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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.