Genre: Lesfic, Interactive Urban Fantasy
Creator: Natalie Cannon
Publisher: Hosted Games
You’ve been bitten into a brand new supernatural underground. Congratulations! It’s terrifying and heartwarming all at once. In a game made by a queer woman and for queer women and femme nonbinary folk, this supernatural celebration of queer femininity takes you into the darkness and lets you own it. Use your compassion and sense of responsibility to make connections and fall in love. Or use your newfound fangs and claws to rip, shred, and tear through your problems. Is this the start of a satisfying, shape-shifting life full of romance, or the blood-soaked birth of a new deity of the forest? You decide!
Moonrise is a 49,000-word urban fantasy interactive novel by Natalie Cannon, where your choices control the story. It’s entirely text-based—without graphics or sound effects—and fueled by the vast, unstoppable power of your imagination.
∙ Play as a trans woman, cis woman, or nonbinary person; lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, or asexual.
∙ Date your nonbinary best friend, the ruthless Rogue leader, or the lycanthropic goddess amongst werewolves.
∙ Build up your Empathy, Bloodthirst, Snark, Responsibility, Uncanny Valley, and Defense to survive lethal encounters and protect those you hold dear.
∙ Pledge allegiance to the tradition of the Masquerade or the desperate, volatile Rogues.
∙ Expose the supernatural underground to the blistering light or keep their secrets in the deep dark.
∙ Embrace the feral monster within or hold fast to your humanity.
Full disclosure, Moonrise’s creator reached out to me to see if I would be interested in reviewing Moonrise. When I saw what it was about, I had to say yes. It ticked a lot of boxes for me. First up, it’s a werewolf game. If you know me, you know I’m a big fan of the fuzzy shapeshifters, and this topic will always get me interested enough to at least have a look at something.
That it fits the Urban Fantasy genre is a positive as well, as I have several shelves of UF books in my bedroom. Best of all though, look at that representation! The question is, do all these different potential positives come together into a cohesive, well-balanced release?
The short answer to this is yes. The story itself is an interesting one, with your character starting out having already been changed. That feels like a good choice as the act of changing someone feels more tonally horror than Urban Fantasy. What we have here is a setting and story style that will be familiar to any fan of the genre, and it plays out how you’d expect, with the added bonus of being able to affect the proceedings.
This is all aided by a supporting cast of characters that all play into the representation I mentioned earlier. On top of being able to pick a good mix of ways to identify, you meet people who identify in various ways too, whether it be nonbinary, polyamorous, etc. The representation is dealt with well, with the characters being out and their identities being viewed as 100% normal, just as they should be.
The romance is decent, though the word count means it’s a little less in-depth than you get in some visual novels. From what I could see, there are four choices for each potential romantic partner, with picking the correct choice increasing your closeness by 25%. Moonrise is designed to be a quick read, so keeping things simple like this works. The three love interests are all suitably different from one another, and all likable, so you will feel like you want to either play again or try to romance them all if you can.
The way I would describe this is as a choose-your-own-adventure novel with visual novel statistical mechanics. If you ever read the old adventure paperbacks, you’ll be familiar with the way it works: you hit a point in the story and make a choice as to what happens next. Much like I found with those books, I died. A lot. To that end, your choices do have consequences beyond social interactions.
The visual novel elements come in with the statistics. You have the romance, of course. But, you also have various other stats that will help or hinder you when you make your choices. This means that making a different choice on a subsequent playthrough can actually have a bigger effect than you’d expect. With a full playthrough taking about an hour, it’s not a big task to check out exactly what choices change things either.
What I like about this is that you can essentially play different characters on different playthroughs. Maybe you’ll ne casually snarky forst, then next time, you’ll be more reserved, for example. In that way, it takes an old style of book and uses the modern gaming equivalent to boost it in terms of depth. It is, essentially, a happy middle ground between old and new.
Overall, I really enjoyed this. The choose-your-own-adventure elements left me feeling nostalgic, and the visual novel elements added some depth to that. The story is suitably quick-paced, the characters are fun, and each playthrough feels satisfying. The shortness may put off those who want sprawling, multi-hour tales, but at its cheap price, I really don’t think there’s much to complain about. I give this an enjoyable 4 out of 5.