A nice game from somebody who's probably not (yet) a father...
First of all, let me clarify that despite this review focusing on the shortcoming of the game, I wholeheartedly recommend the game
. Then let's dive in:THE GOOD
The game is essentially a narration/exploration game (think "Dear Eshter
") with the notable exception that in "The Novelist" the player has to solve moral dilemmas at the end of each level.
In particular the game follows a family during their summer retreat, and each chapter of the story ends with each family members having a different, conflicting desire. The player must choose which family member's desire gets fulfilled.
However - and this is the strength of the game - the stakes are hight as each family member's preferences contribute towards important, existential points (writing the book that may change the course of the man career, saving the relationship between the two adults, supporting the kid in overcoming being bullied and having difficulties at school)
These are usually very well balanced dilemmas and the choice is never merely strategic: it is all the times phylosophical/moral: there is never a "correct" answer, just one that resonates more with each player's sensitivity
, and that will influence the remaining of the story/the final outcome in a specific way.
In that regards, the game is brilliant: it elicits emotions and reflections that overflow the context of the game and invite the player to think to their real lives
.THE LESS GOOD
I'm pretty sure (given the credits) that the author of the game is married, but does not have (yet) kids. This shows. The relationship and emotional dynamic between husband and wife in the game is very credible. The one between the father (or the mother) and the kid - although described with care and attention - is not as authentic.
Parents truly "feel the joy" of their kids. Even when they have to give up something of their personal life, parents are sincerely and completely happy for their's kid successes. There is no regret nor second thought once the choice to prioritise your kid
's needs over yours is done. It's a very different feeling than that of - say - giving up something important for making your partner
It is difficult to put this difference in words (let alone in a language that is not my native one), but while an adult is happy for
their partner's happiness, a parent tends to be happy with
their kids. It is not a better or more intense joy, it's just... different.
So, my only (minor) criticism of the game is that it does not render this difference properly: the narration does not sound as
authentic as it does in describing the relationship between spouses.
Another (again: very minor) criticism I'd like to make is that the game is framed in a very "man-centric" way: in order for the player to choose the course of action, they have to "tell" the man what the family as a whole should do (why not telling it to the woman?).
Also in the summary of the events as they happened in previous chapters, the sentences are all constructed in such a way that the man is portrayed as the decision-maker, and the woman and kid subjects of the decisions. Again: this is an extremely small detail, but it stands out enough for an attentive player to notice.TECHNICAL REMARKS
The game is clearly the single-handed work of love of its author. There is degree of identification between the man in the game (the novelist) and the author of the game which is apparent in many passages of the script and openly revealed at the end of the game
Because of the limited human resources on the project, many technical choices have been a compromise: very simple and naive AI of the characters, a tiny-tiny world (in fact a two-bedroom house!), low level of garphic detail.
However the author not only stroke a good balance by investing on the things that make the game good, while ignoring those that would make it merely more "shiny"; he also put great care in the delivery, so that the game feels simple from a technical perspective, but also very well executed
. More importantly one can feel
the care the author put in its creation, and that makes you feel as the recipient of something beautiful.
Again: the game is not perfect, but it deliver a strong memorable experience, and I wholeheartedly reccomand it to anybody, although - perhaps - an adult gamer will appreciate it more than a young one who hasn't a family on its own yet.