It is not my intention to begin this review so negatively, but Roommates as a visual novel suffers from the same issues nearly all Western titles of this genre do. This slice of life visual novel is not looking to push the envelope. Roommates on the whole offers a satisfactory story, cast of characters and optional romance but fails to provoke the player.
This is not a critique unique to Roommates as many visual novels fail to provide some type of engaging dynamic to stand out. This game, like many others, does not hook the player. The graphics are bright, often reflect the personalities of the individual but are not distinguishable from other games. The music is fair and does compliment the game but does not engage me as an audiophile.
For those of you looking for a story that is darker or dramatic I would recommend another title. The story of Roommates matches the artistic style in that it is very lighthearted. Players have the option of picking one of two protagonists, which is a notable plus to the game as the campaign does change to a degree from this single decision, but this feature does make up for the rather bland, idealized world of Roommates. There is not much in the way of social commentary or events that could be considered thought provoking. Roommates is upfront from the beginning in that the player should expect casual conversation and a laid back story to be the foundation of the game.
After starting a new game the player can choose to play as Max, a musician with a frank but compassionate personality, or Anne, a bookish girl from a small town hoping to grow out of her shy personality. The two protagonists share a similar campaign, but their individual personalities influence the relationships of the supporting characters. Players should consider the gameplay content of Roommates to be mirrored but it is interesting interacting with the same supporting characters only for them to act largely different with each protagonist. Two good examples are Isabella and Dominic.
It can be amusing watching Dominic do his best to protect Anne from the influence of the other housemates, especially against Max and Isabella. Dominic's chivalrous, but at times patronizing, actions are notably targeted towards Anne. Anne's relationship with Isabella is often reserved and can be at times awkward. Anne's shy personality prevents Isabella from being too forthright or flirtatious. Max on the other hand flirts with Isabella regularly and both share an uneasy relationship with Dominic. Each protagonist will unlock some sections of the story based on their relationship with individual housemates.
The gameplay elements of Roommates are not unlike many other visual novel titles in that the focus of the title is mainly on the characters and their interactions. The majority of player input is limited to scheduling after school activities and making choices that that will influence the protagonist's relationship with the supporting characters. Micromanaging the protagonist's schedule is the hardest part of the game. The difficulty scale offered at the start of the campaign seemed primarily focused on the degree in which the player will have to balance sleep, work and skills. On the easy difficulty players will find it easy to make mistakes, study or work when needed or play around with romance options.
Those that want a challenge are in for it as the hard difficulty is rather harsh when it comes to balancing study and building stats to romance one of the supporting characters. One screen lists the total number of skill points required to successfully romance a specific character. These requirements are different but also part of the relationship status with each individual character.
On the hard difficulty players have little choice but to have a romance in mind and focus scheduling weekly events on building the skills required to ask a specific character out in time for Spring Break. Following that sequence players must rush to double their score before the end of the semester. Failing to study enough before the end of the second semester will affect the players academic standing and the ending of the game.
Roommates as a visual novel is lighthearted and those considering a purchase should be aware of this. Anyone looking to relax with a cheery title with a satisfactory story and amusing characters should consider this game. Players have many options and the game has solid replay value. Roommates provides levity but it ultimately comes at the cost of being engaging. Roommates is available on PC and iOS.
(Reviewer's note: The developer provided a review copy of this title. This game was played on PC.)
Roommates is a decent, lighthearted game that satisfies for a visual novel but fails to distinguish itself.