[Review] Juniper’s Knot

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The game is free, you can download it here: http://junipersknot.dischan.org/

(This is a spoiler-free review)

Juniper’s Knot is an OELVN -original English language visual novel- created by Dischan Media, and I’ve just finished reading it a few minutes ago. So here’s a brief review of it.

As the novel is painfully short, it is difficult to go into much detail without spoiling the experience for first-time readers. So I won’t. As far as length is concerned, for most people, it will take no more than an hour to finish all of it – maybe an hour and a half if you’re a slow reader. In any case, the story is told from the perspective of the only two characters present in it, a young boy and a female demon. The chance encounter of these two vastly different individuals is what Juniper’s Knot aims to explore.

So let’s start with some of the good bits. First off, although the art is simple and occasionally rough around the edges, it is overall very lovely and pleasing to the eye. There are only a handful of illustrations, but those that appear, including the bonus concept artwork accessible from  the main menu, are quite effective in setting the mood for the story.

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And the mood in question is that of a fairy tale, albeit with a hint of darkness. There is a decent buildup to certain revelations within the tale as the tone shifts and darker details are revealed; and yet I cannot help feeling slightly disappointed. Not because it was a bad story (it was no masterpiece, but it was by no means bad), but because it deserved a bit more. The tale is over before the reader could really grow attached to its two main characters, and a certain dark twist about mid-way through the narrative -easily my favorite bit in the entire story- fails to really go anywhere and is left mostly unexplored by the end.

I see the potential for a much more fleshed out story in here, one that sadly wasn’t fully realized in Juniper’s Knot. Thankfully, the end result is still rather pleasant. In fact, I would very much welcome either a sequel or -and I find this much more plausible- a prequel. The fact that I care enough about the heroine’s predicament to want to know more about it only shows that the story worked on a certain level – although it didn’t quite have the same emotional impact as Analogue: A Hate Story, it still made me *feel* things. So there’s that. 

I had mixed feelings about the ending. I suppose I was simply expecting a very different one, especially considering certain things that were hinted at earlier in the story. It felt somewhat weird and a bit out of character… I really feel like a lot more could’ve been done with it.
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Let’s now move on to the script itself, and how it’s presented. By far the most memorable aspect of Juniper’s Knot for me is its writing. I’ll be honest, it put me off at first. I imagine most people will find it strange initially. But for me, confusion lasted for mere seconds, and soon fascination took its place. It is peculiar without sounding too alien, and playful without being overly childish. The script is peppered with flowery terms, archaic vocabulary and has a very “English” tone. I have a feeling that a person smarter than myself could find things to complain about the writing – me, I fell for its charms. My only fear is that this style was mainly reserved for this game alone, and will not make a return in future titles. Hopefully I’m proven wrong.

As for the soundtrack – I was very pleased with it. It is joyful when it needs to, and emanates menace as the mood and emotions darken, and so I found it to be a perfect companion to the story. To the composer: you did a fantastic job. In fact, I’m going to give you a link to it, because it’s free to download: you can grab it over here.

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To quickly wrap things up, I can say that the negatives I mentioned above still don’t stop me from recommending Juniper’s Knot. It is a charming tale and I had fun reading it, shortness aside. It doesn’t quite reinvent the wheel, but what it does, it does relatively well, and I am now very much looking forward to Dischan’s next game: Dysfunctional Systems. (You can also support them on Steam Greenlight.)

In closing, I’d say go ahead and give Juniper’s Knot a try. Deal?

Deal.

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