Malus Code is a kinetic novel, which for the uninitiated means that it’s not interactive. It features E-Mote – ‘emotional motion technology’, created by developers M2 Co., Ltd. If you’re thinking this probably means lots of cutesy anime-style pouting and wide eyes, you’d be right.

That aside, Malus Code is rather odd.

Story
Malus Code Title Screen
The story is told from the point of view of Will, an exchange student who arrives for the first time at the ‘Polar Research lab’. There he meets Yuri, Yae and Suzukake; to be honest, they don’t really look like budding scientists.

Will is at the lab to study thermophiles in hot springs, of which Japan has many. Yae, who is actually a chap, seems to become strangely infatuated with Will straight away. For quite a while, nothing really happens. Everyone goes out and gets drunk. They go shopping for eggs (they’re on sale for just 86 Yen!). Next up, it’s raffle time! Then Yuri takes a few part-time jobs and gets a bit tired.

Malus Code Dialouge

I was left wondering when the plot was going to happen.

Then all of a sudden, finally, Plot occurs (with a capital P). I won’t spoil the surprise, but I will say that Malus refers to a virus. The episode then ends very abruptly, having spent its plot all over the place.

Making it to the end of the episode changes the tone of what’s to come – even the menu screen changes.

Malus Code Save

Caption: What a delightfully cheery game this appears to be…

Malus Code Menu

Caption: …Oh.

There are two more episodes, which are in effect you replaying Will’s first months in Japan, but each time events take a different turn. Although there’s a little more intrigue and a few more meaningful, more sinister events in these episodes, there’s still an awful lot of romantic filler. It feels incredibly strange, as if two completely different writers were involved – one who loves regular dating sims and the other who loves horror – and they couldn’t agree at any point on what to do with the story.

The writing itself is fairly basic but OK, if peppered with a few translation errors.

Graphics
There characters aren’t presented as static images, thanks to (I think) the E-Mote system. They move – although sometimes on a loop – quite a lot. It does make the visuals a little more lively. The E-Mote tech seems to work quite well, with the characters displaying a range of emotions. The background scenes are more functional than anything, but then it’s the character art that really shines here. They even lip sync with the voice acting. I wasn’t even expecting lip movement, let alone lip sync.

Malus Code Graphics

Audio
On the point of voice acting… it’s in Japanese. Although it seemed like it had been done fairly well, since I don’t speak the language it’s difficult for me to evaluate it properly.
The music, on the other hand, I can evaluate. For the most part, it’s nauseatingly cheery. There are some very cheesy and ridiculously upbeat tunes here. In fact, the relentless happiness of it began to aggravate me after a while. At least it does change when the tone of the game changes.

However, if for some reason you did wish to hear some of these infuriatingly positive tracks again, you unlock them as you play and can listen to them to your heart’s desire via the ‘Extras’ option.

Gameplay
Again, this is a kinetic novel. Interaction consists of clicking to advance the text (or not even that if you’re using the auto-forward option). There are no dialogue choices to make and no alternate endings (unless you count the endings of each episode).

That said, it is at least quite a customizable experience.

Malus Code Graphics Settings

 

There’s pretty much every option you could hope for here. Just don’t go hoping for any interaction with the game.

Verdict
I can’t help but think that Malus Code doesn’t know what it wants to be. If it wants to be a horror game, the tone is completely wrong for the majority of the experience. If it wants to be a lighthearted romantic dating sim, then it should probably lose the stuff about the murderous virus. It would take a very skilled writer to blend such subject matter seamlessly; as it is, the story feels like it’s been spliced together by a mad scientist. As such, it left me with mixed feelings.

 

Published by Melanie Blagg

A British gamer who failed the entrance exam for the PC master race.

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