As a kid, I always imagined being an adult would be the best experience of my life. I would have total freedom to do whatever I wanted. Whatever challenges I faced, I would triumph over all of them. Unfortunately, this is hardly the life I live now, and I expect this is the case for most working adults. When we are children, I think we all have unrealistic expectations of how well things will play out in the future. Our dreams never tend to be entirely fulfilled, as we all have to face the harsh reality of actual life.
For the protagonist in Perseverance: Part 1, this is largely the case. Jack always dreamed of being an outdoorsman, one that could conquer nature and live like a true man. But more than that, he dreamed of being a great father to a son of his own. As you might expect, things do not quite turn out this way. Jack drops out of college to care for his dying father, requiring him to move back to his rural hometown of Grey Ville. Struggling to provide for both him and his family, Jack’s only real consolation is his wife, Natalie — the family’s true breadwinner — and his daughter, Hope. However, regretting his inability to live out his true dreams, he often unleashes his hidden animosity towards his family.
From the premise alone, I was hoping to see an unadulterated look at a man’s struggle to realize his dreams while also trying to keep his family together. In many cases, the game does exactly that. One of the first scenes involves a couple’s dispute between Natalie and Jack. Already, you start to see years of built-up animosity between the two of them unfold, as they realize many of their dreams were shattered when they became a family. While I cannot say I enjoy domestic disputes, this one definitely feels real and authentic. In that respect, the game is very strong.
However, whenever these serious moments occurred, I often found my experience interrupted by numerous typos and grammatical mistakes. Even with the best AAA games, I know there will be a few text-based errors. But Perseverance: Part 1 definitely exceeds the amount I would normally expect. On average, I counted one or two mistakes for every twenty dialogue boxes, which means that about five percent of my experience involved some type of text error. Because of these errors, I would often have to reread a sentence to fully understand the intended meaning. These mistakes make the game feel more like a first draft than a ready-for-release copy.
Even if I were to ignore the constant typos and grammatical mistakes, the game still needs some fundamental changes. While it contains some noticeable potential, Perseverance: Part 1 never really finds a way to separate itself from countless other entries in horror fiction. Oftentimes, the game heavily relies on cliché horror conventions, like military bases, secret experiments, and cabins in the woods. There is nothing inherently wrong with utilizing these common plot points, but to make up for it, there needs to be some spectacular character development. Unfortunately, this is not the case, as talking points often feel forced. It becomes obvious in certain portions of the story when characters are meant to play a specific role, which makes these conversations feel unnatural.
Sadly, the art does not do much in the way of humanizing characters either. Even though I am not a huge fan of this particular style of character art, I can see others enjoying it. For me, it feels like a mix between the styles I see in Western comic books and animated adult cartoons. Specifically, it looks like a hybrid between The Walking Dead comics and the Archer TV series. It is an interesting design choice, but this juxtaposition makes the characters seem rather intense and unhappy. While this is likely a conscious choice by the designers to paint a more realistic and dark tone, it also has the unintended consequence of making the characters seem like embodiments of one particular emotion. This issue is further emphasized by there only being a few different sprites for each character; even the “happy” sprites often have a dark bitterness to them. That being said, the background art is simply gorgeous, and it does a really great job at immersing the player. This is one of the strongest points of the game because, unlike the character art, there is an incredible amount of detail and variety in the backdrops. I especially love the design of the gas station, which comes to life with the flickering neon signs and old-fashioned refill tanks. So even though the character art is weak, the background art easily makes up for it.
Along with the strong background art, there also is a phenomenal soundtrack. In fact, I would argue this is the best part of the game. Most of the game is accompanied by this uneasy melody that makes the player feel incredibly anxious and agitated. The background music creates an even more somber and depressing atmosphere, which adds a whole new dimension to scenes. In addition to the music, there are also some really strong sound effects. Whether it is a ringing cell phone, a kindling fire, or a barking dog, all of the sounds effects really bring the story to life. My only criticism in regards to the game’s sound is the lack of voice acting. Portions of the game would have strongly benefited from being voiced, which is especially apparent in the couple’s dispute at the beginning. While the inclusion of voice acting in the game is not necessary, it’s the type of change needed for the game to stand out.
As far as the gameplay goes, it is rather intuitive and simple. In truth, this really is not a game, but more a story with a few interactive segments. There are some moments in the story where Jack can make a decision, which is appreciated, since it often makes the player feel responsible for Jack’s choices. I really enjoyed one scene where I could choose to continue drinking or go to bed. It almost felt too real to me, as I had this odd compulsion to continue drinking and drown in my sorrows. Still, there isn’t too much interaction or gameplay, which might be a bit of a turn off for those hoping for a more interactive experience. But overall, I think there is just enough user interaction to supplement the narrative parts of the story without overshadowing them.
Frankly, this is not a great visual novel. There definitely are noticeable flaws, and overall, the script needs one or two solid overhauls. But the game contains some potential, and it managed to hold some of my interest. While I cannot recommend Part 1 as a stand-alone entry, Perseverance may be able to reach its missed potential in Part 2.