Our Life Beginnings and Always is the latest visual novel release from indie game studio, GB Patch; and their most ambitious project to date. While most visual novels focus on a very specific period of time, Our Life spans years, taking players through the ups and downs of growing up in the seaside town of Sunset Bird. Follow Jamie Last (name changeable), their friends and family over several summers spanning 15 years—from childhood to adolescents to young adulthood and beyond.
A twenty-dollar bill, four summers, fifteen years, and a one of a kind life.
A chance encounter with Cove Holden, a shy young boy who moves to Sunset Bird when Jamie is eight years old becomes a relationship that spans years and like the endless summer days that make up the story is full of infinite possibilities.
It was exactly a year ago that I played the first demo for Our Life and that was all it took to fall head over heels in love with the project. So, to say I was eagerly awaiting the full release is an understatement, and this game more than lived up to my expectations! With it’s breezy seaside setting, vibrant cast of characters and charming nostalgic story, Our Life is truly a one of a kind experience.
Choice is a staple of the visual novel genre; each player interaction guides gameplay towards one of several positive or negative outcomes. But, Our Life takes a different approach that emphasizes the player experience, over whether or not you achieve a good or bad outcome. In fact there are no “good” or “bad” choices in the game, rather GB Patch encourages players to make choices that are the most meaningful to you without fear of being penalized by ridged point based mechanics. Most of the choices are color coded, but they aren’t related to specific points or effects, rather they reflect the tone/emotion behind the individual choice. Blue tends to be more straightforward, yellow more emotive, and green uncertain.
Each choice shapes your experience guiding not only the story, but how you and the characters around you grow and develop over the years. Whether you choose to be an impulsive 8 year old or a moody teen; the choice is completely yours to make. During my playthrough I made choices that were similar to the choices I made in my own life—which in any other game might have lead to a bad ending— and it was refreshing to not be penalized for being myself!
The protagonist is fully customizable, you decide their name, appearance, gender, personality, interests, relationships, and more. Each new stage opens up new key features for you to change and not gonna lie, it can be a bit overwhelming how much control you have over your own character. But, I really enjoyed playing around with the different features—like as a kid I fell off a wall and wound up getting a huge gash on my leg and as a teen I had acne, so it was cool to be able to have those features represented in my character.
The only disappointing part is that you don’t get to see your player character in the game outside of the customization screens at the start of each new step. But, it is what it is. I also want to mention that GB Patch also lets you determine how you feel about certain aspects of your appearance. Like I was pretty tall during my teen years, which at the time I was very conflicted about and I’ll be damned if the game doesn’t give you that choice!
While Our Life isn’t strictly a “romance” game, your relationship with Cove is an integral part of the story whether you choose to pursue him as a romantic partner or simply wish to keep your relationship platonic. Your choices indirectly affect how he develops as a character—his looks, interests, and personality change with him, based on your actions throughout the game. However, it isn’t apparent how they impact him until long after you’ve made them. But, if you want more control over who Cove becomes, the game does give you a chance to build your ideal version of him with the Cove Creator; which I totally used to give him glasses.
At the start of each new stage you can decide how you feel about Cove by adjusting the Comfort and Interest levels. You can choose to have your relationship develop gradually over time or start at the highest affection levels.
In my playthrough I did pursue Cove as a romantic partner, because why not, but I LOVED that the game takes it’s time building up to their relationship. You don’t get to pursue him romantically until Step 2 and even then it’s strictly puppy love. I think I had the most fun in this stage, since Cove was a bit of an awkward shy teen, so my advances were usually met with lots of blushing and cute stuttering—the scene when I tried to kiss him for the first time was HILARIOUS and I’ll admit to getting a strong case of secondhand embarrassment during the whole ordeal. The game perfectly captures the intensity and awkwardness of first love, that I found to be surprisingly realistic and definitely had me remembering some…moments from my own childhood.
It’s not until you hit Step 3 that you and Cove become an official couple and can begin being physically affectionate with one another (which you also have full control over). You take your relationship at the pace that is most comfortable to you without consequence. If you choose to take things slow, that is perfectly fine, Cove doesn’t pressure you into doing anything YOU aren’t ready for. And at least in my playthrough, Cove was the one putting the breaks on my overly active teenage hormones… but, when the hottie from across the street climbs into your window all the time can you blame me?!
I couldn’t help but fall in love with Cove, it was almost easy. He is a constant in your life and as the story progresses and you get to know more about him, he becomes an irreplaceable part of your experience. He is there when you need a confidant and while he doesn’t have all the answers and he does make mistakes, his steadfast presence is a comfort as you navigate the ups and downs of growing up. He’ll even reminisce about moments from your past and when it happens you can’t help but smile! There was a moment in Step 1 where Cove asks you what your favorite flower is (I said Peony) and in Stage 2 during your first real date he gave me a peony flower—y’all after that stunt I was a blushing giggling mess for a good 10 minutes. Now imagine a whole game full of moments like that?! My poor heart was not prepared! It was super sweet to have someone that who knows you inside and out and still accepts you for who you are. This is how you do romance, hell, there are a few otome games that need to take notes from GB Patch.
In the current build you can only pursue Cove, but future DLCs will give players the chance to romance 2 additional male characters and let me tell you, GB Patch set the bar extremely high. Also, for fans of XOXO Droplets, there are some surprise character cameos from the game in Our Life that are definitely worth keeping an eye out for…
While this is very much your story, GB Patch does fill out the cast of Our Life with a host of memorable characters and I was just BLOWN AWAY by how real they all felt. They aren’t just characters in a game, they’re people and it is your interactions with each of them that shapes your experiences throughout the story. Like Cove, your family are an integral part of your life—your older sister Liz and your mothers Noelani and Pamela—they make up your whole world in the early stages of your life and it is interesting to see how you all grow and change together. I loved that the game prioritizes the family relationships just as much as it does your relationship with Cove. From finding out your adopted to figuring out what you want to do after high school, the game tackles each and every situation with the appropriate level of care.
I also have to give GB Patch kudos for including two family dynamics that you don’t often see explored in games like this. Your character has two mothers, and I can’t tell you how refreshing it was to not just see a healthy and loving same-sex relationship, but to also see them raising a family together! Your family is treated no differently than the traditional nuclear family and this was a first for me and I would absolutely love to see more games implement this in the future! Your moms in the game are everything you’d expect a parent to be, they are affectionate and warm, but the can be disciplinarians when they need to be… and they are not above making a few corny jokes from time to time.
Then you have the Holden family. Cove’s parents are divorced and while Cove lives with his dad full time in Sunset Bird, his mother is very much still a part of his life. Granted the situation takes an emotional toll on Cove early on in the game, it is definitely interesting to see how it shapes who he is and his relationships with his parents in later stages. Also, can I say Cove’s parents are both ridiculously good looking… Mr. Holden is like a fine wine, he only gets better with age. I know Cove is the love interest, but trust I took every opportunity to give my future father-in-law a hug when it was presented to me. #NoShame
I CANNOT begin to describe how perfect this game is, every moment tugs at the heartstrings. I laughed, I cried, I had butterflies, this game had me feeling things in a way no game has in a LONG time. I suppose that is a part of the charm of Our Life. Because this is your story you are much more invested in everything going on… every moment, every conversation… it’s all a part of your very own, one of a kind experience. There were times while playing the game that I thought back on some of my own experiences growing up and I couldn’t help but look back fondly on my life up until this point.
This was definitely a game I did not want to end, but as it is with most good things it was inevitable. But, GB Patch has announced that they are working on additional DLCs for Step 3 and an epilogue, Step 4, so there is plenty more content to look forward to. I can’t wait to see what else is in store for us in the future, but in the meantime, I will definitely replay the game and try some of the choices I didn’t make in my first playthrough! If it isn’t obvious, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND this game, it is absolutely worth every single minute.
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