Title: Bionic Heart 2
Price: $19.99 ($24.99 for bonus content)
Systems: Windows, Mac, Linux
Release Date: April 14, 2013
Publisher (Developer): Winter Wolves (Winter Wolves)
ESRB Rating: N/A
It can be difficult to make a visual novel work. It’s mostly because it’s a pretty niche genre. Part of the reason is the fact that it is kind of a game, but more of a choose-your-own-adventure novel. It allows the player some control over what to do or say in certain circumstances while ultimately guiding the player through a situation that could make for an interesting story. And, well, that could either work really well or absolutely horribly.
With Bionic Heart 2, the genre works very well. And it’s partially because of the fact that the universe and story is very well realized and reminiscent of a lot of different science fiction stories that defined quite a bit of science fiction. Then again, that could just be the fact that it is a sequel.
Bionic Heart 2 picks up about where Bionic Heart left off. Tanya, an android, is on the run from a corporation that pretty much owns Earth-side government. She’s also working to fight the corporation at the same time. Luke, his girlfriend Helen, and their friend Tom run to Mars because they know too much – simply by knowing Tanya – and the corporation’s reach doesn’t quite make it to Mars. Tina, a cop, and her partner Rob are working to investigate both Nanotech and why Tanya is considered a threat. It’s a great set up that, in some ways, is reminiscent of neo-noir sci-fi stories like Total Recall and Blade Runner.
Each playable perspective (Tanya, Luke, Tom, and Tina) are used to illustrate different parts of the conflicts that become integral to the plot. Each choice brings you closer to uncovering the conspiracy headed up by Nanotech or brings you closer to death. It’s a wild ride like any noir crime story that leaves brings interesting twists and revelations to light and raises the question of what it is to be human.
The only complaint I have about Bionic Heart 2 is how much the player feels written out of the story. Player influence only comes up on the occasions where you’re given an option on how to reply, and there are occasionally rather expansive portions of the game where player choices, even within conversations, don’t pop up. It’s a bit of a personal gripe, but still, I think Winter Wolves should’ve tried to put in more opportunities for player input. While it can be irritating, at least for players like me who aren’t as accustomed to visual novel games, it doesn’t really take away any real enjoyment from the story, its art or the music.
Speaking of Bionic Heart 2‘s story, it is incredible. There is a great deal of depth. But it is also put into a context that you can actually easily understand even if you haven’t played the previous game. While it isn’t an incredibly original story, opting for the Phillip K. Dick style mind-bending and conspiratorial sci-fi, it’s utilized really well.
The animations are simple and well done in Bionic Heart 2, when they do appear. I was surprised to see them, as visual novels typical employ static images. You get a sense of where you are quickly and the descriptions given in conversations add a lot more context to where you are. Character animations are well utilized, though the shifting emotions don’t always match with the emotion being conveyed – that isn’t a complaint though. It’s more of an observation.
Bionic Heart 2‘s music works just as well, and helps make the game even more special. It conveys the mood of scenes and settings well. It can be used as a stand-alone soundtrack. Hell, if someone were to make a Bionic Heart-style pen-and-paper game, it could be used as atmospheric mood music for play sessions. It just generally works. The music, coupled with the story, would actually be more than enough to justify the expense. And the game has a ridiculous amount of possible endings depending on your choices. If the Gallery menu is any illustrator, there’s somewhere around 26 possible endings depending on how you chose the playable character interactions. So there is a lot of replayability depending on your choices.
This Bionic Heart beats strong.
Bionic Heart 2 is a game wort experiencing. If you’re a sci-fi, noir, neo-noir, crime, or visual novel fan, chances are you’ll find something to latch onto and get a lot of enjoyment out of the game. It’s full of replayability as well, thanks to multiple endings and a well thought-out story. I would have liked more influence over the story, but that’s just my own preference and I’m sure others will have differing opinions. Regardless, Bionic Heart 2 is an interesting adventure and visual novel worth playing.