Scream “Casual!” at me all you like, but I really do enjoy the art and play style of the visual novel genre more and more these days. There’s something sweet and simple about the medium, attacting both the gamer and the writer in me.
Thanks to Ren’Py and other open-source tools, indie devs making their own VNs has never been easier. I’ve already reviewed one such game, Love is Strange, by Team Rumblebee, and now they have a new VN out known as LoanWolf.
Our story takes place in a world populated by sentient monsters who live, love, and go to work just like human beings do. Laika, a werewolf who does Tech Support, has to contend with a terrible morning when she wakes up after going on another rampage induced by a full moon—and subsequently trashed her best friend Daphne’s greenhouse. From there, she has navigate the ins and outs of a weird day at the office, stressing out about the calls she takes and how she’ll ever pay off her student debt. Then everything changes when Laika makes the acquaintance of a succubus named Victoria, who shows an interest beyond mere issues with her computer.
As a romantic visual novel, LoanWolf is a story based on the player’s options. Essentially, you get to decide whether or not Laika ends up pursuing either her friend Daphne or her coworker Victoria as a love interest. And because it’s Team Rumblebee, this is an LGBT-only romance story, much like it was in Love is Strange. And because I enjoyed the heck out of their last game, I had to give this one a try.
By comparison, LoanWolf is much shorter, but no less creative. The devs did their research when it came to the different varieties of monsters populating the world; not just werewolves and nymphs, but kitsune and gorgons as well. Every character and backdrop has a certain organic flair that adds to the emotional weight of the dialogue, especially when you watch Laika’s sprite shift so quickly from a miserable frown to shocked with perked-up ears to a smooth grin. I also love how, both in Love is Strange and LoanWolf, the use of smartphones for sharing photos is a common mechanic. It’s a clever way in this game to show off more amazing artwork that isn’t simply another backdrop with two character sprites side-by-side.
If you’re a fan of the visual novel genre, LGBT romance, or just straight-up monsters acting like regular people, then there’s something to enjoy in LoanWolf. It has an endearing quality in its artwork and its dialogue, set in a world that we can all find a little too familiar.
The LoanWolf visual novel is free to play and available for download from Team Rumblebee’s official Tumblr page.