Nicole review for PS4, Xbox One, Switch

Platform: PS4
Also on: Switch, PC, Xbox One
Publisher: Ratalaika Games
Developer: WinterWolves Games
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No

Over the last several months, Ratalaika have been focusing their publishing efforts on visual novels. While I wouldn?t say any of these VN have been GOTY contenders, none have been duds either, and there was even one I really enjoyed.

Nicole, though…Nicole is pretty bad.

Or, more accurately, it?s pretty taxing, depending on how you play it. One of Nicole?s innovations (at least as far as visual novels go) is that there are two modes through which you can approach the game: with “Stat-Raising Gameplay”, or without. If you play it without, it?s just a straight-up visual novel — you know, characters glide on and off the screen, you occasionally make a dialogue choice that impacts the direction of the story, and you work your way towards a good or bad ending.

Turn Stat-Raising Gameplay on, however, and suddenly you?re responsible for a whole lot more. You pick what the eponymous Nicole does every single day for four months. Do you want to go to the park, or go to the pharmacy, or go to the movies, or go to the library? Do you want to raise your Wit stat and study, or your Diligence stat and jog? Do you work and earn money, or do you shop online? None of these activities involve any more than picking an option and seeing how your stats change, but you still have to fill up the time if you want the game to move forward.

Oh, and at various points you interact with four hunks, and you try to woo them. This is partly a dating sim, after all. And, since it?s also a mystery, you have to make sure you avoid the hunk that?s also behind some disappearing women. Theoretically, you?re also trying to solve the disappearances, since your activities can also earn you clues, but they don?t really do much in the game beyond being a number on the screen.

Mind you, that?s pretty much everything there is to this game if you play Nicole in stat-raising mode. And, truth be told, it?s incredibly boring, while also being incredibly involving. At least with traditional visual novels, you can start skipping text when things drag. Not here, for the most part, since the game feels like it?s 75% chores, 25% dialogue. For a VN, that?s a terrible balance.

Obviously, you could just play Nicole as a traditional VN, but that feels like it?s missing the point — and, moreover, if you do that, it?s not like the story or the characters are all that interesting. Which means your two options here are to either read through an incredibly tedious novel, or add to the tedium by turning the game into a life-sim/visual novel. Whichever way you choose to play Nicole, one thing is certain: it?s going to bore you.

Ratalaika Games provided us with a Nicole PS4 code for review purposes.

Grade: D