TL;DR: Too short for $5, buy on sale or wait for the other episodes and buy them together. Not interesting, tends to get boring. Lack of a sense of urgency, time literally flies by without you noticing. Main character is boring, has what feels like an entire section set up for characterization and does nothing with it. Seemingly lesbian character outed for no particular reason and also has an achievement seemingly based on the fact that she is lesbian for no particular reason. Not a branching story, incredibly streamline with only one real choice in the whole game.
I like Dischan's other visual novel and I wanted this because I thought it would be similar. While that game wasn't branching, it was somewhat thought provoking (even if it's an overused idea that they went with as far as the moral quandry in that game) but for a free game it was really good. With money behind them, I thought they'd make something interesting. Sure enough, they came up with an interesting idea for a new game.
Then promptly went nowhere with it.
This game is unbelievably
short-- I beat it twice and spent three hours trying to get all of the achievements, which I haven't completed at the time of this recommendation-- and it's not even interesting the entire way through. You could potentially divide the story into three parts (though really it's just two if you consider the first and second part the same thing): The Prologue, the Supposed Interesting Part, and the Lesbian(?) Dormitory.
In the Prologue, there's a very shoehorned in "characterization" of the main character, which is fine but not very well done. But you don't make any choices here. You're meant to use this time to learn about the main character Winter, but she's just so boring and straightlaced and you don't even know why she adheres to the rules so much.
She has flashes of her past, which I think was a device to make her interesting, but those are quickly forgotten or pushed to the wayside. She doesn't say anything interesting and mostly whines for the entire introduction. Since the player knows her thoughts, it's made worse by the attempts to make the user "bond" with her. It doesn't work because there's nothing to bond with. She's just some rule-follower who seems upset to be...not following rules. Her mentor is clearly her opposite, but nothing interesting happens with him in the beginning.
The Supposed Interesting Part is, by naming convention alone, supposed to be interesting.
It starts out interestingly enough, but then immediately falls off. You're given a time limit, which is a great way to put pressure on the player. What are you doing? Trying to prevent a giant loss that has a lot of political backing to it. Also interesting. There seem to be tons of different ways to proceed too, which is why it's a shame this game lets you pick between a whopping two different things
. And both of them are watered down into very simplistic, almost meaningless drivel. The main character talks alot about death, but there's no weight to it. Nothing makes you feel urgent or makes you want to help the maincharacter. In fact, there's a sense of urgency to the whole game that isn't done well-- you don't know how much time has passed or is passing, and you're not doing anything but blindly following this mentor character who isn't explaining his motivations. You only have one story branching choice and the character will moan and whine unless you pick the one she's been leaning towards the whole time. It would be interesting if her choice actually affected anything, but it doesn't. You don't learn much
new information no matter which you pick. The idea that you have four hours to save the world, which essentially is the entire midgame, is rendered almost useless by the watered down argument of morals that follows your choice, and then immediately afterwards, everything comes to a climax. Compartively, a game like 999 makes 9 hours feel like an eternity in the game and out of the game. This game's rush to get to the climax makes it more chore-like than game-like.
In the final stretch, the game goes into a fantasy mode I don't quite understand. The main character spends her time either sulking or trying to be funny with her roommate, who makes very many lesbian references but doesn't follow through (you even get an achievement called Undertones for no real reason after the lesbian-esque speaking) and while there's nothing wrong with gay characters and they don't need to have a reason to be gay or anything like that... what is the point of highlighting it so much?
It ruins the end of the game because now whenever this new character comes up, she'll just be "the lesbian roommate" instead of "the roommate". Plus there's not much explaination on this other Earth, so they say a lot of things with no real explaination and people stop by and say things that make sense but it'd be nice to have more information. What's a Northwesterner? I guess they come from the Northwest. That's about all you get from the game. You have no real notion of space or time, everything's so divorced from the player that it makes the game boring.
To sum up: This game is not worth buying alone and definitely not for $5. If you didn't get it on sale, wait for it to go on sale, or buy it in a bundle when the other episodes come out. Don't buy this thinking it'll be a huge, twisting, moral quandry inducing story-- it's nothing of the sort. It's run of the mill and ordinary.