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EMMA: The Story (PC) artwork

EMMA: The Story (PC) review

"Lunchbreak Digital Reading"

To directly quote EMMA: The Storyís developers, Hiver Prod, ďEMMA is a 20-minute long animated graphic novel for mobile phones and tablets. Available in French, English, and German. For iOS, Android, PC and Mac.Ē This means this is either going to be a record breakingly brief review, or Iím going to have to pad the hell out of it to meet the phantom word count people seem to think a review needs to be to remain valid.

Thatís not to say thereís anything wrong with half-hour visual novels, digital or no. And itís worth noting early (to really help with that padding) that a lot of work has clearly been pumped into EMMAís production. Itís beautifully scored with a five-track OST written by French composer, Grťgoire Pastre. Itís also wonderfully drawn, presenting hand-painted pictures that threaten photo realism at some points or show off heavy-handed brush strokes in others. That seems a decent excuse to kill a little more white space and splash a screenshot up on screen:

EMMAís biggest issue isnít its presentation or (as much as Iím picking fun at having so little to work with) its brevity; itís really that thereís nothing particularly remarkable about the tale it tells. At its heart, itís a story about being afraid to move forward and about seeking refuge in the known rather than striking out into the unknown. It presents a man about to make huge changes to his life, and his last minute reluctance to leave the safe and comfortable behind. A random encounter gives him opportunity to gain further insight into his choices. Is that vague? Thatís super vague. Iím afraid I have to be just that while skirting around being informative without giving away too much of an already brief tale.

Itís not a bad tale by any means but, by its very design, itís not given a lot of time to invest in the two-man cast or the issues it tries to champion. Itís written with heart and personality (made particularly evident by the string of text messages between work colleagues it shares), and itís completely kinetic, offering the reader neither choices nor multiple endings. And, honestly, thatís fine; it knows what it wants to be and it tells the story it wants to tell.

How many words deep am I? Almost 400? Good. Have another screenshot.

Even as fleeting as it was, itís hard to begrudge the time spent with EMMA. Itís not the best tale youíll ever invest in, with the conclusion feeling a bit forced and deus ex machina-y, but some of that has to do with how little time the tale is given to grow. Itís a rushed affair, which does fit the narrative of a man with a pressing decision to make. But itís certainly one of the better presented visual novels youíll come across.

Itís hard not to recommend EMMA as mild diversion with well above average production values considering itís being offered at the lowest entry price Steam will allow. Even with such a short runtime, it goes against the long-established norm perpetrated by the majority of visual novels and manages to stand out. At least a little. Maybe thatís enough.


EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (May 24, 2018)

Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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Masters posted May 27, 2018:

Excellent review, especially given what you had to work with (very little, as you pointed out several times in the review itself, ha). It has me intrigued and I think I'll check it out on the Steam store -- thanks!

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