Thank you Circle for personally providing me with a review code.
Parascientific Escape: Cruise in the Distant Seas has to be the most obscurely named game in the eShop right now. This is the first "escape" game from Intense to come to the West, and it looks to be the first in a series.
In Parascientific Escape, you play as 16 year old Hitomi Akaneno. She is a young schoolgirl born with 2 mysterious psychic powers. One day she receives a letter telling her to board a luxury cruise to find out what really happeded to her family. So with her best friend - 16 year old Chisono Shio - they both board the Idinaloq looking for the mysterious letter writer. Shortly after enjoying the cruise, an explosion is heard and Hitomi awakens in a locked cabin room. Investigating the room eventually reveals the 3rd main character in the story, Merja Amabishi. She is the daughter of the CEO of Amabishi, a large corporation that specializes in "selling everything." The discovery of Merja kicks the story off as it's quickly revealed that a bomb has been attached to her neck. It's now up to Hitomi to find a way to deactivate the bomb.
After looking around and figuring out how to use the items she finds, Hitomi eventually creates an exit for her and Merja to a waiting Chisono. Chisono is then revealed to have psychic powers as well, hers being she can both read thoughts and speak through telepathy. Merja also admits to having powers as well. Merja can find people or objects anywhere in any given area. Chisono is apprehensive at first to help Merja, but Hitomi eventually convinces her that it's the right thing to do. With the 3 girls now racing to find a way to remove the bomb and escape the sinking Idinaloq, they run into Misaki Himekiri, a performer hired to sing to the guests on the cruise. After explaining the situation, Misaki joins the party to try and save Merja.
As this is a visual novel at heart, there are a lot of dialogue exchanges between characters. The character interactions are all well scripted, though some lines do suffer from mistranslations or incorrect structuring. They are minor and are easy to overlook or forgive. When not interacting with other characters through text boxes, you get to explore the rooms of the ship. This is done by tapping on anything that catches your eye. Hitomi will either ignore it or interact with it. Certain objects will require Hitomi to use her psychic powers to look inside things.
The 2 powers that Hitomi uses are Clairvoyance and Telekinesis. Clairvoyance allows the player to create small circular windows to peer into solid objects. Telekinesis is used to rotate or slide obstructing objects around. Clairvoyance is always needed before using Telekinesis, and this is how many puzzles are solved. When in psychic mode, both powers have a set amount of uses - displayed on the top screen - and these totals can be increased through finding "ether" hidden around each area.
The story is written so cleverly that I didn't see any of the twists coming. There's an immense amount of backstory given to all the characters, and by the end, I was attached to all 4 of the main characters. Hitomi's determination to save a stranger is admirable and the sense of friendship the girls maintain throughout the game is amazing. The humor is also worth mentioning. Though there is always a tense atmosphere, the humor between Chisono and Hitomi keeps things lighthearted and somewhat funny at times.
The music is nice and in some cases really kicks in and brings out emotions you weren't expecting to feel. I laughed, I felt anxious, and I genuinely didn't expect the plot twists halfway through. All the while the music helped to accentuate those moments. Admittingly though, during longer dialogue exchanges the music can get a bit repetitive.
The artwork in game is all well drawn and the 3D is well implemented. Nothing is really fully animated, but the girls do blink during conversations. There's also no voice acting, but this is to be expected from a smaller budget game like this. This was an ambitious game and I felt all the pieces came together to create a wonderful experience.
Parascientific Escape is a fantastic game. There is an incredible amount of depth to the character interactions. The story is deep and interesting but can be somewhat complex as it's a bit rushed in the beginning. The plot had me on the edge of my seat throughout the entire game. My only gripe is that even though there's an emphasis on quickly disarming the bomb, conversations just drag on and it breaks that tension of rushing. After all was said and done this game brought me over 6 hours worth of game time. For the 5 dollar price tag I fully recommend this game, simply to experience its well crafted story. Fans of the Zero Escape series will most likely enjoy this game as well.