Roommates Review

Who farted? (Yes, I'm really mature...)
  • Developer: Winter Wolves
  • Publisher: Winter Wolves
  • Release Date: 12 February 2014
  • Time played: 6 hours

So, some of you are probably wondering why the heck I'm playing a dating sim, not least my wife (if my wife was a character in Dragon Age, it would be: *Wife disapproves*). Well there's a couple of reasons for this; firstly, I used to play visual novels back in the day thanks to them being a modern form of "Choose Your Own Adventure" gamebooks – it just so happened, though, that many Japanese visual novels tended to have dating sim aspects to them. The dating sim aspect could be less pronounced such as games like Go! Go! Nippon! ~My First Trip to Japan~ or it can be the primary aspect of the game, such as games like True Love (which I don't recommend you play if you're a minor, just a friendly heads up).

Also, I happened to get this game as a Humble Bundle with a whole bunch of other visual novels and I couldn't just leave the game unplayed right? RIGHT?

*Tumbleweed drifts by*

Yeah, I figured as much.

Plot (3/5)
In Roommates you play the role of a guy named Max or a girl named Anne commencing your freshman year at college. You find accommodation at a place called "Latin House" which you share with five roommates and what you do from there is up to you. Do you focus on your studies? Focus on your dream to be a rock star? Or maybe hook up with one of your roommates? The choice is yours!

Roommates (as you'd expect) contains excessive teen drama (or at least uni student drama) so you have been warned! There are also, at least from first impressions, stereotypes galore, like the serious Resident Assistant (RA), the vegan hippie, the shy bookworm, the rebellious musician, the hot Latina and the token Indian guy for comic relief.

However, unlike many Japanese games, the stereotypes seem to be less exaggerated and all of the characters are likeable in their own ways once you take the time to learn more about them; they really aren't just two dimensional caricatures even though they definitely seem that way from the start. The game is also set in the United States which already makes this dating sim stand out from its competitors that tend to be set in Japan.

...the stereotypes seem to be less exaggerated and all of the characters are likeable in their own ways once you take the time to learn more about them; they really aren't just two dimensional caricatures even though they definitely seem that way from the start.

Gameplay (3/5)
Visual novels usually don't involve much gameplay in general, at least for the trigger happy gamers out there who want action, action and more action. However, for those that aren't familiar with visual novels, some visual novels can be pretty restrictive in what you choose to do while others give you much more choice or even mini-games to play; Roommates thankfully tends to be at the less restrictive end of the spectrum, not only giving players the ability to make several conversation choices but also the ability to plan what their character does during the day through a timetable. These kind of games are known as time-management dating sims (or at least I think that's the best term for them) and another notable example would be True Love, as mentioned earlier.

At the beginning of every week, you're given the ability to plan your weekly schedule by deciding what you do in the morning, afternoon and evening, from Monday to Sunday. You can choose activities such as studying, working, socialising or doing absolutely nothing at all. Performing activities during the week will cost you energy which you only have a limited supply of unless you replenish it by choosing to rest. Studying helps your grades which will affect the ending of the game but there are also other stats you can build up depending on what you do; for example, playing pen and paper RPGs increases your "Organised" stat or working as a waterboy increases your "Active" stat.

Why are these stats important? Because if you want to pursue a romance (which is usually the point of dating sims) you need to have a minimum number of points in two particular stats in order to impress your potential boyfriend/girlfriend. Not only that but you also have to build up your relationship score by making the right choices during "events" (parts of the game where you'll get a chance to help another character or socialise with them). However, events cost energy and if you've overexerted yourself during the week, you might end up missing out on some.

Consequently, as far as visual novels go, the gameplay in Roommates is pretty good as it's more complex than the norm although this still might not be enough for those accustomed to other genres. Also, I found the game not exactly easy if your goal is to start a romance with one of the characters. For my first playthrough I didn't even care and I just role-played the options as myself. I ended up with no romantic interest, which pretty accurately reflected real life! However, the second time I played I actually tried my best to "max out" the required stats and choose the correct conversation options but despite my best efforts, I still didn't end up with any romantic interest. So either I'm a total dunce when it comes to pursuing a relationship (which is not entirely out of the question, my wife can attest to this fact) or the game is not as easy as other dating sims out there.

Sound (5/5)
There are minimal sound effects in this game and no voice acting. No complaints.

Music (4/5)
Quite a bit of effort has gone into the soundtrack of the game which even features a rock track with vocals for the main menu theme. In fact, most of the music in the game tends to be rock music but that's probably because one of the playable characters is an aspiring rock star, so it makes sense. Is it the sort of music I'd blare out of the speakers of my car? Probably not, but it suits the game fine.

Graphics (4/5)
The game has a hybrid art style where you can tell it's obviously inspired by the manga style of typical visual novels yet it also looks more like a Western comic at the same time. It's actually refreshing to see a game that incorporates its own unique style and it's pretty well done too.

Replay (3/5)
I played the game twice and it takes about 2-3 hours for one playthrough. Since there are essentially eight different endings/pairings you can attain along with their respective achievements, there's definitely reason to go back and play, if you can tolerate reading lots of familiar text.

Polish (4/5)
The game is all mouse-driven and there were no annoying bugs, except for one where I think the conversation options were reversed (i.e. choosing to leave someone actually resulted in you spending time with them).

Score – 7/10

If you want a high quality dating sim and don't mind a change of scenery from the schools of Japan to the colleges of America, Roommates is worth your attention. I found the game a bit challenging if you actually wanted to pursue a romantic interest but even if you don't, the ending of the game feels satisfying enough regardless - which is actually pretty rare in dating sims. Usually it's a case of: "Ohnoes! You didn't find the love of your life! You live the rest of your life lonely and miserable. GAME OVER YEAAAAH!".

Roommates is available from these retailers:

Is the game worth $24.99 USD?: No. Despite the game having pretty good visuals and audio, a fairer price would be $15-20 USD.

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[ LINK: Official Roommates Website ]