get my two friends to date, I created a Magical Girl D&D campaign!? (SJ)
A cute story about catching up with a friend everyone makes during their childhood. Makes you feel warm tinges of nostalgia from days gone by.
The scenario features someone packing up their things to move out for college. In the midst of doing so, they encounter a stuffed toy from their childhood named Snuggles. Snuggles, much to the surprise of the MC, speaks to them while they were going through their somber farewell. This spurs on a whole conversation about how the MC got to this point in their life with the help of Snuggles.
The VN features choices that lead to one of three endings, mostly determined by what memory you choose to reminisce about with Snuggles. Overall, the premise is rather simple: it tugs on feelings of nostalgia that you might have felt yourself at some point when making that big move in your life. Perhaps being able to talk with your stuffed toy is a rite of passage itself, making sure that you remember what inspired you to chase the dreams you currently are chasing. Short but sweet, leaving you with only the company of your sentimentality and a stuffed toy that just so happens to be able to talk to you.
Status: Released Platforms: Windows, macOS Author: cbh.yun Genre: Visual Novel Tags: 2D, Casual, Cute, Funny, Narrative, Slice Of Life
A kid gets lost in a maze of doors that lead to no particular destination.
Akina is a kid. She just witnessed something that broke the image of her being part of a happy family: her father hitting her mother. She screams at her father, doing what she can to make sense of what happened. But with no real answer given, she goes to sleep with complicated feelings on the matter. Her nightmare doesn’t end there, however, as she finds herself in her bedroom, familiar yet unnerving. Wanting to know what was out of place, she steps out of that familiar bedroom. What was waiting for her outside was a series of doors and rooms that led to nowhere in particular. She traverses the maze-like terrain, all the while feeling a pair of eyes on her.
This micro VN features no choices and leads to only one ending. While not bad in and of itself, there are a few things I found lacking. First, the font is a bit hard to read. Maybe it’s a stylistic choice, but one that’s not for me. It also takes away from the creepy atmosphere that the VN sets, which is what I think the VN does best.
The choice of colors for the background and sprite it uses, the BGM (Airria), and the dripping sound effect it employs make a cohesively unnerving atmosphere that keeps you on your toes. It’s like you’re waiting for a jumpscare that never comes, making you feel on edge the entire time. Despite this, its potential is definitely undermined by how the word limit was used. Giving Akina some backstory is good and all, but if it comes at the expensive of fully characterizing the terror element that lurks within the setting, you start to ask whether that small tangent was worth adding in or not. As a reader, I felt that the horror it was building up to never fully materialized. It left me feeling like I read something that’s incomplete. Perhaps a better word management could have prevented this, but I guess there’s only so much you can do with a 1000 word limit.
Status: Released Platforms: Windows, Linux Author: AwkaEve Genre: Visual Novel Tags: Creepy, Horror, Short
At death's door, a college student encounters something unexpected: a dog that asks her to become a magical girl.
Have you ever gotten stabbed by a long iron rod during your visit to the museum? No? How about engaging in a conversation with a dog that replies to you with actual words? Not really? Those kinds of eccentricities are what Diane, a dying college student, experiences one fateful day. Now, with a monster rampaging through the city and her friend nowhere to be found, Pancho (the dog) gives Diane a choice: does she want her life to just end there, or will she take up the challenge of being a magical girl to fight the evils that plague the world? It seems like an easy question to answer—but is it really?
It actually is, because no matter what choice you make near the end, you will become a magical girl either way. An illusion of choice, almost as if Pancho is planning to use you, just like how a certain other animal-like being uses magical girls in their own cruel way…
Joking aside, the VN is actually really simple in its premise: you’re dying, and survival means that you need to become a magical girl. It’s obviously not an original idea but the way its story is structured makes it so that the entire experience doesn’t necessarily contribute anything new. I find that I’m naturally patient with a lot of things, but to be quite frank, I didn’t feel like I gained much value from reading this. You could say that it’s because of the limits, but other works are able to express stories in ways that are succinct yet meaningful under the same constraints. It just feels like a missed opportunity to express the creator’s individual creativity. The VN’s saving grace is probably its final CG; it’s super cute and serves as a nice contrast to the ironically dark yet comic dialogue between the two characters.
Status: Released Platforms: HTML5 Author: Zejbo32 Genre: Visual Novel Tags: magicalgirl, mahoushojo, o2a2, Ren'Py, Short, vn
At the end of the world, two sinners embrace as they assimilate into one.
Share the Last Bowl of Primordial Soup features a couple who live on a world on its last days. The husband who seeks comfort in the arms of the wife and the safety of their offspring, and the wife who wants to do what’s right at the end of everything despite its futility… They talk about their sins, of the part they’ve played to the end. What meaning is there behind what’s “right” if it leads to death fueled by the whims of kings and gods? Struggling with these ideas, the couple comes together for a last conversation amidst their world’s twilight.
The VN features two endings determined by a choice you make near the end of its story. To be fair, they’re much less endings than they are culminations of the couple’s last conversation. What they choose to place their hope on ultimately determines how they act upon the world’s impending doom—do they bet on the present, or do they hope for the future?
I liked how the VN portrays certain death; it’s not so much scary, but knowing that it’s your final chance to be with your loved ones, you naturally seek them to be able to say goodbye, to be able to cradle them in your arms one last time. While the discussion heavily hints on an overarching plotline that leads to the VN’s current setting, it doesn’t overstay its welcome. Instead, it fuels the couple’s conversation to better give us an idea of what motivated their actions and desires at that very moment. Coupled with visuals that feel soft and a BGM track that rings a consoling tune, it’s an excellent way of expressing a couple’s final moments.
Status: Released Platforms: Windows, macOS, Linux, HTML5 Author: Roat Toat Roat Genre: Visual Novel Tags: Short
A Dungeon Master (DM) turned matchmaking slime in this lighthearted session of Dungeons & Dragons (D&D)!
The entirety of the story happens within a Zoom call a group of friends set up to play D&D with. While Milne the slime (our protagonist) serves as the DM of the Magical Girl D&D campaign, they must also figure out how to get Heli and Moly to hook up together to eliminate the romantic tension present between them. Why? I couldn’t tell you why. But with the help of their D&D session’s setting, hopefully Milne can work something out that’ll get their hearts close enough to make something bloom…
Ignoring the very straightforward title this short VN has, it actually features two endings: a good one and a “try your best next time” one. These endings are determined by how much Milne gets into the DM role, making them forget about their hidden agenda for that day’s session. As a concept, it feels like a fun side story to what otherwise could be a bigger thing involving their group. I mean, Milne is a slime and they’re Sen’s familiar, so… are we not gonna talk about how out of place that is? Regardless of that though, it’s very cute.
The most impressive thing about it is how it simulates the Zoom call setting. You have the main text box for Milne’s lines and thoughts, and then you have a sort of message box at the side that mimics how Zoom’s chatbox works. It honestly adds to the flavor of the work, making creative use of what limited assets you have to deliver something that reflects your setting well.
Status: Released Platforms: Windows, macOS, Linux, HTML5 Author: SJ, Peachy, ykwok Genre: Visual Novel Tags: Anime, Cute, dnd, dungeons--dragons, LGBT, magical-girl, Ren'Py, Romance, Short
It’s wonderful how we can read the product of developers’ hard work under the O2A2 restrictions. While I ended up not being a fan of some of the works I’ve read, do keep in mind that some of these are the results of the developers’ trying their hand at making VNs for the first time. It’s only natural that some will feel a lot less polished than others; that’s the result of accumulated experience! I hope that people will continue supporting indie developers like the ones we’ve been reviewing, because even if they didn’t hit the home run with their work this time, I have no doubt they’ll only continue to improve.
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