Hey Hey Heroes, Travelers, and Wandering NPCs, I’m getting back into the swing of things by going back and working through all of the game review requests I received while I was on hiatus. First up is a rather surreal and surprisingly deep short psychological thriller visual novel from Angela He (Zephyo). This is a game unlike anything I have ever played before, with it’s dream-like visuals and stream of consciousness like storytelling, Angela He paints a rather startling picture of the psychological toll addiction and depression can have on one’s life, through the lens of a toxic more-than-one-night stand relationship.
“You’d told me,
Hey, this is a one-time thing, and I said yeah, of course –
Yet here we are.”
..who, exactly, am I waking up next to?
A romance about a more-than-one-night stand;
A psychological thriller about toxic addiction.
I Woke Up Next to You Again is a pay what you want PC game available for Windows, Mac, and Linux over on itch.io. It’s a rather short game, with playthroughs lasting anywhere between 15 – 30 minutes, depending on your reading speed.
I will admit that at the start I was more than a little confused, after choosing the gender of the individual you wake up next to, the game just kind of hits the ground running, dropping you into an surprisingly casual morning after encounter with an unnamed bed mate. The brief opening narration merely states that you recently moved to a new town and “found someone”. Who this person is and how you came to be in bed with with them doesn’t matter, but the dark hazy black and white visuals and eerie repetitive background music suggest that this is not a normal interaction between mutual acquaintances. Even the dialogue between the player and the unnamed bed mate isn’t all that normal, there’s a poetic kind of cadence to it that kind of flows a little too naturally to be normal, as if this is something that has been practiced and reiterated over and over again, but with a quickness to it that suggests the two characters are merely going through the motions of a prearranged song and dance in order to get to a much more anticipated outcome.
But, there is an overarching sense of foreboding, that builds upon itself as the player navigates their way through a series of seemingly innocent choices. Your choices determine not just the course of the story, but the psychological state of the nameless protagonist as they navigate what at first glance appears to be little more than a casual sexual relationship with a stranger. There are little hints scattered throughout the story that tease the game’s ultimate purpose, but, unless you achieve all of the endings, the big picture will remain just out of reach. Will you choose to pursue a relationship with your tantalizingly seductive bed mate? Is this relationship really for the best? Or should you stop things before things go too far?
There are two story paths (male “lover” or female “lover”) and a total of four endings, each path is indistinguishable from the other save the gender pronouns used to describe your bed mate. So choosing a gender at the beginning is wholly a matter of preference and has no real effect on the outcomes of the game and with the game’s rather short runtime, that’s not all that unexpected. At first, it seems simple enough, placate the bed mate, pursue them and strike up a relationship with them. But, in doing so the player’s own well being seemingly deteriorates, and the player is left with a startling and rather disturbing realizations about your character and the nature of their “relationship”. While the relationship is at the forefront of the game, I Woke Up Next To You Again, makes it abundantly clear that romance is not the goal of the game, with each of the relationship positive choices leading to a negative mental outcome for the player. This is a game about the toxicity of codependency and the addictive nature of empty relationships. It’s a bitter pill to swallow, and deeply unsettling at times as you watch the player give themselves over to their need for their bed mate, as their desires give way to addiction and eventually depression as the futility of the relationship is revealed.
Visually, I Woke Up Next To You Again is a very artistic and atmospheric game, that felt more like a visual art exhibition piece than a game, with it’s dark, layered backgrounds and haunting instrumental soundtrack. But, what really stood out about IWUNTYA is that it is always moving, be it the dialogue text, the movements of clouds in the background, the minor animation of the onscreen characters (blinking mostly) or the pulsing geometric shaped dialogue boxes, each scene has some element that is constantly in motion. There are also some rather unique visual cues that help the player gauge the mental state of their character, while also conveying the overall ethereal dream-like facade of the game and its narrative.
I Woke Up Next To You Again takes its rather short runtime and offers a uniquely contemplative visual novel experience, that will cause players to seriously consider the nature of our relationships with one another. Players will lose themselves in the dream-like atmosphere and visuals, falling deeper into the addictively toxic liaison between the player’s character and the unknown individual they find themselves waking up next to again and again and again…
But, don’t just take my word for it! Check out the game over on itch.io or take a gander at the game’s trailer below! If you like what you see, play the game, hit the like button, share, or comment! As always, Thank You for Reading!!