Review for The Mind’s Eclipse
Stop me if you’ve heard this before.
The story begins with the (male) protagonist waking with amnesia in a foreign location where everyone is dead. He fumbles around for a bit before a magical AI appears (who just happens to be a slim, attractive female) to slow-drip the plot to him as he discovers what happened.
I know. So original, right?
It never really escalates from there either; A few simple puzzles here, some item collection there, a story twist you seen coming from the beginning, and voila! 4 hrs of time goes dribbling out of your ear after the convoluted mess of a single-choice, binary ending.
Attempts are made to flesh out the world and the narrative using tablets, kiosks, and pretty much anything with a screen. You will read snippets of news, diaries, and random conversations between people. Why a kiosk on a street would contain the transcript of a casual chat is beyond me. Much of their contents is just a recontextualization the same story points over and over. The rest is a regurgitation of discernible themes of everything from Shakespeare, to Dead Space, to The Matrix.
You will also find items left and right, but aside from filling up your inventory, all but a few ever do anything. They contain descriptions designed to fill in more of the plot, but players will have figured that out ten minutes in. I guess it’s for those who need to know just what percentage of the game’s total crap they have picked up.
TME’s design strays from the traditional Visual Novel format of talking your way forward. You travel from scene to scene mostly via maps, while occasional locations have hotspots that allow travel. Some areas require solving a puzzle in order to move on, and returning to that spot will require re-solving the same puzzle again to continue – a clear indication that the developer is new, and doesn’t really know what they’re doing.
Each new scene is a crapshoot of artistry; Will this image be one that had some time spent on it, or another quick scribble to get on to the next? No one piece stands out as something to shame the rest (aside from few colored pieces that are meant to), but there are too many that should have been scrapped and redrawn. You can argue artistic choice all you want, but bad is bad.
The game is developed in Ren‘Py; The engine that I used to create a trailerfor my book with, and therefore an engine I know something about. TME’s gameplay is static, and didn’t have to be. There are many things Ren‘Py can do to spice things up, such as transitions and animation. Cutscenes get some attention, but the scene-to-scene playthrough is dull and lifeless. The audio engine is also finicky, requiring you to work around its flaws, and TME suffers from not doing so.
Much of the audio is cut short or doesn’t loop correctly, there are also nasty spikes that grate on your ears. These are things that all could have been fixed easily enough as Ren‘Py is open source, and its community is very friendly. A forum post or two would have solved the technical issues the game has.
The soundtrack has a few good pieces, but it’s mostly forgettable. I don’t know if they are original or purchased, but I certainly would have chose differently. When there is nothing happening on the screen to capture your interest, all you have is audio. Don’t half♥♥♥♥♥it with something that just ‘fits’.
I wish there were better things to say about TME. I had higher hopes for it when I started, but the lack of polish and engaging story just make it not worth paying for. The most positive thing I can say is that it didn’t turn into a dating sim with the AI. Had that occurred, I don’t think I could have finished the game.
I applaud the studio for trying. My small project with Ren’Py took much longer than I anticipated, so I understand the trials they faced. The Mind’s Eclipse is a decent first attempt at making a game, and comparably better than many of the free Visual Novels available. With a better writer, a good director, and a technically-proficient programmer, their next attempt may capture the attention they wanted.
This was written by Mobeeuz