Make sure you check your sleeping bag, water bottle, and backpack off the essentials list because we‘re going camping, ladies and gentleman! Welcome to an overview of the demo for Complex Relations; it’s a visual novel that’s currently being developed by Amai Works. If you’d like, there’s a downloadable demo on itch.io.
JUST A SUMMER FLING!
Complex Relations has the sub-title of “a summer romance for three”. I admit that it certainly attracted my attention. Visual novels commonly have character-focused routes and finales. They also tend to have harem routes for those who don’t want just one waifu. Could this be a vanilla “choose-them-all type” ending? Or a more unique polyamorous relationship? Let’s find out!
SIT IN FRONT OF THE FIREPLACE!
The story focuses on a group of friends: Amber, Meredith, John, Jesse, Vani, and Alexa. We start it off with all of them arriving at Meredith’s house in the woods. They want to all enjoy a couple of days together before heading to college. Meredith and John especially want to spend time as a couple. Jesse – our semi-protagonist – was friends with the couple since middle school along with his ex Keira. Besides that, they’ve met the rest over the course of time. The cheerful and honest Vani and the shy, nerdy Alexa particularly stand out.
Jesse isn’t feeling great about this trip since he broke up with Kiera two weeks ago. Little does he know, however, is just how desirable he was among that group. The game shows the couple having fun as friends. Then there’s Amber complaining about the trip as our token goth girl. I really loved her design by the way. Finally, you see Vani, Alexa, and Jesse slowly hitting it off and getting closer to each other. They all take part in events like strip poker and boat trips to small islands. This all helps progress the game forward. It’s good fun for the whole family.
This feels like a good wholesome game at first. That is until Amber reaches her breaking point in the trip. Meredith feels sorry for her and the two of them, along with John, decide to head back to town and leave the others alone. So now, things are about to get steamy and it isn’t from the sauna. I won’t spoil it because I love the progression. The story is good so if this quite vague description left you interested, then go play it!
The writing is the main selling point for me. Complex Relations has writing that feels natural, just like friends talking about common topics. It even has acquaintances getting to know each other better in a way that made me immersed in the group. There were moments where it made me laugh, even if it probably wasn’t intended to near the end of the demo. Then again, that’s maybe just me being immature.
One aspect I truly loved was the shared perspective among the characters. It constantly switched between the trio of Alexa-Vani-Jesse, and you have choices to make with each of them. Although normally the important ones tend to be based on Jesse’s point of view. Being able to choose who you wanted as the main character in almost every scenario was a fun experience to me. I do wish more games did it like this. This game isn’t perfect, as Jesse still felt like the sole main character. That didn’t stop me from being able to see each character’s internal thoughts and becoming more attached to each one. That also has the side effect of hyping me up for the full game. I want to see where the shared perspective and great writing are gonna lead.
DRAW ME LIKE A FRENCH GIRL!
The art is nothing too extravagant but it is pretty and eye-catching. There are some good designs and great anatomy on the 18+ CG’s too. That took the art for me up a notch because it was really well made.
It’s worth noting that the original artist Hoshiineko is no longer working on Complex Relations. Instead ArcticFox (known for Cafe Space Angel amongst other titles) and Chark_14 (NSFW Link) will be adding to the work. Also available via the Kickstarter is a digital art book, showing some amazing-looking illustrations by a collection of artists.
The small details I enjoyed fell into the UI design. For example, I like how each character’s text-box is different and had small elements that connected with their personality and interests. That helped me remember what they enjoyed and who they were as a person.
WE’RE COMING HOME!
Overall, Complex Relations was a fun demo and something that positively surprised me. I felt it was gonna be a vanilla simple romance at first glance. The dialogue is fun, and the characters were quirky and kept me invested in interacting with them. The art was quality enough that in some moments it kept my eyes hooked to the screen. Putting aside the usage of tropes and a lack of voice acting, this demo accomplished its mission with me. I am super interested in checking out the full game when it comes out!
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Nick has been gaming for quite a while, a decade now! His first console was the DS but the first one played extensively was the Nintendo 64. He loves a huge variety of games, favourite genres include RPG, platforming, metroidvanias and visual novels. No longer a member of the NookGaming team, but still here in spirit. Follow him on @NickMendz.