Kotodama doesn’t appear to have received a single update since its release, so it might appear counterintuitive to follow up on it, but this is a game that’s often in my thoughts thanks to it landing me on some kind of PQube blacklist. That’s right—handing the publisher’s first self-developed game a well-deserved 5/10 hurt someone’s feelings enough that I’ve since had them reject ~6 Review Keys in a row, many of which within the same hour that I put in the key request. Reviews and other such coverage are typically linked to by players before and during each game’s release, meaning there’s rarely a point to buying games since post-release traffic starts to die immediately after launch for all but the biggest titles. The search/share habits of gamers make it significantly harder to do this job effectively without review keys, full stop. Looking back, though, I couldn’t help but wonder if I had somehow earned my place on that blacklist by being unfair to Kotodama, so I reinstalled it and spent the next 40 minutes in misery. To be honest, the 5/10 that I gave it was downright charitable given its flaws. It sucks that PQube can’t get over it since they publish a lot of really interesting games made by quality developers, but Kotodama is counterintuitive, tedious, and abandoned.
It’s not like this game couldn’t be salvaged if PQube wanted to fix it up; the characters are decent enough—outside of the stupid twist ending, at least—and the matching game isn’t terrible in small doses. The problem has always been making the minigame mandatory during time loops. A hypothetical patch that allows the player to turn off minigames they’ve completed already would go a long way toward remedying Kotodama‘s ills. It’s also in desperate need of something that allows the player to see where its tricky hidden scenes are lurking, and providing the option to restart the time loop at will and automatically jump to chapters while making certain choices might even be enough to make this a good game.
In its current state, however, I don’t see how I could have reviewed it any better. I mean, this is a game that contains crucial story branches that you have to get lucky enough to stumble across. Scenes required to reach the true ending (which is the only ending that doesn’t spit you back at the beginning of the time loop and thus arguably the only real ending) should be the kind of thing that you can figure out based on clear clues, but in Kotodama, they’re hidden until you visit random locations in a specific order. There’s no logic behind when they trigger or why—sometimes you only stumble across someone if you’re in an arbitrary place at an arbitrary time that no one ever tells you about. That’s stupidly obtuse, and having to figure this stuff out while constantly being thrown back in time and forced to replay the same couple of matching minigames is aggressively unfun. This time around, the music gave me a headache and the art style certainly didn’t give me a 2/2 vibe, so Kotodama could reasonably be scored as a 3/10.
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