Steam Summer Sale 2022 | Recommendations

The Steam Summer Sale started and I was feeling indulgent, so I bought a whole bunch of exciting new games to expand my ever-growing backlog…

Okay, I think it’s time to come clean and admit that I’m merely an otome collector, not an otome gamer. Until I can one day transcend backlog-hell, I’ll be sure to admire my collection often and dream wistfully of the day when I actually get around to playing all of these beautiful, intriguing games…

But all jokes aside, I picked up some seriously cool titles on sale for some seriously low prices this summer. Not all of them are otome games, but since some people expressed interest in the non-otome titles I featured in my Steam Next Fest recommendations post earlier this year, I figured I’d go through all my new purchases in this list, not just the otome ones.

Note: I’m aware this post is being published after the sales have ended, so the games featured likely won’t still be discounted. But, even if it’s a bit late, I still wanted to share my recommendations for the more interesting games I picked up in the sale. If you want to wait until they’re available at a lower price again, you can always add them to your wishlist and wait for the next Steam Sale (they happen pretty frequently, so you likely won’t have to wait long!).

I’ve separated the games into three categories below: Completed; In Progress; and Backlog-zoned. This categorization isn’t necessarily indicative of the game’s overall quality – I just wanted to be transparent about how much of each game I’ve actually played before sharing my thoughts on them.

But, without further ado, here are my purchases from the 2022 Steam Summer Sale…

Completed

Amelie

Game Name: Amelie
Developer: Two and a Half Studios
Publisher: Two and a Half Studios
Genre(s): Yuri, Psychological, Mystery, Horror
Gameplay Style: Visual Novel
More info: Steam, Twitter, Patreon.

“A psychological mystery yuri visual novel about a girl named Amelie. Forbidden from leaving the house, Amelie awaits the arrival of her long time penpal, Sofia, to her dear friend Lilika’s dismay. What secrets will Sofia unravel that were best kept buried?”

– Game Description (Steam)

Before I go into my review of ‘Amelie’, I’d like to highlight perhaps my favourite Steam user review ever: “Perfectly sums up the lesbian fashion spectrum, from Very Large Hoodie to Handmade Victorian Dress.” – by username Kasenra. I endeavour to write such succinct reviews one day. In fact, the vast majority of Steam reviews for ‘Amelie’ seem to be positive, and many of them were equally entertaining.

But, onto my own review. ‘Amelie’ is a relatively short visual novel, with three character routes and an estimated playtime of 1.5 hours (although some users reported longer playtimes of around 3 hours or more). These routes aren’t designed in the same way as a love interest route would be in an otome game (where the protagonist remains the same and the intended romanceable character changes) – instead, each route switches to a new protagonist. In other words, you play first as Amelie, then Sofia, and then Lilika.

It took me just over an hour to clear all of the endings, as there aren’t too many player choices and the skip function works quickly while still allowing you to easily read the history log and save/load at key points. Despite being a shorter game I felt like there was a lot packed into it, and I absolutely loved unravelling the many layers of mystery across the three main characters’ stories.

The decision to split the storytelling over three perspectives and several endings allows the truth to be revealed at a slower pace, keeping you guessing until the very end. I also liked that none of the endings were described as being explicitly “bad” or “good”, leaving it up to the player to decide what their ideal outcome would be.

‘Amelie’ would be a fantastic game to play during the spooky season, as it had a distinct ‘ghost story’ vibe that I absolutely loved. It was also very gay, but in a LGBT-friendly way, not a ‘girl x girl written for hetero men’ kind of way. Overall, the romantic element varied from sweet and innocent to delightfully twisted, although it leant more towards flirtatious and suggestive rather than explicit and graphic.

Overall Rating: 5/5 – There’s a lot of enjoyment packed into this short, emotive visual novel. The aesthetic and music create a spooky, melancholic atmosphere that perfectly sets the tone for a multi-layered mystery story. There are a few CGs to collect and I had a lot of fun slowly unravelling the truth. I can’t find any fault in it, so I highly recommend ‘Amelie’ for anyone looking for a creepy-cute yuri visual novel that’s short, sweet, and spooky.

A Lozenge

Game Name: A Lozenge
Developer: Party for Introverts
Publisher: Party for Introverts
Genre(s): Emotional, Philosophical
Gameplay Style: Visual Novel
More info: Steam, itch.io, Twitter, Website, Facebook

““A Lozenge” is a short interactive story about a mother-daughter road trip and motion sickness, dedicated to children of divorce.”

– Game Description (Steam)

‘A Lozenge’ is a short, interactive visual novel that takes around 10 minutes to complete. I loved the simple, yet emotional music by Alex Francois, which set the tone without being too obtrusive. There isn’t any voice acting, and the text bubbles were the same colour regardless of who was speaking, so you’ll need to rely on the context and where the text appears to work out who is saying what.

The story focuses on the relationship between Lucy, a recently-separated mother, and her daughter, Michelle. The player choices revolve around navigating an emotionally-charged conversation in the car as the two of them drive away from their old family home and towards their new home, where Michelle’s father won’t be joining them.

The story was poignant and emotional, and there’s never a clear correct choice, so it’s an intriguing way to explore a difficult situation that’s common in real life, yet rarely discussed openly and honestly. I did feel that due to the game’s shorter length, players don’t have a lot of time to build an emotional connection with the characters, but the developers did a fantastic job of making the story grounded and relatable enough that the game still tugs at the heartstrings.

If you’re looking for a quick, low-budget visual novel that will make you feel and make you think, then I recommend ‘A Lozenge’. For what it is, I enjoyed it, but I don’t think it was for me. I would rather pay more and experience a longer story that can explore these themes in more depth, but I appreciate that a shorter story like this can still be just as meaningful and impactful for the right reader.

Overall Rating: 3/5 – ‘A Lozenge’ is exactly what it says on the tin, and the developers are impressively adept at creating poignant, emotional scenes, despite having very little time to build up the player’s investment in the characters. It wasn’t as much to my tastes as I was hoping, but it was nonetheless intriguing and inexpensive, so I’d still say it’s worth playing if you’re curious about the premise and in the mood for something short and sweet.

In Progress

Absolute Alchemical Potion

Current Progress: 1 ending (~2 hours of playtime)

Game Name: Absolute Alchemical Potion
Developer: Lotos Project
Publisher: Lotos Project
Genre(s): Otome, Fantasy, Comedy, Romance
Gameplay Style: Visual Novel
More info: Steam, Twitter.

“Behold: the great scientist-alchemist Celsia. Help the protagonist recover her power and brew the potion that’ll change the world, or find true and eternal love.”

– Game Description (Steam)

My favourite part of ‘Absolute Alchemical Potion’ is undeniably the cast. The love interests are all aesthetically appealing (read: hot AF), with unique personalities and character designs unlike any I’ve come across before. Sitri – the chaotic, half-raven half-demon love interest – is definitely my best-boy. He’s an eccentric, volatile character, but he’s also deeply intriguing, and I couldn’t help but want to know more about him.

While I generally enjoyed the story, I unfortunately didn’t connect so much with the writing style itself. There were some instances of over-explaining or over-describing things, where the writers tell the reader how to interpret the actions in any given scene, rather than painting a picture for the reader to judge for themselves.

That being said, the plot itself was entertaining, and I enjoyed the series of adventures with each of the love interests. Each scenario felt unique, and deftly incorporated the characters’ distinct skill sets into the resolution. They were enjoyable quests on their own, as well as being vehicles for the player to develop their interest in each romanceable character. With another round of editing to tighten up the script, ‘Absolute Alchemical Potion’ could easily become an otome fan favourite.

I’ve completed one playthrough so far, in which I got the second ending. This ending, unfortunately, wasn’t too romantic – which is probably because I just picked whatever choice I felt like rather than using a guide to get a particular love interest’s maxed points. I’m keen to re-play for Sitri’s ending though, and I’m curious to see the remaining ‘mature’ scenes for all of the love interests.

On the note of spicier content, I have to commend ‘Lotos Project’ for gifting us with the rare treasure that is overtly sexual love interests and mature scenes in otome games. There was no shying away from a sensual massage or rejecting romantic advances for no reason, and I’m deeply appreciative of Glem’s inability to properly wear a belt.

Current Rating: 4/5 – ‘Absolute Alchemical Potion’ features a beautiful, vibrant art style and entertaining cast of unique characters, but, while the story itself was entertaining, the style of prose was a little awkward and wordy for my tastes. Still, I loved the characters – especially Sitri ❤ – and I’m always grateful for some spicier stories, so I’m keen to continue playing and collect more of the endings and CGs!

Vampire: The Masquerade – Coteries of New York

Current Progress: 1 hour of playtime

Game Name: Vampire: The Masquerade – Coteries of New York
Developer: Draw Distance
Publisher: Draw Distance
Genre(s): Dark Fantasy
Gameplay Style: Visual Novel
More info: Steam, Website, Twitter, Facebook.

“Vampire: The Masquerade – Coteries of New York is a narrative experience set in the rich universe of Vampire: The Masquerade 5th Edition. It presents the struggle for power between two vampiric factions – the Camarilla and the Anarchs – bathed in the night lights of the Big Apple.”

– Game Description (Steam)

The game’s roots in a tabletop RPG are obvious and – as a tabletop RPG fan – I can appreciate how it feels reminiscent of a medium I know and love. I’m not familiar with ‘Vampire: The Masquerade 5th Edition’ itself, but I can see the broader influences of the TTRPG genre – from the second person perspective, to the narrative-heavy script, to the way scenes and dilemmas are introduced to the player as a GM would in a typical session.

However, I’m not sure how well the developers have translated this setting to a visual novel format. The art style is beautiful, and creates an aesthetic that effectively immerses you in the gritty, dark, supernatural atmosphere of the game. However, the overall user-interface is slightly odd when compared to typical visual novels, and I got the sense that the script wasn’t written by someone with visual novel experience.

There are options to change the location of player choices when they appear on the screen, as well as adjusting font size, but it still felt odd to have the text tucked away in the bottom-left corner, as it drew my eyes away from the centre of the screen, where the rest of the action was happening. Plus, the lines of text were often too long for the tiny text box, meaning I would have to scroll through each sentence to read it in full before clicking for the next line.

This was only more noticeable when I increased the size of the font, and while it’s not something I’d considered as potentially being an issue before, I’ve never previously had to scroll through lines in a visual novel, so I often missed parts of the story as I habitually clicked my way through the game.

That being said, I have no issues with the story itself. I actually love the plot and the gradual revealing of a complex, fascinating setting rich with political intrigue and supernatural thrill. There’s a lot to be excited about – it’s just dampened by the developers not making the most of the inherent strengths of the visual novel medium.

For example, the way each line is presented can be an effective tool for enhancing the overall impact of any given scene – whether it’s through the writer’s stylistic choices, or the literal speed and manner in which each line shows up on the screen.

Rather than employing a mix of short, punchy lines that appear quickly on screen to build excitement and tension, and long, flowing, wordy lines that let the reader stew on the protagonist’s emotions, the text was merely broken up sentence-by-sentence, leading to a flat, monotonous tone throughout the game.

Furthermore, staple features of the medium were left out entirely – most notably, the ability to save the game and re-load from a previous file. While this isn’t something we’d expect to see in a TTRPG, it is considered standard for visual novels, as players tend to go back to key decisions in the story and re-play from these milestones to uncover all the varying scenes and endings.

I’m aware that I’m only an hour into the game and therefore judging it on early impressions, but I do feel that I should have been more hooked into the game by now to justify continuing to play. Don’t get me wrong, the story and characters themselves are compelling, but the lack of standard features of the visual novel format is likely to be off-putting to VN fans, and I find myself becoming more anxious about reaching a ‘bad’ or ‘dead’ end the further I get into the game, as I’m dreading the possibility of having to start from scratch.

Current Rating: 2/5 – I’m intrigued by the premise of ‘Vampire: The Masquerade – Coteries of New York’ and there’s clearly a rich world of lore lurking beneath the surface of this game that I’d love to explore in more depth. The art style is also aesthetically appealing and evocative, with a variety of diverse character sprites and background art to keep the game visually interesting.

However, the writing lacks any of the stylistic tools used in visual novels to fully utilize the medium’s strengths, dampening the emotional impact of an otherwise compelling script. I would love for the ability to save and re-load the game to be added in a future update, as I think this simple addition would be enough to make ‘Vampire: The Masquerade – Coteries of New York’ far more appealing to the visual novel fanbase.

Backlog-zoned

I’d like to start by apologizing to any of the poor games who have found themselves in my eternal backlog. I promise it’s not personal, I just have too many games to play, and too little time in which to play them.

This reason I’ve still listed them in this post is to showcase some cool games that – even if I haven’t had time to play them yet – I still found interesting enough to promote them from my wishlist to my library.

Help us choose: If there are any games listed here that you’d like me to cover in more depth, please leave a comment at the end of this post, or send a DM on Twitter! There are many games I’d like to review, and it’s often hard to decide which to play next, so any suggestions to help prioritise would be greatly appreciated.

Arcade Spirits

Game Name: Arcade Spirits
Developer: Fiction Factory Games
Publisher: PQube
Genre(s): Comedy, Romantic, Futuristic-Retro
Gameplay Style: Visual Novel
More info: Steam, itch.io, Website, Twitter.

“Arcade Spirits is a romantic visual novel that follows an alternative timeline where the 1983 video game crash never occurred. It’s 20XX and you’ve just started a new job at the Funplex game arcade. Who will you meet along the way? Will you find the romance you’re seeking?”

– Game Description (Steam)

I recently played and reviewed ‘Arcade Spirits: The New Challengers‘, so I’ve been curious to play the original ‘Arcade Spirits’ for a while now. I saw it was on sale and figured now was a good a time as any to give it a try!

Also, I didn’t realise Queen Bee was a character in the original ‘Arcade Spirits’. I loved her in AS:TNC, so I’m incredibly excited to see where the series began – and maybe notice a few more references along the way!

Demonheart

Game Name: Demonheart
Developer: Rolling Crown
Publisher: Rolling Crown
Genre(s): Dark Fantasy, Romance
Gameplay Style: Visual Novel
More info: Steam, itch.io, Website, Twitter, Patreon.

“Discover the secrets of the witches and demons in this dark fantasy romance game, featuring a female protagonist whose personality is completely up to the player thanks to extensive dialog choices.”

– Game Description (Steam)

I was going to play the demo for a spin-off of ‘Demonheart’ during the June 2022 Steam Next Fest, but I decided to add the original game to my wishlist instead. I then saw it was discounted for the Summer Sale, so I figured I’d listen to fate and add it to basket!

I love dark fantasy and the developers promise extensive dialogue choices and a protagonist with a customizable personality, so I’m intrigued to play ‘Demonheart’ and see why all the Steam reviews are so positive.

Guardian of the Future

Game Name: Guardian of the Future
Developer: Lotos Project
Publisher: Lotos Project
Genre(s): Otome, Fantasy, Romance
Gameplay Style: Visual Novel
More info: Steam, Twitter.

“In this fantasy visual novel, you will play as Miyuri, the heiress of the great Bakuto clan of adherents to ancient martial arts. She has inherited a very important ability from her deceased mother: a mysterious power that would help save the world.”

– Game Description (Steam)

I’ve had this otome game on my wishlist for a while and it’s by the same developers as ‘Absolute Alchemical Potion’, so it was an easy pick for the shopping basket! I love the art style and the premise is intriguing, so I’ll be sure to play ‘Guardian of the Future’ once I’ve finished ‘Absolute Alchemical Potion’.

Rose of Winter

Game Name: Rose of Winter
Developer: Pillow Fight
Publisher: Pillow Fight
Genre(s): Otome, Fantasy, Romance, Adventure
Gameplay Style: Visual Novel
More info: Steam, itch.io, Website.

“Rose of Winter is a charming visual novel with adventure, romance, and heartbreak. Choose one of four princes to take on your adventure, and make decisions to unlock multiple endings.”

– Game Description (Steam)

This otome game has actually been on my wishlist for a while, so I thought I’d grab it while it’s on sale. It came out in 2016, so it’s a little older now, but I love subversions of fairy-tale stories and I’m always excited to try new otome games!

Psychedelica of the Black Butterfly

Game Name: Psychedelica of the Black Butterfly
Developer: Idea Factory, Otomate
Publisher: Idea Factory, Aksys Games
Genre(s): Otome, Fantasy, Tragedy, Romance
Gameplay Style: Visual Novel
More info: Steam, Otome Kitten’s Review.

“Awakening in a mysterious mansion, her first, frantic thoughts are: ‘Where am I? And more importantly, WHO am I?'”

– Game Description (Steam)

‘Psychedelica of the Black Butterfly’ is an otome classic that has been on my radar (and wishlist) for a long time, so I instantly added it to my cart when I saw it on sale. This one is a fairly high priority game in the backlog, so I’m hoping to play it soon.

Pub Encounter

Game Name: Pub Encounter
Developer: Dogenzaka Lab
Publisher: Dogenzaka Lab
Genre(s): Otome, Romance, Comedy
Gameplay Style: Visual Novel
More info: Steam, Website, Twitter.

“”Pub Encounter” is a romance game where you can fall in love with one of several middle-aged men.”

– Game Description (Steam)

I’ve known about this… unique otome game for a while now, but it popped up again recently (I can’t remember why the otome community was discussing it again, but it seems to get mentioned a lot anyway) and when I saw it on sale, I knew it was destiny. I’m very keen to romance some sexy oji-sans, so this is also a high priority game on the list!

Hustle Cat

Game Name: Hustle Cat
Developer: Date Nighto
Publisher: Date Nighto
Genre(s): Romance, Character-driven, cats!
Gameplay Style: Visual Novel
More info: Steam, itch.io.

“You are Avery Grey, the newest employee at a popular cat cafe called A Cat’s Paw. The coffee’s good and the staff is friendly (and kinda cute!) but mysterious. One day, you find a strange book in the basement, with letters you can’t quite read…”

– Game Description (Steam)

I’d honestly never heard of ‘Hustle Cats’ before and I’m still not sure what to expect, but it sounds intriguing and the Steam user reviews are generally positive, so I’m keen to dive in and see what ‘Hustle Cat’ is all about… plus, cute cats!

Office Lovers

Game Name: Office Lovers
Developer: Dogenzaka Lab
Publisher: Dogenzaka Lab
Genre(s): Otome, Romance
Gameplay Style: Visual Novel
More info: Steam, Website, Twitter.

“It’s a romance game where you can experience the thrill of an office romance where you have to keep your relationship secret. What will happen when you’re alone with him in the conference room?”

– Game Description (Steam)

‘Office Lovers’ has been on my wishlist for a while. It’s an otome game with mixed reviews on Steam, and I’m curious to know why it has such a range of different opinions. It looks fairly standard to me – and it’s made by the same developers as ‘Pub Encounter’ – so I’m keen to play it for myself and see what all the fuss is about.

AI: The Somnium Files

Game Name: AI: The Somnium Files
Developer: Spike Chunsoft Co., Ltd
Publisher: Spike Chunsoft Co., Ltd
Genre(s): Mystery, Detective, Adventure, Sci-Fi
Gameplay Style: Visual Novel
More info: Steam

“Play as detective Kaname Date on the case of an elusive serial killer in this thrilling, sci-fi murder mystery.”

– Game Description (Steam)

‘AI: The Somnium Files’ popped up on my radar while I was browsing Steam for demos during the June 2022 Next Fest and I’ve seen a few other reviewers discussing it (including a mention in Skylar-Mei’s ‘Monthly Summary: June 2022’ post). It seems more focused on the mystery and detective/adventure elements than character relationships, but it’s nice to play something a bit different for a change of pace every now and then, and most reviews seem fairly positive.

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7 comments

  • yes i feel you 😭
    I finally got 2 games because of these summer sale
    I play Dandelion and I really feel the hard of only one route
    And my vow to my liege I would like to complete the first game and then start it

    Like

  • Thank you for the reviews! I’ve put one of those on my wishlist for the next sale. 😀

    Quote: “I’m deeply appreciative of Glem’s inability to properly wear a belt.”
    Lol! Hello, fellow appreciator belts and/or low-slung pants. 😉

    Oh my! Those are quite a few interesting games you have in your backlog!! Since you asked which game to review next (and I’m bad at naming one single choice), here is my ranking. 😀
    AI: The Somnium Files (because it’s very high on my wishlist)
    Psychedelica of the Black Butterfly (because it’s in my backlog, and I’m afraid to play it)
    Rose of Winter (because it gets mentioned from time to time on the otome Reddit and your blurb intrigued me)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yay! Glad the review was helpful! Low-slung pants are always a blessing ❤

      And thank you for your suggestions! A few people have mentioned both AI: The Somnium Files and Psychedelica of the Black Butterfly, so I'll make them my top priorities. I'm excited for both of them! Rose of Winter also looks good – and I was planning to play it before I posted this review but ran out of time – so I'll try to get around to it soon 🙂

      Like

  • yes i feel you 😭
    I finally got 2 games because of these summer sale
    Dandelion I started feeling hard just from first route
    And my vow to my liege I would like to complete the first game and start it

    Liked by 1 person

  • I’m so glad you picked up AI: The Somnium Files! It’s one of my all time favourite games and it’s taken everything in me to hold off buying the new one (nirvanA Initiative) because I don’t have time to play it right now 😅 I can also highly recommend Psychedelica of the Black Butterfly and if you haven’t tried out start;again from Two and a Half Studios already, then maybe give that a shot too since you enjoyed Amelie 😁 As for Office Lovers though… good luck with that one (I think it’s the only otome game I ever dropped) 😂 There’s some great picks on this list and I’m looking forward to reading your thoughts!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m even more excited to play AI: The Somnium Files now! And I’ve heard good things about Psychedelica of the Black Butterfly, so I’m definitely bumping that up the priority list. As for Office Lovers… I had a look at some of the Steam reviews and decided to play it with ‘realistic’ expectations lol.

      Like

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