A truly Epic Enterprise.
I’m really looking forward to the day where I can easily pitch indie games to my friends. It’s hard enough to sell them on games that our little bubble considers “big”, like DmC or Tomb Raider, but a game like Hate Plus? Nigh impossible; even within video game enthusiast culture, depending on the person. I’ve barely gotten through to a couple friends about this game. So I guess what I’m saying is that you may not think you’ll like Hate Plus or its precursor Analogue: A Hate Story. But you owe it to yourself to get over that hurdle, because you’re missing out on some of the most interesting examples of interactive fiction this industry is likely to see for a while.
Also, man. That thing with the tongue from Analogue? Fantastic stuff, I can’t believe you missed it.
Hate Plus serves both as a prequel and a sequel to Analogue: A Hate Story. Your Investigator “character” has left the space colony ship Mugunghwa with whichever AI you chose, with three days left before you can return to Earth. And what better way to spend 72 hours than by doing even more reading? *Hyun-ae (in my playthrough) has uncovered some encrypted files that explain how society on the ship went from Future Korean Society to Future Korean Society Tricked Into Thinking It’s Past Korea. I was never that curious about how the passengers regressed from relatively modern to disgustingly misogynistic, but the story certainly held my interest.
You still talk with *Hyun-ae as a way of helping you parse what you’re reading. However, she either talks to you once you’ve read everything you can for that day, or automatically as you scroll through the story. It’s a welcome change from the previous game, where you had to manually check with your AI partner after each log.
The game’s side stories have been improved as well. I didn’t see everything in Analogue: A Hate Story, but Hate Plus does a much better job of letting you see everything of importance and helping you keep track of who’s who. Analogue’s tale of a cuckqueen who falls in love with her husband’s mistress may have been compelling and made for some great world building, but it didn’t really have all that much to do with The Pale Bride (I think. Again, didn’t see everything). Here, even if the connection isn’t major nor immediately apparent, there’s a sense of cohesion to everything. It also helps that major players have bio pages that can be accessed from within the logs. Putting names to faces went a long way.
But what makes Hate Plus so unique? There are many games with great stories, and we’re not hurting for visual novels either. What sets Hate Plus apart is…well, it’s just plain quirky. Not ‘fake’ quirky, either, where someone tries really hard to emulate Portal or Deadly Premonition. Hate Plus is clearly something Christine Love wanted to make. I don’t know Christine but I can’t help but feel like this is her game. Like I said, I don’t know her, but Hate Plus really makes me want to.
For example, there’s a late-game sequence where *Hyun-ae asks you to bake her a cake. She gives you a recipe and the option to say you’ll bake the cake. If you decide to acquiesce, the game will time you and chew you out if you come back earlier. And then, once you’re all done, you can eat cake with your sidekick! You can also take a picture of this wonderful moment and send it to Christine for a special achievement. Yes, I took a picture. Of course I did.
Also, remember how I keep mentioning “days”? Well, your ship is running on emergency power, so you can only ‘decrypt’ so many text logs per day before you have to power down. And when I mean ‘day’, I mean ’12 real life human daylight hours’. Once you’ve read your fill, you have to turn the game off and wait 12 hours before you can play again. Sure, you can skip the real-time aspect, but I kind of liked having to set aside time for a videogame.
This is more of an observation than a criticism, but Hate Plus definitely feels like *Mute’s story in the same way Analogue was *Hyun-ae’s. If you really want to bring *Hyun-ae from Analogue, you’ll still get a really interesting story — and she does make a neat little cameo, which I appreciated — but making a new file and choosing *Mute or going back for the Harem ending seems to be the way to go here.
Hate Plus, much like its predecessor (especially in conjunction with its predecessor), is worth your time simply because it’s a really well made auteur piece. Thankfully, Analogue’s small missteps are smoothed over here, resulting in an overall superior experience. You should definitely play both Analogue: A Hate Story and Hate Plus; the latter was originally DLC, after all. But Hate Plus is definitely the better game, and a promising indication of where Christine Love’s career is headed.
She really needs to get around to fixing that resolution issue, though. 1020×640? C’mon.