Visual novels are an odd sort of genre. It’s hard to call them a game, yet at the same time, that doesn’t mean they are any less entertaining. It’s a genre that exists purely to portray its stories, using the game as a replacement for a written page, rather than a game using a story to explain why the player is there.
Analogue has an interesting format, and isn’t as linear as many entries in the genre. You are sent to salvage a colony ship which had been presumed lost, and you have to figure out what happened by accessing the ship’s logs. The entire story plays out via a remote connection to the ship’s computer. Instead of characters, you interact with the ships’ AI personalities, both of which are female.
While reading logs, they can mention relevant facts, which can lead to more logs being revealed. The AI personalities also react differently, and often ask you to make a choice, which can affect the flow of the story. They will often have something to say about certain log entries, you can choose to talk to them or ignore them and keep reading.
There isn’t much in terms of graphics you can really do in a visual novel, but the interface is easy to use, and fits with the setting of the story. The interface is minimalist and mouse driven, except for a few areas. The AI personalities are given a physical appearance within the game, drawn in an anime style, though they are not animated.
Without spoiling, I will say that the story is interesting, with some good twists and multiple endings available. It is an interesting format for a story, where most of your backstory and character information comes from secondhand log entries. I think this worked fairly well, and makes it feel less like the story is just being thrown at you. Generally, you won’t find all of the log entries in one playthrough; along with the multiple endings (five to be exact), this gives a bit of replay value and a reason to revisit Analogue later.
The game does introduce a romance mechanic: giving the different AI personalities what they want, or making choices that line up with their perceived goals, can lead to more cooperation and, of course, more log entries. However, choices do have a consequence, and working with one may sour your relationship with the other. The one thing that always turned me off of visual novels is how so many of them simply become dating sims; this wasn’t the case with Analogue, even with the romance options.
In general, I liked the story here and the nonstandard way it is presented. A single playthrough is only a few hours, depending on how fast you go and which ending you get. If you’re someone who enjoys science fiction (and stories that are more psychological than your typical “lets blast some aliens” cliches), you will probably find enjoyment with Analogue.
Pros: Interesting story, easy to follow
Cons: Relatively short