Autumn’s Journey review for PS4, Xbox One, Switch

Platform: PS4
Platform: PC, Xbox One, Switch
Publisher: Ratalaika Games
Developer: Apple Cider
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No
ESRB: E10+

In recent months, any time I?ve ?played” a visual novel, I?ve had what I like to think of as the Language of Love test. By this, I mean that I apply one simple rule: is it more complex than that thoroughly terrible, completely linear visual novel? As long as the answer is ?yes” — and let?s be clear, that?s the lowest bar imaginable — then it can?t be wholly terrible.

Autumn?s Journey clears that bar, but only barely. It?s a fairly straightforward story about a girl who meets two dragons/boys, and the very, very short adventures that ensure. It features a whopping three endings, and given that none of them are bad, the whole thing is about as low-stakes as you could possibly imagine (well, not as low-stakes as Language of Love was, but again: that?s a super low bar).

Even if it?s almost totally lacking in ambition, however, Autumn?s Journey still has a few things going in its favour that elevate it above the dregs of the visual novel genre. For starters, the visuals mix it up every so often — while most of it is exactly what you might expect (the game?s three generic-looking anime characters sliding on and off the screen), every so often the game inexplicably switches over to make all the characters chibi. It makes no sense, but at least it breaks things up a little.

What?s more, the characters have a bit of personality, at least when you compare it to total schlock like Language of Love (have I mentioned how much I hated that game?). There?s Auralee, the lead girl who dreams of being a knight; Kerr, the more stereotypically manly dragon; and Ilmari, who comes off as a little less harsh. They?re all pretty standard characters, but they each have a slight bit of motivation to what they?re doing, which means the game isn?t all bad.

To be sure, that doesn?t mean Autumn?s Journey is good by any stretch of the imagination. But it at least achieves being middling, which is certainly a lot better than some visual novels could aspire to. In fact, couple it?s average-ness with the fact that it?s short enough that it doesn?t overstay its welcome, and you can see why, if you squint just right, Autumn?s Journey is totally passable.

Ratalaika Games provided us with an Autumn?s Journey PS4 code for review purposes.

Grade: C+