Genre: Adventure, RPG, Simulation
System: Nintendo Switch (also on Steam, Apple, Android)
Developer|Publisher: Winter Wolves Games | Ratalaika Games
Age Rating: EU 12+ | UST (Teen)
Price: UK £19.99 | EU €19,99 | US $19.99
Release Date: September 4th 2020
Review code used, with many thanks to Ratalaika Games
Story and Characters
I always enjoy visual novels. There’s just something nice about vanishing into a different person’s life for a while, and I’m sure many of us can sympathize with college life! Roommates is centered around 6 dorm-mates – Max, Anne, Dominic, Isabella, Sally, and Rakesh. Either Max or Anne, the two freshmen, can be chosen as the playable character; Max is a music-loving and outgoing individual, whereas Anne is a bit of a wallflower who’d rather spend her days with her head in a book than socializing.
Each character has a very distinct personality that feels as real as I’ve ever come across in a video game. There’s Dominic: the rules-happy head of the dorm, and all-around nice guy, with a secret love of MMORPGs. Isabella is a bit of a party animal, though there’s surprising depth to her if you pay attention to her story. Sally has a focus on veganism and health, not to mention her being a huge animal lover and occasional activist. Rakesh is the eccentric artist of the group; he often ends up covered in paint or in trouble for painting something he shouldn’t have.
The story follows your chosen freshman’s journey through their first year of college: from arranging their schedule to (hopefully) building a flourishing relationship with that special someone from the dorm. Some romance-able characters are exclusive to a specific player character, though not others; this gives the player some freedom when choosing who to date.
Roommates is a classic visual novel, with a few simulation elements. The majority of the gameplay consists of encounters in which A is used to progress the conversation. Occasionally there’ll be a choice to be made, which is done by navigating to the chosen answer and pressing A.
The simulation segment of gameplay is in relation to your schedule. Each week is split into 7 days, with 3 periods per day – Morning, Afternoon, and Evening. There is a selection of activities that can be done within these blocks, and each selection will result in the raising of one of the stats. These stats relate directly to romance requirements for various characters, so decide who you want to romance early! You can have a nap, do some studying or classwork, take on a part time job, or perform one of the leisure activities – every activity will use energy, and sometimes cost money, so keep a careful eye on your energy levels when planning. Five percent of your energy is recovered at the end of each day, and skipping events will restore an additional five percent. Having insufficient energy for a task will result in a reduced, or even completely negated, stat gain; this is something the game neglects to mention! If you’re struggling to get the romance you want, I’d recommend spending your first few weeks concentrating on raising the stats required for your romance, until the sum of the two equals 600, before moving on to other stats. It took me five play-throughs on easy to finally get the ending I wanted, so I learned from my mistakes.
Graphics and Sound
Roommates is lovely and vibrant, with a cartoon-esque art style that gives a lighthearted feel to the game. Whoever did the costume design had a blast I’m sure. Do yourself a favour, and play the Halloween event at least once. The majority of the time each character stays in a specific outfit, but they do occasionally change and the design is wonderful at keeping with their character every time.
The intro song is a lovely little head-bopper, but the background music does get a little annoying after a bit of playing, especially if you play the story through four times in one night like I did. Thank goodness for the skip button! Unsurprisingly, since these two games were made by the same developer, Roommates’ music feels very similar to Nicole. However, the character art is in a noticeably different style.
I can’t call Roommates hard, exactly, because it’s impossible to fail. There’s always an ending, just not necessarily the one you want. To achieve the ideal ending for a relationship takes a lot of concentration and perseverance even in easy mode. I can only imagine how difficult it’d be in normal or hard. I admit to feeling frustrated frequently, when I realized my stats were going to fall short yet again, but once I understood that the energy limitation reduces stat gain I accommodated accordingly. After that I finally breezed through to my desired ending, so it might not be too bad – I’ll replay it soon I’m sure, it’s just too enjoyable to leave alone for good.
While the stat-raising portion was sometimes frustrating, and the background music did occasionally become annoying, I found Roommates an enjoyable experience on the whole. I’m looking forward to replaying the game and hopefully reaching the ideal ending with every character.
The progressive stories are fun to follow and the characters are oddly compelling. I’m not sure I’d have paid £20 for it, but at the time of writing it’s on sale, so I’d still recommend giving it a go if you’re a fan of the visual novel/simulation genre!
Final Verdict: I like it a lot!