Visual novels have become quite a thing on Steam these days and Date Warp is another one of those games. It involves a good amount of reading (hence the term ‘visual novel’) and in my opinion isn’t really a game because it involves very little gameplay. But from time to time you play/read a VN that is worth your time, and Date Warp is just that.
Let me start by saying that Date Warp isn’t a long game. One playthrough will take you about 2 hours to complete. Did you see how I specifically put the word ‘one’ there ? That’s because the story isn’t entirely clear after you finish it for the first time. It’s meant be played multiple times with different choices every time. The developer has told me you have to compare the multiple routes to understand the whole story and that only by taking multiple routes you will unlock the true ending. Mysterious, isn’t it ? Well, it actually is. The writing is very good and detailed (but with an occasional typo), and each of the characters has their own personality. Because of this you should be able to empathize with most of them, or the main characters anyway.
I have to admit that I was hoping to see a different kind of story here, because about 1/4th into the game the game takes a different path, one that changes from 100% mystery into sci-fi (with still a fair bit of mystery, so don’t be disappointed !). I still liked the transition and I enjoyed the game way more than I thought I would.
There is a bit of gameplay integrated too, and even if you officially couldn’t call it that it’s what sets this game apart from other VNs. Occasionally the game will let you choose what to do and instead of just clicking on an option the game wants you to complete a small puzzle. You have a starting point and you have to connect the lines to the answer you want to give. It’s a system anyone who’s ever played a puzzle should be familiar with.
Visuals are quite important for a visual novel I think. You’re telling a story so you want people to connect with your characters. Unfortunately Date Warp has some mixed graphics. The graphics are sharp and have plenty of detail most of the times and the surroundings/areas are created with accurate details, but the characters themselves have, well, let’s say not-so-good designs (that’s one way to put it gently). It would be nice to see a VN with realistic looking characters for once but so far every VN I’ve encountered uses the same anime-style graphics. Which are usually fitting and don’t distract from the overall experience, as long as they’re drawn in a competent way. But no, I haven’t read tons of visual novels, so maybe I just haven’t looked good enough. Anyway, the character designs in Date Warp range from okay to good. They’re not bad, not at all, but they’re not great either. There are also a few animations here and there but nothing major and enough to give you a sense of looking at something more dynamic.
The music is subtle as are the little sound effects like thunder and rain. All that’s missing is voice acting, but that’s debatable. I, for one, didn’t miss it but I can understand if some people would.
Date Warp might not be the prettiest visual novel you’ll ever play but it’s definitely one with a lot of replay value. Its mysteriousness is what keeps it interesting and if you’re an avid reader you’ll definitely want to play through it several times to just make sense of it all.
If you’re not into visual novels, or at least not that much, then Date Warp would be a good starting point. It’s small enough so that anyone can finish it and you’ll instantly know if this genre is for you.
I am gladly recommending this in any case.