MetaWare High School (Demo) is easy to overlook on the first impression. Scrolling past it on a list, it doesn’t stand out. It doesn’t look like anything more than a demo for a low budget visual novel. However, there is more to it than most would guess at first glance and it is actually a free visual novel, so there is nothing to lose by looking further.
The first thing to note about MetaWare High School (Demo) is that this is not a demo. This is actually a full and complete Original English Language visual novel (OELVN). Being a demo is the setting, which I’ll discuss while I talk about the story.
Story and Gameplay
Unlike many visual novels, we play as ourselves – aptly known as ‘The Player’. You can name yourself too, as well as choose your own pronoun and the characters will use this throughout. The meta in the title refers to what is a constant break or even lack of the fourth wall – the characters ‘know’ they’re in a demo of a visual novel and that you are the person playing the game.
You are greeted by some of the five girls in MetaWare High School (Demo). From here on, the story starts diverging into ten different endings. I was quite surprised to find that I had set myself on a path so early on. It’s quite different from most experiences, but it does make sense – it only took me fifteen minutes to complete the first route I tried.
You have quite a few choices and many of them matter in some way. For example, pronoun choice is not just for inclusiveness but changes how a certain character acts towards you. You can act in a fairly normal way, but some of the more interesting routes have you acting very differently to access them. Having to act in some very strange ways was a surprisingly great experience. I did enjoy how the story changed quite a bit in this way.
The fact that the characters are aware of being characters in a visual novel comes up frequently. One theme which comes up often is trying to tell the player about the game. That said, they expect the player to know all about the game in many ways, whereas they have some very limited information. They don’t even know the genre and spend their time arguing about it. One thing which does come up is them realizing the player may have already experienced the ‘demo’ before, which I found to be a unique twist on it.
While I hesitate to give too much story detail, both due to it being a fairly short game and the type of game this is, I will say the following about the story; you can play through a route and be laughing near the entire time. Despite the cheerful music and bright colors, there are also routes with far more serious topics discussed. These can get somewhat depressing to think about.
Personally, I enjoyed the more cheerful moments and laughed at a lot of the silly humor. With that said, I did find that I had trouble relating to the darker topics discussed. I didn’t enjoy the true ending either, finding it quite long and slow to the point it felt tedious.
One issue I did have, was that it became difficult to actually find the endings after getting six of them. Some of the paths were less obvious and not easy to get to just by making choices I hadn’t before. This did cause some frustration as I got closer to the end.
On the technical side, I noticed some stuttering occasionally. It’s quite odd for a visual novel to stutter on a top-end gaming PC. I did experience one crash, but keep in mind that I am playing a prerelease version – I am told this has since been fixed. There were also a number of typos or spelling issues, outside of a particular character who I would expect it from due to her unique style.
Graphics & Sound
The art of MetaWare High School (Demo) is quite limited. You only have very few backgrounds and sprites. It’s not particularly detailed. There are even some scenes with particularly bad art that the creator himself points out as an in-game note.
The artwork itself feels rather simple. It’s actually referred to by the characters themselves as a placeholder – though being a complete game, it’s actually not. Despite being simple, I quite liked how it was used. Even emotions were shown by changing the clean lines into something rougher at times.
Oddly enough, I liked it more than some more detailed work. It probably does help that this is a free game and in many ways, not a serious one, so expectations are not high.
The background music was quite cheerful and upbeat most of the time. It’s rather pleasant to listen to and worked well with the game.
MetaWare High School (Demo) took me approximately two hours to complete. That said, about an hour of that was playing and the other hour was searching the final ending using the skip function.
The concept is quite interesting and I found most of the characters to be likable. With the current free price or even at a few dollars, I have to say this;
METAWARE HIGH SCHOOL (DEMO) IS RECOMMENDED
If you would like to see more Visual Novels, you may be interested in our review of Cupid Parasite. Want another indie OELVN? How about Reimei no Gakuen? Or how about checking out some of the other top visual novels for this year on our Top Visual Novels of 2021 list.
Thank you to Not Fun Games for providing an early copy of the game.
Support High-Quality And Detailed Coverage
Want to support the cost of us bringing you these articles or just buy us a coffee for a job well done? Click the Ko-fi button below. You can even find some digital goodies in our shop~!
A gamer since the days of Amstrad and DOS and someone who has dabbled in a variety of professions. He enjoys a wide variety of genres, but has been focusing on visual novels and virtual reality in recent years. Head Editor of NookGaming. Follow him and the website on @NookSite.