14 people found this review helpful
Recommended
0.0 hrs last two weeks / 14.8 hrs on record
Posted: Jun 25, 2023 @ 5:51am
Updated: Jun 25, 2023 @ 6:53am
Product received for free

Overview
Ziek and his long term friends Jase and Isla are college age teens with unusual cognitive talents which make them stand out from the crowd. They attend classes at a special educational facility solely for people like them; which also serves as a research institute secretly looking into this phenomenon. When a new girl Eris transfers into town and joins the class, their group of 3 becomes 4 and so begins their designs on discovering what goes on behind locked doors in the institute, why they have these abilities, and what can be done to stop them.

Ziek's own talent is that of the game title, Synesthesia, and for ease of understanding, he sees meshes of colours in places that either are or will become important to him. With Jase's ability to read emotions of other people, Isla's talent for advanced knowledge of what is about to happen (albeit only a few seconds ahead) and Eris' extreme intelligence taking precedence over her hidden talent, the teens are well set to conduct investigations. The group becomes expanded when Ziek meets the mysterious loner Maya, who just might be a figment of his imagination.. or is she?

In the classroom, early scientific theories expounded by their teacher Ms Keller can be somewhat cerebrally taxing, to the point that skimmers/speed readers are probably going to become lost over what is going on pretty quickly. The story does demand your full attention, so you should consider carefully if you are committed to observing the narrative carefully before taking the plunge. As the bigger picture emerges, theoretical expositions do become easier to follow, so even if you find it overwhelming to begin with but are enjoying the story, it's worth sticking at.

Graphics and sound
Overall the graphics are comfortably up to expected standard for the price bracket of the game. Backdrops range from straightforward to quite detailed, sprites blink and appear from different angles and look pretty good (apart from the diamond nose on two characters face-on, that looks so bad).
https://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=2994443307

CGs are great and some animations are impressive.
https://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=2994442998

All non-MC characters are fully voiced, and whether any of that voicing is synthetic or not really doesn't matter, they sound good and appropriate for the characters they represent. The MC is not voiced, which I know that some people prefer, but that decision does create an on-off experience with voicing whereby both protagonist and narration is silent but everything else is spoken. I wound up turning the music down (although, as I recall it was also above standard) because I wanted the audio to focus on the voicing.

U/I
The game scores very highly here. Aspects like a progress flowchart, character pen pictures (with graphic), in-story hyperlinks to reference explanations... is anybody else thinking Gilded Shadows? Honestly, if you're going to apply rarely seen features in your VN, falling in line with those seen in a genuine classic can only be a good call. When you consider that the main players in the story also have cognitive advantages, it would be easy to make yet another connection between these two games, but I can assure you that this is a totally unique tale; not a hint of merely being a variation of the other. You can safely play both without any sense of deja vu.

Saving and loading are accessed from the same menu button, and each individual slot has its own discrete button for each action. How many times in other games have you accidentally saved over a slot you meant to load? Yes, I've done it too. Clever design here makes such an accident far less likely in this game. Even tiny extra touches such as loading upon startup lead to the cursor moving directly to an option to load from the last save point. You don't even need to reposition the cursor. Little things like this add to player convenience, and therefore aid the overall experience.

Extras
The tips section (accessible from within the story in addition to the main menu) contains all of the reference descriptions in addition to the flowchart. This chart isn't solely to show you options not taken – there aren't actually a huge number of choices in game, but just enough to give the player agency – but as you progress, you will be able to use this to “jump” back to certain moments passed in the story and continue down a different path; thus lessening the chances of having to replay a large chunk of story because you didn't save at just the right moment. In addition to this, when you hit certain bad ends (and you will, but it's not a fatal game over situation), the game facilitates a direct jump back to the last divergence point so that you can continue down an alternative path. Nice.

Once you have been through all of the routes – namely Ms Keller, Eris and Isla, you will unlock the true route, and upon completion of this, you then gain access to brief epilogues of both female friends and “Maya” .. but not Jase. From a female perspective, although we're playing as a male MC (I did find both Eris and Isla to be so well rounded that I could almost progress the story as though either one was the MC – for a time, at least) I did find it a slight let down that Jase, as the best friend, felt more like a convenience character than a fully developed one. Then once through all of those, clicking the door on the main menu gives you one final extra sequence.

Verdict
Initially, do not come into this game lightly. It isn't easy reading for a half hour's relaxed session before bed. That said, as a well conceived and unusual story, Synesthesia unquestionably stands up very well within the visual novel genre and offers more than most of its competitors in the price range. Ultimately, the story trumps any romance, which means I didn't get the ending I'd have most wanted, but it isn't without some building of affection along the way; and with its strong storyline and set of interesting participants, it's a game well deserving of your library.

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1 Comments
Ceaseless Duality Jun 25, 2023 @ 6:16am 
:steamthumbsup: