Developer: Orthogonal Games
Publisher: Orthogonal Games
Platform: PC, Mac
Release Date: December 10, 2013
Where to Buy: Steam
The Novelist is a game that portrays the struggles one has from the choices they make to try balance everything important in their life. This is a very mature game that anyone that has been in a family can fully understand.
The story of the game follows a family as they rent a summer house in Oregon. The family has chosen to rent a house so that Dan, the father who is struggling with his writing can hopefully find a way to fix his writers block. They are not alone in the house though as it is inhabited also by a spirit.
You play the ghost in the house that can shape the family’s story. By exploring their lives and understanding them you will discover there is much more struggling in the family than Dan’s writing. As a spirit you will help influence their choices and those decisions will have major effect on what happens to the family.
Dan will have to make choices on how to balance making time for his writing, his wife Linda, and son Tommy. You can imagine how hard it is to decide between your career you are passionate about, the person you chose to spend the rest of your life with, and the life you helped bring into this world.
What makes the story so amazing in The Novelist is how you slowly discover and shape the life of this family. The decisions aren’t easy but the writing is so good that you are drawn into their struggles and generally care about all of them. I thought it it would be easy for me to put family first until I realized how much important writing this book was to Dan.
You develop a relationship with this family even though you don’t ever talk to them. By listening to their thoughts and finding clues around the house do you get to better understand what each family member is going through. You will develop a connection to these characters and feel their emotions when you help influence their lives.
The clues you find around the house do a great job of telling you what is on my mind of each family members. When you read a journal or letter you have the character narrate it and the acting is done so well that I could understand their sorrow or joy in them.
The story and how you interact with it is what makes this game so amazing. I won’t spoil anything because discovering the story on your own is what makes it so unique. I can say this is one of my favorite interactive stories I got to play this year.
The gameplay is structured around telling a story. All the actions you take as the ghost are to better understand the family situation so you can help shape their story. Using the clues you find you will have to make decisions on how you will want to help the family during each chapter.
Navigating around the house as a ghost is not a simple of a task as one would think. You can been seen if you are just walking around. Though you can posses light fixtures around the house to stay hidden. Interacting with the other objects around the house will require you to leave the light fixtures though.
Characters that do see you will become suspicious of what they see. When spotted you will lose your ability to jump into light fixtures and your vision blurs until you get away from them. If you don’t escape that character will become spooked. Having a character spooked will affect the choices you are able to make with each character.
There are other stealth mechanics you will have to worry about. You will be able to cause lights to flicker so you can distract a family member. Some lights will be sometimes turned off so you will have to figure out how to get around the house without being spotted and find all the clues. Getting spotted isn’t too difficult but it does make you think a little bit.
Gameplay works well with the story since it makes you feel like an outside guest which you are. You are only experiencing this one part of this family life and barely know anything about them. Slowly you as you watch them you realize how important this trip is to each family member.
There’s also a story mode where you will be a completely invisible ghost. While this takes away from the challenge of the game it also allows you to freely explore the house and easily find more details about the family. This mode will make it so open minded non-gamers can easily enjoy the beauty of this interactive art.
What I loved about the gameplay was how through emotions I had difficulty making decisions. I wanted all outcomes to become good cause I cared about the whole family. No choices in life are really black and white and that is portrayed extremely well with this family.
The voice actors do an amazing job at portraying each family member. The writing really does a great job also making all the characters sound like a real family which makes them so interesting.
Dan and Linda both write and when you read their writing you will hear them narrate. You can hear the subtle difference in how they sound when they are stressed, sad, or cheerful. The detail in the writing is done so well that you hear them digress during a journal making you truly feels like we are in their thoughts.
When walking around the house the family talks to each other like any family would. They greet each other casually in passing using nicknames and little details like Tommy while drawing will ask his father what he thinks of his drawing. Choices made in previous chapters can affect how they interact in passing which sometimes can be detached.
The music for the game also fits very well with the setting. Since the game takes place in a peaceful summer home the music used is very serene. Listening to the music you felt like you were in a summer home away from all the noise.
Sound in this game is done extremely well. Not only does it do a great job of creating a greater understanding to the characters but also feel more connected to do what you can to help this family.
The art style is perfect for a game focused on memories and thoughts. The colors used match the tone of the story. The family moves around the house like any would sitting down to watch TV sometimes or looking outside the window to collect their thoughts.
The house itself looks amazing as it is placed near the ocean. It is a shame that we are stuck in this house but considering you are a spirit it is quite reasonable. The colors used for the sky outside when it is nightfall or sunset makes it understandable why the parents always love to stare out the window.
While the parents have writing Tommy has his drawings. His feelings are reflected through his art which is scattered throughout the house. Tommy is great at expressing himself through his art. I thought this was a very clever way expressing how he felt since he is just 6 years old.
Objects will start to slowly appear around the house as the story progresses and change from the choices you make. More drawings, newspaper clippings, or pictures will start appearing around the house. The house starts to feel actually being occupied by a real family with happy moments put up as a reminder.
Art in this story is done extremely well as it focuses on objects and thoughts to get its emotions across. The style matched with what the story was trying to tell set in a peaceful summer getaway.
The only criticism I can say about this game is that it a really emotional story telling game which isn’t for everyone. The story itself is something most if not all of us can relate to. Having to balance time for the things we care about most and still not having enough.
This a drama filled story about family and that might not be for everyone. There isn’t any action or fighting in this game which a lot of people who play games are normally looking for. Don’t expect super intense plot twists that has the fate of the world on the balance.
I would call this a piece of interactive art more than a game which isn’t a bad thing. Though like with any piece of art not everyone will find it beautiful the same way everyone has different tastes in music.
– Great Story
– Beautiful Art Directing
– Amazing Voice Actors
– Emotionally Engaging Game
– Not for everyone
This game does an amazing job on what it sets out to do which is to emotionally connect you to a family and give you very difficult choices on how to help this family. The struggles one has when trying to balance all the things that matter most of us was done beautifully in this game.
9 out of 10
I have to say that I completely understand what The Novelist is trying to portray and is probably why I enjoyed it so much. I too am struggling to balance between my career and my friends and family. That feeling of slowly becoming disconnected with the people that understand and support your dreams but become hurt when you start to neglect them isn’t easy on anyone.