PEGBRJE: Talk To Me and Backspace Bouken

This art speaks to me. I’m not sure what it’s saying, but it’s speaking.

Talk To Me is a visual novel created by Boop Studios, an indie studio focusing on creating realistic scenarios, and what could be more realistic than trying to meet new people? Step into the shoes of Ordell Harrison, a man in his twenties who has moved away from home and lives alone, hoping to finally get out in to the town and make something of himself after months of nothingness.

Talk To Me follows the traditional visual novel route of giving players options to interact with specific people, and then giving more options that may or may not assist in relating to the person chosen. Most of the choices while Ordell is alone are much more direct than I was expecting, usually listing out all of the individuals he can talk to so players can just decide one and begin the actual fun of interacting with another. Each decision made with another person reflects immediately on their facial expressions, so players can tell if they made a right or wrong decision without having to decode anything.

What makes Talk To Me so impactful is how raw and real it portrays both our protagonist and his uncomfortable interactions. Ordell has unfortunately fallen on hard times, with his mother passing and his inability to find a job, so his story begins with a leap of faith to just talk with anyone within a library. From here, players get a peak at how melancholic and apathetic his life has become from his apartment to the little dialogues with the few friends he already has. When he’s happy for them, his inner monologue expresses slight tinges of pain at just how happy they are and how unhappy he is with his current situation. When someone does something outgoing, he cheers for them while secretly wondering how in the world they could have done that. It’s an inner monologue I have had for most of my life, the little over-analytics always turning out information that doesn’t necessarily help in the current moment but causes stress. No moment was more of an indicator of this quite like when Ordell goes out with Evan, Anne and Gail to Club 131 and immediately becomes a fourth wheel. Nothing immediately happens, but I can feel the anxiety welling up from being uncertain what to do in such a social environment, and Ordell too tries to make a decision by gunning it for the nearest person he knows.

What this does is allow for Talk To Me to grow its narrative through these uncomfortable yet endearing interactions as Ordell learns to open up with others and finally embrace his new home town. Players can find love or friendship with each of the relationships they forge, but the important part is moreso that Ordell becomes a better person because of it, more willing to take risks and try new things. We can all see ourselves a little in Ordell, and that is what makes him such a fantastic protagonist as he journals his fears and excitements.

If you want a realistic narrative about simply talking with others, this is your own-way ticket.

Backspace Bouken is a dungeon-crawling typing game created by RNG Party Games, an indie studio operating in the United States. Based on the old-school Japanese dungeon titles, players will take on the roll of Kana attempting to cure their ill-ridden sibling by traversing the dreaded Tower of F8.

Blending two gameplay styles together, Backspace Bouken will have players using the WASD keys to traverse dozens of 2.5D floors searching for the top that hopefully holds the cure. Of course, the ‘owner’ of the tower known only as Furi does not give up anything freely, and hundreds of monsters roam the halls and corridors of the tower ensuring that adventurers do not survive or find the top. Upon finding one of these, a ‘battle’ commences in which players are given text spoken by both the enemy and Kana. Typing out each word will do damage to the enemy, increasing for every successful word with no hiccups. Errors can be backspaced, but as soon as the spacebar is pressed the word is ‘submitted for combat’ so to speak, and if it is wrong there are consequences. The streak Kana had going is immediately reset back to one, and the letters become more red — this is the timer that the player is racing against to ensure that the enemy cannot hit back. The sentence will becoming increasingly red over time before finally attacking Kana, and every word sent incorrectly will speed up the process. Finishing a sentence will reset the timer, so finish quickly.

Where Backspace Bouken is able to blend the two genres together is in its use of action economy. Currently this just sounds like a standard typing game with some fun exploratory elements, but Kana has something else to worry about; managing her ‘spaces’. At the top is the number of spaces that players have to work with, and running out of them means that the spacebar will no longer input anything properly which is a hazard for typing sentences. This can be mitigated by turning words into contractions on the fly (usually highlights both words in blue as a clue) but the true way of generating spaces is by finding signs. These signs act as witty guiding remarks for the player, and as a way of generating spaces by deleting the words on the sign. This renders the player unable to read the sign’s contents, but for every space deleted the player gains a space. These signs are scattered in all corners of the tower, and can be found through side quests and exploration to give the true dungeon crawling experience.

I may be a little biased when it comes to Backspace Bouken, as I adore typing games; I learned how to type thanks to a Spongebob typing game I got when I was little, and it has done wonders for me over the years. It’s a fantastic way of performing ‘edutainment’ as it were, and the incorporation of resource management helps to keep everything exciting as you dive in to new corridors. If you love typing games that can use the medium to its fullest, this is a great game to try out.

L i N k S

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