PEGBRJE: Destiny Fails Us: A New Life and Hallowe’en Forever

Slice of Life and a Life Sliced. Wait.

One has cat ears, one has a bow like cat ears and the third has hair sticking out like cat ears. Coincidence? I THINK NOT.

Destiny Fails Us: A New Life is an otome game (visual novel) by Strawberry Dagger Studios, a duo indie studio specializing in 3D otomes. Here players follow the life of Idril Ar’Feinel, a high school student in the fiction location of Moirai, that is struggling with school and boy troubles. Well, specifically one boy trouble in Vincent, her childhood friend (and my favourite dating sim trope, no shame) and biology class partner. After a possibly ambiguous introduction that had me reeling, Idril introduces the rest of the cast to the player from her friends to other classmates and the troubles they all may be having. Life gets heated during reportcard day, and that night Idril commits to starting a new life, whatever that may be.

Starting the game brings about the most interesting aspect Destiny Fails Us has: a tutorial for an otome. The last tutorial I remember properly was back in Arcade Spirits, mostly due to how they reflavoured the statistics page into more ‘arcade’ like wording. DFU on the other hand has Idril addressing the player directly to inform them of the numerous tutorials that they can choose between. One of the tutorials is directed at players completely new to visual novels and otome titles, while the other two are directed more at players new to this specific series which covers the stats and decision making. If players feel they are comfortable without the tutorials, they have two options as well to skip these tutorials: one that is formal and nice, the other oddly rude. It was quite a change to see such a straightforward tactic to teach players how to play, and sets up for future tutorial moments within the game such as the first time players are given four locations they can choose between instead of just two choices when talking to another. It doesn’t impede on any that know about this style of games, but is quite nice to see for anyone that might be visiting from other styles of visual novels.

Visual novel games live or die by their story and execution, and DFU is a bit of a slow burn if I’m honest. The very first scene through me for a loop, going against the grain and not introducing who Vincent was at all until later. Once the characters began to get introduced, the flow of the story took off running and that’s when the game started to shine. Character introductions and interactions start flying fast and furious, with hilarious over the top interactions between the boys introduced and the constant banter between the girls of Idril’s friend group. Each cast member brings their trope to the table and then amplifies it to the point of no return, between Alaska’s energetic nature turned nearly yandere for a single man to Brian the jock just constantly yelling at people all the time. They own their tropes and they aren’t afraid to use them to their fullest, and I found myself constantly laughing at the absurdity of the situation yet also feeling for characters I originally thought as average.

DFU takes its time to build up to the potential that it has within, and nails it’s tone and fun once it gets running. It’s got some bizarre clashes due to it being a Japanese-styled visual novel set in the U S of A, but that adds to the charm. While the 3D is a little odd at first, the animations and movement to add tension and motion to the scenes allows for more involvement for the player, and even the odd movements started to feel natural after some time. If you are a fan of otomes, by all means give this one a roll. It gives dozens of options and routes (with some questionable routes, if I’m honest) and lots of achievements to track your progress. Players new to the visual novel scene can enjoy it as well thanks to the tutorial, and can help anyone dive right in.

Here you can see me hopping to my death because I accidentally pressed X instead of C…

Halloween Forever is an action platformer reminiscent of the arcade days made by Imaginary Monsters, the developer title for Peter Lazarski, published by Poppy Works and featuring a soundtrack by Robert Mostyn. Players take control (canonically anyways) of Pumpkin Man, a pumpkin-turned-human animated by weird occult magics to discover why things are so creepy even if one of those ‘creepy’ things is the existence of said pumpkin. Nevertheless, Pumpkin Man vomits projectile candy at the various horrors, platforming over pitfall traps and defeating bosses in the hopes to find the source so that he man put this all to rest. Probably.

If players are familiar with a certain cult classic arcade title called Ghosts and Goblins, then Halloween Forever will feel familiar upon its start. Given an arcing projectile and a double jump, players will have to avoid dozens of monsters throughout the levels in the hopes of not getting swatted from the sky and fall into a spike trap. This also means that dying restarts you back at the beginning of the level, and enemy placement that is dense and unforgiving in certain areas, with a series of boss fights that may or may not end your entire run every time.

Unfortunately for me, Ghosts and Goblins was a game I got a taste of a few years back and haunts me to this day. It’s combination of 2D platforming and lack of forgiveness meant I could never ‘get good’ enough to get past the first level. Halloween Forever gives many more accessibility options, recognizing this fault in old style arcade games: they were designed to get your quarters. With the introduction of home consoles, this is no longer a necessity, so including accessibility features gives players the ability to play the game for much longer while not taking away from the difficulty. These updates include a ‘Friendly Continues’ option, giving players the ability to respawn at certain starting locations rather than at the beginning of the level, and a ‘99 lives’ mode which gives the player… 99 lives. Should’ve guessed that one, but it does turn off achievements so if you are unable to live with the thought of acquiring those sweet achievements, best not to turn that mode on.

Halloween Forever knows its audience and caters to them with difficulty shaped in platforming, enemy placement and constant motion. I can easily admit that I am 100% not part of this audience, and while I got farther than my Ghosts and Goblins playthrough that isn’t saying a whole lot. I improved drastically upon using a controller, as I found the M&K controls to be unintuitive for my brain as I kept mashing space bar to jump only to not. If you love these retro titles inspired by old arcade games, this is definitely one that you need to check out as it improves on Ghosts and Goblins-styled gameplay to allow for more fun and customization. I only wish this game came up during Halloween, but I guess it is forever according to the game so no loss.

Links are under this bold text.

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.