Figuring I would check out Bionic Heart a bit while farming cards, I loaded up the game and started reading through the first chapter. Eight hours and 24 achievements later, I have to say I was pleasantly surprised.
Bionic Heart isn't the best visual novel I've ever played, there are certainly issues that prevent it from being more, but it has a charm that I wasn't expecting. The game's greatest strength is in the sheer number of choices you're given and the many branching narratives that result. Discovering them all and winding your way through different story paths is truly where the fun lies.
Our story takes place in the 22nd century, in a world that through some catastrophic event is perpetually shrouded in clouds and endless rain. The protagonist, Luke Black, works for a biogenetics company in London. It is this association that leads him to a fateful encounter with a bionic human, a meeting that will forever change his life.
OK, so it's sci-fi and a little hokey, but that's part of the charm. Some of the ideas are pretty interesting, such as the endless rain, foam meals (because real food is too rare and expensive) and Mars colony that I wish we could have seen more of. Other ideas are rather silly, but if you can shut off the part of your brain that scrutinizes everything for realism, the game is fun and easy to get into.
The artwork is polished and quite good compared to a lot of other English language visual novels. It's a bit refreshing to see a game that clearly isn't trying to pull off the manga/anime look and stands on its own. The character designs are detailed and interesting. And outside of a few backgrounds being a bit more sketchy than polished, the whole look comes together very nicely.
This visual novel has full voice acting, which is a big deal for a lot of people. I usually play with the voices on mute for this type of game, so I can't comment on it much other than what little I actually listened to before turning it off was pretty....bad. I know Winter Wolves doesn't have the development funds to pay for high profile voice actors, but the B-movie quality of voice work here really takes away from the game, and that's saying something as the game's premise is pretty much a B-movie.
My biggest gripe, though, is that the writing could have been a little more polished. Some of the endings had glaring typos, and the writing style was more casual in places than I felt it should be. I know this is probably a silly nitpick, but everyone calling each other by their first names, even people who have never met each other, drives me up the wall. Luke referring to his boss as Richard instead of Mr. Meier or just Richard Meier (and this is a guy who only met his boss maybe once before) just seemed so out of place and awkward, it kept pulling me out of the story.
Despite some of the issues, I really enjoyed Bionic Heart. I was lucky and picked it up in a bundle, but for what's here I feel the $10 price point is fair. Fortunately, there is a demo available if you want to try it out before taking the plunge. I'll definitely be purchasing Bionic Heart 2 when it's released. If it's anywhere as fun as this one, I'm definitely in.