Game: Charade Maniacs
Genre: Adventure, Visual Novel
System: Nintendo Switch
Developer | Publisher: Otomate | Idea Factory
Age Rating: EU 12+ | US T
Price: UK £44.99 | EU € 49,99 | US $49.99
Release date: June 27th, 2023
Review code used, with many thanks to Reef Entertainment.
The Other World
In Charade Maniacs, we meet Hiyori. She attends the last day of school before the summer break, and, along with her childhood friend Tomose, she notices a strange figure approaching. As everything turns black, tension fills the atmosphere, and upon regaining consciousness, Hiyori realizes she is abducted. Rumours about this mysterious realm and its live online streams circulated among Hiyori’s schoolmates. These streams had the power to grant people’s deepest desires. And now she finds herself in The Other World called Arcadia!
In The Other World, Hiyori is confronted by the strange figure who reveals that she has two days to make any wish she desires. Soon after, she is transported to a lodging where she discovers that she is not alone; her childhood friend and eight other individuals are also present. To gain points, which can be exchanged for wishes, they are compelled to participate in The Other World’s stream by acting in various dramas. Failure to comply results in a punishment game, a disconcerting consequence that deducts points from their tally. Finally, the Director informs them that a traitor, known as the producer, lurks among them, fostering an atmosphere of suspicion and making trust a difficult commodity to come by. However, if they hope to return to their own world, they must learn to collaborate. Will they successfully navigate the game and find their way home? The answer lies in the unfolding of their story, awaiting your discovery…
There is a whopping number of 9 routes in this game, which is a lot. These routes are split up into three teams. These teams are the information team, the cleaning team and the cooking team. It seems pretty self-explanatory.
Teams and Team members
The cleaning team: Tomose Banjo, Souta Gyobu, Ryoichi Futami
The cooking team: Mizuki Iochi, Keito Ebana, Takumi Haiji
The information team: Mamoru Chigasaki, Kyoya Akasa, Mei Dazai
The game is built up with a prologue, a common route, the common route of the team you pick, and lastly, the chosen character’s route. So there is quite a lot of story content to this game, which is nice.
As far as I know, there is no recommended route to follow. But I would advise you to leave Dazai Mei and Takumi Haiji’s route till last. Every time I would just pick the character I felt like doing, and this was the route that I enjoyed: Banjo > Iochi > Chigasaki > Ebana > Gyobu > Akasa > Futami > Dazai > Haiji.
He is the childhood friend of Hiyori, as often mentioned in Charade Maniacs. From the start, it’s very clear he is in love with Hiyori and can be a little too overprotective of her. Banjo goes to the same school as Hiyori and is a member of the drama club, so he is one of the few characters who have some acting under their belt. He likes to read, and his only other hobby is protecting Hiyori it seems. Sometimes his overprotectiveness got really annoying and just creepy. Banjo only likes to socialise with Hiyori and completely ignores the rest of the cast.
His route was a bit strange, he was very irritating at first, and then suddenly, he switched around. And I still don’t understand why he behaved in that irritating way at the start. Not my favourite route. I am also not a fan of the childhood friends trope, so that didn’t help. When he changed his personality at the end of the route, he had a hint of attractiveness.
Mizuki is the oldest of the group, as they are 24 years old; their hobby is archery and is also a very good bartender. From time to time, they will craft cocktails for Hiyori using fresh and special types of fruit. Mizuki is somewhat of a special cast member because no one knows what their gender is. This is often a topic of conversation in the game, but Mizuki likes to keep the other cast members in the dark. He is very intelligent and is often researching past cast members even to find the tiniest bit of information on how to beat the game.
I was a bit apprehensive about their route, mainly because in the common route, they can act a bit childish, but when you get further into it, you can see that they are the oldest and take the lead. Their relationship with Hiyori was cute, and it was a sort of master-apprentice relationship, which was something different, and I enjoyed it.
Chigasaki is the peace symbol of the house. He is a bit introverted and is just pure nice. Chigasaki always tries to be the voice of reason in arguments and gives his sage advice to Hiyori. His most awful skill is cooking; even when his crew mates try to teach him, everything just turns out awful. But besides his shy and calm vibe, there is a mysterious aura about him throughout the whole route. Chigasaki just kept acting strange. This is what made his route interesting and kept me reading.
I did feel like he was the male version of Hiyori. Which is why they got along so well. Their romance was really cute and I thought it was endearing. But they aren’t necessarily a couple that belongs together in my eyes. Also, his ending had some unfinished things that still needed to be explained, leaving me confused.
Ebana is another schoolmate of Hiyori’s. He is the typical Tsundere character and every character in the game calls him out for that. Being a Tsundere character means that he is very rude to people and says things to his crewmates that he doesn’t actually mean. Ebana is also one of the cast members who doesn’t want to be social and trust the other crewmates. He is sort of the lone wolf. He also has a dislike for females and especially for Hiyori. Even though he can be rude and has a big mouth, he is the mother figure of the group. His favourite thing to do is cooking and baking and he is always trying to make sure everyone is fed.
Listen, I like a good Tsundere character from time to time, but Ebana was just beyond rude. Granted, he did have his reasons, as we come to find out. But come on, some of the things that came out of his mouth rubbed me the wrong way. Ebana did get some redemption later on in his route when it is explained why he behaves the way that he does. But still not my favourite character.
He is a fellow schoolmate of Hiyori, but it is unknown in which grade or class he is. And he wants to keep this information unknown. He loves to play all kinds of games and is also a sort of IT guy because he is very knowledgeable about technology. Surprisingly Gyobu’s special skill is styling women’s hair in different hairstyles.
Gyobu is very cunning and makes people uncomfortable by revealing dark truths in any kind of situation, which brings everyone’s mood down. He is very intelligent and observes everything that is going on. I would think that, besides the producer, he knows what’s going on the most in Arcadia. This route was very good at keeping my attention. It had a lot more mystery and reveals than some of the other routes. Also, Gyobu himself was an interesting character. At the start of the game, I expected him to be my least favourite just because of his initial attitude. But I gotta admit that he did steal my heart in a couple of scenes.
The best and shortest way I can describe Akasa is a knight in shining armour. Or a hero to all. Akasa is always cheerful and social and is the unspoken leader of the group. Right away he takes charge of the group and spends most of his time investigating Arcadia and tries to collect as much information as he can about The Other World Stream. All so that he can find a way for everyone to leave Arcadia.
He is a soccer lover and used to play it himself when he was younger. This is also his favourite topic to talk about with Hiyori. Akasa’s route was pretty sad, more than some of the others. Because of his cheerful and chivalrous personality, I just felt sad when he was feeling down. But aside from the sadder moments, it was not the most revealing route for the overall story. It was fine.
Next to Iochi, he is one of the oldest cast members at the age of 24. Futami is in college, following an art major. He is good at crafting with his hands, and his hobby is silver crafting, so you will find him crafting rings or other silver accessories. In general, he is the big brother type, but can also sometimes be the creepy older guy who makes sly romantic passes to Hiyori. Right away in Charade Maniacs, Futami is the one that tries his hardest to speak with Hiyori and give her advice when she needs it. When he speaks, he is sort of like a moral compass. Futami was also one of the characters I was most excited about at the start of the game.
This route was so unexpected; it was such a wild ride. And I am still not sure how I feel about it. I often went from liking Futami to thinking he was just trash in a matter of seconds. Unfortunately, because of the spoilers, I can’t go into too much detail. But just know that this route gets interesting. What I will say about Futami is that he did steal my heart. I know that people who played Charade Maniacs must think I am crazy but what can I say? Sometimes I like the odd guys😂.
Dazai is the best male in the game, hands down. He is just so adorably awkward around Hiyori, and I think he can make the girls swoon just by being himself. Dazai is an animal lover but has a special affection, or you could say an obsession with cats. He even requests some cat pictures at the lodging and has them hoarded in a drawer. In the game, Dazai is quiet and doesn’t really put himself at the forefront; he is just a shy guy. From time to time, Dazai will give good advice when the need arises.
His route was a good read and did have me wondering where it would go. I also think he and Hiyori would be the best fit for all the other characters. Their personalities just meshed really well and I especially thought their shyness towards each other was super adorable. Two things to note about this route. The first, Dazai himself, was not seen as much in the routes, which was a bummer. And second, their romance was not fully fleshed out; I felt like I was missing a lot of context and was, at the end, a little confused.
Haiji is supposedly the youngest of the group; he is 12 years old and is attending elementary school. The other cast members find this to be strange because when looking at Haiji he looks to be around the same age as Hiyori. Haiji also acts childish and is a lot of the time clueless to difficult words the other cast mates use. One bigger issue is that he can’t read kanji; this will cause trouble in the drama scenes when he can’t read the script.
I wouldn’t say that this route was actually a romantic route like with the other characters (especially because Haiji is supposedly a 12-year-old boy). At the start, Haiji even calls Hiyori a big sister. So I guess it is more of a sibling love? This route was a bit all over the place; I think it tried to get a lot of information in but it didn’t really work. Also because this route was relatively shorter than others.
Visuals and Sound
Let’s start with the soundtrack of Charade Maniacs for once. Tokyo Logic provided the soundtrack for this game. And I have to say the soundtrack was incredibly fitting for the dramatic scenes in the game. It made every scene or conversation in the game so much more intense, and I absolutely loved it. Great job overall.
As for the visuals, they all looked good, so there are no complaints. But the cinematic scenes were few and far between. And the ones we did get often didn’t satisfy me enough. Most of the time, they kissed, but the visual showed an image of them just breathing in each other’s faces. Or the visuals didn’t seem entirely complete if that makes any sense. But like I said, the visuals overall did look good, and I enjoyed the art style.
At the start, Charade Maniacs gave me Paradigm Paradox vibes and I feared that didn’t bode well. But surprisingly, it was much more similar to Norn9 in a way. The game has this futuristic vibe and has the same number of love interests. The route build-up was also similar. After a few chapters, everyone splits into three teams, and the common route goes further from there until you get into the chosen character’s route. But for me, this game also has the same issue as Norn9, as it has just too many routes. 9 routes are just a lot, and I think if you are going to play the game, you would need to play it at a slow pace.
The game started strong for me. The story was unique and compelling. It is in the futuristic genre, and this is not something that we have seen a lot of before. It had a lot of potential, but in the end, there were just a lot of plot holes, and most of the endings were similar, making them a bit boring. The routes often weren’t about the streams, so that key element was glossed over most of the time.
What I will say about Charade Maniacs is that the concept is really interesting and kept me reading. The characters also had their own personalities and were well-written for the most part. And I should give a special mention to the cooking team in the game. They were a fun read, and they were my favourite team if we are talking about group dynamics. Iochi and Haiji were gaining up on Ebana and kept whining about wanting sweets. Which in turn made Ebana mad, but he made them anyway.
Would I recommend Charade Maniacs? Yes, I would, but take this with the information that there are plot holes and that the story feels a little rushed. In the end, it didn’t bother me as much, but I can imagine that some people find the plot to be super important. The game does have great qualities, like world-building, and the characters were appealing. For this reason, I would recommend it. But play it at a slower pace 😄.
Final verdict: I like it