It can be hard to find good, queer visual novels. This March, I found out about this game jam on Itch.io called #ResistJam. Partnered with IndieCade, the goal of the jam was to resist authoritarianism in all forms. What made it different though, was that it featured workshops and talks on youtube about making inclusive and innovative games. Because of that, I found out about Queerly Represent Me, which is a site that catalogs every game that has queer representation. While I made a simple twine about self-care and drinking tea, a lot of people involved in the jam made a lot of cool and innovative games that involved strong queer representation. Because of that, when I’m looking for a cool and interesting story motivated game, I try to find games with the best representation possible. I like to start my search on Itch.io. There are a lot of creators on there and I love that there’s a lot of experimentation and bolder use of game mechanics that I see in other places.
That’s how I ended up on Itch.io last night. I’m in love with VA-11 Hall-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action because of the relaxing quality of the game, the strength of the narrative, and the amazing art. In the same vein, I was looking for some cute, female-protagonist-driven, and queer-if-possible games— Itch.io delivered. Maybe it’s because of the ongoing Yuri Game Jam, but when I logged in again, I’ve noticed a lot more games in that niche. Last night, I managed to play two games: Butterfly Soup and Mermaid Splash: Passion Festival and I loved them. That’s why they’re my two must-play game picks this week. Short, sweet, and queer— here’s a mini-review for each of them.
NOTE: Both of these games are FREE, but if you do pay a recommended donation you can get a PDF of art from the games and support the artists!
If you’ve been following my writing or my twitter for any amount of time, you probably know that one of my most rant-able subjects is Asian Representation in the media. From Tilda Swinton playing “The Ancient One” to how important Fresh Off the Boat is in terms of representation, ranting about yellow-face is what I’m passionate about. One of the best things about this game was that every single member of the characters was Asian and at least 3 out of the 4 main characters are queer. On top of that, there was the innovative use of group chats and text messaging, amazing art, and sharp writing to make this a great experience. Overall it is sweet, though there are some dark themes dealing with verbal and un-seen physical abuse from parents. There were so many references to memes, and this was just a very well written and interesting story.
Plus, you can expect screencaps like this:
That being said, if you’re looking for multiple endings or the ability to romance multiple characters, this isn’t that kind of game. It is narrative, but the choices you make moreso changes up the dialogue and jokes that are made, rather than the outcome. It’s more novel than choose-your-own-adventure and frankly, that’s fine with me. In fact, I think the story is great fodder for a film adaptation in its future. Overall, it’s sharp, with great storytelling, and a fun and meme-y way back to high school.
Mermaid Splash Passion Festival
Mermaid Splash: Passion Festival is just sweet— plain and simple. You play as Cici, a mermaid that just needs to figure out what skill she needs to hone and find her passion in life, but can still make time to woo other mermaids on the weekends. The game starts with an all too familiar crisis: Cici has a lot of hobbies but she’s not GREAT at any of them. She’s at a point in her life where she needs to decide what to be an expert in. As someone that loves writing, acting, directing, art, and that picks up new hobbies all the time—I know that feeling. I was also lucky enough to go to a college where I could be surrounded by women that in an environment where we could support each other. That being said, the subject of the game really resonated with me. Choosing between farming, art, dancing, and fighting, Cici works not only on her own skills but supporting other women with their passions.
It also provides something near and dear to my heart, scheduling your time wisely:
The art style is gorgeous and it’s about women empowering other women, so it’s an instant favorite for me. Honing Cici’s skills and getting her ready for the passion festival, while hanging out with each of the other women is definitely way faster that butterfly soup. While it takes probably 15 minutes to get through the whole game, there are 23 endings you could possibly have! I had a great time choosing different skills and different characters to woo, spanning ages from 24-43 and even different mermaid types like a shark, angler fish, cuttlefish, and sea slug.
If you want to explore lots of different endings and look at adorable art, with a POC queer protagonist, this game is perfect. Plus: as you play, she unlocks themed outfits!