Videoverse Review – Making Choices, Making Connections

The year is 2003, and the Kinmoku Shark is the hottest gaming console around. Emmett spends his days playing Feudal Fantasy, drawing fanart of his favorite games, and chatting with his friends on Videoverse, the Shark’s social network. However, rumors abound that Videoverse may be shutting down thanks to the release of the next-generation Kinmoku Dolphin. Take control of Emmett in this uniquely formatted visual novel that pays homage to classic video games and social networks. Will you make new friends? Will you find romance? Will you take a stand against Internet trolls – or will you join them? The choice is yours!

Videoverse, the latest offering from Kinmoku Games, is definitely a standout within the visual novel genre. While it is text-based and centered around making choices, it uses the unique formatting of the titular Videoverse social network, with a combination of forum posts, shared drawings, and direct messages. As Emmett, players can choose who to interact with, who to ignore, which posts to like and respond to, and even whether or not to report inappropriate posts. Options include going on an anti-troll crusade, focusing on your art, pursuing romance, helping other couples form, and many more.

Emmett is such a cutie!

Playing Videoverse definitely leaves one feeling nostalgic. The pixel art style, the old-school message board setting, and the characters’ excitement about revolutionary technology of the time – color consoles! Voice chat! – brings back fond memories of my own childhood and teenage years. Anyone who was a gamer in the 80s, 90s, or 2000s will find themselves fondly reminiscing while playing Videoverse. Of course, the games that Emmett and other characters play are similarly nostalgic – there’s no way you can watch Emmett getting into Feudal Fantasy and not fondly remember your own first RPGs. And while Feudal Fantasy is the primary game featured, there are plenty of other fun hints and nods – the monster-catching title Minimon, the virtual pet sim Zeopets, the medical puzzler Pill Poppa, and many more.

But Videoverse is far more than just a nostalgic romp through the social networks and consoles of old. At its center is a heartwarming story about acceptance, friendship, love, and the bonds and communities that video games can form. It also includes a powerful message about the importance of accessibility, not just in video games but in many aspects of life, and how video games can be an outlet for disabled people who might otherwise feel isolated or stuck. Even in 2023, many games and consoles do not offer sufficient accessibility options, so this is an important message that is still extremely relevant today.

The nostalgia hits right from the very first minute

My favorite part of Videoverse was definitely getting to see the community sprung up within the titular Videoverse. The friendships formed are portrayed as valid and valuable, and very much in defiance of the tired “Internet friends aren’t real friends” trope (which I’ve always hated; some of my closest friends are my fellow GameLuster colleagues, most of whom I have not met in person). It’s a diverse community, with queer people, disabled people, people of all races, ages, and socioeconomic statuses – and, unfortunately, a few trolls as well, but Videoverse lets you take a proactive stance against them by reporting their comments. Over several weeks of in-game time, you really get to see the Videoverse community bond and grow tighter, all the while celebrating both their differences and the one thing that brings them all together – video games!

I love video games and it’s really refreshing to see a game that openly and honestly celebrates them and their positive impact the way Videoverse does. While some characters deal with issues like not having enough time to play games, or worrying that they are too old for games, no character is ever shamed or shunned (trolling excepted) for being a gamer. Games are the thing that bring these people together, and it results in lifelong, lasting friendships – and, in some cases, even romance! With so much constant debate and discourse surrounding games in the real world, it was an amazing experience to get to play a game that praised and celebrated them.

Emmett speaks the truth – every choice matters!

The characters are the heart of Videoverse, and so many of them are memorable and lovable. Emmett, the protagonist, is downright adorable – he’s just so openly and honestly passionate about games, art, and Videoverse itself. Some of my other favorites were the constantly positive Fluffy-Pancake, the somewhat mysterious Nobu, and, of course, Vivi, the user who Emmett arguably grows closest to throughout the game. Even some of the characters he doesn’t get to message directly have surprisingly rich story arcs, such as the talented artist Glitter-Girl or the somewhat awkward but hilarious Granny94. Sure, the trolls are annoying, just like in real life – but here, you can fight back against them, and the moderators will actually do something about it!

As a heavily choice-based visual novel, Videoverse has plenty of replayability. Your actions – which comments you respond to, which ones you report, how you act in your DMs with various characters – determine how Emmett navigates his time in Videoverse and, ultimately, where he ends up in the future. While there isn’t any standard flowchart to follow, there are definitely many different routes you can take, such as being a “lawful good” crusader against trolling or letting the Videoverse community stagnate. There are also TONS of achievements to unlock, many of which are well-hidden, meaning that you can definitely get more than one play-through’s worth of enjoyment out of Videoverse.

There are lots of themes you can choose from for your interface…although some are a little eye-burning

My only complaint about Videoverse is that it can occasionally be difficult to figure out what you need to do to progress to the next story segment/chapter. Sometimes, Emmet will refuse to log off of Videoverse until he has responded to every possible post and thread in the Communities. With so many, it can be difficult to figure out what you’ve missed, and lead to a frustrating cycle of having to go back through literally every topic and comment looking for the answer. Videoverse could benefit strongly from some sort of hint system that lets you know what responses or chats you might have missed. I think this would eliminate a lot of potential frustration.

Other than that, though, Videoverse is a lovely tribute to games, consoles, and chatrooms past. The music, art, game references, and overall design combine to invoke a strong feeling of nostalgia. The cast of characters are (mostly) lovable and genuinely fun to get to know. And the game’s deep messages about accessibility and acceptance are extremely relevant to a modern audience. If you love visual novels, if you love heart-warming stories about friendship, and, most of all, if you love video games, then you should most definitely give Videoverse a try!

Kate played Videoverse on PC via Steam with a review copy provided by the publisher.

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1 month ago

Thank you for the lovely review of VIDEOVERSE, you really get it! I just wanted to say there is a tip button on the pause screen in the top left corner – I hope that helps 🙂