"Exogenesis claims to be a creative fusion of Zero Escape and Ace Attorney, and while it might not have you play the Nonary Game or yell "Objection!" in a court room, it might just give them a run for their money."
Post-apocalyptic stories have always been a favourite of mine. The struggles and challenges faced by people surviving on an Earth very different to our own is a fascinating topic. Exogenesis is set in such an environment, and its gritty, mature nature is clear from as early as the title screen. The grey, decaying backgrounds are wonderfully realised, and each character, from the protagonist to the dodgy bar patrons, sport memorable designs.
Though the demo I had a chance to play through was relatively short, it showcased a good variety of gameplay and puzzles. Its inspiration from the Zero Escape series is clear, as the opening section required me to puzzle my way out of a locked room. Finding hidden diary pages scattered around the room and then placing them in the right order to reveal a code was challenging, but never too mind-boggling. Just enough pointers were included to help me along without giving away the solution. Helpful question marks pop up when mousing over something you can examine, and items you pick up can be combined in your inventory to create new objects.
As a visual novel, there's plenty of text to read as the story progresses. Even in this early development stage it's well-written and free of errors. The plot kicks off with a fast start as you watch the hero's sister dying, impaled by spears from what looks like some sort of trap. Flash forward a couple of years, and you take on the role of Yu, the leader of former treasure-hunting group Durchhalten. During the demo, my primary goal was to recruit an old member of the group named Eiji. He was a tough nut to crack, and I had to frequently return to the bar he owned with new information to try and get him on side.
I could interview a number of other bar patrons to learn more. Among them were a knife-wielding thug (who named his knife "Darla") and a young man who tells jokes so bad they are hilarious. The writing was excellent, and I looked forward to speaking to each of them as I returned to the bar. Unfortunately, talking them into revealing everything they knew required engaging them in conversation over and over and over again, which became pretty tiring towards the end of the demo. That said, there are dialogue options during most conversations which could lead to quite different results.
The only other issue I encountered was the possibility of a game over. Unprepared, I suffered from a game-ending demise after choosing the wrong dialogue option. I hadn't saved in a while, so it was frustrating to have to go through each scene again. At least there's a speed-up button to scroll through text you've read before. But, as long as you're saving before dialogue and in different slots, a quick load will solve your problems.
Exogenesis claims to be a creative fusion of Zero Escape and Ace Attorney, and while it may not have you play the Nonary Game or yell "Objection!" in a court room, it might just give them a run for their money. Exogenesis likely won't be released until towards the end of the year, but it's definitely one to keep your eye on. Among the many indie visual novels I've played, it looks like it may stand among the best.