Posted By Gabriel B. about 3 months, 2 weeks ago
Olives, Anyone? It’s Freeware Friday: Juniper’s Knot,
Hey, you know what doesn’t get covered a lot on Blistered Thumbs? Visual novels.
(Editor’s Note: Except for games like Hate Plus, Analogue: A Hate Story, Digital: A Love Story, and Don’t Take it Personally, Babe, it Just Ain’t Your Story, all of which have been reviewed or featured on the BT Podcast.)
(Editor’s Note: Not to mention Katawa Shoujo. You know, that was kind of a big deal. Also, the Ace Attorney and Zero Escape series have VN elements.)
Fine, but we’re doing a kinetic novel this time, so… HA!
(Editor’s Note: Kinetic novels practically the same–)
SHHH! This week we’re talking about Juniper’s Knot, a great little gem from Dischan that was made in under a month. If you haven’t heard of Dischan before, that’s not too big of a surprise. While their site does host a number of notable indie games, Dischan only has a couple completed projects under their belt (Juniper’s Knot and the episodic retail game, Dysfunctional Systems: Learning to Manage Chaos). However, if Juniper’s Knot is any indication, Dischan is a group whose work is worth looking into.
As I said before, Juniper’s Knot is a kinetic novel. This means that there isn’t much interaction required from the player outside of choosing when to save, load, and quit. The game is a short story revolving around two people: a young boy who has lost his way and a female fiend who has been living alone since before anyone can remember. At first, the fiend seems like she’s merely interested in teasing the young boy and having some idle conversation, but there are far more sinister motivations behind her actions and the reason she hasn’t left the building she’s been occupying for centuries. The boy tries to fight his fear of the fiend while unwittingly falling into a couple of her traps. As these two characters interact, dark truths are revealed and they will have to make a decision.
I’ll be honest, Juniper’s Knot doesn’t have the greatest story, but it succeeds due to its excellent presentation and the characters (who are never named, in case you’re wondering). The story has issues, certainly, such as employing one of my least favorite plot points (since I don’t want to spoil it, here’s an acronym: TL/FWPVDUTMMCIPG) but it works because the art, music, and cutscenes help bring a richer characterization to both the boy and the fiend.
The art, for example, is simply delightful. As demonstrated in the screen captures I included for this article, the character portraits look great and perfectly capture each of their thoughts. The cutscenes are especially well done and it’s worth downloading the game’s wallpapers or viewing the included gallery so you can appreciate the artists’ work (and there were a TON of artists on this project) outside of your initial play-through.
However, what’s really impressive about this title is the sound design. From the early sounds of creaking stairs being walked on and old oak doors being opened to the sounds of crackling fires, Juniper’s Knot has some stunning work done on its sound. The music’s not too shabby either, perfectly capturing the mood as it changes from sentimental and gentle during the quiet scenes to overpowering and horrifying when the tenser moments start up.
As for the characters, they each have their own set of charms. The fiend has been alive for centuries and this longevity is worked well into her backstory. The fact she has been stuck in one place for so long is considered by the writers and works itself into a couple of interesting scenes that tackle the issues of long-term confinement. At the same time, she also keeps shifting back and forth between a playful, teasing mood to a more homicidal one as she spends more time with the boy. The boy meanwhile is barely a character, yet still endearing. His real role in the story is just to act as a catalyst for the fiend and be a symbol of how much the world has changed since the fiend started living alone. However, his actions within the story, especially what he does after the fiend reveals her true intentions, make him interesting.
While Juniper’s Knot might not be a game, per se, it is an interesting experience crafted by a very talented team. If you’re interested in following more of Dischan’s projects, you can check out Dysfunctional Systems: Learning to Manage Chaos or the preview for their upcoming game, Cradle Song.