Burn Your Fat With Me: Virtual Love, Real Fitness (for Girls)

   Burn Your Fat With Me! FG- screenshot

Because what motivates every girl to lose weight is, apparently, fat-shaming! (Hint: Not really.)

Burn Your Fat With Me is an Android and iOS app created by Creative Freaks, a Japanese gamification company with clearly zero girls testing their “for Girls” apps.

Known as, and hereon addressed as BYFWM for short, this game is basically an Otome Visual Novel that is supposed to encourage you to work out so you can shake off those love handles and get fit. Does it accomplish that, though? And does it work as a visual novel on the side?

Well…

When I saw this on the app store I figured, why not? I want to get fit, I like visual novels, how bad can it be? It seems to be pretty popular in Japan, there must be a reason why.

And it’s not that bad, but it’s also not good. I’d call it more of a great idea with rather poor execution as far as choice of wording went, because fat shaming, my dears, does not work for everyone and should NOT be used as a way to get you to lose weight.

The story isn’t great – you’re basically going through various guys that are “dream guys” that you will eventually need to make choices on to end up dating one. And yet, while they’re cute and dreamy, they’re also totally insulting towards you.

I’m not even kidding. The first character greets you with a very friendly (this is sarcasm, if it doesn’t register) call of “fattie” and shames you into losing weight. Huh? Wait, was this supposed to motivate me or make me want to slap someone?

Creative Freaks call this “moétivation.” (Because they’re “moe” and “motivating”, get it?) I call it “you call me fat once more you gonna regret it.”

Other than the poor choice of dialog and manner of approach to weight loss, the game isn’t bad. It’s a typical Otome VN, with typical options and a poor storyline – which no one cares because you’re there for the dating aspect of.

Adding the fitness aspect, the story guides you through either a certain amount of sit ups, squats or push-ups (in real life, too), or a certain amount of them in a set amount of time. Unfortunately, this is terribly easy to cheat on because all you have to do to make it count is tap the screen. Each tap corresponds to one full action (so, one full sit up, or squat), and the only cheat-prevention they have is a notice for you not to cheat because “you’re tapping too fast.”

You can’t advance chapters if you don’t meant a certain amount of these actions; this forces you to go into “practice” mode, where you can pick if you want time limits or not and, as long as you’ve unlocked it, which type of exercise you want to do. This gives you points (although in my experience so far it’s a weird way of counting them, as not all count all the time) which in turn unlock the new chapters. I suppose this is the part that makes you motivated, except you could just as well sit there and tap the screen doing nothing if you were really motivated for the story but not for the fitness.

I somehow don’t think that’s what they were going for, though. 😉 Meanwhile, you’ll still get insulted by the jerks- I mean, characters, regardless.

Onto the technical parts: the graphics are super lovely, the guys are indeed pretty cute when they’re not opening their mouths to insult you, and the voices are professional and so, so nice. You can choose between English and Japanese, and, of course (as with many other free apps), you can purchase additional voice packs and outfits for the characters to wear.

Now, I reviewed the app for girls because that is the one I downloaded (you know, me being a girl and all), but they have an app “for guys”, too (just look for BYFWM without the “for girls”), in which you can date girls. While I haven’t downloaded it, I have seen some of it and the app actually seems a lot nicer and encouraging for the guys. Hmmm. I wonder why (this is also sarcasm).

Overall, I really liked the idea of the game and the way it worked, and was ready to give it a high score even though the cheat prevention was quite weak. What really makes it lose lots of stars is the approach to weight loss via shaming, because that, Creative Freaks, is how eating disorders are born.

Recommended only if berating and shaming are encouraging to you rather than triggering, otherwise steer clear.

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Cosplay Maker

Developed by Locked Door Puzzle, who seem to like putting the sound that goes with their logo really, really loud; Cosplay Maker is a time management/dating sim game.

As the rather unoriginal but quite aptly descriptive name says, the game revolves around making cosplay and all the drama and things going on around it. The game starts with you at a convention (and you can’t customize a single thing about your character), getting all ready to start on the cosplaying world. You make two friends there, a cosplayer and a photographer, who you will (if you so choose to) keep in contact with during your gameplay and meet in future conventions, and they will in turn give you ‘advice’ and introduce you to other characters as you progress through the game.

You are able to anyone of your friends provided your friendship is high enough, a stat you will have to maintain by taking some “friend time”

This is the dating aspect, which if I’m to be honest I didn’t care to try. Why? Because the characters all fell rather flat and uninteresting, and I just couldn’t muster enough interest in the storyline.

The time management aspect of the game comes in the cosplay making part. Every so many months you will have conventions to enter, and in them cosplay competitions you can enter into in turn

In order to make your costumes you need to get ideas (unlocked by buying things, relaxing with some TV, socializing, etc), and materials (which you need to buy).  In order to get money for the materials, you have to work – which causes your “energy” to go down. Energy can only be recovered by “relaxing”. So far so good: it takes typical stats to do things, so you have to manage your time carefully.

The problem starts in the scheduling and continues to the very end

Your schedule is bunched so that Saturday and Sunday are bunched together as one big “Weekend” chunk, and your days are all bunched together in “day” and “night” of the week. You can not micro-manage day by day, which is absolute bullcrap for many reasons, the most blatantly obvious of them all being that when you get your costume to 100% completion in the middle of the week, you are still stuck “working” on it the rest of the week just because you can’t pause and modify the schedule.

Likewise, the rate at which you gain and lose stats, although manageable, is annoying and would benefit greatly from some micro-management choices

Once you’ve scheduled your day, you hit play and the week passes with a few repetitive, boring animations, but quite upbeat music. Despite the lack of interesting animations (you never actually see yourself working on the costume, you only see yourself wriggling your arms and head), the first couple of times you see this it’s alright.

After the first couple of times though, the slow speed at which the week progresses before your eyes is tedious at best, and though there are events that break up the week pop up (requiring an ‘ok’ to close, so that you can’t even go do something else meanwhile), most of the time they are a boring and inconsequential interruption. Such is the case of one in particular: “Another day of steady progress in your costume.” Geez, how… ground breaking. Can we speed this up, please?

What is more infuriating is that there is no way to skip or speed through the week. Okay, there IS a way, but you have to purchase it… can you see how ridiculous that sounds? How can something that should be in the game need to be purchased?

At this point I should mention that while there is a tutorial to the game, it’s a rather lame one, and mine got stuck for quite a bit, too.

Another annoying thing is that the cosplay costumes seem to take forever to do. I mean, seriously, I’m no seamstress and I’m pretty sure I could do something faster than this girl…

As for the rest: there is some progress and goals, the goals seem a bit far in between (from “make an outfit” straight to “win competition”) and the progress seems pretty pointless

It also seems you’re unable to sell either your old costumes nor your excess material (if you bought something by mistake, for instance). The variety style on cosplay outfits to choose from though seems okay.

That pretty much sums up all of the gameplay aspect. Moving on to the small technical bits, the game felt unnecessarily sluggish for something so 2D and plain. Sometimes switching from regular week to event seemed to take a bit too long, and the loading of my file or new costume ideas also took unnecessarily long. The loading screen also seemed to have no indication of just how long it’d take to finish loading, which was rather annoying.

The menu is plain, the music in the menu pretty bad, but surprisingly I found myself quite liking the rest of the songs on the game – all upbeat and fun. They didn’t seem to match the game a whole lot for me, but they were nice, up to the point where the same 3-4 ones started to play over and over and over on the week play through. Good thing I liked them…

The intro video was interesting and nice, but absolutely unneeded. The whole bright color scheme of the game with the fancy old style music seemed reminiscent of Persona, only it didn’t quite make the cut. The graphics aren’t the worst I’ve seen, but they are definitely not what I’d consider “nice” or of sufficient quality to match the price tag on this game.

All in all, Cosplay Maker seems like a very good game idea executed rather poorly. You do get some fun out of playing it and it can get a bit addictive to do just one more upgrade on a cosplay or one more outfit or one more week… but it’s not really worth the price to me in its current state. Basically the only thing you’re truly paying for here is the music.

 

Go! Go! Nippon! ~My First Trip to Japan~

 

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Game: Go! Go! Nippon! ~My First Trip to Japan~
Genre: “Adventure”, Visual Novel
Developer: OVERDRIVE
Publisher: MangaGamer
Release Date: Sept 30, 2011
Platform: PC / Played on Windows 7
Overall rating:  2/10 (for the idea and graphics)
Graphics: 9/10 (as far as anime art goes)
Controls: 9/10 (not that visual novels have that many controls… )
Level/Puzzle Design:N/A
Sound: 3/10
Story: 1/10
Playability/Gameplay: 0/10
Community: N/A

 

Review

I was actually pretty excited about trying Go! Go! Nippon! ~My First Trip to Japan~
The premise sounded interesting, the fact that it would tell you facts about Japan was also interesting, and I thought perhaps it’d be a fun little story that would give you some knowledge of culture and such as you played.

First, what I liked:
The part about Japan facts was interesting, not everything was new to me, and half of the stuff you’d already know if you ever opened, you know, a brochure for Japan or watched an anime… but it was still interesting.
The graphics were nice, background as well as characters were well drawn.
I loved the idea for the VN, and loved that you could actually have it with Japanese text too.
The idea of having expenses added was interesting, but badly done and underused.
I guess if you’re getting ready to visit Japan this would be cool.

Now, what I disliked:
While the graphics were nice, they were poor. Half the time you had sky shots with music/sound/text that would be like “Oh, the train arrives~! Let’s get on it!” like they couldn’t find the image of a train or something, which was slightly annoying. But I could overlook that, or could have, if the story had been actually interesting.
It wasn’t.
So you play as this guy who realizes is life long dream of going to Japan. Only unlike any normal human being, he makes no research whatsoever of who he’s actually going to be staying with (“friends” from Japan whom he never exchanged pictures with and he thought were guys but are really girls. Yay, score for him, right?… yeah), and just hops on a plane. Lets assume I can suspend disbelief enough to think this really smart guy couldn’t have found out before hand that his “friends” were really girls.
We move on in the story and find out that the guy whose long life dream was going to Japan has apparently never even watched an anime (or read about the place he wanted to go to), or even stepped foot outside his own home back in his country. He knows none of the basic things an anime fan would know, or that someone who cared about the place they so wanted to see would be aware of, or basics about the culture. Basically: he’s highly unprepared. He seems to even be amazed at the dumbest things (train, shopping mall, everything! Ooooooohhhhhhh, I’ve never seen a shopping mall before! – I grant you Japan ones are probably impressive, but probably not like this.)
Then, you spend most the novel on invisible trains. I say invisible trains because, as mentioned, you get most the time a sky view as the girls proceed to explain everything about how the train system works while you travel to and from places. And it’s not a lot of places.

All the while you’re supposed to “choose” one girl for the love story that’s behind all this… only you don’t really know which you’re picking (each girl shows you a different place out of the few that are to be seen, but you don’t know which girl will show you which until you’ve picked it).

Do I recommend this VN? Well… no.

If you want this for the culture shot – don’t get it, watch any anime instead.
If you want this for the hentai/ecchi – don’t get it, there’s none.
If you want this for the story – don’t get it, there’s also none.

Heileen 2 and Heileen 3


Note: Screenshots are from the official site, as I somehow managed to lose mine.

 

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Game: Heileen 2 & Heileen 3
Genre: Adventure, Casual, Indie, Simulation, Visual Novel
Developer: Winter Wolves
Publisher: Winter Wolves
Release Date: Dec 12, 2009 & Dec 12, 2012
Platform: PC / Played on Windows 7
Overall rating:  2.5/10 (and mostly for the idea of it)
Graphics: 6.5/10 (decent, but not pretty; good coloring)
Controls: 9/10 (not a lot of them on VNs)
Level/Puzzle Design: N/A
Sound: 3/10
Story: 1.5/10 (if you can find it)
Playability/Gameplay: 2/10
Community: N/A

 

Review

All I say on this review can be applied as much to Heileen 2 as to 3.

Once more a visual novel that disappoints. I was really excited about playing Heileen 3 (I got Heileen 2 afterwards from… somewhere, I forget, but it was free so I was like, whatever, cards!, and tried it for a while anyway in case it was good), even though I knew little about it. And then I played it and cried.  😥
No, I kid. XD I played it and rolled my eyes a lot, though.

It’s a romance/dating sim/VN/princess maker type of game all mashed up into one, so basically the whole point of it is to end the game with one of the boy/girl options (or none, I guess, as I got none lol) plus with one major profession…
On the upside, you playing a girl who can actually date a girl is kinda cool, so there’s that. The general idea of it being based with tarot cards and such is good, basically the underlying idea of the whole game is pretty decent, but the actual way it’s been carried on is not.
There’s a sort of story there in the back, something about ships, and shipwrecks, and making your way into the world, that in the end amounts to nothing because Heileen has ice cubes for brains and they melt in the heat.

The main character, Heileen, is one annoying, bratty little Mary Sue. For some reason she keeps thinking even the guy I have a 0 points “relationship” with is hot. Like, if I’m cultivating x and y relationships and not at all, z, why would you think z is hot? Ugh. I understand scripting a game is hard, but seriously, since you don’t know what relationships people will cultivate, why would you hardcode that you think that really annoying guy is hot even at 0 points?

Heileen isn’t the only one who suffers from being annoying. Almost every single character in this thing is. I only liked one of them, and he was still annoying to an extent.

The game contradicts itself constantly. Heileen 2 particularly seems to suffer from odd inverted choices. By which I mean logic will tell you answer x is virtuous and y is greedy, and yet when you choose answer x was greed and y virtue, and totally illogical.
Which, on a side rant, totally reminds me of that point in Shaolin school over in Age of Wushu, when I was given the choice between poisoning a betrayer to find out something or “being kind”, whereas being “kind” turned out to be to beat him up to a pulp. lol? Okay… if you call that kinder… moving along…

The options we’re given on Heileen 3 are ridiculous (not that it wasn’t to be expected from a group of pirates that not only save these random people and not lock them up, but are actually nice to them, give them things for free, help them, and deliberately avoid going after ships as is their livelyhood because gasp, Heileen might be offended/surprised/think badly of a bunch of pirates). Seriously. Did I mention these guys are supposed to be pirates? How are they supposed to make their living?  *rolls eyes*

Someone over at steam reviewed Heileen 3 and said 3 of 4 of the guys on it are jerks: I totally agree. And the 4th one seems to be completely undecided on whether he wants to be a jerk or normal, because at times he’s one, at times the other.
Even tho I usually don’t go for girl on girl, I tried to cultivate one girl and one guy relationship because all other guys were creeeeepyyyyyyy.

Out of the girl characters the one that annoyed me the most (after Heileen herself, that is) was the ‘dancer’, because she was also very pushy and got super disappointed whenever she didn’t get her way. If you want to find anything good to the game is that they have ridiculously skimpy outfits every now and again, but they aren’t even that exciting. Sorry guys. 😛

The professions are ridiculous. How come lust + dancing = dancer? Why do I have to be lusty to be a dancer? Just because the dancer girl is? No thanks.

The attributes modify nothing in my relationship attempts and only give boosts if I actually try to do something with the person…. but only gives boost to the attribute if I choose the right person, and unless there’s an event, I get no boost to the relationship. You’d think spending time together would +1 the relationship, or +0.5 it at least.
Not to mention you don’t have that much time to do things with others since you keep needing to level up basic skills too much.

Basically I finished only Heileen 3, abandoned 2 after I realized it was somehow worse than 3, and I only played to one ending of 3 because I just couldn’t care less for anything or anyone in it…

Why yes, I do judge VNs at a completely higher standard than other games, because they’re supposed to entertain with their story, not want to make you jump off a bridge.

Fairy Fencer F

This review was originally written for WalaWala Games.
A free copy of the game has been provided in exchange for an honest review.

 

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Game: Fairy Fencer F
Genre: RPG, Turn-based
Developer: Idea Factory , Compile Heart
Publisher: Idea Factory International
Release Date: Aug 4, 2015
Platform: PC / Windows 7
Overall rating:  8/10
Graphics: 10/10
Controls: 8/10
Level/Puzzle Design: 7/10
Sound: 9/10
Story: 8/10
Replay Value: 7/10
Community: N/A

 

Review

Step in the shoes of Fang, a lazy young man who, through the miracle workings of destiny, becomes a fencer, charged with gathering furies and removing the seals of the Goddess, who has been at war with the Vile God for centuries, both of which are now sealed away in another world.

Fairy Fencer F is a typical JRPG, that means there’s quite a bit of talk, and a bit of grind. It’s also a console port, and as such, it has some peculiarities.
My first time opening the game I got an error that said:

"videocard.cpp (279) : DXFAIL : E_FAIL"

Searching the forums for a solution provided no help, but a quick google search turned up the answer. All I had to do was  “兼容模式,兼容模式是XP SP3,现在已经运行了五个小时左右完全没问题。”
Oh, did I forget to say the answer was  on a Chinese site? I meant, “Compatibility mode, compatibility mode is XP SP3, now running about five hours no problem.” Or so google translate said. As it turned out, aside from activating compatibility mode, I also had to execute the file as admin. After that, it was a pretty smooth ride!

Fairy Fencer F is basically a turn-based RPG with beautiful anime-styled art. When you’re not dungeon-crawling, you have a view of static maps and Visual Novel styled conversations with other characters. When you are dungeon crawling you get those same anime characters in 3D view. You only see the party leader until you enter a battle, and you can only choose so many of your friends to battle with you.
Battles are turn based, but not static. You can move freely around a predesigned circular area of reach (and sometimes enemies will be outside this area), which gives you a sense of freedom despite the limitation, something move-by-places or only-x-steps type of turn based games don’t give you.

The sound and voices are very nice and very fitting to the whole anime/fantasy theme, and I’m particularly fond of the song used when you use “fairize”; it reminds me lots of the songs in Persona 3 and 4. By the way, did I mention you can choose between English and Japanese voices? Because you totally can. It had my heart right then and there.


Goddess revival

Now, I’ll try to explain this as best I can. Basically you play as Fang, a Fencer, that is: a person who can wield Furies, which are weapons that contain fairies that add powers to the weapon/wielder. Your job is to go out and search for more furies – each one you get will grant you a new fairy. You can add these to your own weapon as “resonance” to make it stronger and give you some extra stats. The fairies you’re currently using gain experience along with you and level up. Fairies are also ranked – the rank is used to remove the seals (swords) on the Goddess/God. While the story tells you to remove the Goddesses’ seals, after the tutorial you can choose to remove the Vile God’s seals as well, which is a neat touch! Each seal removed successfully adds different boosts/stats to the fairy used to remove it, which in turn adds it to you if it’s the one you’re using as resonance. Fairies that aren’t currently being used in your weapons can be stabbed as their fury forms on the world map in order to provide various boosts, buffs and debuffs in the nearby dungeons (for instance, earn more exp, or gold, or drop rate… ). Since you can stab more than one fury into the ground, you can get quite a few boosts while on a single dungeon.

You have combos for physical attacks which you can customize, and you can at a fly switch between three different ones while attacking by simply pressing one key instead of another, all comfortably close by. Because you have so many ways to affect stats and boosts, the system ends up being quite flexible and enjoyable to play with.
It’s a very interesting concept and I feel like I don’t do it justice explaining it thus briefly.

Saving is done through specific spots while inside a dungeon, or at any time within the world/city maps. While in the city you get to speak with a lot of characters and take up quests that can give you some prizes and can also be repeated (indefinitely, as it seems). The quests are fairly typical, but quick to get done, and go along with what rank you are. You can also craft some items to help on your journey. There is some romance in this game.

Because this was a console port, the controls at first can be a bit awkward (for instance, you can’t use esc to exit menus, you must use backspace; you can use the mouse too, but it’s really more of a hassle than using only the keyboard); however, once I grew used to them they were actually very sensibly placed and quite comfortable to use. I ended up using just the keyboard all the time.

I do wish the game was free-roaming rather than turn based, and the fights do get a tad repetitive after a while, making the fighting aspect of the game feel a tad like a grind (the unskippable power cutscenes and “fairize” cutscenes can get a bit annoying after the first few fights). However, the story is nice and full of funny moments and the characters are cute and extremely likeable, all of them with their own personalities, doubts and insecurities.

The game really makes you want to collect all the fairies and remove the seals to see what will happen, keeping you hooked with the story. It also offers a New Game Plus + mode upon completion, which I always love but haven’t yet reached. Fairy Fencer F is a delightfully long game (with 30+ hours if you’re playing through just the main story line, and over a 100 if you’re going for completion), but from what I’ve seen so far I’m confident in recommending this game to everyone who is into JRPGs.

 

TL;DR

Definitely recommended for JRPG (and anime) fans: great music, great art, complex yet flexible stats system, some romance, some ecchi, some grinding, and 30+ hours of fun.

 

Soul Gambler

 

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Game: Soul Gambler
Genre: Adventure, Indie, RPG
Developer: Tlön Studios
Publisher: Gamestorming
Release Date: August 1, 2013
Platform: PC / Played on Windows 7
Overall rating:  8/10
Graphics: 6.5/10
Controls: 9/10
Level/Puzzle Design:8.5/10
Sound: 7/10
Story: 7/10
Replay Value: 9/10
Community: N/A

 

Review

Soul Gambler is a Visual Novel inspired by Goethe’s Faust. I guess I can see how that’s true, as it does deal with selling soul and a guy called Faust.
Faust is a normal man whom, as it so happens, is one day approached by a person after which he’s offered to sell his soul (not to spoil it, that’s as much as I’ll say of the story).
The gameplay mechanics are fairly easy from then on; it being a visual novel, you’re presented with the story as it unfolds and given chances to interact: do you want to do this or do that? will you sell x% of your soul to get this or will you not? And so on, and so forth.

The art is all cartoon/comic book styled, and though I wasn’t much of a fan, they weren’t visually awful either. The storytelling is told as an interactive comic would be, with panes appearing and disappearing. The story in itself was fairly good and kept me hooked up until the end. I wasn’t really overly fond of some of the endings, but they weren’t horrible either, so overall I was pretty content with the story even if it wasn’t anything out of the ordinary.
Sounds and music are pretty nice, and seem to fit with the game well enough.

The game is really, really short, but what it does really well is the amount of options it offers you. This, to me, is what a visual novel should be like: There’s a story, there are many options for you to choose from, and the options matter. It’s still not perfect, but it’s well on its way.
In addition, at the start of the game you are offered to put points into different stats, and this choice also affects how you play and what you choose, and the outcomes of making a wrong choice. The choices are also very well designed and integrated into the game style, and for the most they say what you see them saying – unlike other games where you press a choice and the guy goes off with something completely opposite of what you thought your selection was.
So, between the choices you can make on Faust’s daily life, plus the soul-selling choices, plus the choices you make at the start on what to pour your points on, you have quite a bit of replayability.

If you don’t play it for the looks or the story, then at least play it for the gameplay, particularly if you’ve ever thought of making a VN.