Live Scream [Visual Novel Review]

Title: Live Scream

Genre:  Visual Novel / Point-and-Click

Developer:  Lightning Rod Games

Armed with nothing but your curiosity, streaming equipment, and insatiable need to impress others, you approach a long-abandoned house in your small town.

What could possibly go wrong?

Live Scream is a game that popped up on my itch.io recommendations and I was immediately drawn to its art style. The logo stood out and gave off a nice balance of spooky and all-ages fun. Meanwhile, the art itself felt to me like a mix between the modern look you get in shows like The Owl House and the old Monster Club comics by Richard Emms and Theo Bain.

The visuals remain strong throughout the gameplay too. The player character goes through a cycle of visible emotions depending on their fear level at the time, which is a nice touch given this is supposed to be a live stream. Meanwhile, the main screen is set up to look like a camera display with some nicely stylised background work and a couple of ghastly – but not too gruesome given the all-ages targeting – spooks that you can trigger.

The story is pretty decent. The basic setup is that you play as a streamer visiting a haunted house. There’s a nicely constructed backstory that you can draw points from if you make the right choices during your exploration too, and you have plenty of opportunities to play the tale out in different ways.

From a mechanical standpoint, my favourite part was the stream chat. What choices you make affect how fun the stream is for viewers, and they react appropriately in the chat window. There’s a good mix of viewers there too, ranging from fans to trolls. Seeing them respond to the choices you’re making is genuinely really fun.

The actual exploration is kept quite simple, in that you have a room with some clearly marked points to look at. Some will give you choices to make, others won’t, and the order you do things will sometimes trigger other events. That simplicity is definitely a strength for the game though, as this doesn’t need to be made overly complex by leaning too heavily into the point-and-click elements. To that end, it’s definitely more of a VN, and you won’t be faced with any convoluted puzzles that require multiple fetch quests and a bunch of trial and error.

Also worth noting is that the game begins with a character customization screen. You can change your intro, alter your names, pick from a set of three appearances, and you can pick your pronouns. That last point made me smile so much. It’s a simple thing to add, but it makes the game far more inclusive without making the inclusivity the main focus. In fact, the only way it affects the story is that the viewers respond appropriately by using the chosen pronouns. While some stories really do need the diverse aspects to be front and center, for this particular game, this was the right way to go for sure.

The game features a bunch of unlockable achievements, that run from triggering ghost activity to running a super fun or boring stream. That gives the game a good amount of replayability, as there’s simply no way to unlock them all in two play-throughs. It’s not an arduous task to do either, as you can play all the way through in twenty or so minutes while still hitting a good amount of story points.

Perhaps most important to note is that the game is being sold in support of the Toronto-based mental health charity, Across Boundaries. Given it can be picked up for as little as $2.99 too, you can essentially pick the game up cheap, knowing that half the proceeds are going to a great cause.

In terms of criticism, I honestly don’t have anything substantial to say here. If you’re going in expecting to be terrified or to have 40+ hours of dialogue with complex branching paths and multiple main characters, you’re going to be disappointed. The game page is very open about what to expect though, so this shouldn’t happen often.

Overall, I definitely recommend Live Scream. It’s spoopy fun in a visually appealing package with a good balance of interesting mechanics, replayability, and inclusivity. It’s a game that knows exactly what it wants to be and sticks to it, and I give it the full 5 out of 5.

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