The Western otome fandom is currently in the middle of an otome boom! Since February, we’ve seen at least one otome game release a month. Now otome lovers are finding their backlogs filled to the brim with a variety of new game… June has been especially tough, with otome localization giants, Aksys Games and Idea Factory International, both dropping otome games within weeks of each other?!
Aksys’s Jack Jeanne has been a much anticipated release for most in the fandom, in comparison IFI’s Charade Maniacs received a more mixed reception. So, many otome gamers are asking themselves whether Charade Maniacs is worth their time. Well, thanks to the awesome folks at Idea Factory International, I’ve had the chance to play Charade Maniacs ahead of the June 27th release. And I am here to give you a few reasons why you might want to give this otome localization a try (or not)!
Charade Maniacs has a WILD story premise
If there is one thing Charade Maniacs has going for it, it has to be it’s off the walls premise. I can honestly say there is no other otome game quite like it. Hiyori Sena and a group of mega foxy hot dudes gets abducted and sent to another world where they are forced to perform in short Youtube-esque dramas for aliens and if they refuse… they get un-alived.
But, that’s not all, one of the group is a traitor responsible for their predicament. So, not only do Hiyori and Co. have to act in cheesy dramas, they also have to try their hand at IRL Among Us and sniff out the person who’s most sus… And believe me when I say, everyone is SUS!
YMMV: This game has enough storylines for several otome games, but here it is all jam packed into one game?! It can be a bit of a hot mess at times, but I kind of like a mess. You honestly play Charade Maniacs just to see HOW everything is going to be resolved (for better or worse).
*In case you didn’t know, ‘YMMV’ stands for ‘your mileage may vary’
The world of Charade Maniacs is an immersive futuristic sci-fi experience
Publishers are definitely delivering a bit of variety with these new otome localizations. Gone are the days where all we got were Hakuoki and well, Hakuoki remastered. Now we’re getting everything from mystery to slice-of-life to fantasy, and to my absolute delight—more sci-fi otome games!!
Coming on the heels of last year’s Paradigm Paradox, IFI’s latest otome localization Charade Maniacs brings us an equally interesting sci-fi world to sink our teeth into!
A world in the near future where everything was optimized.
People’s livelihoods were curated for them,
and the citizens were protected by technologically advanced security systems.
As a result, most seemed to live a prosperous life.
In exchange for these happy lives they lived: all forms of information were monitored 24/7.
It’s giving dystopian YA novel vibes, but there are some fun twists and turns that make Charade Maniacs a unique experience in it’s own right. I can honestly say I was really interested in learning more about the world.
Charade Maniacs has an expansive cast of NINE love interests
Otome games with a large cast of love interests can be pretty hit or miss. While the variety is definitely a plus, most stories just don’t have enough substance to fully explore the extra characters. And, I’d be lying if I said Charade Maniacs gives each of it’s LIs enough time to truly shine in their respective routes. But, despite some hiccups, this game does offer a much more unique collection of of otome love interests than I’m used to seeing.
In a first (for me) in a mainstream otome release, Mizuki Iochi identifies as non-binary; which for anyone who has been privy to the discourse around the inclusion of non-male LIs in otome games, this is a huge step for the genre. Though the execution at times leaves a bit to be desired—Otomate’s writers might wanna take a look into some indie otome games and amare titles for a guide on how these characters should be treated in-universe. But, it’s a step, so I’ll give Charade Maniacs some grace here.
Of course, Iochi isn’t the only interesting LI—there’s a tsundere megane, a literal 12 year old (yes, you read that right), and a few that seem to be subversions of the usual character trope archetypes. So, there’s literally an LI that everyone will enjoy.
YMMV: But, with a larger cast, you do run into quality issues with how each route is handled. Some characters just have better written stories and conflicts. While others feel like they may have worked better as just side characters.
For a game with so many LIs, Charade Maniacs is a pretty quick play
Coming on the heels of Aksys Games’s otome darling, Jack Jeanne initially felt like a misstep on IFI’s part, since most in the otome community have chosen to go with it over Charade Maniacs (and who can blame them, Jack Jeanne is amazing). But, JJ is a hefty game that’ll set you back with it’s whopping 60+ hour run time. And it’s repetitive gameplay and stats raising, just don’t make for a time friendly gaming experience. I work a pretty standard nine to five so, I found it rough to get through after the first 3 runs of the game (my 145 hour gameplay hours were not an exaggeration).
So some gamers may be looking for something a bit shorter to invest their time in, and despite it’s huge cast, Charade Maniacs is a surprisingly quick play. Most of the routes are pretty short, I got through the majority of them in a few hours (mostly during boring video calls and meetings at work). And while it can seem like a lot going through everything, the plot is always moving, so the experience doesn’t feel as long.
YMMV: But, that said, some of the individual routes feel rushed and/or incomplete. Each route builds on the overarching mystery, serving as a small piece of the larger whole. So on their own, some of the individual routes just don’t hold up as standalone experiences.
Charade Maniacs is a mystery that will keep you guessing till the very end
Perhaps the biggest selling point of Charade Maniacs is its mystery. Writer Uta Amamiya proved in Psychedelica of the Black Butterfly that they could tell a compelling and emotional mystery story and they bring their signature charm and flare to Charade Maniacs. This is a game that is just as much about the journey as it is the destination, with each route bringing you ever closer to the truth behind Hiyori and the other’s unusual circumstances.
Everyone in Charade Maniacs is hiding something and it’s up to you to uncover the truth, while navigating the highs and lows of the life or death Other World Streams. Out of the nine potential love interests, one of them is a traitor. But with no idea who they are you will have to decide if you will put your trust in your fellow cast mates or treat everyone as an enemy. There are so many twists and turns in each route that everyone is a likely suspect…
I am a sucker for a good mystery and I had a lot of fun piecing together clues and trying to guess which of the LIs was the traitor. And despite its flaws, Charade Maniacs sure knows how to keep you invested, because you’ll want to know who it is!
Should you Skip or Play Charade Maniacs?
- Fun mystery that will keep you guessing with every new twist and turn
- Immersive sci-fi fantasy world
- A large cast of interesting love interests (especially the inclusion of an enby LI)
- The premise is definitely unique. I can honestly say, ‘alien abductions and forced to act in dramas’ was not on my 2023 otome bingo card
- Writing in the individual routes can be pretty weak
- Romance is pretty low on the spice scale
- Hiyori is not the best written heroine and can feel like a bit of a step back compared to some of the heroines in other recent games
- The tone is all over the place, the story jumps from light hearted to drama and back again at a lightning pace (sometimes mid scene)
Honestly, I’m on the fence. There are some really great elements that make Charade Maniacs a standout among the recent otome localizations—it’s overarching mystery and sci-fi premise are definite positives. But, the mixed bag with the writing of the individual routes and tone issues caused by the rushed pacing can be frustrating for gamers looking to fully immerse themselves in this game.
Personally, the mystery alone is enough to keep me invested. I really loved playing through all the routes uncovering hidden secrets about the LIs and their connections to not just the Other World Streams, but each other. Some routes reveal truths about completely different characters which really plays up how interconnected everything in the game is. And of course, trying to figure out who the traitor is was a hell of a lot of fun, though your mileage may vary on how satisfying the answer really is in the end. So, you can either SKIP or PLAY this one (definitely a good game to get on sale though).
But, I definitely wanna hear from you! Do you plan on skipping or playing Charade Maniacs when it drops on June 27th?