PEGBRJE: A Wish Upon A Star and Songs and Flowers

I don’t remember school being THIS convoluted.

A Wish Upon A Star is a whimsical puzzle game created by Fabian Denter, an indie developer based out of Germany that brought us the atmospheric ‘The World Begins With You’ puzzle game earlier in the bundle. This time around, players are a small child with big dreams, and hopefully they can be accomplished with a bit of help.

The goal of ‘A Wish Upon A Star’ is simple; reach the green circle at the end of each level in order to progress to the next. Thing is, the world seems to have been hijacked by the child’s mind, for it has become almost an MC Escher aesthetic of confusing passageways, staircases, and perception manipulation. Since our little protagonist cannot scale walls on her own, it is up to the players to create flat pathways across the terrain by manipulating the height of the blocks. They can be raised or lowered — unless the child is standing on it — to set up the pathways, or rotated if they are circular. Since the perspective is forced, the player will need to rotate the world with WASD in order to see some of the blocks hidden by others in order to raise and lower them to the currently required height. Of course, many of the blocks have limitations as to how high or low they can go, with many levels having some that cannot move at all. Being able to understand the limitations of certain pieces is critical to finding solutions, especially as new mechanics are added in to create more confusion. These puzzle mechanics can include hidden passageways, linked blocks (move one up, another falls), laser-activated blocks and even horizontal movement on tethers. It’s all to add complexity to each solution, even if many times the best solution ends up being the easy one that was written off early in the trial-and-error process.

This adventure is all in the name of curiousity for our little friend, for they have a dream that will not be deterred, no matter how difficult the puzzles or the life reflected in these puzzles becomes. They wish to achieve their dreams, and each level will showcase them getting closer to doing so while meeting friendly faces along the way that can help them. It’s quite inspiring in an adorable way, that even if the perception of one’s trials appears impossible the help of another can alter the path to success. Hopefully you’re able to be that other person, and get them to the end. If you love movement and block-based puzzles with a feel-good message, this is definitely one to try out. It will take a bit if you aren’t familiar with the style, but it’ll be worth the trouble.

Songs and Flowers is a visual novel created by indie developer ‘cowboy starshine’. As a new high schooler, Jazz has decided that she wishes to become ‘the informant’, the spy of high school that gathers information on everyone so they always have something to gossip and spread around. This position is also known as the side character that starts every protagonist’s visual novel escapade, so how does a visual novel about the first side character make them the focal point of affection?

As the side-character-centric protagonist, Jazz is aiming to be the wealth of knowledge and power that comes with knowing many and ‘assisting’ those around them. The issue is that she’s inexperienced at the craft, and needs to begin scoping out the school in order to gain information and solidify her position. It’s here that she stumbles in to two individuals that become the two routes of the game between Noct (a boy who doesn’t say much) and Carol (a boy who says too much). Both routes start more or less with Jazz hoping to utilize them to her advantage either through gaining information about them or learning new ways of gaining said information. It’s filled with little nods and jokes towards visual novel tropes, such as her complete lack of experience with video games but ‘I’ve done all the research prior’. Another is the fact that she is the driving force behind each route’s initative; whereas many visual novels have routes forming due to coincidences and the players way of handling them, Jazz immediately jumps at the first person who she believes has any secret life. She wants to know more about them, and most of the plot is progressed because of her insistence on doing things that will hopefully garner information.

Hilariously enough, it’s this drive that actually drives her to becoming the unintentional main character of the adventure; as someone who’s had the privilege (misfortune) of being this so-called ‘informant’ for a period of my life, rarely do those that seek to be the information gatherers end up being the side characters. Their drive is too strong, after all; can’t be that wallflower that soaks up information and is amicable with the masses if the masses are curious about their actions.

Nevertheless, Songs and Flowers brings this viewpoint to the foreground and runs with it quite well, taking it to over-the-top levels of nonsense as Jazz aims to become the greatest non-protagonist ever. Each route is full of their own secrets and emotional weights, and bonus points go to the fact that both routes can be platonic instead of romantic if you wish them to be. It can get a bit too absurd at times, but it’s heartwarming when it matters and that’s the important part. If you want a shorter visual novel with an eccentric protagonist that thinks she’s doing a fantastic job of being ‘sneaky’ then by all means grab this.

This ends page 23! Software will be up tomorrow as I'm currently prepping for DnD.

Game Dev who decided to take on the monumental task of giving an overview of all 59 pages in the bundle for Racial Justice and Equality. We keep going.