Chaos;Child (Vita) Review – Terrifyingly Great
Platforms: PS Vita (reviewed), PS4
Release: 13th October 2017
Price: 39.99 / 49.99
The Steins;Gate Visual Novels were some of the best ones of recent years able to deliver a funny but grim time travel story. Simultaneously, the creators of this well-known franchise created a little “spin-off” series, the Chaos;Head and Chaos;Child Visual Novels, both even got an anime adaption, yet the latter on never got a western release … until now. Published by PQube, Chaos;Child finally comes to the west and it´s brilliant.
Six years after the murderous events of Chaos;Head and the earthquake that nearly destroyed Shibuya, the murders begin anew. Taking place at the exact same dates as the previous ones, people die in terrifying ways. At the same time the mysterious Sumo Stickers appear throughout Shibuya, could there perhaps be a connection? Intrigued by the truth behind these events the high school student Takuru along with his friends from the newspaper club, begin their investigation and soon begin to unravel truths none of them would´ve dreamed of.
As the Visual Novel it is, Chaos;Child focuses completely around the tale of Takuru and his friends, featuring the very interesting investigations of the murders and the almost natural Slice-of-Life parts. The way it merges those two contradicting things into one giant, 40-50 hours long experience is truly something to behold. Each chapter being divided into a very mature part about a murder or strange events during their investigation and a typical everyday life part where the cast interacts with each other in a seemingly normal environment. However, they´re not clearly teared apart but tend to mix each other in rather surprising ways. From filming a boring school movie just to hear how a girl threatens Takuru in a creepy way, Chaos;Child can masterfully craft a story about cliché-y seeming students and a captivating thriller.
While these Slice-of-Life like sequences are kept fresh by constant references to the murders or thriller parts, observing the cast of mostly socially awkward high schoolers interact with each other can become a pain in the ass at some points. Personally, I´m not a huge fan of this genre and only really original adaption of it can still hook me. Unfortunately, Chaos;Child lacks real creativity in them because the whole “core” cast consists of very cliché-y characters like the cheerful girl or nerdy friend. Only later on the game sacrifices time to truly characterize them. Especially during the beginning the social interactions seem so well-known and foreseeable that I wished they were sped up instead of offering every character the opportunity to give its opinion, resulting in a length of 40-50 hours rather than 30-40, at least in my eyes. For people who like it, the game features plenty of opportunities to observe funny, silly or other stereotypical conversations.
Since Chaos;Child is a very linear Visual Novel, it implemented the so-called “Trigger”, in order to grant the player at least some imaginary power over the events. During various everyday life conversations it´s possible to activate one out of two different “daydreams”, the Triggers. Either being a more lewd or gruesome one they don´t have a lasting impact on the character but serve as a neat little feature. Especially since it´s the only way to directly impact the events in some sort they serve a way for the player to directly characterize Takuru, at least for himself. Is he thinking about how one of his girl friends masturbates or how she tries to kill him? That´s up to the player, which never knows what crazy events may happen.
Still, Chaos;Child´s biggest focus and strength is the surrounding mystery because it offers both, a captivating story and one of the best horror Visual Novels out there. On the one hand the murders are more than just “stabbed by a knife”-cases. A man who eats his arms is not something to take lightly and extremely effective to truly illustrate the horrifying nature of this killing spree. To tell it´s plot, the game heavily relies on claustrophobic, scary situations and events, heavily influenced by these well-known horror movies with students. Yet, instead of embracing these clichés Chaos;Child adds so much more to the mix.
The Sumo Stickers are probably the most powerful device of the whole story. Sticker shaped like two fat faces glued together, they already look terrifying, especially if they would hang all around the town. However, the way the game uses them to create disturbing moments, surprises, twists or simply tension is amazing. It mixes horror themes with an own supernatural spin, while stepping over boundaries but always granting much-needed breaks.
Another big part of Chaos;Child´s greatness is its presentation, being one of the most top-notch ones of recent years. Featuring probably hundreds of backgrounds, tons of expressions for the characters and a very unique, distinctive artstyle. Everything about it feels different, be it the honesty with its brutality or the well thought out play with light and dark colour palettes. Along the occasional little “puzzles” or very fluent pacing of camera angles the game uses nearly every device a Visual Novel can use and creates a truly horrifying experience. On the other hand, it´s somehow strange to have none of the Trigger sequences illustrated but the imagination can often be more cruel than pictures.
Chaos;Child is an amazing Visual Novel, in pretty much all aspects. It offers a captivating, fast paced thriller, infused with tons of horror elements and terrifying ideas. At the same time it never loses itself in clichés or formulas but has enough ideas to create an own universe with own rules. Naturally, during the 50 hours of playtime some aspects may become repetitive, yet the way it can even surprise at the very end shows just how great this game is. Just the long Slice-of-Life sequences could be a bit shorter, even though they serve as vital characterization points, most of them seem so dragged out, that their meaning is lost along the way. Still, Chaos;Child is without a doubt a story no one even slightly interested in it should miss out.
[A Review Code was provided by PQube]