Ugh. We can think of few worse settings for a video game than the head of an insecure, lusty teenage boy. It’s not a pretty place to be. We can attest to it, having been one. But 7 Days of Rose, the latest visual novel published by Ratalaika Games and developed by Cross Game Studio, is firmly from that viewpoint, and we’re not convinced we actually want that.
It tells the story of poor little Michael, who is so down on his luck that he’s having to jet to a phenomenally expensive-looking resort that looks like something out of Love Island. He is forced to travel with his parents, which goes some way to explaining why he’s so grumpy and sulky, we suppose. His parents are bizarrely thirsty, in the dry-humping-each-other-at-the-dinner-table sense. Heaven knows why the parents are behaving like they’ve just met each other when they’ve got an eighteen year-old son in tow. But who are we to judge?
As Michael huffs and puffs at the injustice of the world, he crosses paths with Rose. TV Trope fans will spot the cliche straight away. She’s a ‘Manic Pixie Dream Girl’ to such an absolute tee that Zooey Deschanel would play her in the screen adaptation. She says wistful, self-examining things before pivoting to frantic, all while finding something inexplicably charming in Michael.
It is not the most believable of relationships, and there is such a complete lack of chemistry that you wonder whether it’s on purpose. Michael wriggles about like a worm in the sun, helplessly fumbling over his words and saying the stupidest things that pop into his head. Meanwhile, Rose prances about, smitten with the gumph that Michael happens to come out with. As everyone is quick to point out, Rose is rather stunning, and Michael is not, so what is going on here?
It is, as you can probably tell, a rather large bit of wish fulfillment. This is aimed squarely at young gents who dream of summer romances with women who fawn over their every word… even when the words are mostly ums and ahs.
As the seven days progress, it’s clear that there is a second bit of wish fulfillment at play. We don’t want to reveal too much, but you get to ‘fix’ Rose, because she is ‘broken’. There is a complete mishandling of mental health issues in this final act, and we were desperately hoping that 7 Days of Rose would turn the steering wheel and avoid the car-crash it was heading for, but it hurtled on regardless. Please, please don’t treat 7 Days of Rose as guidelines for how to handle a situation like the one in its final moments.
You might find that we’re too harsh on 7 Days of Rose. But we found it icky, verging on incel fan fiction. Michael is intensely unlikable, nowhere near self-aware enough to realise that he is an extremely lucky boy, in a beautiful place, with loving parents and everything handed to him on a plate. Whenever we were given dialogue options, we had to immediately discard at least two of those options because even Donald Trump would find them a little distasteful. Often, there wasn’t a single option that we wanted to choose, as everything was narcissistic or self-loathing, with little in between.
You can probably sense that our reaction to 7 Days of Rose was intensely negative, emotional and subjective. It brought us out in hives, and we’re not convinced that everyone will have the same reaction. We’ll try to be a bit more objective in the final paragraphs, so you can know more about what you’re getting into.
7 Days of Rose is well above par in terms of graphics and presentation. This is a lovely game to look at, and the character illustrations in particular are beautiful. There isn’t a huge range of poses for them, and some character designs are a little off – Rose’s parents in particular look too young – but, generally, this is a good-looking game. It helps that the resort setting is serene and sunkissed.
The dialogue is reasonably well-written, with few typos and everything holding up to scrutiny. Plot-wise it’s a shambles, of course: this is the simplest of visual novel set-ups – the short-lived romance – but 7 Days of Rose does nothing with it. The romance blossoms until it stops, and the moments in between are almost entirely unremarkable. You visit the beach, museums and so forth. Only two moments really make you take notice, as Rose and Michael visit the suburbs of the resort, and attend a party at the climax. If there was a story that needed to be told, it doesn’t surface for air.
As a visual novel, it’s got a fair few choices. In the slight two-hour-runtime, you are making probably thirty dialogue selections, and that is – again – slightly above average, in pure choices-per-hour terms. But those choices, as mentioned, are often an exercise in lesser evils. If these are the thoughts that pop into Michael’s head, then he should probably see a specialist. He’s a rather obnoxious chap.
The choices also don’t diverge much at all. There are a few different endings, some more satisfying than others, which is a plus. But, in the moment, those choices don’t have any divergence. Rose will react with surprise for a couple of chatboxes, raising an eyebrow if you are overly smarmy, but will then snap back onto the critical path. At the end of each of the seven days, you get to hear her thoughts, and those thoughts might be negative or positive. It’s the closest you get to a branching narrative.
And it’s a couple of hours long, of course. Which is fine: there’s no harm in having a strong story, well told, in a novella format. But 7 Days of Rose is not well told, and the story meanders rather than having any direction. So, the little time you do have with it is often filler. You may occasionally stop to wonder where the relationship is going, or if there really is a relationship at all. It’s surprisingly toothless in that sense.
We were surprised about our reaction to 7 Days of Rose. It was like a reflex: a gag at how smarmy and inauthentic it was. As a visual novel, it’s fine – well presented with several endings. But we found the main character to be as unlikable as the relationship is unlikely, and we struggled to play the game as our eyes were continually rolling.
We may not be the audience for 7 Days of Rose, but we’d suggest that there really shouldn’t be an audience for it.
You can buy 7 Days of Rose from the Xbox Store