Monday, June 3

Review: Kotodama - The 7 Mysteries of Fujisawa [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Where to start with Kotodama, a game that somehow pairs an unusual visual novel where you’re afforded little opportunity to make decisions with a puzzle game where you literally strip the clothes off your opponent. There’s no doubt that puzzle game element will attract people’s attention, whether good or bad, but weirdly the majority of the time you’ll spend playing the game isn’t in pursuit of seeing your female (and male) associates in their underwear. The result is a title where I’m outright baffled who it’s for, as the mix of activities in the game seem so incredibly far apart from one another.

Starting with the narrative side you’re a newly-arrived student who’ll be quickly introduced to the fact that there are 7 mysteries, sort of urban myths, that you’re going to try to help solve. Investigating these takes a variety of forms, one in particular involving the “white wolf” gets particularly dark and a bit disturbing, but I suppose it’s at least trying to surprise you. The thing is, there are long stretches where you’re going to just be reading dialogue with little opportunity to interact or contribute to things, but then when you do get to make a decision those can be disappointing. It’s a sort of on rails narrative experience and though your choices will affect whether you get the true ending or not it’s not terribly satisfying.

Sitting at the polar opposite end of the game you then have a puzzle element that is roughly explained in the game as you psychically entering the person’s mind and trying to find the truth… or something like that. This involves a pretty basic action puzzle game where you’re trying to efficiently clear blocks which will affect the character who you’ve focused on. As you strip away their resolve to resist your powers you’ll literally remove their clothing and your reward for breaking all the way through is… seeing absolutely no nudity at all actually, and I wouldn't even consider any of it terribly sexy in any way at all. I won’t say I consider that to be a huge disappointment personally but it’s one of those things where if you’re going to start down a certain road it seems weird to then stop short rather than just embrace it.

If you’re really a fan of seeing characters in their underwear once you’ve psychically stripped any character you’ll then be free to hit a different mode and do that to your heart’s content, eventually also earning the opportunity to have them wear different underwear. On the story side the culmination of your decisions will typically be that you’ve not make a correct decision somewhere along the way so you’ll get to start everything over again, and generally without the benefit of insight into what you may have specifically done wrong.

Put this all together and it’s a bit of a hot (yet, somehow not in a sexy way) mess. I find that the visual novel and titillating puzzle game segments don’t make any sense paired together. I’m simultaneously a bit horrified by the weirdo aspect of the stripping mini game while baffled by the fact that if it’s going to be included that it stops short of what the audience looking for that sort of content is looking for in the first place. If this combination of strange and sometimes dark story elements with minimal interaction and some teasing nudity blended with a pretty generic puzzle game sound like a perfect marriage more power to you.

Score: 4.5

  • If you’re looking for weird it delivers
  • I suppose if the prospects of seeing some anime chicks and dudes in their underwear is exciting for you it’ll deliver that

  • The narrative and stripping puzzle game elements don’t feel like they belong together at all
  • As visual novels go this seems to afford few opportunities to interact, which can make it a bit dull
  • If you’re going to sell a game on stripping, courting controversy in the process, why then stop short in delivering what the likely audience you’ll attract is looking for?