Charade Maniacs’ English localization reveal was during one of the wonkiest hour-long streams on Idea Factory live stream, where they had shown a blank stream until the last 2 minutes that eventually led to the reveal trailer for Charade Maniacs. The cast is stacked for all the characters, and the trailer itself was fun and engaging. This lead me to wonder just how engaging would the game be.
Game Name: Charade Maniacs Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed) Publisher(s): Idea Factory International Developer(s): Idea Factory Release Date: June 27th, 2023 Price: $49.99
Your character in Charade Maniacs is a girl named Hiyori Sena, a normal schoolgirl in high school with a childhood best friend, Tomose Banjo. As they discuss something known as “The Other World Stream,” she gets curious about how the wish situation works. The rumors say that you are allowed to make a wish if you are chosen as a cast member for this “Other World Stream.” She initially says she wants to use it to fix a toy for her siblings but doesn’t think that will happen. Later that same day, both she and Tomose Banjo get kidnapped and forced to be in the “Other World Stream” with eight other contestants.
Finding Your Wish
Charade Maniacs is a very light game on gameplay, so this section will help with understanding the actual appeal of the game. The big lure of this particular Otome game is understanding the mystery behind “The Other World Stream.” Hiyori Sena and the other nine kidnapped cast members are now stuck in a death game. They get stolen randomly while they are doing their best to figure out this location they are at called Arcadia to do dramas. These dramas are generally scenes from an ongoing narrative that honestly isn’t that important to the story of the game itself, but they are pretty generic with scenes like basic love triangles in a high school setting or basic superhero shows. If you entertain the residents of Arcadia and they like you, they will give you points to certain cast members. If you do a great job, not only will you get points, but the Director might give you the ability to ask for a wish.
Certain wishes require you to also use up points, such as wishing to leave Arcadia, which requires 3,000 points. Simple enough, right? Well, not entirely. It is revealed that there is one person amidst the cast who has already been in the past streams and is known as the Producer. He is trying to keep the cast there for as long as the stream is running while trying to engage the audience. You have to get close to these cast members and figure out who this Producer is. It is also important to note that if a person’s points reach zero, you will enact an end game that results in the death of that cast member.
The closer you get to these cast members, the more this world of Arcadia reveals about the Other World Stream. There are technically nine routes, with each cast member as a separate route. You can keep track of the routes you have gone through with a flow chart that is on the title screen. Luckily there is a skip-all-read dialog button that allows the game to help you not have to reread things you already have read as you are going through each cast member’s route. Some routes have scenes that overlap, so it does benefit in that regard too.
Surviving The Death Games
There are a lot of fun mysteries in Charade Maniacs, but the best part of the game is the artwork and the CG scenes that get played during high-intensive moments. While it helps that the game has an amazing voice cast for each of these characters, the game does a great job of immersing you in the situations well. The backgrounds and the character moments are really interesting.
The big complaint I have in this game is that you don’t get to make decisions very often as Hiyori does. You get a dilemma, and then the game takes control of you and lets Hiyori decide things on her own. Most of your decisions are in the beginning, as the game decides what route you are to take. Once the route is decided you might as well just put the game on auto and sit back and bring out the popcorn. This is more visual novel than anything. The romances aren’t that good, and even when you get a few people who should give you an interesting romance, the game is more focused on unveiling the mystery than it is to show an impactful connection between two characters. The mystery is the most engaging part of the game, but it would have been better to give routes more length of time to also accommodate the romance part of the game.
The game also features a touchscreen interface and controls. This makes it very nice since I can just leave the Nintendo Switch in my lap and touch the screen as the events move forward, and I can even use it to make choices when they arise. You can also use the touch screen for the skip, auto, menu, and top menu areas of the game. Sometimes it requires you to press the down directional button to view a new term you receive from a conversation or event.
Reaching the End Game
Overall Charade Maniacs is a fun mystery to pull at, but there are things I wish it did better. I wish I had more choice for the character, I wish it had better moments of romance with your character, and I wish some of the routes were longer with better dives of the character. This game can be bonkers at times with how the world reacts to these drama scenes, and it does give a sense of enjoyment to figure out different characters’ motives.
Review Disclosure Statement: Charade Maniacs was provided to us by Idea Factory International for review purposes. For more information on how we review video games and other media/technology, please review our Review Guideline/Scoring Policy for more info.
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Charade Maniacs is a fun mystery visual novel but it isn’t the best with its Otome elements. There is a big cast of characters that are all interesting in their own way, but not enough time with each one to feel fully invested in the relationship.