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A Novel Idea - The Novelist Review (PC)

By Edited Dec 30, 2015 2 1

The Novelist asks one question, what are you willing to sacrifice for your own ambition? Of course, this game doesn't allow players to take the helm of a power hungry warlord, but rather a benevolent ghost who observes the family of three which moves into the house it is bound to for three months during the summer. The Novelist is a very niche game and many hardcore gamers won't care much for it. There are no zombies, no explosions, but rather a narrative on the decisions we make and how it affects those around us.

The family of three consists of Dan, his wife Linda, and young son Tommy. Dan is suffering from strict deadlines and writer's block on his novel, the novel he wants to be remembered by. Linda is an artist who is concerned about Dan's work-centric lifestyle and their own failing marriage. Tommy is struggling with coping about his father not having time to spend with him and being bullied at school for his learning disability.

the novelist

Players observe all this as a fly on the wall ghost that is bound to the house.  The game comes in two difficulties: Stealth Mode and Story Mode. In stealth mode, the family will get freaked out if they spot you so you must stick to zipping around by possessing light fixtures and staying behind the family members. While in story mode, however, players can roam around freely with the family completely oblivious to you. Regardless of what difficulty the game is set on, when players step out from the lights they can read the spotty thoughts of the family or enter their memories to watch. By doing this, over the course of three months (which each month is shown in three acts) the player unravels clues to discover what each player wants during that part of the story.

Dan may want to have a drink to stimulate his creative process like a generic Hemmingway wannabe, Linda may want him to stop drinking so much and go for a run, while Tommy just wants his father to stop being hung over and assemble his peddle car. While the player can pick one main choice and have a chance to compromise with another choice, someone is always going to be disappointed. The choices of who will get disappointed are never easy, providing the bulk of realism to this game. To watch your son mope and play by himself in the giant depressing house, to have your marriage continue to deteriorate, or having such writer's block that every word Dan writes seem like utter crap hurts in their own way.

novelist ghost

Players observe all this as a fly on the wall ghost that is bound to the house.  The game comes in two difficulties: Stealth Mode and Story Mode. In stealth mode, the family will get freaked out if they spot you so you must stick to zipping around by possessing light fixtures and staying behind the family members. While in story mode, however, players can roam around freely with the family completely oblivious to you. Regardless of what difficulty the game is set on, when players step out from the lights they can read the spotty thoughts of the family or enter their memories to watch. By doing this, over the course of three months (which each month is shown in three acts) the player unravels clues to discover what each player wants during that part of the story.

Dan may want to have a drink to stimulate his creative process like a generic Hemmingway wannabe, Linda may want him to stop drinking so much and go for a run, while Tommy just wants his father to stop being hung over and assemble his peddle car. While the player can pick one main choice and have a chance to compromise with another choice, someone is always going to be disappointed. The choices of who will get disappointed are never easy, providing the bulk of realism to this game. To watch your son mope and play by himself in the giant depressing house, to have your marriage continue to deteriorate, or having such writer's block that every word Dan writes seem like utter crap hurts in their own way.

 

 

the novelist read thoughts

That routine made me want to put down the game at times, however, I became so invested in the characters I couldn't stop. I had to see what happened next. While the routine feeling of the gameplay can be demonized, the addicting narrative can be praised.

Graphically, The Novelist is nothing special. It is downright average and designed in a Minimalist style which just makes ever disappointment even more depressing. At times it is difficult to believe that the writer and painter pair of Dan and Linda would live in such a sparsely decorated and colorless house, even if it was just for three months. Regardless, the graphics, or lack thereof, do further the ordinary nature of events and further the feeling of estrangement and isolation the characters begin to feel.

Overall, I went into The Novelist hoping for a game in which each and every decision has a specific effect. Hoping for a game that has something better than essentially the same ending in different colors like Mass Effect. The Novelist provides, but was this 2 to 3 hour game worth the $15 dollars I paid for it? Not really, which is saying something considering $15 dollars was a 25% launch discount. It has good replay value, but after one has put in maybe 20 hours to see every possible ending, there is no reason to go back. The game targets a very specific set of gamers as well, one that may not be too terribly big. It appeals to fans of decision based gameplay, but the repetitive gameplay can make it hard to swallow for those that do not particularly care for the narrative. For those that do get enthralled in the story of Dan and his family, though, The Novelist is at very least a decent way to sink a few hours.

The Novelist Amerowolf 2013-12-11 3.5 0 5
3.5/5
Pros Cons
  • Addicting and poignant narrative
  • An interesting idea
  • Decisions are difficult and thought-provoking
  • Repetitive gameplay
  • $15 seems steep for this game
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Comments

Jan 12, 2014 6:07am
vicdillinger
I would not only play this game but I would probably stay up until 3 AM doing it! Looks like something I would enjoy. Great article (though you have a repeated passage in the middle, 6th paragraph starts with "Dan may want to have a drink . . ."). Thumbin'!
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