Elsewhere High is a kinetic mystery novel about a special school and the bunch of kids going there. The first chapter is free, so all friends of visual novels should give it a go. Third chapter is coming out this summer.
Kinetic novel means that there is no branching storyline. Elsewhere High has some player choices, but they wont change the outcome of the story. While I appreciate good branching narrative, I also believe that more straightforward stories can make great multimedia experiences.
In the first chapter the player follows one of the Elsewhere High kids just entering the school. The second chapter reveals a lot more about the other students. The story also changes perspective, following around different characters. The player is mostly just a watcher of this drama.
All the kids in Elsewhere High are troubled teens. They are a colourful and interesting bunch. Of course they represent some of the teenage cliches, but is there a teenager that doesn’t? I ended up liking these kids, and I want to know what’s going to happen to them.
So what’s the mystery? Everything is. How the kids got there and what is going on around them. There are horror elements in the game, but a big chunk of the chapters are spent inside the minds of the teenagers, and in their communication with each other.
Sometimes the kids were inside their heads so much, that the pacing seemed pretty slow. But those moments build the characters and the atmosphere. I felt the pace right – I like savoring the moment – but I could guess that some people might hope for more action. Then again, those people probably don’t play many visual novels.
There is no voice acting, but the sound effects and music are good. Sometimes I felt the game was too silent, and was hoping it would at least recycle some songs a bit more. I could listen to them again. The game could also use a nicer text box and some options. Now there’s only save, load, hide text and skip speed.
The art looks nice enough, and I like the character art, which is more “western” compared to the common anime styles even in many original English VNs. It’s a nice change, and the characters are attractive.
Quite obviously the game doesn’t have a Telltale budget, but almost every aspect has been done well. It’s a bit hard to score a narrative from its first quarter or so, as the game should eventually span to 8 or 10 chapters. I can say that so far I was immersed in the story, and intrigued enough to want to get the next chapter.