Title: シャレード マニアクス
Release Date: 9th August 2018
Length: ~20 Hours
Links: Official Site, VNDB
Taking place in the near future in a certain town, 2nd Year High School Student Hiyori is looking forward to summer vacation. However, while walking home from school one day with her childhood friend a strange figure appears and transports them to a strange world with 2 moons. When she comes to, Hiyori finds herself with 9 men whom appear to be stuck in the same situation as her and before them stands a masked man who begins to speak:
“Welcome to a parallel world – Arcadia!”
“In this world if you act in the “TV Dramas” assigned to you then we’ll grant any wish you desire!”
The group are told that whenever they appear in a drama, they are scored by its viewers – they need to earn a lot of points for their wish to be granted. There are also punishments for not completing dramas and they can lose points too. If anyone has 0 points and messes up a drama then they will die and have their very existence erased from both worlds.
In order to return to their own world, Hiyori and the guys decide to work together to act out the “Dramas”. However, it is revealed that there is another way for the group to get home: one of the 10 people transported to Arcadia is a “Traitor” and if they can all agree on whom it is then they win the game and get to return to their normal lives. Just whom is the “Traitor” and what is the real reason behind performing the “Dramas”? Caught between truth and doubt, just who’s hand will you take?
Sena is a pretty average high school student and generally tries her best at everything. She’s a pretty good cook and cares a lot about her younger siblings.
Akase Kyouya (CV Saitou Souma)
Kyouya is a third year high school student with a bright and cheerful personality that ends up becoming a leader-like existence within the group. He’s pretty athletic and plays a lot of sports. He wants to trust everyone and is of the mindset that the “traitor” could be an ally rather than a foe.
Banjou Tomose (CV Suzumura Kenichi)
Tomose is a first year high school student and is Hiyori’s childhood friend whom is madly in love with her, in fact he was trying to confess his feelings just before they were spirited away. He’s very protective of Hiyori and is very suspicious of all the other guys. As he’s a member of the drama club at their school, Tomose adapts well to acting in the dramas.
Chigasaki Mamoru (CV Namikawa Daisuke)
Mamoru is a University student and has a very gentle and calming personality, often quickly acting to avoid too many fights within the group. He doesn’t like people touching him.
Dazai Mei (CV Furukawa Makoto)
Mei might come across as slightly cold and distant but is really a very kind person. He hates his name as he thinks it’s too girly and doesn’t suit him. He really likes cats and seems very kind towards Hiyori for some reason.
Ebana Keito (CV Maeno Tomoaki)
Keito is a second year student at the same high school as Hiyori. He’s a typical tsundere and has a very sharp tongue which leads to a fair amount of arguments. He’s a great cook and basically becomes the group’s chef. They also like to joke that he’s the “mother” of the group.
Futami Ryouichi (CV Seki Tomokazu)
Ryouichi is a University student and one of the most mature in the group, taking on almost a big brother-like role and keeping the others under control. His hobby is silver craft and he often makes his own accessories. He appears to be less keen to return home than most of the others.
Gyoubu Souta (CV Matsuoka Yoshitsugu)
Souta claims to be a second year student from the same high school as Hiyori but no one can remember him. Souta loves playing games and teasing people so it can be hard to tell when he’s being serious. He tends to cause a lot of the arguments within the group due to his eccentric personality. He also likes staying up all night to game.
Haiji Takumi (CV Okamoto Nobuhiko)
Takumi is a very softly-spoken boy whom claims to be 12 years old elementary school student. As such he has difficulty reading the scripts of the dramas and struggles to accumulate many points. He loves ice-cream and other sweets, often bugging Keito to make some snacks for him. He immediately becomes close to Hiyori, considering her as something like an elder sister.
Iochi Mizuki (CV Ogata Megumi)
Mizuki is the oldest member of the group but has a pretty energetic personality. They are pretty ambiguous about their gender and even though the group are always trying to guess Mizuki never reveals it. Their hobbies include playing darts and mixing cocktails.
Artwork and character design for this game was handled by Teita – a well known otome game artist whom has illustrated for a fair few games in the past including Norn9 & Hyakka Hyakurou.
Opening: Hide and Hide – DJ’TEKINA//SOMETHING a.k.a Yuyoyuppe
Ending: Allright – GRILLED MEAT YOUNGMANS
The BGM for this game was composed by TOKYO LOGIC Ltd. and the game contains 21 BGM tracks.
This game has a fairly standard system with both standard and map-based choices (which I forgot to screenshot – sorry!)
This game does have a really unusual way of unlocking the routes though, which come down to a choice near the end of the common route:
As you can see above, the game asks you to pick a group to join from the three choices and you need to complete one route from each of them first to unlock the other 6 routes. The characters in each group are:
- Information-gathering Group: Kyouya, Mamoru & Mei
- Cleaning Group: Tomose, Ryouichi & Souta
- Cooking Group: Keito, Takumi & Mizuki
I will include a recommended route order at the end but I’d recommend not using a guide for your first playthrough of each route as it will probably spoil a lot. There is also a true ending that I would recommend playing last.
I had been super excited for this game pretty much since it was announced and was more than pleased to finally get my paws on a copy but did it manage to live up to expectations?
First of all, this game’s common route is really excellent and well-paced, making you very intrigued about the story and how it’s going to develop. I wasn’t expecting the whole “death game” element so that was an interesting twist to an already tense situation. I wasn’t a particularly big fan of splitting the guys into the three groups (for more technical reasons that I’ll delve into later) but I thought that these sections were pretty funny and appreciated the character interactions.
For a game with so many main characters I thought the writers generally did a good job making each of the routes unique but there are the consistency issues that I was unfortunately expecting to encounter…
I actually found Hiyori to be the most “inconsistent” character in the game, with her personality appearing to change depending on which route you’re reading. This was a real disappointment since there were some glimpses of a great heroine in certain routes (e.g. Keito).
I did Kyouya’s route first and while I liked his character well enough (even if he was a tad dull) I found his route to be one of the weaker ones and was pretty disappointing if I’m honest.
Next is Tomose who really interested me at the start and I really felt bad for him since he’d worked up the courage to confess to Hiyori and was then whisked away to Arcadia. His possessiveness over Hiyori may be sweet, almost comedic in the common route but during his own route I found his personality very overwhelming and his route wasn’t that interesting either. I was soooooo disappointed by Tomose.
Mamoru’s character-type is really up my street and I was immediately drawn to him. I actually really enjoyed his route when I first read it and thought that it brought up a lot of interesting questions that I was hoping would be answered later on. However, after finishing the game there’s actually a lot of his route that simply doesn’t make sense. It honestly feels as though this route was written by someone else who wasn’t aware of the other routes. I still adore him as a character though!
I wasn’t sure what to think about Mei at first but the way that his route is written really makes you like him. I’m weak for his kind of route and it was my favourite from the game. What a good boy!
Keito is the game’s token tsundere and is basically comic relief during a lot of the common route and especially the cooking group’s part. I really loved the character interactions between Keito and Hiyori during this route and thought it was pretty decent, even if the ending felt a tad rushed.
I should probably point out that I wasn’t really a fan of Ryouichi from the beginning of the game but I found his route to be highly disappointing and my least favourite from the entire game.
Souta is honestly such a brat and is absolutely hilarious! He’s one of the most mysterious characters judging from his actions earlier in the game and I thought his route was pretty good.
I was interested in Takumi before starting the game but when he started treating Hiyori like an older sister and calling her “Onee-san” I was SOLD (I’m too weak for that, okay?). I found him to be totally adorable and his route was certainly interesting.
Mizuki is another intriguing character with the vagueness about their gender. I found their interaction with Hiyori very fun but felt that Mizuki’s route was a bit of a let-down.
As I touched upon earlier, there is in fact a true ending where everything is revealed in a wonderfully big info-dump. I kinda wish that there had been more revealed throughout the game but I guess most of the loose ends were tied up?
The one thing I felt that this game was lacking were epilogues for the character routes as they mostly feel like they end far too quickly.
I’m not sure if this is a spoiler but there are no characters in this game that are truly “villainous” which I found disappointing. When you get a game going on about a “traitor” then you kind of expect them to be pretty mean or something, right? However, this game more focuses on a good character who does bad things for “good?” reasons so you generally just pity them. I mean it was interesting but I was kinda disappointed since it wasn’t what I was expecting.
Overall, the artwork was really nice and I like Teita’s art-style a lot. There were enough CGs per character given how many there are but I was a little disappointed as some of the CGs looked like they were very “close up”?
The voice acting was excellent as expected with all of the voice actors putting in good performances, especially as this was quite an emotive game. I feel like Ogata Megumi deserves a special shoutout though!
The theme songs and BGM were also excellent and really helped set the mood of the game. The opening theme in particular is so catchy; someone please stop me listening to it on repeat. I actually enjoyed them so much that I pre-ordered the OST (not long until it comes out now!)
My least favourite thing about this game was the awkward way you have to unlock the routes. Being an incredibly intelligent person (this is sarcasm btw) I decided to follow the “number” each guy was assigned on the website (which I didn’t realize until I wrote this post is just the guys listed in alphabetical order by their family name). This was not a good idea and I ended up playing the routes in a terrible order before realizing and trying to correct myself. There are definitely some routes that should be locked at the start as you could accidentally end up doing the most important routes much earlier than you should!
My Score: 7/10
While there are definitely problems with route consistency, which is to be expected for a game with 9 main characters, Charade Maniacs certainly manages to be a diamond in the rough. There’s definitely some good routes in there if you’re prepared to sit through the weaker ones and the common route is also well-crafted.
Recommended Route Order
Kyouya → Keito → Tomose → Ryouichi → Mizuki → Mamoru → Mei → Souta → Takumi
I think this game actually sold pretty well so I’m hoping for a fandisc to give me some much needed after-stories. I’m also eyeing up the fanbook coming out next month, hmmm…..
Sorry for the delay in this review coming out, I have no idea what took so long! I’m hoping to get my review of Cendrillon PalikA out on Friday with Koroshiya to Strawberry to follow the following week. I have too many things to review~
Thanks for reading!
Thanks for the review! I think I’m to push this further back in my to-play list. xD;;;