While investigating the market for furry games, as we are working on a little game ourselves, Cooper and I stumbled upon “Major/Minor” – a furry novel game. What made us do a double-take on it was the fact that it had been launched on Steam. Quite impressive to begin with as we all know the general view of society when it comes to furry products.
Let’s jump right in! – (click on “Continue reading”)
First of all, just a little disclaimer, we have only played the first two chapters – as the next ones are not out yet. All our impressions come from a single playthrough and will be written from my (Chris) perspective. Having an extra pair of eyes and ears (Cooper) actually helped emphasize the game’s strong points and its areas where there is room for improvement.
I’m going to try and avoid spoilers as much as possible. I’m quite sure though that, being only two chapters in, any major spoilers are not even present in the game yet.
The Visual – 7/10
“Major/Minor” presents a story that follows you, the player, through an adventure that starts out quite interesting. You are greeted by a… “character” that gives a supernatural layer to the tale. Right off the bat you will notice that PawziClawzi’s art is impeccable. Every single character is drawn with such care, with so many details and each has a charm of its own – visually speaking.
The style itself takes a negative hit when you notice that real-life photos have been used as backgrounds and the characters have a white glow around them, which makes them, oddly enough, look out of place. It does break the immersion a bit but, as you roll with it, it tends to not be as intrusive later on. You simply ignore it, which is a shame because the game would’ve looked awesome with drawn background as well.
Another awkward element of the game’s visual style is the angle of some pictures. For example, in Chapter 1 you wake up in a train, yet the image is taken from a very low angle. My first thought was “Am I on a chair or on the floor?”
Sure, the narration makes up for the confusion, but I’d rather not be confused at all in the first 5 minutes of playing something new, when the whole point is to understand your environment, your controls (which are explained perfectly in the beginning, kudos to that) and the story.
While certain aspects bring a smile – the mobile phone has “Furizon” written on it, made me chuckle – other artsy decisions do not make much sense. For example, it feels redundant to have the character AND the character portrait at the same time on the screen, near the dialogue box. Sure, when you have two characters, it’s important to know who’s talking… but you already have the name of the speaker above the dialogue. Surely Pawzi could’ve drawn a different facial expression for these moments if that was the direction they were going for, right? Well, I’m not artist, so I don’t know. As a player, it just looks like another little dent which doesn’t help show off the awesomely drawn characters.
The menu feels nice, the HUD is very sweet and slick (and functional, THANK YOU!) along with the transitions. The usage of your character’s name (which you type out in the beginning) is actually cute and seldom used, which gives it a better effect. It does make you feel like the story takes place around you and makes the choices seem personal and important – especially in the “Forest Scene” where you get to answer a few questions for two characters that show a certain interest in you.
The Audio – 4/10
Most Hollywood directors will tell you that music becomes a character in itself. It can drive the emotion of a scene, it can put emphasis on certain feelings and it can definitely make or break a game.
I appreciated the variety of tracks used throughout the gameplay of both chapters of “Major / Minor”. The music was not intrusive and a track or two were nicely chosen. I say “a track or two” because, unfortunately, the music tempo and the action described on screen do not fit in 95% of the scenes.
I found myself feeling grateful for the moments when the music stopped. While the music itself is good, it doesn’t seem to be related to the story. It doesn’t have a certain consistency and it really doesn’t help you, the player, connect better with the scenes or the characters. Apart from the creepy soundtracks you hear when you find out about “The Ark” or the “Midnight Murders”, the other tracks seem like they’re simply thrown in.
It is quite possible that there have been a lot of work put in when choosing these tracks. I do not undermine the artistic direction, I’m simply observing that what I hear does not correlate with what I read. Either that or 95% of the scenes are supposed to be happy-happy and I didn’t get it.
As a player (and composer) my recommendation would be to offer several people the chance to play the game without any soundtrack and to let them suggest tracks for the scenes. One of the pitfalls of being a creator is that you often do not realize what impact your creation will have on fresh eyes (and ears).
The music reminded me of some JRPGs – the only difference being that in those types of games your character physically moves across the screen. In “Major / Minor” you are reading text, a lot of it, and you are looking at the same static images of characters. Making the music “jumpy” doesn’t make the story better or more immersive.
The Story – 7/10
Having played only two chapters of “Major / Minor”, one cannot really state a clear opinion on the story itself. You start the game knowing that you are about to meet a Music Star named Klace and it puts you in the shoes of a fanboy. It has a very positive start and a general good-feeling all around.
However, the story does not stop there. The most intriguing part of it, by far, were the so called “Midnight Murders”. That was a very interesting line to follow and, unfortunately, not a lot of accent was put on it.
If you strip the tale to its bare bones, it follows multiple narrative threads. One of them is really fascinating and it is presented in an interesting way, as you follow the story and learn more about Klace. There is a mystery, there are hints of “something more” and you genuinely want to find out what’s behind the curtain.
This is where things kind of mix up, and not in a good way. All good stories should be able to be explained easily to a kid. If you overcomplicate the story, something’s not right. If you add too many characters to the story, again, something is not right.
For example, take
- “12 Angry Men” – It is a story about a jury, made up of men, debating and arguing to see if a certain young adult is guilty or not of murder.
- “Sherlock Holmes” – A man with exceptional deduction skills is out solving crimes with his friend and associate, Doctor Watson.
- “Romeo and Juliet” – Two enemy-families who were already at war with each other become even more enraged when two of their children fall in love.
You have an idea, a conflict, something that can spark up interest AND maintain it. Now, let’s look at the game we have here… from my perspective, of course, as the player.
- “Major / Minor” – You find out about two worlds that coexist, while going to see your music idol on tour, while learning about a mysterious phenomenon known as the Midnight Murders, while being taught that you have a certain something special which will be important for saving the two worlds and all this might be connected or not to the Midnight Murders and your music idol and the politics between the two worlds.
…this is honest and truly what I got from the first two chapters. I have read books, I’ve read fanfiction (good and bad), and I know a thing or two about telling a story. The effort put into this game’s story is quite obvious. The sheer amount of text would make anyone go nuts – I can only imagine the creator spending endless nights making sure to spellcheck everything, making sure the music is on cue with the text, checking and rechecking every little thing.
The programming alone must’ve been a nightmare just due to the sheer magnitude of it all. From that perspective, kudos to you, sir! You have more patience than I’ll ever dream of.
However, as a player, I would’ve preferred the “show, don’t tell” approach. Too much exposition thrown at me made things difficult to follow. As interesting as they may be, there were certain moments in which redundant thoughts made everything else even more difficult to chew.
Off the top of my head, I can safely say that there seemed to be too much rhetorical questioning of irrelevant elements – “It was odd that there was a railing grip for those who were sitting down”. Adapting the inner monologue to the choices you’ve made – keeping consistency, yes, good, confirming choices – but going over and over again the same choices that you’ve made barely 3 minutes ago becomes really daunting after a while. You choose something, the character acknowledges your choice, you move on. There is too much introspection. Far too much.
To quote the character named Dazz – “That is… elaborate.” A lot of work has been put into this, but the way it is presented to the player is very overwhelming. Strictly from a storytelling perspective, there is a lot of stuff presented in big clumps of sequences. By no means does this make the story less important, but it does make it less attractive. If I took Little Red Riding Hood and started with a 2-page history of the forest she is about to cross, nobody would anxiously await the wolf-part anymore.
The Gameplay – 6/10
“Major / Minor” is a furry novel, yes, we’ve established that. What we haven’t established was if it is also a dating simulator or not. At first glance, you’d think it is… then again, two chapters in and no real interaction makes me think it is not.
Speaking of interaction, this is probably where the game falls short. I love games in which you are able to make choices, meaningful choices. At the same time, I also love games that don’t take themselves too seriously and allow you to select choices that have no real consequence, but offer humor in return.
The old LucasArts adventure games, or others like Simon the Sorcerer gave you the possibility of selecting dialogue lines – just like “Major / Minor”. The only difference is that, in 90% of the cases, those dialogue lines served no purpose other than to make you laugh or actually make you feel and connected to the characters of the world you were exploring.
I would’ve loved to give Kila a reply or two to his snarky remarks. I would’ve had sooo much fun talking with Rook and pushing his buttons to see how far I can go until I break his patience limit.
Interaction – me needz it.
If there would be one thing, just one single thing I would definitely change about “Major / Minor”… it would be this. Not the convoluted story – let’s face it, if you REALLY want to get into it, you grab a cup of hot chocolate and you just READ through it. Not the art-decisions and lack of facial expressions, we have our imaginations for that.
I would give the player the opportunity to have fun, to interact, to be silly, to make choices out of which he would have NO idea which would be the “important” one. How cool would that be? Also, once you allow the player to be silly, he can actually take the serious scenes better, he gets more involved.
Here’s a quote from the game:
- “I never really had any say as to whether or not I wanted to help that man.”
This is kind of how the player feels. There are sections of this game where you are merely a witness and that’s that. Entire sections that play in front of your eyes without you having any input. Even if you could offer a non-intrusive opinion, something to get you more invested, a simple “yes, I agree / no, I disagree” option would’ve been enough, coupled with different reactions from the characters.
The consequence of this, and I deeply apologize to the creator as I think it hurts whenever someone says this, is that I didn’t remember the names of any other character aside from Rook, Kila and Klace. Even the very first character at the beginning, he seemed so important and so “omg you have to be careful what you choose here”… that I was more focused on the choice and less focused on the story. Does that make sense?
Speaking of that, the sense of “importance” overwhelms the sense of “fun”. My suggestion, as a humble reviewer and an idiot who doesn’t know how to make games to save his life, would be to create a patch – called “Immersion and Fun Patch” – and to simplify the story presentation while making it possible for the player to interact more, MUCH more with the characters.
There are a few inconsistencies which should be mentioned here, just so I finish my “homework” on the review and, perhaps, to help pointing them out – maybe they can get an easy fix with a line or two of dialogue inserted in an upcoming update.
- There is an inconsistent character trait for Kila – he starts talking to you and being pushy on the train but then he says he’s shy when he has to talk to Rook.
- The limo driver doesn’t look like a limo driver – even if it is a rented limo, there should be some attire rules or, at least, an effort to maintain a professional appearance.
- The TV reporter is speaking in English – they are in Japan.
- The canine from The Ark said that he brought the player there each time the guys from Terra performed a ritual. Then later we find that the ritual has been performed every single day, at the same hour, for an entire week, yet you only go to The Ark twice – that either means that the ritual has only been performed twice or that the canine only managed to “save” you twice. Which is weird and inconsistent.
- Tiny little bug: First time meeting Rook, his dialogue appears in the middle of the screen for a line or two.
Conclusion – 6/10 (for Chapters 1&2)
Is “Major / Minor” the greatest game of 2015?
Well, how should we know yet? It only has two chapters launched. However, it does show potential. The character art is terrific, the characters themselves have a voice of their own and some (not all) narrative threads present a possibly interesting outcome.
Would I recommend it to you to play it?
I’m not sure it is finished yet. As far as I can see, the feedback offered by the community should offer a great source of information regarding the game’s possible improvement. Adding more choices, simplifying the story, adding facial expressions… these would go a long way. I’m pretty sure I read somewhere that the facial expressions are the next thing the creator is working on.
The game is being patched and worked on as we speak, being given as much love and care as possible.
If you think about it, at least considering the credits, I can count the number of people who worked on this game on one paw. That’s impressive. What’s even more impressive is that there is a feeling of collectiveness that comes with it – as far as I understood, many furries gave permission to the creator to use their fursonas in the game. How brilliant is that?
When was the last time your “Persona”/”Fursona”/”OC” was featured in a game? When was the last time you saw a furry novel game hit steam greenlight so fast? Or a furry game, period? The effort is still there, it made some people very, very happy – even if the results still need a bit of tweaking. Hopefully, we’ll get to see it finished and improved by the end. Kyle Lambert, the creator, placed a very important stepping-stone for furry gamers everywhere and it is definitely in a good direction.
Personally, I’m looking forward to finishing the story. Should the improvements make it easier to understand for my tired mind, then by all means, I’ll play it from the beginning once more just to have fun with the new added elements.
You can call it “beautiful”, you can call it “crap”… I think it’s a form of art.
As a good friend of mine said once, “Art really is Art when it has no definition.”
I’m sure “Major / Minor” will find its place one way or another.
Until then, thanks for reading!
Chris and Cooper
E L K I N
EDIT: We were informed that the less-than-ok points addressed in our review are being taken care of and will be fixed in upcoming patches. Also, a revision for Chapter 1 has already been applied and the aforementioned bugs are not present anymore, according to what Kyle told us. 🙂