I’m going to clarify that I am reviewing this game off of memory from playing it back during the summer, and my memory is not entirely clear. The reason for this is not just because of how long it has been, but also because this game is only fifteen minutes long. As such, it is naturally tough to remember all of it. On top of that, I got a refund for this game after playing it and I’d rather not buy it again just for the purpose of trashing it so I’m going to go based off of memory. Anyway yeah, Midnight Carnival is pretty shit.
I know, when an article of mine is prefaced with “Steam Greenlight Landfill,” that is usually an indicator of the overall quality. I use this title because I don’t usually think about these games that much. That is also because these games are also shallow and lacking in depth or content. A number of games I reviewed on GameFAQs definitely fit the “Steam Greenlight Landfill” category and I currently of a library of over 500 Steam titles, a lot of which are highly obscure and low in price. Of course, I do usually feel the need to review these games for a few reasons, and no it isn’t because “le edgy gamer rage.”
The first of which is often because most of these games have little in terms of reviews or coverage, so if I play them, then I may as well provide a review in case some poor soul decides they are going to play them, or in case the developers are serious about their work and want to know how to improve. The second of which is for insight into the art of game critique in and of itself, as I find that playing a wider array of games with varying degrees of highs and lows for different reasons gives me a much wider lens to appreciate games as a whole. When one knows what kind of mistakes or bad design choices games make, it becomes much easier to appreciate when games avoid them.
Midnight Carnival is a game that had some potential. It is a visual novel with an interesting plot, but I destroyed by bad writing and localization, poor art design, and horrible… HORRIBLE music! I remember that when I started up the game and heard the music, I thought the music was distorted because the game was lagging, but nope. Instead, the music randomly stutters and is chopped up to the point of unlistenability. It got so bad that I actually needed to mute the sound on my computer since there isn’t an in game option for it. This is already a major strike against the game since music is a MAJOR influence in a visual novel’s atmosphere. Hell, the original term for the genre was called “sound novel” yet we have a game where the sound needs to be muted for it to even be playable.
The rest of the presentation is mediocre as well. Our character designs look like amateur DeviantArt material, and the English translation is very awkwardly handled. While the script is at least not on the same level of unreadablilty as Darconika, that still is no excuse for such poor proofreading and only demonstrates why it is so important to have a native English speaker involved with an English translation.
Midnight Carnival stars a perpetually depressed loner named Brandon, who answers an email from a mysterious dating website that invites him to join. In order to do so, he needs to meet up at a specific location at an exact time and to do some type of errand for them to be allowed in, but he gets money from them. Naturally, there are implications that this site is run by some secret “Illuminati” type organization. That’s all the specifics I can remember of the premise.
The first major issue is Brandon’s character. Brandon’s only personality is that he is perpetually moping and depressed, and it gets annoying rather quickly. I am someone who has had some serious battles with depression in real life, and as such, I have enough subject knowledge to know that this portrayal is absolutely insulting and offensive. Not even Depression Quest was this excessive in its protagonist’s incessant moping, and that game at least had the excuse of being ABOUT DEPRESSION!!!!!
And yes, I know that there are some people in real life who are as unmotivated as Brandon, but being a “realistic” portrayal is not always a good thing. If I was to write a story and a ditzy blonde housewife who does nothing but cook and clean, I’d be writing about APurposefulWife, but said story would also be rightfully accused of sexism unless it was written in a very specific sarcastic style. Otherwise, it would come across as a shallow stereotype.
As for the rest of the plot, there are some things I could nitpick (such as how stupid it is to take a random email for a dating site this seriously) but I will admit, I was mildly curious to see how the story would have gone. There is only one problem; there is NO FUCKING ENDING! The entire game is building up questions and mysteries, only to never provide any answers. The reason; this game is still in early access almost a year after it was released.
I may have been able to look past all of the other bullshit if it at least had a complete story, but that is where I draw the line. Midnight Carnival is rubbish, and I’d rather stay at home sleeping than attend.
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