Developer: Ratalaika Games
Platforms: PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Sersie X, PC
Reviewed On: Switch
Release Date: 12/11/2021
£8.99 £7.19/ $9.99 $7.99
On sale until 02/12/2021 UK 03/12/2021 US
Reviewed By: Keith Lavelle
Review Rush was kindly supplied with a review code
There is a place in my heart to see more and more games and visual novels tackle mental health. On both extremes and everything in between. Venus: Improbable Dream goes for the more depressing side of the spectrum. However, let’s see how well it does.
Take on the role of Kakeru, a depressed and anxious individual, who was born with a vascular growth on his face. He has distanced himself from everyone, follows his own routine daily and ‘wants’ to be left alone.
Worrying for his social development and hoping Kakeru will open up a little, the headteacher and his parents enroll him in a music club. As he used to play the piano. Reluctantly and awkwardly, Kakeru goes to the club, and has to play after a brief introduction. Even it has been years Kakeru, muddles through and decides to leave.
After leaving the club, Kakeru hears the sound of a flute being played and he goes to investigate. When he finds the source of the music, he finds Haruka, who turns and looks horrified. Causing Kakeru to feel it was his fault and his growth was the cause.
He does, however, go back and is introduced to Haruka, and learns she is blind and practices on her own as she is also self-conscious about being blind. They both become friends and go on a journey of personal growth and acceptance of their own disabilities.
Venus: Improbable Dream is a simple visual novel as the player will spend most of their time reading. And getting to understand the world from Kakeru’s perspective. The choice eventually starts that can lead to one of four endings. There are no bells and whistles on Venus: Improbable Dream. It’s all business.
The developers lean a lot in to the depression side of the story, making Kakeru not a fun guy to follow about for a few hours. I understand the way they do it and why he is how he is, but in the game world, it does not make for a good lead. He is written as if almost all the time he is depressed and down. There are no changes in his mood for most of the game. This simply is not true to the condition. However, I digress.
It would have been good to see the game from Haruka side. With her being blind and how she deals with the world around her and her internal thoughts. This could have opened the game up to tackle two topics at once. It might have made the game more enjoyable.
For me, who has depression a lot of the thoughts hit home and made some of the dialog hard to read. With it mirroring my own thoughts and moods. And I just wanted to shake him and not stop until he realised he was not what his thoughts are.
Venus: Improbable Dream is a weird-looking game with a mix of pixelated real life stills of toilets, corridors, street corners that we see too often during the game. And the cartoon like drawings of the characters within the world.
Overall Venus: Improbable Dream does a good job of opening the door in to the world of depression. Even if it is to the detriment to the overall enjoyment of the player. The narrative and its message it is written well, however.
Venus: Improbable Dream is a good game if you want to understand depression somewhat better. But with all media, this is only one perspective and does not represent everyone.