Review of Blooming Panic
Blooming Panic: Full Bloom Edition
Vote: 8skelltan on 2022-05-28
|Review||This was a short VN as it was made as part of a game jam, but I'd say there's a decent amount of content in here, with 4 routes, each with a good and bad ending, each lasting 6 in game days with epilogues for the good endings. There are also further epilogues for the good and bad endings in the extra menu, and while, yeah, they are kinda just extras and not really integral to the plot, I think they should've been mandatory or at least let players know they were there. I only knew because I noticed the extras tab and was curious as to what it contained.|
Anyways, onto the game. It's based on Discord servers and it gets the vibe right and is really enjoyable. I wouldn't mind seeing a whole subgenre of VNs that emulate Discord servers (I notice a 'Social Networking Service' tag on this website that might just give me my fill).
Said server is a fanserver based on the titular Blooming Panic, which in universe is a web novel. As a piece of metatext I don't really care for (what is abbreviated as) Bloomic that much, because we don't really see that much of it. I like Lydia, Celeste and Damian's character designs but that's about it. Well, Bloomic is pretty important in NakedToaster's route, but I'll get to that.
Like Our Life, there is the option to have either male, female or gender neutral pronouns, a large decision as to why I played this game. There's even less to do with LGBT themes than Our Life but I wasn't under the pretence of there being any like in Our Life other than the fact you could have gender neutral pronouns, so that doesn't really negatively effect my view of the game. The fact the female MC is canon (art for the soundtrack having a crude drawing of a femme, the theme song using female pronouns referring to the MC) maybe irks me a little - if you have choice of pronoun for character, I'd personally rather they keep it vague what gender the protag could be - but it's no big deal.
As mentioned, there are four different routes here. Quest, Xyx (who I believe is unique to the Full Bloom edition), Nightowl, NakedToaster (whose route you can only play after beating Quest and Nightowl's), each as fleshed out as each other.
I guess we'll go in order of my favourite to least favourite. So, Xyx is my fucking boy. First of all, he's the hottest of them all, both in looks and voice. Second, he has a tragic character and third that leads into a really cool character arc. I also think his romance was the most realistic as he doesn't really get that romantic with you until the 6th day. He says things that can be construed as flirty prior, but never outright confirms his affections for you until the story reaches the climax. Also unique to this route is the fanzine which again I thought was a really cool part of online culture that's represented well here.
Next up is NakedToaster. Before I did Xyx's route, his was my favourite. But honestly I'm not sure how much of that was because of him? I liked him but imo the far more interesting part of his route is Bloom Bot. She is revealed to be the author of Bloomic. I'm a sucker for characters that were manmade and have to deal with their nature, so naturally I care a lot about Bloom Bot. She also has a really good arc and cool scene about change that, along with Xyx's route, made me rate this an 8. . This is also the canon ending, so it's the only one in which you can see the ending to Blooming Panic.
Then we have Nightowl. Nightowl is... complicated. He lashes out at the player and it comes across as really jarring, yet at the same time I feel really bad for him and forgave him easily, but the spontaneity of the lashing out is just... like I said, jarring to me. He is kinda cute, but can also be a bit annoying.
Finally, we have Quest. I don't hate Quest but boy am I close to it. He's a Discord mod and he even fucking calls the main character kitten in the theme song. So cringe. He's kinda daddy though, I hate to admit. His arc about not being defined by change is alright but a bit basic for my tastes. Also perhaps the cringiest route because we have a Discord mod and a Joker worshipping incel in it.
So those are all the routes. In each route, different side characters are more fleshed out. For example, two2 is more important in Quest's, onionthief in Nightowl's and June in Xyx's. I thought it was a pretty decent way of having each character fleshed out without having to worry about balancing them.
I suppose I should comment on the art, which I didn't do in my review for Our Life because I kind of take it for granted. I really like the main art style for the character sprites and it was another reason I decided to play this game. Each of the four mains have pretty good, unique designs and are all good looking. The fanart varies in quality but all of it is pretty good.
The voice acting is a larger component here than in Our Life - there are fully voiced voice calls and some messages in chat are voiced. The voice acting for the most part is honestly pretty good, especially NakedToaster, Xyx and some of the side characters (they have so little voice lines compared to the 4 mains I can't remember who specifically impressed me). Nightowl's annoyingness sometimes stems from his voice.
Otherwise I just had one minor gripe: Stop giving me a dialogue 'choice' if there's only one 'choice'! The whole point of choosing dialogue is the option of choice. There are many moments in this game where you'll be met with a 'choice' that only has one option. At that point, why bother? Either have it as standard text, not a choice, or have other options, even if they have no bearing on the story whatsoever.
To be honest, that really ticked me off at the start but I kind of got used to it, and I guess in a way its to make you feel like you're typing out these messages, but again, the whole point of choices is... choice. So ideally I'd like to see choices.
All in all, it's a VN with a unique and well thought out setting and some nice character arcs that I definitely think is worth checking out.