Compulsory Link To The Doxy Comic I Wrote (script/dialogue changed in places by Doxy): prismblush/hextech-hijinks
A choice-heavy visual novel by Doxy Games, and I’m going to judge it as one. Review contains spoilers. I recommend reading it after playing.
I have written a basically spoiler-free Good Ending walk-through over here: ocne/sweet-dream-succubus-good-ending-guide
FIRST TIME A SUCCUBUS HAS LET ME DOWN
The initial encounter with the jogging girl is rushed pretty horribly to get some more sex-writing in there and I think it would benefit from at least a reasonable response from the dude. There are no choices inside the section either, though that can likely be chalked up to the choice being made earlier. It’s not exactly a style of choice making I like, where single choices spiral out long scenes on the other side, but that might be an issue with the basic time frame and purpose of the games.
A girl saying “show me yours and I’ll show you mine” two seconds after meeting should at least get a cursory “I, uh… I don’t know.”
The game seems uninterested in building a narrative to support the mystery of what and who this girl is, and sadly slams the nail on the head over and over before the reveal. It tries to have its cake and eat it to by exploiting that the player knows it’s a succubus but the guy doesn’t. So it ends up with the guy going “MAYBE MY VITALITY IS BEING SAPPED SOMEHOW” after reading a medical textbook. He does everything but say “Musta been a succubus, gee willikers.” It’s a large issue with the narrative side right from the jump. It doesn’t seem to want to take the time to do anything. He finds a book about mythology and demons and says, “It might be a little crazy,” but the game has already winked and nodded at us so hard. It almost felt laughable. Like we were walked through choices we knew weren’t going to be useful while the game goes “HURR IT SUCCUBUS” and then goes “LOL, WE TOLD YOU IT SUCCUBUS.” It’s a core story issue, though plenty of people will tell me not to care. Nukige, right? Story doesn’t matter, right?
Well, in for a penny… The story has super minor changes on the few loops through the three-day run. If you choose to Run For It on the last cycle, you just get the “go jogging” scene without seeing the girl running past you. There’s no changed dialogue, it literally plays out the same as a day one morning run. You don’t know she’s a succubus, you don’t know her name even if you’ve learned all this earlier. This happens in lots of situations where the days were not written uniquely moving forward, but reused with a few extra lines here and there for some scenes.
It’s worth mentioning that the story also runs counter to our own stated interests as a main character. Avoiding sex seems like something we should try to do, but it is entirely unavoidable. It’s a nukige, so it’s worth forgiving, but the character never gives us a reason why he’s going along with it. Simple statements of motivation by the protagonist would help us be alright with his decision to go through with the sex. Giving up, giving in, her having a mysterious power over us when she’s around. But it’s none of that. Our protag doesn’t want to fuck, he’s not really being forced except at the movie theater, and we have no options. It certainly makes the mood conflicted after the initial desire to jerk off to the art wears off.
Which leads into my next point: Getting the good ending is obtuse and arduous because there is a complete lack of indicators for what information we have or need. Likewise, the stated goals of the game (avoid giving sex to her/doing what she wants) means that if we find a loop that SEEMS to avoid giving her our semen, we’ll try to work inside that since it seems to be what the game wants us to do. The examples that come to mind are cumming in the pocket pussy, using a condom at the hospital, and cumming outside every other time while avoiding the movies entirely. Sadly, this doesn’t do anything.
By the time I’d worked out the way to the ending, I was not so much interested in the pornographic content and was mostly just frustrated at having to press the spacebar over and over to work through scenes I’d seen half a dozen times at least. I wanted to beat the game, but trying to avoid an early ending through life-essence loss meant missing things I might have needed to see. There aren’t so many options that it’s undoable, but you get more or less hard reset after three days. Removing this would have helped to that end.
I wonder about cut content since the original IndieGoGo goal really wanted voice acting, it also had some art showing Susu with what looked like a shackle on her neck. It’s possible that the game was cut down somehow. It was certainly very, VERY abrupt in the ending.
SEEMS LIKE ENGINE TROUBLE
It also doesn’t save progress at all. There are multiple ways to handle this with pretty much every engine. Admittedly the game is fairly short, but I can see a lot of good reasons to need to refresh or close the tab and it would have been a fairly minimal bit of extra work to anyone who knows what they’re doing. There are also none of the standard UI niceties like an auto button or a skip button. Just a hide-textbox function. Even a super basic HTML5/JS visual novel engine should make this incredibly easy to handle, but none of it’s there. The game raised $11k on IndieGoGo plus the $5-6k a month that Doxy Games Patreon pulls in. I’d expect at least a bare minimum interface. It doesn’t even handle text in the bog-standard way. If you click while text is scrolling onto the page, rather than put the finished line onto the screen, it just skips the line. Saying this is probably redundant for most readers of OCnE, but normally this should put the full line on the screen (and continue playing the voice lines, if there are any) then a second click should skip the line.
There’s also no CG mode. That’s actually unforgivable in a porn game. I want to see the CGs I’ve unlocked. It’s basic. It’s what we’re playing for in the first place in so many ways, especially with a nukige.
The background sounds and sound effects are sparse and generally ill-fitting to the scenes, moods, and tone. There is no music for large portions of the game, which makes it feel a bit awkward to play. No moans, no schlop noises. Again, these are meant to be somewhat disposable, I think. Made by as small a team as Doxy can manage (possibly just himself), so maybe that’s an acceptable tradeoff for pushing these out more regularly in some people’s eyes, but even reused moans and sex noises would have gone a long, long way. And with tons of people willing to do erotic voice work for things like Gone Wild Audio (for free) it makes it a bit weird that seemingly no effort was put into voice of any kind. And the same for music. Surely there’s some royalty-free music, or someone willing to work on the cheap. Reuse would be fine.
This is all something I find relatively unacceptable considering the funding behind the game. It’s not a massive amount generally, but let me make a statement before I address staff size. Firstly, there are open source and free options out there which have the base functions I described at the beginning of this section. Keep in mind, they are 100% using a free, open-source option here called <a href=”https://github.com/y-lohse/inkjs/”>inkjs</a>. This is a web-based version of a scripting language used usually for Twine-like text-based stories, though obviously it’s easy enough to use it for visual novels.
That said, Ink is a barebones system, not meant for quick, convenient visual novel development and leaves the creation of a lot of the higher-level systems (Skip, Save, etc.) up to the person making the game. They likely went this route for future development with minimal concern on their part. The animations and shaders are drawn onto WebGL Canvases with pixi.js and the frontend calls functions from the Ink script to change visuals. That means the minimal UI development scripting was done by Doxy’s team as far as I can tell to tie the functions from the Ink script into the pixi transitions. This is probably getting a bit technical, so I’ll move on to my greater point.
There are plenty of options that are both cheap and usable for this that would allow for a better user experience. Likewise, their technology choices make “skip” functions a little more complicated to develop (though only mildly). Auto should be easy enough with the jQuery Simulate plugin they’re using to simulate inputs. In fact, it’s possible there’s an auto function in there somewhere, just no UI to expose it. TyranoBuilder is $15 and allows the exporting of browser-based games. It also has Live2D support. Unity has lots of options as well.
Couple the awkward technology choice with the lack of any effort put into the sound, it makes for a bad user experience on a ton of levels, especially with the need to replay scenes you’ve seen over and over.
DOXY DRAWS GOOD
The art is good, Susu is appropriately sexy, though the continuity of our penis is somewhat troubling, and I think underlies the base problem with this game overall, but more on that in the conclusions section. They’re well-drawn and that’s never really going to be a question with Doxy since he’s good at that part without question. It honestly does feel like a bit less love was put into the work than some of the comics seem to get, as far as coloring and refinement, but it’s a minor concern in the grander scheme of the entire game.
The backgrounds, though, are depressingly lazy. That’s something of a hallmark of low-end, who-cares kinds of games. The sort that, honestly, usually don’t have porn in them at all. The reason those games do that is usually lack of budget or the inability of the artist, two problems we know don’t exist here. I think the problem we’re seeing in this case is an unwillingness for Doxy to either spend the time making things look nice in places other than character art for Susu or an unwillingness to spend the money on a person to do that.
So as I was saying about the game overall. It doesn’t seem to want to be anything other than a lazy vehicle for a series of sex scene variations. It offers nothing even a cheap nukige should in terms of story or development of characters or sexual preferences, to say nothing of partner variety. It occurred to me when thinking about the entire package that this was actually, essentially, a repackaging of one of Doxy’s comics without the need for well-done backgrounds or visual interest. It walks through about the same length, padded by the description text, but essentially just offering you less visually.
I think to sum the entire thing up, it lacks cohesion or the feeling that anyone working on the product was genuinely creating something they cared about. If I were a cynical man (I am), I’d suggest that maybe Doxy got bored of the project and distracted by the dozens of other things he always has going on. He’s a busy guy and that’s a trap of his own design. While he outsources the lead writing to someone else, he is the artist here and the director. He could have insisted that much of the work be done to bring this project into shape.
Of course, this could be what was intended the entire time and it’s meant to just be somewhat disposable. It certainly has the feel to it. A project to be cranked out to sit alongside the comics with as much value in the depth of it, but I don’t think that’s what eroge should be, even nukige. This story could have been interesting if the characterization was done at all. Susu makes no attempts to woo us, we make no attempt to run away. There’s no player choice and the characters are perfunctory insomuch as they are characters at all, rather than just basic scene-setting stand-ins to get to the sex parts.
Group that with the bad sound design, lack of anything really going on, super stereotypical sex writing (“OH MAH GOD UR KOK SO BIG I LUV UR KOK FILL ME UP BABBY”), and you have something that just doesn’t really need to exist in this form. A comic would have been better considering the quality of the product. Maybe then it’d be easier to ignore the lazy setups and inconsistent story.