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  • Writer's pictureAntal Bokor

Until Then Is a Stand Out Visual Novel That is Often Funny, Sometimes Poignant

Screenshot: Until Then

Visual novels are very hit or miss with me. I’ll either be engrossed within the first half hour, or I’ll turn it off and never get the urge to start it back up. Until Then grabbed me within the first few minutes and engrossed me the entire way through. 

Until Then is a narrative adventure where you play as 15 year old Mark as he navigates his high school life: joking with his friends, tackling awkward situations, and navigating young love. As a narrative adventure, most of the gameplay revolves around the story, making choices, and interacting with other characters.

Screenshot: Until Then

That said, there are a few minigames thrown into Until Then to change it up a bit.There are various types, and it’s hard to predict when and what type of mingame might come up next. Games range from platformers, to rhythm games and even a take on Doki Doki Literature Club–well, kind of. These minigames rarely have any real stakes, but sometimes the outcome seems to have an effect on the story.

But there’s a deeper mystery under all of this mundanity. It would be hard to know this unless you read the game’s description–at least for the first couple of hours of gameplay. The mystery comes in subtly at first–but then Mark starts to question his reality as his memory begins to clash with reality. Mysteries of the world and Mark are further explored through his smartphone. News clippings, social media posts, and even texts help flesh out the story and deepen Until Then’s mystery. 

While Until Then gripped me the whole way, I wasn’t on the edge of my seat. There is a bit of a plodding, introspective nature to the narrative that can sometimes get in the way of enjoyment. Brevity isn’t necessary, but Until Then really likes to linger on scenes and ideas, often taking them one step too far, even if the point is made. 

Some visual novels are very graphically simple, but Until Then uses a pixel art style that gives it a timeless look, and makes it really pop. Through different perspectives and some impressively detailed close up shots, Until Then manages to stand out among its peers.

Developer PolyChroma games has used their roots in the Phillipines as inspiration behind Unitil Then, incorporating different locations on the islands throughout, and this ends up revealing some cultural difference. It’s nothing extraordinary, just things like comments about having loads of pirated DVDs as a usual staple. These add context, flavor and interest in otherwise mundane situations, and never take the spotlight off the main narrative.

Until Then is definitely a standout visual novel. It has moments of genuine emotion and intrigue while using an impressive art style to tie everything together. It’s not perfect, with a story that’s slow to get started and a tendency to navel gaze. But Until Then is a genuinely enjoyable and unique visual novel that will be a treat to any fan of the genre.

Until Then is available today on PC and PS5

A Steam copy of Until Then was provided to us for this review



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