When I first heard about this game, I was excited beyond belief. I love the whodunit genre, I love mysteries, I love stories with complex family dynamics, I love a diverse cast with well-developed characterization ... in other words, the concept as a whole seemed too good to be true. Then I played it, and it absolutely floored me since it delivered what was promised by the shiny forum page, and even ended up exceeding my expectations.
Most of the characters, especially the fabulous foursome, are complex and realistically flawed, but I have to say that Evelyn is my absolute favorite character, with Charlotte coming in at second. Evelyn may be abrasive, but you gotta love a character whose biggest flaw is that she has an unyielding moral code.
While this was a truly top-notch visual novel which succeeded on many levels, that isn't to say that the story does not have its flaws. Now that you know how gosh darn much I adored this VN, I would like to share certain points of constructive criticism. Let me point out that I've consumed too many VNs to count, and lazy butt as I am, I don't give feedback to the majority of them. It's rare that I feel driven to engage with the creator, so even though I am giving you criticism, you can rest assured that I am a HUGE fan, and that I wait with bated breath for any projects you may do in the future.
1. The art was somewhat wonky, with questionable anatomy, but it has a lot of character. It's unique, so I didn't mind it too much. I would sooner read a story with okay art and a great story than vice versa anyway.
2. While I loved the sheer number of CGs, I wished there was a gallery feature so I could keep track of all of them.
3. I agree with earlier commenters that the reveal of the killer comes somewhat early. I was fortunate enough to play Charlotte's route first, and among all the characters, it's in her route that the identity of the killer is not immediately apparent. So the mystery persisted, until I reached the end of the second route. By then it was obvious, so obvious that I in fact hoped it was just a red herring. But as this ending pattern repeats for the two other characters, I could tell by then that it was indeed this character who was the killer.
4. Continuing from the last point, I felt that the identity of the killer was somewhat of a letdown. I read somewhere (can't remember where) that in mystery stories, the butler is generally the stock culprit. The butler becomes suspicious by the mere fact that they are a butler. (Okay, maybe she's Erhard's assistant and techically not a butler, but she functions as one and does all the typical butler duties in similar mansion mysteries.) I found it unrealistic that many of the characters do not suspect her, discount her when they're trying to figure out the identity of the killer, and believe her lies. Okay, I get it that the siblings hate each other, but they still know each other way more than they know this person who is essentially a stranger to them, no matter how long she's worked with their father. They should at least watch her closely and suspect her as much as they suspect each other. Instead, they just let her do her thing for most of the story, leaving her with all that time to plan traps. In fact, it's the lack of suspicion that these characters direct toward her that makes her all the more suspicious.
5. I also felt like the butler's character was not fleshed out well enough to make her an effective villain who can invoke feelings in the reader (whether fear, disgust, hatred, or sympathy). We barely know anything about her until her monologue at the bonus arc. We know the entire life story of pretty much every character in the house EXCEPT for her, and she should be one of the most important characters of all. She's the villain, after all.
6. While I absolutely LOVED LOVED LOVED the fact that each route is a self-contained story with different events, different deaths, different alliances, and even different themes, with different internal and external conflicts that the narrator must face, I wanted to see a clearer reason WHY their stories were so different in the first place. Evelyn's route is not a problem since if she makes a different choice early on, she ends up dying first, which is consistent with Charlotte's route. Leonard's route is similarly well-plotted since he can make a choice which will determine whether he is killed by Oswald, which is consistent with Oswald's route. But for some of the other deaths - from the top of my mind, I can think of Charlotte's and Gordon's deaths in Evelyn's route - it's not clear why they weren't killed in the same way early on in the other routes. I feel like there should be a definite choice in the beginning of each route which clearly defines where it departs from all the other routes.
7. Some of the choices, especially the earlier ones for all the routes, don't seem to have any particular impact on the ending of the story. For example, I tried to be ruder to my husband in Evelyn's route, but they still ended up happy together in the ending. But maybe I haven't tried all the possible permutations yet and haven't reached the endings where earlier choices do matter, I dunno.
8. Continuing from the previous point, while some of the earlier choices revealed more information or backstory, it would have been cool if this information could be used perhaps as a clue later on. Otherwise, they come off as mere filler.
9. I felt like the kids did not impact the story as much as they could have. While some of them have their own subplots, what bothered me was that they're mostly left unguarded for all routes. If I was in this situation, I would absolutely ensure that my child was safe and near me at all times. I would not trust any random adult (other than my spouse, perhaps) to guard them. Not even if they were my sibling or the butler. In this situation, pretty much no one can be trusted. They are already so suspicious of each other, but they all seem to take it for granted that the killer won't target the kids (the butler generally doesn't, but they don't know that). The only time this has a consequence is when Leonard's son dies. And even then, the son was acting uncharacteristically brave (to the point of being downright foolish) in a clearly deadly situation.
10. Aside from the characters' negligence with regard to their kids, I also felt like the characters did not behave realistically at some parts. Why would they allow certain characters to go off in pairs and conduct surreptitious conversation for any reason? Doesn't it ever occur to them that they could be two killers who have teamed up to make nefarious plans? It's common sense that if they all stick together (that includes you, butler!!!) they can minimize the damage. Instead they all roam around the house more or less freely, though I like how in Charlotte's route she made it a point not to split up (which is faithful to her character). I also felt that Oswald's character was problematic since the fact that he killed his brother did not make him feel as guilty as he should have been. Yes, it was an accident, but if an average person kills another out of simple negligence, they will still be plagued with guilt, no matter how irrational it is, more so since it's his brother. I felt that if you highlighted his guilt more, it would have made it a much more agonizing choice when he chooses to bury the truth for the sake of his family. Instead, he makes the choice almost too easily, given that he's not a heartless character at all (unlike Leonard - eternally shaking my head at Leonard).