Tuesday, January 19, 2016

WORLD END ECONOMiCA episode.01 Review

These panoramas of Newton City are definitely one of the game's highlights

  • Developer: Spicy Tails
  • Publisher: Sekai Project
  • Release Date: 5 May 2014
  • Time played: 7 hours

World End Economica: Episode 1 happens to be another game I managed to grab from the same Humble Bundle that included such games as Roommates and Go! Go! Nippon! ~My First Trip to Japan~ which are all considered visual novels. I originally played World End Economica: Episode 1 when it first came out but due to a reformat, I lost most of my progress and had to start again from scratch when I re-downloaded it. Fortunately, I was able to skip a lot of text by just holding down the spacebar (so at least it wasn't too painful returning to where I left off). The game describes itself as a sci-fi/economic thriller set on the Moon and its penned by an award-winning Japanese author by the name of Isuna Hasekura. Sounds promising right? But is it actually any fun? At the very least, is it insightful, intriguing or inspirational?

Plot (4/5)
In World End Economica: Episode 1 you play the role of a teenage boy, nicknamed "Hal", who was born on the Moon. You've become quite adept at playing on the share market and you see it as an expressway to riches beyond measure. Little do you realise how much your life is going to change after meeting a Christian woman called Lisa and a maths prodigy called Hagana.

I found the plot quite hard to get into despite the convincing back story that covers a myriad of details on how people of the future live. This is because of two reasons; firstly the major characters in this story, Hal and Hagana, aren't the most endearing. Hal is a misogynistic, spoiled brat with a superiority complex who even considers posting nude photos of teenage girls as a valid form of punishment, and Hagana is a roller coaster of stoicism and psychotic rage. I even found the villain more likeable compared to these two since I could at least understand the villain's motivations. Some of you might say, "maybe that's the point." Hal and Hagana are teenagers so they're bound to be a bit misguided, even cruel at times. However, there were times I didn't even recognise the main characters as human beings which meant I found the plot preposterous as a result.

Seriously. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?

The second reason I found the plot hard to follow is while I did enjoy reading about the history of Earth and the Moon's colonisation as well as learn about the different districts of Newton City, the Space Elevator, the physiological differences between the Moon's inhabitants and Earth's, as well as the geopolitical landscape of the future, the barrage of share market concepts and definitions that accompanied it was a bit dry and ends up dominating much of the text.

Gameplay (1/5)
Gameplay? What gameplay? Visual novels are (in)famous for not having much in terms of gameplay and usually containing as much gameplay as you'd expect in a Choose Your Own Adventure book. In World End Economica: Episode 1, the gameplay is pretty much non-existent as the game is a special kind of visual novel called a "kinetic novel". Kinetic novels don't actually give you the ability to make choices; it's a visual novel in the most literal sense of the word where all you do is click the mouse button to advance the story.

Sound (5/5)
There isn't much in the way of sound effects but none are really required while reading a visual novel.

Music (4/5)
The music isn't that memorable (except for some famous piano pieces at the end) but it's good enough. Finishing the game unlocks the soundtrack in the main menu so you can listen to it there (if you happen to like the music).

Graphics (4/5)
Graphics in the game are of the typical standard you'd expect from visual novels. There are only a few scenes in the game that feature close-ups of characters and they're usually reserved for pivotal events in the plot.

Replay (1/5)
The game has Steam Trading Cards nowadays but there are no Steam Achievements, although it's not like you really can implement any unless you adopt "certificate of participation" style achievements. It was a bit of a struggle to get through the game due to lots of boring, meaningless explanations on wheeling and dealing on the share market and unlikeable main characters.

Polish (5/5)
The game is pretty well polished but I think it's a bit hard to stuff up a visual novel.

Score – 6/10

Even if you go into playing this "game" with the mindset that you're basically reading a book, I still found it a struggle thanks to creepy, psychotic characters that are hard to like and the boring, long-winded explanations on how the share market works. It's a pity, since a lot of effort has gone into creating a fantastic and convincing back story and from a technical perspective, there's nothing wrong with this "kinetic" novel.

World End Economica: Episode 1 is available from these retailers:

Is the game worth $12.99 USD?: No. Considering you could buy a classic sci-fi novel for less, due to the current exchange rate, this game is on the pricey side. A fairer price would be $10 USD.

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[ LINK: Official World End Economica Website (Japanese) ]

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