Review by Matt S.
I’ll be honest: I never expected to play a game in which short skirted, big boobed anime girls started cracking jokes about Australia’s right wing politician’s drive to rip incomes away from working class families. But here we are at Alluna and Brie and, as odd as that blend is… it really works. Lached Up Games has created something entirely irreverent and silly, but also impossible to put down.
Alluna and Brie takes place in an anime-ified Australia – a place where boring healing items like potions and herbs are replaced with lamingtons and sausage sangas (to bring the rest of the world up to speed, that’s a sausage on a piece of bread, which is basically the national dish here). At every opportunity, the game goes all out to poke fun at various elements of Australian culture, traditions, and turns of phrases, and because of that, right from the outset, Alluna and Brie has a very different tone and style than the kind of fanservicey anime games that you might be used to. The Japanese developers would never have thought to do something like this.
You’ll get to spend a lot of time with Alluna, Brie, six other playable characters, and dozens of other personalities. Alluna and Brie is structured in a similar way to games like Persona; the game is broken down into “days,” in which you’ll spend some time as Brie hanging around town, completing various activities to earn rewards, or developing relationships between Brie and the rest of the cast. Then you’ll spend the rest of the time delving into dungeons, fighting enemies and benefiting from the perks that those deepening relationships unlock. This structure inevitably means that the game is quite long (you’d be looking at around 40-50 hours for this one), so its testament to the enjoyable dialogue and sense of humour that you’ll still have a smile on your face right through to the end.
With that being said, Alluna and Brie isn’t the most refined narrative. It lacks depth for one thing. It’s no exaggeration to say there’s nothing deeper to the story than the puns and absurd blend of Australianisms coupled with anime boobs and exposed midriffs. When you look at something like Persona, its strengths are in the way that it blends characterisation – including plenty of humour and fan service – with a more meaningful commentary on the human condition. Alluna and Brie never quite pushes past the weird cheese toastie sandwich fetish that it espouses, and while it’s pleasant and charming right through to the end, at 40+ hours of play it’s hard not to wish the developer found room for something a little more meaningful that clever pop culture references.
Visually, though, it’s spot on. Alluna, Brie, and all the other girls look exactly like what you’d expect from a fanservicey anime game (it takes half an hour of play – if that – for the story to get them down to their underwear, another half an hour for a pool scene). If it wasn’t for the fact that the Japanese are completely bemused by the idea of a lamington as a delicacy (“it was originally stale cake, right?”) then you’d assume that this game came from a small Japanese developer and was localised by PQube or Fruitbat Factory, or similar.
Combat is another bright spot. Alluna and Brie features fairly traditional turn based combat, in which you take a certain number of characters into battle, and each of them have their own special abilities with which to deal with the enemies which are, for the most part, monster girls. Yes, Alluna and Brie taps into yet another staple of fanservicey Japanese games there. Those enemies show some lovely creativity on the part of the art team, with detailed designs and plenty of bra tops. The limited budget that the developer had to work with shows in the lack of fireworks from special attacks, but the bright, colourful environments and animation, and amusing little quips that the protagonists throw out in battle (bonus points for the occasional deliberately overplayed Australian accent) more than compensate for the lack of flash.
The time management of Alluna and Brie is delightful. When in dungeons your team moves across a map designed to look like a board game, one “square” at a time. You can only move a certain number of squares in a day, and you’ve only got a certain number of days to get to the end of the map and defeat a boss. But doing activities in the “real world” also occupies time. Brie needs to manage a few status bars – hunger, stress, and so on, and to do that she needs to chow down on food, go running, watch movies, read books, and chill with her buddies. All of these things also take time. This system isn’t designed to be stressful (and certainly you’re not going to have trouble clearing the dungeons in time unless you go completely silly with wasting time), but it’s enough to encourage you to make use of the full range of activities available, and keep you focused on moving the plot forward.
Impressively, for a small independent project, there’s also the kind of minigames that you would expect from much larger JRPG projects. There’s an insect collection and battling mini-game (a riff on Pokemon), and a mermaid-themed riff on Blitzball from Final Fantasy X. These little minigames are pretty simple, and small distractions from the main game, but their inclusion does game Allua and Brie an impressively full resume.
For a game whose lead protagonist is a girl with the ability to summon cheese sandwiches, Alluna and Brie is genuinely impressive project. It’s a full featured blend of JRPG and visual novel thanks to its time management and minigames, the art nails the humorous fan service brief, and the narrative, while shallow, is rife with an excellent sense of Australian humour. When Australian games generally model themselves after western culture and game design, it’s nice to see the occasional title represent that geographically (and, increasingly, culturally) this country is closer to Asia than it is America. Allua and Brie is what it looks like when Australians do JRPGs.
– Matt S.
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