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Casey Scheld ReviewsGame ReviewsPC Reviews

New Meaning Review

Official Score

Overall - 20%

20%

New Meaning tries to feature a deep message about mental illness, but absolutely fails the landing. With everybody reduced to a brief stereotype, it’s hard to care about anything that happens in this visual novel.

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As most readers of this site are aware, one’s teenage years can be an awkward time. Brave Lobster Studios has players (hopefully) reliving these times in New Meaning, a visual novel about a kid who’s still trying to find his place in the world. Should players guide this young fellow along in his journey, or does he have some growing up to do?

New Meaning Review

Luke Wilson has got it rough – his father lost his job, he struggles with mathematics, and he’s not too sure how to win over his friend Jasmine’s heart. With all of these disappointments in his life, he’s just about ready to give it all up – permanently. However, before he commits suicide, he tells himself that he’ll give himself three days to find the meaning of life before doing anything drastic.

Enter the player, who guides Luke through the day-to-day choices in these 72 hours. One can choose the right thing to say, the right text message to read, or even the right movie to watch. However, at the end of this time period, a choice has to be made.

At least, you’d think so – New Meaning falls into the trap of providing the illusion of choice. Talking somebody out of hurting themselves seems like the obvious choice, but the game intentionally fights you every step of the way when going with the rational option. Even when choosing the same option several times (with different dialog prompts), the end result is the only choice that the game wants you to choose.

As a result, things can get quickly frustrating. One could make the case that this is what goes through the mind of somebody who has mental illness, but the execution here is absolutely slipshod. Things go from 0 to 100 far too fast, with something as seemingly mild as a test score in the 70s leading to self-harm.

This poor writing extends to the interactions Luke has with others. Things feel far too cliche for their own good, playing off of tropes and one-note characteristics that players have no doubt seen countless times before. It’s hard to care about the big hockey game when one’s friend is a walking stereotype – especially with the small amount of screentime characters have at any given time.

It’s not like this game overstays its welcome too – we wrapped things up in around a half hour. Though there are other choices one can make, we get the general feeling that all playthroughs will be pretty much the same.

Unfortunately, the audiovisual presentation is lacking as well. Drawings are amateurish, and the music can be downright harsh. It’s not a pleasant game to play.

New Meaning tries to feature a deep message about mental illness, but absolutely fails the landing. With everybody reduced to a brief stereotype, it’s hard to care about anything that happens in this visual novel.

This review of New Meaning was done on the PC. The game was freely downloaded.
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Casey Scheld

Drawn to the underground side of gaming, Casey helps the lesser known heroes of video games. If you’ve never heard of it, he’s mastered it.
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