Recently I was contacted by Lina at Boop Studios about the demo for their upcoming game Talk To Me. I was told that it’s a visual novel with a cast specifically designed to be diverse, so it sounded perfect for what we like to support around these parts, and they have recently launched their Kickstarter campaign, so please do check it out for yourself!
Talk To Me is intended to be different. Not just because of its inclusive cast, but also because it uses the visual novel medium to give a deeper and richer story than can be provided by a standard format novel. It also uses the style of a dating simulator, but goes beyond the simple formula of saying or doing the right thing to impress your chosen love interest.
In fact, your goal in Talk To Me is fundamentally different from a dating simulator – rather than simply getting a significant other, this is merely part of your wider goal: to help the protagonist, Ordell, to navigate out of a spiral of depression. Being that I only played a demo, I wasn’t able to see what kind of ending for Ordell my choices would have led to, but I saw enough that I am extremely fond of him. He has a well established personality beyond his mental health and clearly has a determined streak propelling him towards self-improvement, so I’m glad that the game will equally lead the player in this direction.
Despite the demo’s necessarily limited options, I played through it several times. I was warned in advance that there are many branching paths and I was not disappointed! Talk To Me will eventually have 20 different endings – none of them the “bad” or “good” endings but each with their own nuance – but it seems that much can also change within each of these paths, so it promises a lot of replayability. Even within the demo, it feels like decisions have real consequences and I was invested enough even in that short time to explore as many of them as I could find.
Not all of the main characters are unlocked yet, but the two I did get to meet were Alayna and Evan. Both were intriguing characters that I’d love to get to know further. Alayna is a biologist, park warden, and animal activist trying to save the warblers (did you know forest fires are necessary for some species? It’s true!) and Evan is the smiling librarian that Ordell counts as his only friend in town – and Ordell can come to realise that his feelings go beyond simply friendship, prompting him to reassess his sexuality. And both Evan and Alayna have personalities and backstories beyond their relationship with Ordell that are worth exploring. With three other diverse main characters not included in the demo, no wonder the full game runs to 85,000 words!
These characters are also placed into a detailed and believable world. Boop Studios describes the location art as the “backbone” of the story, with each piece of art giving a sense of feel as well as setting. For example, Ordell’s bedroom is messy and demonstrates the limitations that his depression puts on him. That lonely slice of old pizza on his bed tells a story: too tired to cook, too apathetic to eat it all, too indifferent to put the leftovers in the fridge or throw it out.
Finally, the demo contained a couple of specially designed music tracks that work great as backing for the game, bringing in the focus without being distracting themselves. The full game promises to have many more tracks, and I can see the potential for them becoming a great new writing soundtrack for me.
I’m looking forward to the future of Talk To Me. The demo is available to play over on their Kickstarter page [though do note it has content warnings for parental death and depression], so do check it out if you think you might be interested!