It’s definitely been a long while since I touched a visual novel game and I kind of missed that, so to be honest I’m glad I picked this one up and it was actually quite good at that. However there is one thing I’m actually glad and it’s that Alone With You is not your typical visual novel game where you just read the story and pick answers and read more stories and pick more answers, rather than that you actually get to do stuff other than reading.
The story is … well, now this may sound a bit weird but the story is both typical and unusual. To summarize it and I will put a little *spoiler alert* note, basically you play as … I’m gonna call him Henry, because that’s how I named my character but here is the deal. You get to name your main character whatever you want and also, you’re not really gender restricted as well. The character’s model (which was awesome by the way) wears this ambiguous suit (and this adorable scarf too!) + a helmet, which doesn’t really give out the gender and I will go into details why that is a bit later. So you get to be a little creative here and actually choose how you want to develop your character’s personality (even if it’s not that extensive, it’s still there) and you get to pick your name and gender. So my main character was called Henry and as I mentioned for the purpose of this review I shall call him that.
So as I started, you play as Henry, a stranded colonist participating in a project gone completely wrong. Basically a bunch of people went to this planet to try and setup life for humans but of course things didn’t really go as planned when a rift on the surface opened up and completely wrecked Colony B. They lost communication with their primary AI (called AF4B/3B) so slowly the panic, mental stress and the collapsing environment killed them (and if that ain’t enough, the planet’s rough environment didn’t help either). Anyway, everyone died off, besides us and so AF4B/3B wants to help us escape the planet with the last escape ship left in Colony A, where we also reside for the majority of the game. In order to do so we need to gather supplies, set up a communication signal and try to power our ship so that it can last the trip or at least help us survive until someone picks us up from dead space (such fun are our odds). But of course we can’t do that by ourselves, since we are not qualified so the AI helps us by reconstructing 4 specialists to assist us in a holo-sim chamber. Each of them has their own area of operations and the AI tasks us with going around and gathering what we can salvage for the ship.
The story itself spans in the course of 16 days or 3 weeks (each consisting of 5 days + an extra one for the ending, which is day 16). There are 4 general places which we visit once per week, plus the occasional story related one time zones. Basically the main areas are Colony A (which is our base of operation), The Agro-Domes, Colony B, The Caves and the Comms Center. The great thing here is that each week we get to pick our course of play and decide ourselves where we wish to go each day. Also each week we get to talk to our hologram friends by visiting them in the holo-sim chamber and that happens on the day that we visit their working place. For example Leslie, the botanist, who was working in the Agro-Domes, we get to talk to when we visit said domes and complete the mission there. I like that the game gives you a sense of direction and then lets you take over with decision making. Also don’t think that just because we visit the same areas, they are not varied – oh no. Each week we go to a different part of the area and complete a mission and every time we unravel the mysteries of what happened to that area (well, we know what happened, but basically what I meant was how everyone died there).
Also each area has its specific set of collectables, which span over the course of 3 weeks, so when you scan everything and the last thing is always the corpse of the sim belonging to that area, the achievement will pop up. Even though some stuff are missable, for a first playthrough if you explore everything, which to be honest you have no reason not to, there will be no difficulty in finding them at all. I managed to get all 4 collectable place specific achievements + the extra one for finding all dead people. I know that sounds kinda grim (but to be fair the whole story is mysteriously grim, which is why I liked it so much), but collecting these things contributes greatly to the whole story by adding even more flavors to the main course. I always say that, as an achievement hunter, even if I collect them purely for collecting purposes, it’s nice when there is meaning behind the stuff you collect and you can actually learn from them more things about the game’s plot.
So on day 16 our story ends and there are actually … how do I put this … 2 main endings and 5 flavorful playthroughs. Does that make sense? So the game can end in 2 ways, which I will not spoil, but there are also 5 ways you can commit throughout the playthrough. As a person you go in and communicate to each of the 4 sim 3 times (that is once per week for 3 weeks), but also at the end of each week the AI provides us with a special simulation (I have to say that those are simply gorgeous) in which we choose with which sim to spend it with. So the ways you can play with this is (and here I mention the ambiguous gender of the main character) you get to choose which sim you kinda want to “commit to. Or of course you can be like me and commit to the AI (which is totally so adorable) and that kind of relates to one of the endings, while the other 4 relate to the other ending. You kinda start seeing what happens by me telling you this, but anyways. I like this. It’s not that much variety, but ultimately as a visual novel the game provides you with options and you get to pick what you wanna do and how you wanna drive the story onwards.
And of course, every story needs its in-depth characters and here I want to say good job to the one writing this entire thing. First of all you get to shape your main character by the choices he/she makes and how he/she treats the AI and the holograms and also how he/she reacts to certain situations or events. Also what I really liked was (even if it didn’t matter that much for the entire story), I could actively choose what my character likes, dislikes and what he was back on Earth and here and all of this is done while conversing with the 4 simulations. This was really great, because it gives the player with the sense of control – even if everyone is playing the same character, there can be some customization variety. And each sim that you tell these things to reacts a different way to all of them. Also when you pick them in the special simulation at the end of each week, conversations vary. Not to mention the 4 sim + AF4B/3B have so much personality depth and when you talk to them and you go and find out what they were doing and how they were reacting to everyone else and the things happening and every one having their own problems and struggles … so deep man. But that’s not all. The game sets up backstories for all 24 other people we find dead and we find them out by exploring the environment and the AI telling us about them more when we do find their corpse. This is what I like – that the game actually tries its best to set up every character so that they are not only random bodies for collectables, rather than characters with personalities and we actively find out what they were doing, how they were coping up, their relationships with other people in the colony (there were actually some really touching ones) and ultimately how they met their tragic fate.
As a visual novel game, I can state without any doubts that Alone With You can be carried solemnly by its plot, because at the heart of gameplay it’s basically a point and click (or rather press space) walking simulator, because this is all we do. It’s the same routine for 16 days straight: wake up -> talk to AI -> go on mission -> return home and sync data with AI -> talk to related sim -> go to sleep. Rinse and repeat with occasional different things you gotta do on special days, however as I said, I was enjoying the story so much that I didn’t really pay attention to this repetitiveness and also the fact that I could actively engage in choosing where I wanted to go on each specific day, helped out a lot.
Last aspect we gotta talk about is puzzles – and yes they are kind of a big feature in the game. To be honest, I love the way this game handles puzzles. It’s not your typical “go, find item A to unlock door B and proceed to area C”. In any case, the core of it is that, but it’s very subtle. It’s a visual novel … so generally you read everything that’s going on and pay attention, you don’t just space-skip everything. The puzzles, which were generally obstacles along the way or passcodes we had to find out or things we had to scan) were neatly hidden inside the storyline so people who indeed do not pay attention will never be able to solve the puzzle. In any case, the game does not really force you to pay attention rather than by providing you with an amazing story experience, the puzzle solving comes naturally, hence why I said it was subtly presented and also don’t be fooled by this, but the puzzles are (some of the passcodes ones) not as easy as you might seem. You actually have to not only pay attention but think and relate back to stuff you’ve found. But let me tell you why I, a person who sucks at puzzles, enjoyed doing this. I was thinking. The game actively made me think and critically solve problems for solutions. It’s not like it was when I played both The Room games, where most of the puzzles I solved completely by randomly clicking on things or just some random event triggering. No such randomness can be found here, you have to figure stuff out on your own, though I do admit I did cheat (of course I always end up cheating on puzzles in the end, because I’m just that dumb) one time, because honestly no matter what I could think I would have never even guessed that that could be the passcode.
Anyways, straight on to verdict. Alone With You receives my 8/10 straight on. It’s a nice indie visual novel and it took me straight back to my younger self, which enjoyed quite a lot of these types of games and I have no regrets in picking this game up. For the purpose of satisfying my achievement hunter self, I will definitely replay the game, but I bet with a bit of time, I would be able to enjoy it again and I can definitely recommend it to other people. The things I found lacking was at the core of gameplay. Like I mentioned it’s kind of a rinse and repeat model and some days not enough stuff to do is present when you just have to run around Colony A and talk to stuff 24/7. However, the story is engaging enough to provide for these things and again … story can completely carry the game on its own. I also did enjoy the unique original soundtrack, though I found myself unable to play the game on headphones, because of the music itself and all the SFX. However that didn’t really took away from the experience as a whole, when I turned down the volume a bit. I’m actually quite surprised. The game’s sound settings were in the middle but holy mother of hearing and music was it so loud. I chose to turn down my laptop sounds to about 15% so that I can stand this. And last thing I want to mention is the amazing pixel graphics. Those usually always take me back, because that was how games used to look (well most of them), but pixel graphics will always have a special place in my heart and I say that this choice was definitely not a negative one. Coupled with the gloomy setting of the dying planet and all the ruined facilities – definitely won me over.
Alone with you was review on PC