Elsewhere High: Chapter 1 is a horror-themed visual novel. Now, the visual novel is a hard style of game to do well in the first place since they have to rely entirely on their writing and not their actual gameplay. Adding horror into the equation just makes it that much more difficult. Now, there are definitely some good horror visual novels, like “We Know The Devil,” but they are few and far between. So I was hesitant about this one. Let’s take a look and see if it was worth the time.
Elsewhere High relies very heavily on young adult novel clichés. It’s about Derek, a rebellious teenager with a heart of gold who gets expelled for something he might not have actually done. After this, Derek’s family ships him off to a newly opened reform school called, you guessed it, Elsewhere High. Through most of Chapter 1 we don’t really see much in the way of horror. It mainly follows Derek as he gets to know hot-headed Vincent and cool yet aloof Sophie. There seems to be something of a requisite young adult fiction love triangle blooming between these three. There are a few other students, but much like the teacher, they are more or less a non-presence in the first chapter. Admittedly I was kind of bored and rolling my eyes through most of this game but the end actually really piqued my interest. It was definitely a kind of obvious ending, but it was a pretty sharp left turn from what the story had been so far. Of course, this game does not have a complete story. Chapter 1 is, well, Chapter 1. More chapters are coming out.
Elsewhere High is a rather bland looking game. I have definitely seen far worse character portraits in visual novels but there really is nothing here that is particularly outstanding. The characters look kind of like the characters you see in the ads for that cellphone game “Episodes.” The backgrounds are all a little bland and rely a little to heavily on making everything grey to make it bleak. However, that does give a bit of a nice contrast with the characters, who are much more brightly colored. The end of this chapter hints at some far more interesting visuals in the chapters to come, though.
The absolute best thing that I can say about the sound design of Elsewhere High is that there is no voice acting. Elsewhere High: Chapter 1 is a thoroughly amateur game and I am very glad that I did not have to put up with a bunch of people stammering through unrehearsed lines. The music is almost nonexistent but what little there is can best be summed up as uninteresting. Most of the sound-effects in the game are short, annoying clips looped for the entirety of the scenes in which they feature. Early on, the game uses loud, jarring sounds as a sort of scene transition, almost like they are trying to use it as a jump-scare. I wish I had played this game on mute.
Elsewhere High plays like most other visual novel games. You read through a bunch of text, occasionally making decisions that change how events play out. However, there’s a problem with how “Elsewhere” implements these decisions. The decisions do not change the ending at all. They may change how a scene plays out, but ultimately it’s just a series of slight changes to an otherwise identical story. So in a way, it’s missing the best part of the genre, the ability to have wildly differing stories each time you play the game.
I’m not sure what to make of “Elsewhere High: Chapter 1.” Most of the game is frankly boring at best, and it doesn’t seem to really get what makes visual novels interesting. However, that ending definitely has me intrigued and the writers knew pretty much the perfect place to cut off the first chapter to tantalize the second chapter without having too much of a cliff-hanger. I suppose I’m on board for at least one more episode.