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Akari's Story Reviews
Reviewed by Sara Brookside (Reviews Exchange 8)
In this game, you play a Japanese teenager on a typical weekend day (in other words, no school!) I would place this piece of IF in the “slice-of-life” genre and the game does do a relatively good job of faithfully simulating Akari’s daily life. Unfortunately, that simulation can sometimes be a little bit pedantic in the sense that it provides little in the way of “escape value.” I wasn’t particularly caught up in the story or involved in the action, despite the fact that the world-modeling implementation was adequate. Along those same lines, Akari’s day lacked a sense of urgency or any clear goals. Accordingly, there wasn’t very much to command action or to require much of the PC.
The walkthrough reveals that the game ends after a certain number of turns… at the end of the day, so to speak. So, there is no real way to “win” the game, although there is a scoring system that awards points for certain actions. The walkthrough also revealed that I tried many of the actions that the author had in mind, while there were others that I missed completely and would have never thought of had I not read the walkthrough.
One of the most interesting aspects of this piece is that it DOES provide insight into another culture (unless, of course, you happen to be a Japanese teenager yourself!) Japanese customs and terminology and even dietary preferences are woven into the game, which is quite intriguing! The game also reveals a bit about what is important to modern Japanese youngsters… also neat to know. On the downside, this may have the effect of making the player feel more like a spectator than a participant. It is as if one is observing Akari’s life, rather than participating in it or living it, which makes the pace of the work feel rather slow at times.
The writing is rather sparse, in the sense that room descriptions are relatively brief and many nouns are non-examinable. Still, I didn’t note any particularly jarring errors in grammar or spelling, which certainly helped make for a pleasant reading experience in that regard. In short, however, I felt much as if I was reading an essay by a Japanese teenager about her life, rather than playing a game.
There are puzzles in the game and they are reasonably well-crafted, although certainly not complicated. I wish there had been more of a sense of payoff to successfully solving the puzzles, however. Because the problems posed were essentially of the routine, day-to-day variety, and there was very little urgency, it didn’t seem to matter much whether I solved the puzzles or not. The only real impact for doing so was the point value added to my score for performing certain actions.
The characters in the game were largely undeveloped, except for the PC. All of the NPCs felt rather static and cardboard to me, almost as if they were objects rather than characters. Conversation is minimal, except if you happen to guess the few things that the author has allowed you to “ask [character] about,” but this is not an uncommon problem by any means.
As for plot and story, both were a little thin. Without a compelling goal to spur action, the experience was much more like an exploration than an interactive narrative. Game play progressed smoothly, though, with little evidence of “bugginess.” There was an occurrence or two of “guess the verb,” but I found those issues to be relatively easily solved and certainly not game-stoppers. A reading of the walkthrough definitely revealed several cases of “read the author’s mind” and in each case, I had failed to do so.
In conclusion, this game could be much improved by augmenting descriptions to add atmosphere and capture the attention of the player, as well as implementing more variety and innovation in the tasks of the PC to make for a more compelling story line.
Overall rating: ** out of ***** for faithful simulation, fair puzzles, and cross-cultural value.
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