Analogue: A Hate Story Review
A spiritual successor to the free game Digital: A Love Story, released in 2010, Christine Love has given us Analogue: A Hate Story, newly available on Steam for PC and Mac. This game has intrigued and terrified me positively beyond words. This, boys and girls, is my favorite kind of game: a game that asks you to think, makes you uncomfortable, and forces you to make quick decisions. Analogue will railroad you into doing these things if its the last thing the two AI units, *Mute and *Hyun-ae, ever do.
The reserved *Hyun-ae and talkative *Mute.
Analogue is incredibly unique, unlike any other visual novel I have played. It reaches new heights of storytelling and suspense, invoking curiosity and, ultimately, revulsion in the player. This is the sort of game I would give my child to teach them to read, if I wanted them to grow up to be completely axe-crazy. The imagery itself is not graphic; Analogue is very sparsely animated. The words and their implications, however, are incredibly haunting. It's difficult to elaborate about much of the game's remarkable detail and storytelling without ruining the game itself. It is the sort of game that will never be quite as captivating the second time around due to the intricate, reveal-based nature of the plot. Never fear, though: Analogue has five different endings, one of which requires serious thinking (or Googling) to achieve.
The protagonist is an unnamed archaeologist, sent to discover more about the fate of the ship Mugunghwa, which appears to have been abandoned for several centuries. The player is greeted by the data log program, *Hyun-ae, who first aids the player in a pseudo-tutorial. The player becomes a silent protagonist as *Hyun-ae explains that the text parsing on the ship is busted, meaning that the protagonist can only interact with *Hyun-ae and *Mute through binary questions.
Choose your next words with extreme care.
*Hyun-ae first assists the player in learning about the game interface and where things are located on the screen. The interface is very open and simplistic; the abundance of negative space makes it very easy on eyes that are used to flashing screens and constant motion. It never takes more than a click or two to get where you need to go. Because there is very little to interact with in the game, the screen is clean and open, with the majority of space devoted to the AI girls and to the reading material.
The story is revealed to the player through a series of notes, letters, diary entries, and data logs. Excepting one time-pressured sequence in the middle stages of the game, the game progresses entirely through reading the snippets of information, and showing the AI entries that you want to know more about. In this fashion, you learn more and more about the people trapped on the Mugunghwa, and how they all died in the year 322. As the player opens more letters and decrypts more records, the mood becomes darker as the sinister happenings on the Mugunghwa come to light.
The game's simplicity is really quite remarkable.
Both *Mute and *Hyun-ae act as normal humans would, though both girls constantly reiterate that they are computer programs and not human beings. That said, they both have their own distinct personalities, which evolve over the course of the game. For programs, they are both quite talkative and can get very emotional in response to journal entries and player responses. In this respect, Analogue plays a little bit like a dating sim. Each of the five endings has to do with taking someone back home, including an ending where the player heads back alone.
As I stated before, this is in no way a game for kids or for sensitive minds. There are brilliantly implied, key instances of sex and violence. In some ways, the descriptions of these events are more haunting than they would have been had they been played out visually. This game is for someone who wants to unravel a very dark, debased mystery. Every player will play through the same game, but come away with a different feeling. For me, it was the sort of game that had me revolted and horrified, but so entranced in the twisted plot that I couldn't stop playing. Any fan of dark mysteries of visual novels owes it to themselves to pick up this game.
After all, everything's better with multiple endings!
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