I must admit that I have a fair bit of interest in the indie visual novel scene. I often have a difficult time getting into the larger visual novels made by more professional teams for a variety of reasons. These reasons are oftentimes due to their length and the fact that they tend to be paced very slowly. Indie visual novels, on the other hand, are usually about the same length of a movie so they are easier to digest, and are more likely to get straight to the point.
Also there is the fact that you are more likely to see raw creator expression that is not hampered by corporate interests, although the same could be said of most indie products. Unfortunately, Sturgeon’s law greatly applies to a lot of these visual novels. For every brilliant gem like My Name Is Addiction, you have about twelve mediocre, poorly written and drawn visual novels that are just not interesting. Darconika: The Cube of Soul fits into the latter category.
Presentation wise, Darconika is a mess. One of the first things I noticed when I started up the game was that it freezes up when you try to window it. This was definitely an excellent sign of things to come (I hope the sarcasm is obvious) considering that it forces you to play the entire game in fullscreen, and it leaves you unable view another tab without exiting out of the game. It also demonstrates some awful programming.
The art design also looks very amateurish and like something off of DeviantART. Some examples of corners being cut is that Alan looks the same clothed as he does shirtless with the exception that he is colored differently. Any attempts to draw blood also look like they were attempted in MS Paint. That being said, the art design at least is not as ugly as something like Gender Bender DNA Twister Extreme or Tokyo Hosto, and I will give credit that the fanservice moments at least looked good.
The music is very generic and forgettable, although can be remotely decent at a few points, the sound design was fairly effect at conveying the right mood, and the game retains the standard Ren’py abilities to save anywhere on multiple files, scroll back through text, and fast forward through what you already read. Unfortunately there is one glaring issue with the game’s presentation that causes absolutely everything to fall apart; its translation.
The English translation for this game is abhorrent. The English script is entirely comprised of broken English and it was clear that there were no native English speakers involved in translating it. Some examples include “all of this lead to the nasty road, but worst of all is when love pushes to the evil” “all that was left in me from a human was begging for a fail” and “so beautiful young woman with white hair with habit of kissing letter. Considering the smell of letter she might smell like this.” Can you even guess what the game was trying to say with those lines? I didn’t think so; and yes, EVERY line in the game is of this caliber.
So now that I have gotten the presentation out of the way, it is time to talk about the story. Our story stars Alan Chagrin and Anna, two mercenaries who are sent to procure an artifact called the soul cube from a necromancer named Corbin. In his dreams, Alan is also visited by the god of death Gaspar who tells him that the fate of the world is at stake if he does not accomplish this. This is the main gist of the storyline, but it should be known that the story itself is very disjointed and choppy.
First of all, we have multiple subplots in the game that go absolutely nowhere and are never mentioned afterwards. The biggest example I can think of is that your boss is revealed to keep child sex slaves prisoner in her basement, and Alan says he sees a girl that he was supposedly ordered to rescue by another superior. This scene is only viewable if you select a certain dialogue option towards the beginning of the game, but there was literally no reason to include it at all.
Furthermore, our characters are very underdeveloped and there is simply not enough for the player to care about them. Additionally, the first half of the game is made up of several scenes of exposition explaining what you have to do and why you have to do it until a scene where Alan is attacked by a werewolf. There is never any feeling of suspense that comes from this game and it is just downright boring. Our world and characters are as flat and lifeless as can be and I was never remotely invested in the story.
There are a few points in the game where you need to make a choice as to what happens, but there is only one choice that really effects the ending and the rest only slightly change the dialogue in the following scene. You simply have the standard good ending and bad ending. Also of note is that if you get the bad ending, the text reads exactly like the Angry Video Game Nerd’s parody of the Friday the 13th game over text, only in broken English, despite neither of those two having anything to do with the game in question.
Overall, Darconika: The Cube of Soul is not a good visual novel in the slightest and there is nothing entertaining about it. It is amateurish and is lacking in any sense of polish or skill. Darconika costs four dollars on steam but I would not be able to recommend the game even for free. There really is not much more to say about this game, it’s just bad.
Note: This review was originally posted on GameFAQs on September 9th of 2016. The version posted here has been re-edited and has had enhanced presentation in the form of in game images.
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