Hate Plus: An Indie Game Review

Hate Plus: An Indie Game Review
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Platforms:

Windows PC, Mac, Linux, Steam

Game Name:

Hate Plus

Publisher(s):

Christine Love

Developer(s):

Christine Love

Genre(s):

Interactive Novel, Psychological

Release Date:

August 19th, 2013

Developer Summary

Let’s spend the next three real-time days together uncovering the mystery of what went horribly wrong on a derelict generation ship, with the help of a spunky/more-than-slightly-traumatized AI sidekick!

A sequel to Analogue: A Hate Story that tells a whole new hate story of its own. A dark visual novel about transhumanism, cosplay, cake-baking, and the slow patriarchal erosion of freedoms taken for granted.

What We Think

Hate Plus is designed and written by Christine Love and is an ambitious and commendable narrative sequel to its predecessor, Analogue: A Hate Story [our review].

Encyclopedic in scope, Hate Plus answers one of the overarching questions set out from Analogue: What went so wrong in a society that caused much of the dissolution of all interpersonal relationships aboard the generational starship.

Hate Plus plays in a similar format of interactive fiction as Analogue: A Hate Story, with several UI polishes and additions. Built on the Ren’Py engine, the game lets you uncover mysteries from year 4038 onwards by reading the logs by various citizens aboard a starship of a previous epoch, while interacting with your AI in three or less dialogue choices. Most of Hate Plus will have much less impact and clarity without having played Analogue first, so it is highly recommended that you play Analogue before diving into Hate Plus.

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Unraveling History

The beauty of Hate Plus is that it simulates uncovering history and the reading of different accounts to piece together a picture of a lived society. These are stories from citizens of all backgrounds and classes. The stories augment what we already know from Analogue and readily gestures to it, while even subverting our some of our expectations.

The out-of-order interactive reading of the tale makes for some interesting mysteries and narrative puzzles. This is fleshed out with more myriad of varying accounts than in Analogue, and reads even more like an historical anthology. I mean this as a strength, because it is where some characters can change the course of society and others lend flavor and texture to articulate it, and this pastiche makes it hard to predict who might play what role.

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This is the level of narrative engagement and style that elevates Hate Plus and makes it a worthy successor to Analogue. Narratively speaking, it doesn’t feel like a rehashing of the same story because the narrative style explores different a different theme with a different stylistic tone, and the society it describes feels larger and more complex for it.

Flourishes to an Art

Some new polishes in Hate Plus are immediately apparent, and works to the game’s advantage. You are limited to reading six logs at a time, and they can be accessed as out of order as you like.

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Hate Plus gives clearer profiling of characters that we come across in the records. Many of the reoccurring characters have portraits to their name to remind us of who they are and what we have previously read of them. The portraits are presented in a beautiful painterly realism style. These profiles are even annotated by the AI’s own personal opinions of what those historical folk have done! It’s a lovely touch to give style and personality to the experience of uncovering a narrative history.

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There’s not nearly as integrated a mini game this time around as in Analogue, which had the player race against time to stop the ship’s reactor from overheating. Dialogue and mini-games are much more dialogue-based in Hate Plus, creating a less dire interlude than in Analogue. I actually missed the Analogue-styled mini-game because it changed up the pace of what typifies the interactive novel genre.

On the other hand, new additions like e-mails that are sent to you-the-space-detective add an extra whimsy of what Earth’s society has evolved to, in the current day of the game.

All the World’s a Stage

The crowning focus of the story is on the political maneuvering of different noble families, be they tied to engineering, captaincy, security, or other core departments of the starship. Hate Plus reads more like a primetime TV drama with a political backdrop than a specialized political genre novel or docu-film.

The language is approachable while still retaining twists and turns of power plays, without focusing on jargon and erudition. Sometimes the sniping between politicians gets a bit silly and like a kangaroo court, but there are also some crowning moments where the tone of the delivery of the higher-ups matches the gravity of the occasion.

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On the whole, it’s an adventurous overture that relies on the dramatic more often than the subtle, but this matches the expectation set by Analogue. The tone doesn’t take itself too seriously – as its playful inclusion of mini-games remain testament to – but delivers impact and shrewdness where it is most necessary.

For all that Hate Plus sets the stage for embittered rivalries and drawn-out enmity, there’s also a significant amount of stories of friendships, lust, and long-time couples. This is in some contrast to the restraint seen in Analogue, where illicit lovemaking was enrobed in melancholic poetry; Here, it is much more hedonistic, flirtatious, and self-assured. I personally appreciate the contrast of the day-to-day social engagements between Analogue and Hate Plus, and believe that existing fans of Analogue will be likewise titillated.

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Historical Bias

Moving forward, this section will have the expectation that you have already played Analogue and will have spoilers for Analogue.

Since *Mute has been explained from Analogue as the Security AI aboard the Mungunghwa, she clearly had an antecedent experience during the era that led to the complete erosion of women’s rights in the starship’s society. Hate Plus has *Mute as centerpiece to its story. It’s quite a rewarding experience of storytelling with annotation as you uncover records alongside *Mute as your AI sidekick.

One of the most bracing themes is the question of what people do to try to secure themselves in society. *Mute, both in the past and present, deliver both anecdotes and enduring thoughts and actions that enliven this narrative preoccupation.

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Lost to the Annals

(Especially for this section ahead, please keep in mind that there are spoilers for Analogue.)

It really is not *Hyun-Ae’s story, but Hate Plus emphasizes too much how she doesn’t really play a role in this game. Given that she’s one of the two AI choices, her detachment seems odd at best and unfinished at worst. Though the mysteries surrounding her identity has ended, I believe that there’s quite a lot more that could be explored about the ethical grey areas of how *Hyun-Ae committed manslaughter upon the entire populace of Mungunghwa in the New Dynasty.

There could very well have been more response from her as we explore how society degraded into her living nightmare of having no rights and freedom as a woman aboard the Mungunghwa. While I understand that the narrative aims to have players draw their own conclusions, deeper commentary from *Hyun-ae is really unlikely to undermine this. She had already been written with such attention of her concerns and values in Analogue that her relative silence feels out of character.

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And I’ve heard *Hyun-Ae say “I don’t really get it” / “this is boring” more than anything else, which really disrupts my reading of the records without adding anything of value. I want to be thrown into that sympathy-troubled dichotomy when it comes to *Hyun-Ae and her past actions, and I would actually appreciate being reminded of it while reading about the turbulent times post-4038. Is she really the more-than-slightly-traumatized AI sidekick from the Producer’s game description? During most of Hate Plus, it’s hard to remember *Hyun-ae as such.

It actually made the little dating games feel that much more stilted. *Hyun-ae, dear, I just want to really have a heart-to-heart with you before we share a snack on cakes! Can’t you… send me an email or something about how you really feel about all these discoveries?

For the Record

Hate Plus has gone where few other games and interactive novels have tread, and ought to be commended for putting together such an impressible scope. The hiccups feel small in comparison. Christine Love has managed to combine entertainment with an engaging, open exploration about what creates disruption of security and the erosion of rights in society.

Even if you have not dived into the interactive novel genre before, you will be not remiss by starting with Analogue and Hate Plus. It is an ambitious project, and one which is rich with complex stories that few will be able to forget.

Hate Plus – Official Site

Get Hate Plus on Steam Here

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Darklights (Tanya Kan)

is a 3D artist and writer in games and commercial displays. She loves to examine the narrative and the artistry behind games and other new media. She is on the warpath to developing her own indie game. Her playgrounds and inspirations include dance, visual arts, cinema, creative writing and political philosophy.

One thought on “Hate Plus: An Indie Game Review

  1. Brilliantly done. One thing that the review understated is the game’s flexibility. When I first started looking up reviews for Hate Plus, I was confused by the screens where the “new” Mute was the speaker. My playthrough had been exclusively *Hyun-ae, and that’s the way I thought the game had been designed. However, I suppose it was the way that it was because my load file from Analogue: A Hate Story had concluded with Ending 2, probably the one that is emotionally most intimate, and because I’d left *Mute behind on the hulk of the Mugunghwa. I wasn’t as bothered as the reviewer by *Hyun-ae’s frequent confusion or boredom. She isn’t bored with the story; she just doesn’t understand how some parts of it fit in, at least not right away. Remember, she doesn’t have experience as a bureaucrat. To have her continually shouting “Eurika!” would have made the story much less real. And the cake-baking… actually, I couldn’t have answered her truthfully in any case, since I don’t have a microwave oven, but I felt really guilty when she accused me of trying to trick her. That was truly a brilliant idea, as was forcing you to pause between days in the investigation. The game, like *Hyun-ai herself, just wouldn’t stay behind the computer screen. I can’t remember any game that’s pulled off quite that trick before. Now my computer smells of chocolate. And the delicate interweaving of the report on AI “hard-bodies,” *Hyun-ai’s excitement at being able to smell and taste and touch again, her occasional reminder that she’s in love with you, and the final scenes of you holding hands create a delightfully erotic atmosphere while at the same time saying almost nothing directly.

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