June 22, 2022

Blake: The Visual Novel

Blake: The Visual Novel
is developed by Ori Mees and published by LegendOri Productions. It was released in September 2021 on Steam (PC Windows and Mac), and at the time of my review it has a Positive rating by reviewers on that platform, with a Metascore of 83.

I’m generally not a fan of visual novel games. I love to read, my go-to genres are fantasy, sci-fi, and thrillers. I also grew up reading comic books. I’m a huge proponent of story-rich games, but I prefer good gameplay to reading straight through a “game” with the illusion of choice. When this game fell into my lap(top), I admit that I rolled my eyes a bit at the notion of needing to slog through this type of game. Then I read a bit about the game, and the few non-spoiler reviews I checked out piqued my interest a bit. Few ratings in general, but almost all of them were positive. I rolled up my sleeves and stepped onto the ledge.

Blake: The Visual Novel is a story about a guy (named *gasp!* Blake) who works at a tech company in the unforeseeable future who gets thrown into a few strange situations beyond his control, seemingly related to a streaming serial killer. He has a recurring dream of standing on a ledge, and has more than a few dream-like incidents happen to him through the course of this story. He is surrounded by an enjoyable supporting cast that I found myself wanting to know a little more about as the story progressed. Some of them were fleshed out, others were left a bit more mysterious throughout the story. As with most visual novels there is the occasional fork in the flow of the story where you get to choose a path, or answer questions posed by those characters.

The art in Blake was reminiscent of a comic book, without all the panels. When a character is speaking, there are one to two different poses for them that show up in the game. Occasionally there is a panel that cuts in to show a milestone in the story, but then it goes back to the standard background and character layout. No cut scenes, no voice acting. It’s simple, but it works. The setting is in the future, and there are times where you forget that until they mention how things are slightly different in their world or if you look at the types of tech in their workroom.

The music is hypnotic and repetitive, but fits the narrative. No additional sound effects to speak of and no voice acting to criticize or praise. The focus of the game is the story.

The story is well done and was a great start, but I was disappointed at the open-endedness (is that a word?) of most of the revelations. I’m usually good at predicting twists or storylines, and I even got some of it right by the end. I’m hoping there will be more to this narrative with future iterations. I did find myself saving periodically so I could go back and make other choices throughout, especially near the end. Some choices caused a branching narrative and affected future choices and some simply were there to initiate a scene or mini game that was skippable by choosing the other path. I’m still determined to earn the right to pet Marv, but I haven’t succeeded yet!

It took me a little under 2 hours to finish this game, including going back and re-doing a few choices. Having finished this game, I’m still not a fan of visual novels, but I do find myself thinking back to this story afterwards. If developer Ori Mees brought out a sequel, I would gladly check it out to see what happens next and if my predictions are true in the long run.

Blake: The Visual Novel is worth a shot, for a discounted price. If you come into this game ready to read a neo-noir futuristic mystery with the occasional branching narrative, you’ll enjoy yourself if the setting appeals to you. If you’re expecting gameplay full voice acting, cut scenes, and action packed story sequences look elsewhere. I’ll play through it one more time and see if I can win the mini game and finally pet the damn dog.

Final Score: 7/10

I'm giving Blake: The Visual Novel a seven out of ten, mostly because of how short and open-ended it is. It's hard for me to score a game higher than that with limited-to-no gameplay, despite all the elements it does well in such a short run-time. I'm not a huge connoisseur of visual novel games, and Blake hasn't changed my opinions in the genre as a whole, but it was a good start to a hopefully longer running series with more innovation in the next iterations.

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