The Novelist

There are times when every writer suffers from block and Dan Kaplan is no different. He's struggling so much with his current novel that he's moved his family to a rented house for three months in order regain some inspiration, meet his deadlines and fulfil his obligations on the advance he received. Luckily for him and his family this house holds a fourth entity; a spirit that can directly influence people's decisions. It's up to you to decide the events of the Kaplan's time there.

Each character is going through different things at this time. Dan is struggling with his novel, his wife Linda is unsure about their marriage and is an artist, though she hasn't fully concentrated on painting for a number of years, and their son Tommy has been struggling at school; both with bullying and keeping up with the class. You'll never be able to help everyone at once and this is where The Novelist shines.

The Novelist

As the spirit you can move about freely in the house. Doing this though risks being detected by the Kaplans. To ensure you are not spotted you can smove safely between light fittings. You move surprisingly slowly for a spirit so flitting between lights is by far the preferable way to get around. The entire game is set in the house; while it's small enough to becoming familiar with ensuring the gameplay doesn't become frustrating, it would have been nice to get out once in a while, especially to watch the character's when they are in another location.

The gameplay remains simplistic throughout The Novelist. Each chapter requires you to find three clues per family member. These are represented with letters, journals and paintings. You also need to possess each member, access a memory and finding another three clues. Although this sounds laborious each clue is relatively easy to find. In the memories there's sound that gets louder as you approach and in reality it's so easy to move about the house via the lights you'll swiftly explore the whole house and find them all. It's only necessary to find all the clues for one member, but finding them all grants you the opportunity to choose a compromise as well as your original decision.

Finding all these clues reveals what the characters desire from the current chapter. You can read a character's mind at any time but there isn't much reason other than this to do so. Once you know what they want you find and select the item that is relevant to that person's desire. You may select a second item for the compromise in the monochrome presented night time where you are required to whisper in sleeping Dan's ear, “Here's what you should do pshpwshpshshopshospho...”, coming across rather comically; like in TV programmes where they whisper inaudibly so as not to reveal the plan to the viewer.

The Novelist

The Novelist attempts to tell an emotive story around compromise and decision making. For the most part it succeeds. I felt guilty for not taking Tommy to a weekend camp to see the other kids in favour of giving the parents some progress in their stories, reading that Linda had to cut her dream back a bit because I concentrated on Dan and many other times. It started to feel like a bit of a slog to get through because at the conclusion of each chapter there was always disappointment. Disappointment caused by your actions. However, this is not a bad thing. It may not have been lots of fun but I tried to think things through and choose what made sense in each situation.

The conclusion of the game depends upon the choices you've made. Strangely, the conclusion to my game was surprisingly positive considering what had transpired in the three months. This felt a little bizarre and I struggled to feel happy for them because it seemed so disjointed. I finished and thought 'oh' rather than thinking about what I could have done better and what could have been. It felt like I had 'won' The Novelist. I can't think there would be a better outcome for any of the characters. I have only played through once so I do not know if characters can have bad outcomes.

The Novelist

I enjoyed going through the story at the conclusion of each chapter of The Novelist and despite my bizarre ending I'd recommend it. The gameplay gets monotonous, even within the two to three hour play time, but you are constantly rewarded with well written and excellently voiced parts which both contextualise the situation and advance the story in a believable manor.

3

In Short

  • + Very well written throughout
    + Excellent voice work
    + The house is designed well and you can move around it swiftly

  • - The repetitive gameplay grates even in the short play time
    - The ending I got in no way matched the tone of the rest of the game
    - You can't follow the characters when they leave the house

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