Genre: Adventure Casual Indie Visual Novel
Publisher: Fruitbat Factory
Release Date: Mar 30, 2017
The mystery novel genre within the realm of visual novels is one of the smaller, less frequented areas and it shows as many mystery novels, like the Higurashi series tend to hide like little gems in a dark hole. So when an novel that has a similar atmosphere comes out, I was all over it: Miniature Garden. Miniature Garden is a dark and gritty mystery visual novel, developed by Muzintou, later released by Fruitbat Factory that focuses on a mystery of a school, and the truth behind it – with some flaws in its story and overall presentation.
Prepare for an after school detention like never before as Miniature Garden weaves its story on a white canvas that only gets darker the more you progress. We, the reader, focus around Yasunari, our stories main character as the school they attend, Miniature Garden, is getting ready to hold their three year event known as the Miniature Festival. The day of the festival arrives and Yasunari receives a mysterious text message to meet an underclassman near one of the fountains, but when he arrives there is no one there to greet him. He then mysteriously falls unconscious, and wakes up in one of the school’s classrooms with his longtime friend Ayana at his side. Upon waking upon and starting to explore the now seemingly empty school, the two run into two other students, Sumika and Itsuki, who form a group to find out why they are in a new abandoned version of their school – but they quickly get more questions then answer as the group come across Rio Komiya, a mysterious silver haired transfer student who knows more than she lets on, with the only information to say that someone will die here. I will end the synopsis here as any farther is purely spoiler territory, but I can happy say this novel sports several routes to complete if you are willing to put the time in, with around three to four hours play time per route.
As great as having the multiple routes and play time is, I did find one or two flaws I felt that really dethroned the story from being anything better than a very good to great story. The first real flaw I found was not even a story situation, it was all the loading screens in between the scenes as jumps. As a story divider, I felt if they had used less of these loading scenes than maybe it would have been a great addition, but with so many of them, many with just a minute or less of story between them, it felt clunky and kills much of the created tension between scenes. The other big flaw I found was how often the pacing got broken up as the story progressed. I can respect that they tried to keep the pacing as stable as possible, but it felt like they tried too hard as many of the scenes where you legitly feel terrified for a character loses their pacing when in the next scene, the character is just calm, like nothing even happened before because the people in the room now were not there before to see the events that just happened.
As a presentation, I feel like Miniature Garden keeps a more modern art style with some realism and a soundtrack that while effective in its use, does not stay memorable over multiple playthroughs. Visually, I want to give Mozintou some credit as they have managed to keep the effect of fear like that of the Higurashi novels, but with a stylized type of design that is clean and pretty to look at, something that not many novels to date for me have been able to do. The backgrounds were nicely drawn and unique at the same time, each scene able to keep the same feel but focus on something else altogether, such as the anguish of one of the characters models. The characters are another good example of this, as the story builds around them and you watch the characters change visually from being normal and happy to some levels of a sadistic streak; It is this level of detail, where these characters feel right at home yet they can be expressive and make you fear for their lives alongside of them that makes the novel feel complete.
I can not say the same for the soundtrack given in Miniature Garden as while the visuals keep you guessing, the soundtrack falls flat. Musically, the soundtrack is beautiful and for a single playthrough, it’s classical themed songs, with some touches of other genres, are quite the memorable selection – but as this novel has several endings for you to explore if you wish, the same songs will start to get less memorable. The sound effects do well here though, being simple but used properly to make you feel for the characters and the predicament they are all in.
Overall, while Miniature Garden has this dark and gritty charm with its storytelling and visuals, it lacks in its ability to be memorable in the music department, and its severely segmented pacing of story. The well developed story and characters, multiple routes to delve into, alright read time (around three to four hours per route), highly stylized backgrounds and character models, beautifully executed graphics, the soundtrack is well orchestrated, and excellent sound effect placement make for some memorable moments.
- A well developed and written story
- Well developed characters
- Several endings to seek
- Decent read time of three to four hours per route
- Beautifully executed graphics
- The background and character models are highly stylized and well detailed.
- A well orchestrated soundtrack
- Excellent use of sound effects
- Too many loading screens between scenes
- The pacing gets broken up very easily where it should not
- While visually impressive, some scenes do feel out of place
- The soundtrack, while well orchestrated, loses much of its memorability after one or two read throughs
- Some characters develop less then others, losing some of their more interesting aspects
DarkLunarDude gives Miniature Garden a Drastik Measure 7.7 out of 10.0 (77)
For the price of $19.99 on Steam, I can recommend Miniature Garden to those seeking a good dark and gritty mystery visual novel as the novel offers several routes to complete, each with its own unique ending based on the choices you make.
For a chance at snagging yourself a copy for free, consider checking out our giveaway for Miniature Garden here: #TDMGameGiveaway of Miniature Garden.