Hate Plus, Christine Love's new visual novel, started life as downloadable content for her last big game, Analogue: A Hate Story, and it shows. This game is an epilogue. Not even an epilogue, actually; more of an appendix. And no, I don't mean the little annex on your intestine that doctors are baffled by.
I'm talking about that weird section at the back of an enormous fantasy novel, when the main story's already finished but there are still 100 pieces of paper left to go through and they're all filled with family trees and maps and tangents and maybe a grocery list the author made or whatever.
Sitting in my tin can
Enjoying Hate Plus practically requires you to play it's progenitor. I didn't expect or want Christine Love to recap the first game, but let this serve as a warning: if you haven't played Analogue: A Hate Story, you might as well stop reading this review and go play that first—Analogue is a visual novel that tells a fantastic, heart-rending story.
Done? Good. Analogue [small spoilers ahead] tasked you with uncovering the fate of the derelict spaceship Mugunghwa by interacting with two artificial intelligences, *Hyun-Ae and *Mute, and poring through the ship's stored log files, a collection of short snippets of writing from the Mugunghwa's crew. Reading through dozens of logs like a 25th century archaeologist you piece together the complete story of the ship's downfall and the mysterious Pale Bride, before escaping with one of the two AIs.
Hate Plus picks up where Analogue left off, as you make your way back to Earth with your AI companion. Once again you will read through numerous log entries, occasionally pausing as *Mute or *Hyun-Ae provides input.
If you played Analogue you can import your saved game and continue the story. If you didn't play Analogue and bought Hate Plus as a standalone game...you're going to be confused. The game asks you to answer four different questions to mock up a save, but you're essentially choosing at random since you don't know the backstories of either *Hyun-Ae or *Mute.
And therein lies the problem. Hate Plus is beautifully written, but it's of interest only to people who experienced Analogue. Even ignoring the simple question of which AI to choose, there's too much context you're expected to know within minutes of launching the game for any newcomer to parse. It's like if you jumped into Breaking Bad in its fifth season.
What's more problematic is that I'm just not enthralled with Hate Plus as an add-on to Analogue. As I said, it feels more like an appendix than a full-fledged sequel. Analogue told a challenging, high-concept story that leaned into the worst aspects of Korea's Joseon Dynasty for inspiration alongside a smaller, deeper, personal story about the Pale Bride—a girl unstuck from time, a stranger in a strange land and all the terrible things that happened to her as a result.
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