Platforms: Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Playstation 4, PC
Developer | Publisher: Apple Cider | Ratalaika Games S.L.
Age Rating: PEGI 3| ESRB Everyone 10+
Price: UK £4.99 | EU €4.99 | US $4.99
Release Date: 11th December 2020
Review code used, with thanks to Ratalaika Games! This is actually my first visual novel game, so let’s see what I made of it!
Story / Characters
The story centers on Auralee, who has always dreamed about becoming a knight. On one of her patrols she meets Kerr, an Earth Dragon, who is in a humanoid form and needs to complete a task to return to his original form. Another dragon named Ilmari joins them on their quest.
As the story progresses we learn more about these three characters and their relationships grow. Unfortunately, we don’t really learn anything about any other characters, like Auralee’s mother who makes a few appearances. The amount of dialogue is fairly limited, though.
Now the story is quite short (nine chapters), but there are a few moments where you’re able to make a choice that will influence the ending. To be fair though, there are only 3 possible endings that will determine your relationship with the two dragons at the end of your adventure.
Graphics, Sound, and Performance
The visuals are quite colourful, which adds a vibrant touch to this autumn tale. The charachters have several limited animations and there are some action scenes where a larger image moves across the screen to simulate movement.
There’s partial voice acting for all three main characters, though it only consists of exclamations, but is still adds some depth to the characters.
If you’re tired of pressing the A button to move the text ahead you can switch to Auto mode. And of course you can go back if you missed something, or skip large parts of the text.
It was short. I feel like the story and characters could have been fleshed out more. Though, I did enjoy the interactions we got. Replay value is limited, though, since the story is so short. I guess the closest thing I should compare it to is a book. And in that case it was okay, but not something I’d read again.
Verdict An okay visual novel with limited replay value.
Review code used, with many thanks to Ratalaika Games!
Vera Blanc is a series of interactive comic books with paranormal themes. Full Moon is the first of the series to make the leap to Switch – has it whet the appetite for the (hopefully) others to follow?
Vera Blanc is a rich girl with a secret – she can read minds! And yes, that is as cool of a mechanic as it sounds. She started out as a very clever, but very unfortunate young woman; a brain tumour put an end date on her short life. After a ground-breaking surgery – that I’m not entirely sure was legal, but I suppose money opens all kinds of doors – she found herself with this new ability. Instead of using it to get ahead in business, or take advantage of others, she decided to try and help people.
Cue Brandon Mackey, an experienced FBI-agent-turned-PI with a vested interest in less-than-ordinary cases. Rumours of a lupine serial killer lure the pair to a quaint town in rural Germany, where everyone seems to have a secret. Is the mysterious bombshell, Ava, more than she appears? Or could the short-tempered Mayor be behind the suspicious goings-on? In a paranormal-hued adventure where death is waiting around every corner, can you solve the mystery of the werewolf?
Vera Blanc: Full Moon was a bit of a strange one for me, story-wise. It reads like an epic adventure but plays as more of a B-movie thriller that somehow manages to be excessively corny and predictable, yet simultaneously amusing. Think along the lines of its-so-bad-its-good. I personally loved the story, finding it almost addictive and easy to consume in a single sitting. The characters were full of personality, and there was plenty of humour to be found in the somewhat serious adventure.
Vera Blanc is an interactive comic book, and a great way to spend an hour or so with a cup of coffee. Pressing A will advance the scenario, or there’s even an Auto button so you only need hands on the controller for making a choice or playing a minigame. These are the two progression mechanics.
Sometimes, you’ll be presented with a number of options and only be able to perform one, or make a number of choices. This may take the form of investigational options, such as examining different aspects of a scene, conversational options such as which questions to ask, or action options like hitting an opponent or running away. Depending on the scenario, this can result in a death situation, so save often!
Minigames consist of either spot the difference, remembering numerical sequences, hangman, or finding pairs of numbers. These are sometimes timed, and failing the minigame will result in a failure of the task e.g. if you lose too many lives during a mind-reading session, you’ll fail to decipher the message and lose the opportunity to attempt anything else. Again, failure can also result in death, so keep those saves up to date.
There are 2 final endings, and a variety of ways to die, so some replayability is available although there’s no way to track which endings have been achieved.
Graphics, Sound, and Performance
The old-school comic book art style gives Vera Blanc a lot of charm. I suspect the game would feel disappointingly corny and lacking in substance if designed differently, but the graphic design really pulls it together into an oddly nostalgic experience. If this were an actual comic book, I’d be buying it in a heartbeat.
The punchy 90s soundtrack keeps the nostalgic theme going, and had me bopping my head with a silly smile on my face more often than not. It switches up dependant on the scenario, meaning that the somewhat repetitive tune changes before it gets annoying.
There were no noticeable performance issues in either docked or handheld mode, though I wouldn’t have expected any considering the static nature of the comic strips. Also, although the text size was a little small in handheld, certain minigames were much easier – I accidentally quit out of a timed pairing game multiple times because I moved the control stick a fraction too far.
Vera Blanc: Full Moon is a relatively short game that’s full of cheesy character. Despite the charming art style, amusing characters, and perky music, I suspect it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. Breaking up a thriller comic story with kooky minigames sounds like a bizarre idea on paper that should ruin the entire vibe of the game, but it somehow works in this fun little interactive comic.
Verdict A quirky experience that shouldn’t work on paper, but has me eagerly anticipating a sequel.
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