Moonrise | Game Review

Give in to your newfound bloodlust or cling to your humanity with clawed hands as a newly-turned werewolf in Moonrise, a sapphic, urban fantasy interactive novel by Natalie Cannon…

Game Name: Moonrise
Developer: Natalie Cannon
Publisher: Hosted Games
Genres: Interactive Novel, Sapphic, Urban Fantasy, LGBTQIA+
Platforms: Hosted Games Library: Apple, Google Play; Standalone: Google Play, Amazon, Choice of Games
More info: Twitter, StoryGraph
Price: $1.99 USD (First two chapters free)

Ratings

Sweet 4/5: Some sweet, romantic scenes and wholesome found-family themes, provided you make the necessary player choices.
Spicy 3/5: If you play your cards right, you can indulge in some spicy scenes – albeit with a poetic, euphemistic tone rather than explicit.
CD 4/5: I loved the unique, evocative descriptions for the romanceable characters, but I would have liked to explore the main cast in more depth.
Story 4/5: I could clearly see how my choices were affecting the outcome – and Natalie’s writing style is a delight to read – I just wish the story were longer.

Story & Gameplay

You’ve been bitten into a brand new supernatural underground. Congratulations! It’s terrifying and heartwarming all at once. In a game made by a queer woman and for queer women and femme nonbinary folk, this supernatural celebration of queer femininity takes you into the darkness and lets you own it.

Use your compassion and sense of responsibility to make connections and fall in love. Or use your newfound fangs and claws to rip, shred, and tear through your problems. Is this the start of a satisfying, shape-shifting life full of romance, or the blood-soaked birth of a new deity of the forest? You decide!”

– Product Description (Amazon)

The first two chapters of Moonrise are available for free, and they make for a great demo to try before you buy. After you finish the free trial, you’re prompted to pay $1.99 USD to continue reading. This isn’t a large fee, and by this point in the story, you should have an idea of whether or not the rest of the game is worth the cost.

I was more than happy to pay and play the full game – and I don’t regret my purchase. I bought the version on Choice of Games – so I could play via browser on my PC – and I found this platform worked well considering the app-based design.

It’s worth noting that Moonrise is an interactive novel, rather than a visual novel. Despite being used to a more graphic format, I never felt the written segments were too long or cumbersome to read. Due to the app design, you’re only presented with a few paragraphs at a time (at most), with frequent player choices help to break up long passages of text.

I also liked the incorporation of stat meters as a way to see the impact of your choices. They don’t appear each time you make a selection – so they’re not too intrusive – but you can easily check your progress via the “stats” button at the top of the screen. The second half of the game will offer a different outcome not only based on your decisions, but also the stats you boosted during the first half of the game. I loved seeing the clear consequences of my choices, making each decision feel integral to the story.

Features:
☆ Play as a trans woman, cis woman, or nonbinary person; lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, or asexual.
☆ Date your nonbinary best friend, the ruthless Rogue leader, or the lycanthropic goddess amongst werewolves.
☆ Build up your Empathy, Bloodthirst, Snark, Responsibility, Uncanny Valley, and Defense to survive lethal encounters and protect those you hold dear.
☆ Pledge allegiance to the tradition of the Masquerade or the desperate, volatile Rogues.
☆ Expose the supernatural underground to the blistering light or keep their secrets in the deep dark.
☆ Embrace the feral monster within or hold fast to your humanity.

Consequences & Nostalgia

In all interactive fiction – whether it’s interactive novels, visual novels, or narrative-driven games – the key factor players are looking for is consequences. If we’re going to be presented with choices, we want to know that they matter. In Moonrise, I could clearly see how my choices were affecting the outcome, and the interval explanations of the game structure and what would come next helped me to understand the consequences of my decisions.

To top it off, Natalie’s writing style is a delight to read, balancing ease of comprehension and evocative description to create a compelling urban fantasy that will leave you wanting more. I used to be an avid reader until university killed my enthusiasm with endless dry, academic texts, sending me further down the rabbit hole of video games.

I love visual novels in particular, as they represent a beautiful intersection of written storytelling and interactive fiction in a multi-media format. However, the language in visual novels tends to be less literary than the style we might find in a novel, as much of the information typically conveyed through words is expressed through the visuals and sound design.

Playing Moonrise made me nostalgic for the days when I would consume multiple books in a week, particularly those in the gothic and supernatural romance genre. There’s a certain poetry to the way Natalie writes that I don’t often find in video games, and that I now realise I’ve missed from novels.

You can check your stats at any time to see how your choices are shaping your protagonist!

I’m glad Moonrise was published as an interactive novel, as it’s close enough to the video games I’ve been fixated on that I actually took the time to read it. If I hadn’t have picked it up, I wouldn’t have had the joy of re-discovering my passion for literary romance.

With its comforting, nostalgic style – and a character who bears an uncanny resemblance to someone I was close friends with in high school – Moonrise affectionately drew me back to my teenage years and reinvigorated my love for urban fantasy and gothic romance novels. If I start posting book reviews on this website, you’ll know who to thank for it!

Characters

You’re here. You’re queer. You’re a werewolf. Date and thrive in the underground. Who
will you kiss: your charismatic friend, the icy werewolf leader, or the lycanthropic goddess?

Love interests: Rosario, Chika, Ishara

I won’t say which of the above love interests are the “charismatic friend”, “icy werewolf leader”, and “lycanthropic goddess”, as this could be considered a spoiler, but suffice to say there’s plenty of variety among these three romanceable characters to suit players with different tastes.

Furthermore, I could tell that the author was writing these characters from a place of sincerity and understanding, as the description of each love interest and the way the protagonist was attracted to them felt truly authentic. Each came across as a unique, realistic person, despite belonging to a fantasy setting.

Since this is an interactive novel and not a visual novel, there aren’t any illustrative character designs for the cast of Moonrise. I would have liked more time to delve into each character in more depth, but even in this limited word count, Natalie did a fantastic job of using concise and precise descriptors to conjure a vivid image in my mind.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t too successful with the romance in this game, so I wasn’t able to pursue relationships with Rosario or Chika. I did manage to finish the game in an open relationship with Ishara – which I’m definitely not complaining about – and I appreciated the presence of asexual and polyamorous options.

Still, what I can comment on in regards to romance, is the variety of options based on your preferences and persuasions. The game offers several opportunities to determine the nature of your relationship in plain, explicit language to avoid confusion, including non-sexual (but still romantic), platonic, and sexual-romantic relationships. Plus, there are some open (or non-exclusive) arrangements, regardless of whether or not the relationship is sexual.

Despite ending with Ishara, Chika was actually my favourite character. I adored the description used when she was introduced to the story, so I’m tempted to replay and make different choices to try and get an ending with her. Even if I didn’t end up with the character I was hoping for, I loved how distinct each potential love interest was from the other, and I’m sure there’ll be an ending for everyone.

Final Thoughts

Moonrise is a 49,000-word urban fantasy interactive novel by Natalie Cannon, where your
choices control the story. It’s entirely text-based—without graphics or sound effects—and fueled
by the vast, unstoppable power of your imagination.”

The spooky season may technically be over, but for those of us who love a little supernatural romance at any time of year, the spooky season is never over. I adored the urban fantasy setting, and I found myself feeling nostalgic for all the angsty, supernatural romance I loved when I was younger.

That being said, Moonrise is distinctly more queer (and mature) than most of the novels I read as a teen… which I very much appreciated. Indie titles are the best place for inclusive fiction, and Moonrise is no exception. In short, if you’re in the mood for a sapphic, werewolf romance, I highly recommend Moonrise, by Natalie Cannon.

Game Name: Moonrise
Developer: Natalie Cannon
Publisher: Hosted Games
Genres: Interactive Novel, Sapphic, Urban Fantasy, LGBTQIA+
Platforms: Hosted Games Library: Apple, Google Play; Standalone: Google Play, Amazon, Choice of Games
More info: Twitter, StoryGraph
Price: $1.99 USD (First two chapters free)

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