System(s): PC (also for Mac and Linux)
Release Date: October 24, 2008
Publisher (Developer): Tycoon Games (Tycoon Games)
ESRB Rating: N/A (Note: I’d suggest 13+)
Pros: Good character art, multiple endings, side quests, multiple save slots, load anytime, auto-skip option for already viewed text
Cons: Loads of innuendo and fan-service, historical inaccuracies, unbelievable scenarios, short
Overall Score: One thumb up, one down; 75/100; C; * * 1/2 out of 5
While visual novels are common place in Japan, and a fairly standard game genre, they haven’t found the same audience in North America or other regions yet. That’s slowly starting to change, and quite a few independent developers are starting to take a chance on the genre. Tycoon Games is one of them, and has recently released its second visual novel adventure game, Heileen.
A new world, a new adventure for Heileen
The star of Heileen is, appropriately enough, Heileen. She is a young woman who’s lived with her merchant uncle Otto and his mistress Lora ever since her parents died. Otto is headin on a trip to America for business and has decided that this time Heileen will be joining them. He says that it is because he wants Heileen to expand her horizons, but she thinks he has some kind of ulterior motive.
Otto has also asked Heileen’s childhood friend Marie to join them on the trip, so Heileen will feel more comfortable during the trip and have some companionship while he does business in America. Players then follow in Heileen’s shoes as she uncovers secrets about the crew and her uncle’s business.
There’s something about Heileen.
Gameplay wise, Heileen runs flawlessly. It has many of the staples you expect in a visual novel. The character art is good, controls are simple, it’s a quick and easy install, there are multiple save slots, you can load at any time to pick up and replay, there are multiple endings and, if you replay the game, you can skip text you’ve already seen. There are even little side quests that can be accomplished by selecting the correct dialogue choices during the story.
The problem stems from the characters and story.
Heileen reads like fan-fiction. There are attempts at historical accuracy (a slave trading sub-plot, period clothing, social standings, scurvy), but then the fan-service and melodrama kicks in. The dialogue is laced with sexual innuendo. The storyline is unrealistic. Heileen falls in love with John, one of the ship’s sailors, after a few sentences. Marie engages in extreme, self destructive behavior in an attempt to gain attention.
Heileen comes across as a Mary Sue, that is, an idealized character with no flaws that everyone seems to adore. Who’s inexplicably drawn to and in love with Heileen? Her childhood friend Marie. Her uncle’s mistress Lora. The crew members John, Marco, Burt and Elias. Even the ship’s cat Black. Everybody wants Heileen. And, judging by some of the possible dialogue choices, Heileen wants everyone too.
Heileen has its moments, but may insult some players.
Heileen may star a female character and follow the adventures of her and her family and friends as she heads to America in the 17th Century, it isn’t a game for women. It is a visual novel for men, starring a Mary Sue style character that every other being in the game is attracted to.
If you’re looking for a historical visual novel with some substance, Heileen may not be for you. A player who takes Heileen seriously, or expecting some level of authenticity and historical accuracy, runs the risk of being seriously disappointed, or maybe even insulted. It can be entertaining, and even humorous at times, but Heileen isn’t for everyone – especially people assuming that Heileen is going to be a strong, independent and realistic portrayal of a woman.