Text-based stories that have limited gameplay are becoming more and more common on home consoles. Stories that play out like novellas and require almost no input from the gamer, aside from the occasional press of a button to move to the next line of dialogue.
Simply put, these aren’t games and shouldn’t be sold as such. This isn’t to run this style down, they have their place of course, but when there is no actual gameplay, how can they be talked about in the same breath as something that actually requires effort and concentration?
So, maybe you just want to lose yourself in a fantasy story that has accompanying music and visuals to go along with it. This is where something like A Winter’s Daydream comes in. Except, this story is uninteresting and extremely dry. It’s hard enough to keep a person engaged but when the main aspect of the experience is lacking, e.g., the story, then there’s little to recommend here.
Developed by ebi-hime, Yuu is a young student returning from his University in Tokyo to spend the New Year with his family in his small home town. Yuu has had a lot of growing up to do and returning home brings with it some trepidation. Particularly because he has a poor relationship with his younger sister and has grown distant from his grandmother ever since his grandfather died.
These are the two main plot points; the sister and grandmother relationships. Yuu attempting to bond with both to wildly different results. It sounds solemn and serious, which it is most of the time, dealing with deeper subject matters. However, it’s also wrapped up in fantasy as Yuu spends some time with his grandmother and she wishes on a shooting star. The next morning? She has transformed into a much younger version of herself and with Yuu, decides to take advantage of her youth one last time.
There is a simple sweetness to the story with some moral messages peppered in. However, A Winter’s Daydream drags it all out to excruciating lengths. Resulting in the messages losing impact and the whole thing feeling quite vapid because of the overtly melodramatic tone every character has. It’s a significant problem for an experience that relies solely on its story. There’s nothing else to the game; the visuals are nice enough and the music is soothing but there’s no gameplay. No choices to be made, no routes to follow or different endings to be experienced. It plays out exactly like a novella and that is it.
Its failure to create connections with the characters, to tell a gripping tale or allow any emotion to come through naturally is its biggest failure. As for the strange attempt at humour with face-palming incestual jokes? Who knows what ebi-hime were thinking.
A Winter's Daydream (Xbox Series X)
The Final Score - 2/10