Blake: The Visual Novel Is Totally Vin

Blake: The Visual Novel makes it clear what it is from the outset, and despite knowing of potential twists and turns, the narrative frequently delivered.

If you hadn’t guessed, Blake: The Visual Novel is a beat ’em up… “ha”. It’s a narrative-driven indie that follows the titular Blake O’Gartlee, and his descent into unknown territory where his whole existence comes into question.

It doesn’t take too long before our hero’s journey kicks in, but before that, you’ll going to be in the safe hands of tech giant ICC. Blake is a relatively new employee there – a perfect opportunity for some exposition, learning who your co-workers are, such as the hacker, airhead, introvert and so forth.

Blake The Visual Novel review - Camp
Camp. Source: Screen capture

Blake: The Visual Novel’s direction shifts as astutely as the logo design, and he (we) start to question Blake’s sanity without giving any spoilers. Is he who he says he is? Why are these events being tied to him? What’s the significance of his dreams, and why can’t he remember anything? Who’s the one-armed man? How come digital titles are more expensive than physical editions?

Blake: The Visual Novel Review

The brainchild of Ori Mees of LegendOri Productions, Blake’s tale started as a novel, gradually developing into a visual novel, fused with a graphic novel presentation. Hindsight is a beautiful thing and all, but this was the right decision as it’ll reach a broader audience. Besides, these whippersnappers seldom read these days. Making it an interactive experience is how to stay down with the kids.

That tone is a nod to one of the main characters, Jonathan. Either the year isn’t stated, or I missed it, but Blake: The Visual Novel is set in the near future. This isn’t cyberpunk, but androids exist. Still, the world is perfectly relatable other than a few choice words to describe the toilet (plumbers) and one of the character’s declarations of something being vin.

That isn’t a reference to man-baby Vin Diesel (though I wish it were), but a word that all the cool people say when describing something, erm… cool. Guess how old I am. Blake’s boss, Jonathan, likes the finer things in life, such as the feel of paper, neat whiskey and calling people whippersnapper. However, the reference to ‘mother’ as an archaic term was a bit weird.

Life, Illustrated

Blake The Visual Novel review - Socials
Socials. Source: Screen capture

There’s a bit of a mash-up with technology, but as stated, this isn’t a game to get lost in confusing innovations or needing a companion piece to translate the words as if you’re watching Rian Johnson’s Brick (if you haven’t seen it, seek it out). On that note, having your phone as a companion piece for one of the puzzles was a nice touch.

A few other interactions will occur during your Blake: The Visual Novel playthrough, but the core experience will be the story and, quite frankly, gorgeous visuals. It’s a little tricky to dissect the story without giving anything away, so let’s briefly talk about the pretty pictures.

This is the best artwork I’ve seen in a visual novel, and considering the talent out there, that’s saying something. Apologies if incorrect, but I believe the artists responsible are Diego Llorente and Adrian Stone. Do you know those ‘How to draw books’ or social media feeds of illustrators you follow and are always in awe of their talent? That’s these chaps. Do check them out/follow etc..

Though there’s a high calibre of talent involved with the tunes as well (including a track by Dan Le Sac – you may remember his from his work with Scroobius Pip), it didn’t resonate with me so much. There was nothing wrong with the score, but because I was spending my time digesting the dialogue and gawping at the visuals, the tracks would often loop and got mildly distracting. Each to their own.

Choices Matter

Returning to the narrative, there was a nice tempo throughout, with plenty of moments to question character motivations and second-guessing where we would end up. The actual ending felt a little abrupt. In no way would it get marked down for this (you know how I feel about scores anyway), but it put a damper on the experience purely because I was invested in the characters.

Blake The Visual Novel review - Refreshments
Refreshments. Source: Screen capture

While putting this review together, I noticed an update with the achievements – disabled in my initial playthrough. Feeling my life would be somewhat fulfilled by earning them, I replayed choosing options I wouldn’t usually go for (it works out that my initial instincts took me down the right path). It transpired that there were multiple endings, and your responses in dialogues do matter.

There’s scope for this character to develop, along with an early MacGuffin, too. As mentioned, the story ends just as it’s gaining momentum, but Blake: The Visual Novel doesn’t feel rushed and is well worth the play. The price is scandalous – £1.69 / $1.99 / €1.59, which is cheaper than a Big Mac meal, better for you and much more satisfying. 

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