Spare Parts: Episode 1 and 2

Spare Parts is a series of visual novels by Sophie Rose that is still ongoing and it’s currently a part of the Queer Games Bundle. I have had this sitting in my Steam library for a bit, so I thought that now’s a good time to finally check these games out.

Somewhere, somebody named Unit 01 stirs, but isn’t fully conscious. In the darkness, she hears somebody inspecting her, apologizing for the strange circumstances she was left in. And soon, that person leaves, leaving the perspective character to fade into the darkness.

But enough about that, let’s hear about the far more relatable struggle of trying to find a job.

A young woman named Lucy has spent months trying to look for a job. She wanted to escape life under her parents to be her own person, but in writing out her resumes, she found a problem: she doesn’t know who she is. She doesn’t know what kind of unique qualities she can bring to the table and she doesn’t know if she could be an independent person, feeling that she’s become over-reliant on her roommate, Killie.

Then on that fateful September day, Lucy comes across Spare Parts, an odd store that sells… well, spare machinery parts. The shop is run by Unit 01, who is a completely normal woman. So normal that she gives Lucy a job on the spot and also leaves her to work by herself on her very first day. On that first day of sheer boredom, Lucy finds her way to Spare Parts’ basement, where she discovers a whole new world and a purpose.

Dragging her into this new world is Unit 03, an extremely emotional robot. Quite frankly, she’s a bad liar about being a weird robot girl, but that’s okay, since as curious and nosy as Lucy is, she’s not very good at picking up on that. 03, like Lucy, yearns for a greater sense of independence, as she and her robot siblings are told to stay cooped up in the basement.

Despite her initially cold and tough demeanor, 01 is caring and protective of her charges. However, her clear lack of social understanding as well as instructions from an unknown source convinced her that the best way to protect them is to keep her siblings hidden away. In some ways, she’s right to do so – after all, Unit 04 is shown to be physically weak outside of the pod they’re sleeping in (which is fine, because they’re a huge chuuni convinced that God nerfed them to keep them weak). Unit 02? She’s totally fine with her lot in life, and in fact, is increasingly annoyed that Lucy showed up to break the status quo.

However, 03 is different. She has a stronger capacity for emotion, and it’s within that capacity that she tries to make friends with Lucy.

Spare Parts: Episode 1 is about Lucy finally making these new friends while uplifting them. For 01, it’s about getting her to be be more open and understanding of others, and for 03, it’s about giving her the sense of independence she desires. The titular Spare Parts store serves as a way to explore these relationships, as running it is important for the well-being of these robot people, since, you know, robot upkeep’s expensive.

As a standalone experience, the first episode of Spare Parts serves as a good introduction to the game’s world, while establishing Lucy’s incredibly gay relationships with 01 and 03.

And so, I moved into the second episode, which turned out to be much, much longer than the first part. So hey, if you weren’t happy with the length of the first episode, this one really balances it out.

The first episode ends with the gang finding a solution to the money problem, but it’s only temporary. Until things change, 01 allows 03 a little freedom to go into the outside world with Lucy, which soon winds up being a problem.

While 02 and 04 have a few appearances (the former having some pretty noteworthy ones), Episode 2 still focuses more on developing 01 and 03. 01, through her interactions with Lucy, shows a growing sense of humanity, even if she has troubles navigating it. With her growing emotional intelligence and trust in Lucy, she finds herself forming an emotional connection with a car that she doesn’t fully understand herself. 03, meanwhile, has that very strong sense of humanity to begin with – along with the messier emotional baggage attached to being human. With the brief flashes of freedom Lucy shows her, she starts pushing for more freedom past her understandable limitations, even to Lucy’s increasing frustration. It’s honestly kinda frustrating to play through, but at the same time, it’s understandable – it’s complicated in a rather human way.

And it’s here where Lucy’s problems start to come in. Her desire to help people conflict with each other, with her loyalties to 01 constantly being tested with her commitments to 03. It certainly doesn’t help that nobody tells her or 03 what’s going on and that she somehow hasn’t figured out that her new friends aren’t human yet. Like, I can tell that this is a game that will piss off the “why don’t they just talk to each other” crowd, but as for me, I’m loving this shit.

But Lucy isn’t solely defined by her clumsy attempts at helping others. While implied in the previous episode, it’s explicitly made clear here that Lucy is a trans woman that’s trying to properly figure herself out. Her conflict with herself parallels 03’s, in that like how Lucy moved away from her parents to be her own person, 03’s trying to establish her own sense of personhood, regardless of what she was designed for and her robot health problems. In helping 03, Lucy also takes it as a chance to figure out herself.

In contrast, there’s Killie, Lucy’s nonbinary roommate, who already has things figured out – or at least, gives off that impression. It’s because of that – and the rising problem of Lucy’s conflicting loyalties – that 03 starts to confide in them. And really, I like Killie. They’re like a cool big sibling that takes no shit while being kind to the people they care about. Them really hating their job and co-workers is also a plus, for me.

Episode 2 is clearly a more expansive story with a lot going on. Besides the character conflicts, there’s also the general mystery of what the deal is with the robots, which is only further expanded by Nova, a mysterious boy taking care of a robot that he views as his sister. Accompanying the new shifts in focus, the narrative now frequently switches the character point-of-view, usually between Lucy and 03. I particularly welcome 03’s parts, since it allows us to get better glimpses at her situation and 02 and 04 that Lucy would never have gotten.

I have a few issues with Spare Parts, but… I realize that’s only because this is an ongoing series. Come to think about it, the only times I’ve ever gotten into an episodic game series is after it’s all done, when most lingering questions an episode would usually leave me with would get answered shortly afterward. Like, Episode 2 did not delve into 02 and 04 as much as I would have thought coming off of Episode 1, but there’s a few plot hooks pointing toward them getting more proper attention in the future – along with the new plot hooks regarding that ongoing mystery I mentioned.

But how about that art? Well, I think that the art in Spares Parts is extremely good. The character portraits are evocative, particularly 03’s, because they sometimes get cartoonish in a way that perfectly captures her intense emotions. I also love the attention to detail of some characters having different clothing; in fact, in the case of 01, I appreciate that because it expresses how she’s evolving past her status quo. The different character designs can be partially attributed to Ruby T., who also did the game’s excellent backgrounds.

The second episode particularly has more fun with presentation. Some more dramatic scenes plays with how dialogue is presented like the screenshot above, emphasizing the art and the emotions of the scene. Some of the scenes with the robotic characters as the POV characters also have some really cool effects that intensify some scenes, while adding another layer of mystery in others.

I also generally enjoyed the music in the game, which was made by Theo Krantz. There’s a lot of chill vibes around, though it’s not afraid of embracing some more atmospheric stuff for some scenes. Honestly, my favorite song in the game is Nova’s theme. It sounds like somebody trying to play something peppy and peaceful but it’s just off, which perfectly captures how in spite of the polite demeanor he puts on, the guy’s extremely shifty.

All in all, Spare Parts is very high quality. I enjoyed what there is of Spare Parts so far and it made for a great weekend read. Like honestly? Even if you get these games in the Queer Games Bundle, I say that you should also get the games separately on Steam, since I honestly think they’re pretty cheap for the quality they offer.

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