I enjoy games that come up with unique mechanics and attempt to blend story with gameplay in unique ways. There is a risk in experimenting with style that I admire in the indie scene and the game I’m looking at today is definitely taking that risk.
Secret in Story, developed by Luo Zhi En and published by Heroes Productions is a point and click visual novel, for lack of a better descriptor. It tells its story through pictures flashed at you and, following clues that the game gives you throughout, you must click the correct object to advance the story. This can be something as simple as clicking the alarm clock that is ringing, to remembering what the protagonist had been drawing a couple scenes earlier and clicking that.
Secret in Story uses sketchbook style drawings to convey its story, which is effective in conveying the succinct story it’s trying to tell. The piano that accompanies the game is a nice and calming, which is essential, because the game might have gotten infuriating otherwise.
The central mechanic of Secret in Story is the player having to click the right object in a time limit in order to advance the story. Often it takes multiple tries to get something right, and failure means you have to start again from the beginning. Ultimately Secret in Story is a memory game, and it has one jarring flaw, RNG. Parts of the game are randomised. There’s a pattern, I’m sure of it, but I didn’t care enough about the story to learn it. Often times I would resort to randomly clicking until something happened (this ups your click count and loses you some score at the end of the game, but in a narrative based game is the score really important?). One particular scene, where you have to find your phone hidden behind one of the many objects between two scenes that don’t give you much time to search was particularly frustrating. Randomising scenes doesn’t help anyone in a memory game and I found myself getting frustrated more than challenged.
As far as the story goes, it’s all told without dialogue, and that’s admirable. It tells a story about lost love (at least as far as I could tell), but it loses some of its edge because of the main mechanic. Because I had to focus so hard on what to click next, I often never paid attention to the picture as a whole, and thus missed chunks of story. With no real twists or turns I found myself not caring all that much about the characters and who they were and I kinda wish I did.
Ultimately Secret in Story is an enjoyable little game that will pass some time and won’t break the bank. The visuals are beautiful and the story, while nothing new, is conveyed effectively. Once you’ve finished the story you probably won’t want to go back, but considering its price, a one off go is just fine.