Digital: A Love Story

Love is really driving the whole ~computer interface~ gimmick into the ground, eh? I kind of wonder if maybe she’s good at writing monologues but just doesn’t know how to write an actual narrative and has become reliant on it as a quick way to skip writing scene transitions and time passages.

This game has basically none of the plusses of Analogue and all of the flaws, including thinking very highly of itself for being ~subversie~. Ohmygod, a person in love with a computer????  What could this mean??? No one has done this before!!!!

It manages to come across as both very proud of itself and very empty at the same time. Though I’ll give it this, it definitely made me feel like a 1337 h4x0r by the end.

I think I would have been more amiable to this had a played it before Analogue, though I probably would have been harder on Analogue then which would have been sad because it was really good. You could also argue that Analogue was the dev’s refining of the interface developed here, but the same type of gimmick is used in her other VN, so it makes me wonder exactly why she keeps doing this. It’s beyond thinking it adds anything to the story– in Hate Plus it seriously detracts– so I’m skeptical of the reliance on it.

Anyway, this VN can be killed in like an hour. It lacks the empathetic characterization of Analogue– it lacks characterization and, really, characters at all, really– and drives forward on a loose plot and some clever puzzle elements. If you have literally nothing better to do there’s nothing to lose by checking it out; it’s freeware.

The basic idea is you’re a kid with a computer and a modem in 1988, and you trounce around the 6-bit proto-internet chatting on BBSes and hacking shit. You strike up a back-and-forth with an AI named *Emilia, who randomly decides she loves you, because that’s apparently what happens in these games, AI constructs randomly decide they’re madly in love with the closest sapience after minimal interaction. Or IDK if you somehow taught your dog to interact with one, presumably it’d be in love with the dog 10 minutes later.

Anyway, one day the local BBS goes down, taking *Emilia with it. You have to find out a) if she can be saved and b) how to stop the crash that disappeared her from destroying the proto-internet. You soon find out you’re in an AU where a hyperintelligent self-aware AI spawned a bunch of “children” who live on the proto-internet and something is systematically murdering them.

The writing was solid for it was, but there wasn’t really anything to it. *Emilia didn’t have any kind of actual personality; I didn’t feel anything for her. You have a pittance of fawning emails from her and then she declares her love and I guess in-game you has nothing better to do so you see what’s up with her disappearance. She’s the only other character that could reasonably be called a character as opposed to like “plot-line spitting machine” or something.

The best part of this game was the puzzle element, where you had to use Programming Logic to work your way around the proto-internet and save things. The puzzles weren’t hard or complex, but they were satisfying in a Lite way. The insidious nature of the plot was pretty cool. I felt good about myself for saving the proto-internet when it ended.

That’s… really it. There’s not much to this game. It’s certainly not a “love story.” It’s just… there.

It did feel very… smug. I can’t quite articulate why, but it just seemed so proud of itself. For knowing about computers, for having an AI be self-aware, for the computer-interface gimmick, for having read Shakespeare, for everything. It just seemed like it was under the impression every little thing it did was innovative.

I just can’t believe the dev repeats this damn format again for “Don’t Take It Personally…”.

8 Comments

  1. SpoonyViking says:
    Is it possible the designer deliberately made the main character a blank slate so it would be easier for the player to project themselves?
    1. actonthat says:
      …is this a Twilight reference?
      1. SpoonyViking says:
        Not at all! :-) It’s just that there’s a sizeable number of players players (and more than a few old-school designers, too) who prefer for a game’s protagonist to be as nondescript as possible in order for the player to project themselves onto the character; something like the player characters in Final Fantasy I and Final Fantasy III.

        So when you mentioned only *Emilia was developed enough to be a character, I wondered if it’s possible that was a conscious choice by the designer in order to facilitate immersion.

        1. actonthat says:
          Well, yeah, obviously. You-the-protagonist is a role-play, as is usual in VNs. The other “characters” and their complete lack of anything was the complaint. Even Emilia lacked any real personality.
  2. Zephyr says:
    I don’t really remember anything about the ending, but I thought the internet penpals set-up for how you meet Emilia was kinda cute.

    Don’t Take It Personally is definitely terrible in a lot of ways, especially the skeevy teacher/student romance, and the ending is extremely smug. Can we expect a review for that one coming up soon, then?

    1. actonthat says:
      I do not have the initiative for another one of these right now (how is the the same computer-interface thing hoooooow), but it doesn’t seem too long so I’ll get there eventually.
  3. Ezequiel Ayoroa says:
    I played it 5 years ago and, thankfully, I missed most of its glaring flaws: It was the first game of CL I played so I didn’t get the smug feeling or the OS interface repetitiveness: I took it all at face value.
    I noticed the lack of personality of the AI but I just assumed that the MC knew her from before somehow, so I planned to ‘rescue her for his sake’ (my suspension of disbelief is foolproof)

    Long story short, I enjoyed it a lot. Hell, the MIDI track ‘It’s dark, raining, and the leaves certainly aren’t done failing’ still gives me the chills, even more than ‘Paperdolls’ God bless nostalgia googles.

    1. actonthat says:
      I think the too-fast, characterless nature of it would have bothered me regardless, but I definitely would have enjoyed it more if I was seeing all of the gimmicks for the first time. The plot/backstory was pretty cool and the logic-puzzles were fun.

      Though I played it with the sound off. /shot

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