tl;dr: 6/10 - Pretty good but really short.
Full review (spoilers are
As a rather critical visual novel fan, I can't say I'm easily pleased. A visual novel being sold on Steam does raise some eyebrows, but nonetheless I decided to give it a go, and I was pleasantly surprised after reading the disappointing World End Economica a while back.
Although Dysfunctional Systems is an original English language (OEL) visual novel, which is generally a good indicator of poor quality, my past experience with another OEL VN (Katawa Shoujo) was actually rather good, so I wasn't deterred from the beginning. Overall, the visual novel was quite good, all things considered, but we can take a bit of a deeper look into things.
First thing's first: the writing. I can't vouch for the story being fresh and original, but it was well executed regardless. The characters' personalities were generally consistent and the story developed in a logical order. However, the visual novel was painstakingly short. I felt like I was just thrown into the middle of things, and even though the story wasn't too complex to figure out what was going on, a longer introduction would've been welcomed with open arms. There's also the issue of how easy it is to get to the bad end. After several playthroughs of making and recording different decisions, in desperate search of the good end, I was sorely disappointed to find that there was none
. As it stands, the story is good
, but much too short for my liking, and a lot more content is due. The ratio of number of choices to length of story was horribly skewed in the wrong direction, but I can respect the amount of tedious coding it would've taken to link everything together the way it was done.
Technically, the English was rather good. It was by no means perfect, but it made good use of stylistic devices and all of the other things English professors like to rant on about for an easy-to-read experience. There were a few mistakes that the more pedantic of us (such as myself) may wince at, and the word choice was often pretentious, to say the least, but otherwise, Dysfunctional Systems was well written. If anything, it was better than the disgrace World End Economica was, which I can only imagine was a machine translation done by an IBM 5200.
On to the art and sound - long story short, they were also quite good. While the drawing didn't exactly fit the conventional visual novel clique, there was something about the brushed watercolour style art that appealed to me. All the ren'py animations (yeah, I actually bothered to look through the game files to confirm it was a ren'py game) were used well and surprisingly weren't skimped on - this kind of production quality I can appreciate. I'm not much of an audiophile, but I can also vouch for the soundtrack being great on its own. In the game, it can be a bit overpowering at times, but the volume controls presumably exist solely for that purpose. If only they had some voice acting to go with it - in Japanese, of course, since I'm a filthy weeaboo and English sucks - but alas, one can only dream.
It might seem like I'm bashing the game pretty harshly here - and that's probably true - but I actually did enjoy the game. Although it was extremely
short (short enough for me to get 100% completion after only 3 hours), and there were the other issues I'd mentioned previously, it was an interesting story and fun to read. Even though I'm bringing it up again - the sheer lack of content was detrimental to the score I gave - we mustn't forget to interpret the ten point scale correctly. 5/10 is perfectly average
, and not garbage by any means. Going from there, 6/10 isn't a bad score, despite what IGN and whatnot want you to believe - but that's a story for another time. I know episodes 2 and 3 of this series are due to come soon, though, so hopefully they can make up for where this episode fell short and salvage the trilogy as a whole.