When I first started VNs Now, I wanted it to be dictated by the readers as much as it is my own personal tastes. Because of that, I have played such fun and exciting titles like don’t take it personally babe, Locked In and Break Chance Memento. So chances are, as long as it isn’t porn, if I haven’t talked about it yet I will be dragged kicking and screaming to a project you like in the future.
This brings us to today’s topic.
After my review of The Buried Moon I was hammered on Twitter and Tumblr to review Night at the Hospital. And after a crazy night on Twitter that ended in the first official fanart/cuddling propaganda art we’ve ever gotten and another crazy night streaming the game with our intrepid reporter Will Wellemeyer, I myself have played the game and will give the people what they are so desperately asking for. So does this baby get cradled or stabbed to death? The answers are below!
The story of Night at the Hospital is not the story of Steve. That is made clear from the offset. This is the story of Frank: Steve’s best friend. In the NATH-verse ghosts are real and Steve and Frank have many adventures finding and battling said ghosts. One day, Steve calls for help on a solo mission in an abandoned hospital. So, fearing for his friend’s safety, Frank heads out to the haunted hospital to save him only to run into Luka…who is DEFINITELY not Steve.
Of the three routes NATH gives us, one actually attempts to tell a pretty somber story of death and infatuation with a little humor in the mix. For some it may have been sweet; for me it was just saccharine. Luka and Frank are not only not interesting enough to care the emotional weight the final CG was trying to pull off, but they barely show interests in one another, unless you count the cuddling options through the game along with the sudden TRAGIC ROMANCE turn it takes. I guess it technically is a BL game, so it had to get inserted somewhere. But compared to its sibling paths it really felt out of place.
On the other hand, as the live stream showed, the other two routes are hilarious. Nothing makes any sense and the endings come clear out of left field to give the game some sort of resolution. It isn’t anything uber-fresh or new, but the fact they it wasn’t being taken too seriously allowed for some genuinely fun moments: especially the cuddling end that was twisted and funny all at the same time. As for the aptly-named Possession ending, it was okay but ultimately since the game doesn’t care much about Steve, the audience doesn’t care much either.
Hell, some in the audience probably ‘squeed’.
So this isn’t quite ‘character-driven’ as much as it is ‘comedy-driven’. NATH knows its audience well and has no problem leaning on the fourth wall and pimping out familiar clichés for cheap yuks. Frank is a ridiculous meat head that spouts dialogue that will peel the skin around your teeth, Steve spins through emoticon faces like a chain smoker through a pack of Marlboros and Luka is the ever-popular wispy, smart ass tsundere. And it is funny for what it is without the nagging feeling of, well, wanting to be more than the cheap yuks.
And there is something admirable about that. So many games I cover on here reach farther than they can grasp and end up flat on its face. Night at the Hospital is a silly game about BL tropes getting locked up together. That doesn’t make it good; it just is what it is.
PRESENTATION & GAMEPLAY
Presentation is what wins the day for Night at the Hospital. The background art has a great feel to it and added a lot of small details as you dig deeper into the hospital that deserved a much more focused title tied to it. The character art is what you’d expect from the roulette wheel of pretty-boy anime stereotypes so there you go. However, they also carried small changes and details, mostly for Luka, which were impressive and added a nice touch to the overall feel of the game.
Gameplay is mostly stock standard with dialogue options guiding you down the necessary paths. However, an interesting addition to the game extras is that finishing a path gives you a password that will unlock journal entries from one of the boys. This gives a bit of back story to them, but while this mechanic could be used in other games, it kind of gets in the way of my good time. I’ve often talked about certain forms of entertainment that wants to be high-octane action or comedy, step on the gas for most of its running time and then pull off to the side of the road to try and discuss the importance of Plato’s Republic. It just shouldn’t be done and that’s what this feels like. We don’t need a back story here because, frankly, no one cares. We’re all just having a good time so while it may be a good move for future works, for now it felt more like a distraction than anything.
All three paths of this one can be knocked out within an hour and, as I may have subtly hinted during the course of this conversation, there isn’t much depth outside of the comedy. However, if it tried to go any longer than an hour its issues would have become unforgivable very quickly. So a single shot should do you just fine, unless you like to see Frank’s insane ‘I Want to Cuddle You Forever’ Face over and over again.
So, those hoping I was going to rip this game a new one are sure to be surprised. I cannot eviscerate a story that doesn’t exist, my friends. That doesn’t make it good by any means; we’re just in ‘So Bad its Hilarious’ territory. There are better written comedic visual novels by far, but for something developed in five days it manages to only fall in one trap and that is the Frank/Luka infatuation path. There simply wasn’t enough time to develop the characters in a way to make anything resembling an emotional connection work. And outside of that some minor trips doesn’t stop the comedy for very long, but other than that? Get your cheap yuks in, but if you’re looking for more than that move along: nothing to see here.