It’s Pride Month y’all, so we’re going to be switching tracks for a bit to cover games made by LGBTQ creators or has LGBTQ themes. (Sorry again, Dujanah.)
The first two games I’ll be looking at is Her Lullaby and its sequel, Afterward. Full disclosure, I know the creators Polly S. and John Thyer (who made Facets, a past game I played) and the latter has beta tested some of my stuff. However, I am a free spirit that acts independently of them – I’m doing this of my own volition. Also these games are really short and free, so whatever.
Her Lullaby is a horror visual novel about two women trapped in a basement, with an insatiable, inexplicable urge to kill each other. Your character wakes up with a throbbing, painful headaches filled with static, only knowing that she’s trapped with a woman and that they both have knives in their hands.
The player character looks at the knife. Then her surroundings. The more your character hears the other woman talk, the more painful her headache gets. Completely going batshit, your character almost immediately stabs her and she retaliates. The narration tells both of their deaths in extremely uncomfortable detail as they bleed out. And that’s the end of Her Lullaby.
That is, until you start a new playthrough. On the next one, the player character doesn’t immediately think of the knife and checks the surroundings first. There’s now a choice other than murdering her fellow prisoner immediately and things open up. Your player character is named Sal and she goes to the same university as fellow prisoner Tocco and both of you are into girls. It’d be a nice setup for some femslash stuff, especially with them casually flirting with each other, but there’s the fact that they’re still trapped and that awful, awful static noise won’t go away…
They will have a nice moment together, but you’ll really have to earn it.
The path to the true ending is a mess of static and horror. One moment Sal is trying to chat up Tocco to find some normalcy and the next, noise music is playing and the horrible urge to kill sets in. Jokey dialogue transforms into horribly vivid descriptions of murder that honestly felt really uncomfortable to read. It’s bad. I mean, the creators succeeded at what they were trying to do, it’s just not good to me to read.
But to continue on, you have to find all these bad ends and subject yourself to all this brutality. Besides being a standard thing to reach a “golden ending,” experiencing all this hate, experiencing all this violence makes sense with the next section of the story going forward. It really wants you to get in the mood and the head space for what goes on in that section of the game.
From that point on talking about what happens is huge spoiler territory, but I’ll say that I really liked Her Lullaby. It made my skin crawl and had a nifty visual novel structure.
…And now we talk about Afterward, which is extremely different and a bit hard to talk about without spoilers. Unlike Her Lullaby, Afterward is a linear drama story. While it’s still billed as horror, it’s from the tense atmosphere for when Tocco and Sal try to clean up loose ends. There is no violence whatsoever.
However, excruciating, physical pain is instead replaced with emotional and mental anguish as the two protagonists cope with the events of the first game. Dealing with trauma is the central theme of the game, and for Tocco, who’s now the player character, that’s hard to do. In conveying the the theme, Afterward brings up an important message: to not push your traumas on a single person, especially if they’re suffering themselves.
I do regret to inform you that a relationship between Tocco and Sal does not work out. However, it’s not because of “bury your gays,” or whatever, but for reasons that are hopefully understandable. Well, I’m not sure how applicable that trope is in the first game considering how they can stab each other, among other things. Regardless, it does end with both of them trying to move on and find happiness – just not with each other. And sometimes, that’s just how it be.
Overall, both of these stories were really enjoyable. I do love that Afterward is completely different because having more of the same immediately after playing Her Lullaby would be bad. I will say that if you’re looking for lesbian romance, you’re going to be disappointed, because the overall arc is ultimately less about lesbian romance but more about a drama that has lesbians in it.