Review: Dysfunctional Systems: Learning to Manage Chaos

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Dysfunctional 01Developer: Dischan Media
Publisher: Dischan Media
Platform: Steam(PC)
Price: $4,99 USD
Release Date: April 4th, 2013

This is one of the several short Visual Novels being featured on Steam recently. Though I didn’t have high expectations for this game when I first started it, it turned out to be quite a good ride.

Dysfunctional Systems is the story about a group of individuals called Mediators. Their role is to interfere with other worlds and solve problems. The story’s protagonist, Winter Harrison, is training in order to become a Mediator.

Story
This game is the first chapter in the story. The game hasn’t dumped many details on the story’s setting yet, but from bits and pieces of dialogue it’s possible to try and piece together what the world those characters live in looks like.

It’s quite clear that this game is aiming to build a grand universe with diverse lore and it’s own intrinsic rules. This first, short game has only really scratched the surface of what the creators originally intended. At this point it’s really hard to gauge the scope this story will take, but it has certainly left a good impression on me so far.Dysfunctional 04

Gameplay
This is yet another game built upon the Ren’py visual novel engine. It’s a sturdy game engine that’s easy to work with for developers, and usually results in games with great performance. As with all Ren-Py games, backtracking text will rewind the entire scene, including music, sound effects, sprites, and animations.

The menus are very responsive and well animated. Visual Novels usually don’t require much setting, except maybe for text speed preferences. Dysfunctional Systems, however, has a setting that’s usually forsaken in Visual Novels: It allows the user to set the game window’s resolution.Dysfunctional 03

Regarding choices, I was surprised. I went back and replayed it taking different routes, and the story changed significantly. Not a lot of text was re-used. I was pleasantly surprised.

Given the good aesthetic value of the game’s interface and the good performance, as well as tasteful use of branching choices, Dysfunctional Systems earns a full mark for gameplay and UI aspects.

Sound
The sound overall is pretty bad and mediocre. The game has no voice acting. The game uses stock sound effects and the soundtrack had some thought put in it, but ultimately the whole is very forgettable. None of the audio aspects of the game left a good impression. Lots of space for improvement for future games.

Graphics
Definitely NOT the standard bubbly, visual novel anime style.Dysfunctional 05Dysfunctional 02

The art direction is aiming for a more severe and mature appearance. The colors used on this first game were primarily brownish and muddled. Perhaps on purpose, our protagonist looks out of place in the setting, even if only slightly.

Overall the whole attempt looks very, very western-looking. While the japanese/anime influence is obviously there, it’s a clean breakaway from everything that makes anime, anime.

Downsides
The story is setting itself up for a very grand setting, and I am afraid it might not be able to deliver it in the end. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if we never heard from this series again. I hope that I am wrong.

Overall

Good execution, great themes, awesome setting. Needs more attention and variety to the soundtrack. It also needs to get a second part as well.

Pros:
– Great Setting(so far)
– Interesting Artstyle
– Cheap

Cons:
– Too short
– Soundtrack comes short of the game’s other aspects
– Kickstarter funded game, no guarantees of when the game will be finished, or even if it will be finished at all.

The Reviewer has given this game a Final Grade of 7/10