Water. It’s the most sought after commodity in a dystopian future of Vengeful Heart, where the planet has been ravaged of its resources and polluted by humanity. The rich are getting richer, with their lifestyles being sustained by the hard work of those at the bottom of the social and economical ladder. And yet still, the corporate suits want more as they look to profit further from the control of water. Just how far will they go to fill their pockets and what will happen to those who cannot afford the luxury of running water? 

That’s the basis of Vengeful Heart, a visual novel combining social and political issues with the plight of a woman caught up in the middle of the latest scheme conjured up by those in control. This woman, Josephine Lace, is the protagonist of the story and she’s got more than she bargained for as an engineer at Nepthys – the company who owns all the water. Poor Josephine helped to create plans which would essentially lead to regular folk having their water cut off as a form of blackmail, leading to them selling their homes or doing without a basic human right. Unfortunately, her apartment block is the first target and she’s about to have a change of heart – literally.

What begins as an interesting, albeit slow, delve into the politics of business and how much disregard there is towards the poorest in society, eventually explodes into a more action-oriented quest for vengeance. The scenes are very well described, making them easy to imagine, which comes in handy for picturing the more violent encounters. The narrative arc mostly peaks at the right times, injecting a much-needed change of pace in places, before slowing down once more for you to be able to soak up the important aspects of the story. 

Character development is another strong point. Whether it’s Josephine’s rag tag bunch of friends like the no-nonsense Bob, kind-hearted doctor Norbert, army veteran Rani, the easily led young student Amy, or the smug and ruthless villain Francis, there’s obvious character growth. I do think having so few characters at its core is the main reason that you’ll understand their motives and personalities clearly. Oddly, Josephine is the hardest of the bunch to become attached to and that’s possibly due to her life-changing injuries requiring her to be cybernetically-enhanced, which completely alters her attitude. 

For all the interesting and believable plot points in Vengeful Heart, there are times when you have to suspend disbelief. Everything that can go wrong for Josephine, and her justice seeking group, will go wrong, but they have a ton of luck and often roll with the punches – even if it doesn’t quite make sense. I’m not particularly fond of how any outbursts by characters are forgotten in an instant by those around them either. There’s also a moment where it tries to pull on your heart strings using a child, only to result in a damp squib which causes a bit of a lull in the build towards the latter stages.

Disappointingly, there’s a lack of interaction in Vengeful Heart, with just a sole choice to make throughout its entirety. Granted, it’s an important choice that shapes the final chapter as you take the decision to side with one of the love interests, but still I would have liked to have more influence overall. What is great though is how it allows the opportunity to experience two endings, which are quite different in a multitude of ways. This ensures that going for a second playthrough, in order to witness both, is a worthwhile enterprise.

A slight bugbear here is the fact that there are no easy options enabling you to pick up the story at the decision making stage, or even at a particular chapter. Instead, you must start at the very beginning – which isn’t a very good place to start – and then fast forward a ton of text until the moment arises to intervene. While on the topic of minor bugbears, the inclusion of a heart monitor for the protagonist is a moot point because no matter what happens, you cannot affect it in any way.

In terms of the aesthetic for Vengeful Heart, there’s a lot of neon usage for the pixel art screens representing the environments in which everything takes place. Sure, they aren’t the most exciting backdrops you’ll see, but they do enough to help the visualisation process. I can’t be quite so kind in regards to the character designs however, best described as easily forgettable and boring. Fortunately the synthwave soundtrack fits in better with the overall vibe and has music that’s reminiscent of action movies from yesteryear. 

On the whole, Vengeful Heart provides an intriguing and – scarily – believable visual novel centred on that age-old battle against ‘the establishment’. The political side is equally as entertaining as the action that occurs, with characters worth investing yourself into too. Throughout the six or so hours of reading though, there are occasional dips in the plot and it misses the mark at times. It is bereft of choices as well, but, to be fair, the one single decision you need to make does change the ending significantly.

If you don’t mind a slow-burner and a lot of reading, Vengeful Heart is a good cyberpunk styled tale with social and political themes at the heart of it.

Indulge in a good read by purchasing Vengeful Heart from the Xbox Store

Water. It’s the most sought after commodity in a dystopian future of Vengeful Heart, where the planet has been ravaged of its resources and polluted by humanity. The rich are getting richer, with their lifestyles being sustained by the hard work of those at the bottom of the social and economical ladder. And yet still, the corporate suits want more as they look to profit further from the control of water. Just how far will they go to fill their pockets and what will happen to those who cannot afford the luxury of running water?  That’s the basis of Vengeful…

Pros:

  • Interesting theme with plenty of action
  • Character growth
  • Great soundtrack
  • Two very different endings

Cons:

  • Lacking choices/interactions
  • Erratic character behaviour and lulls in plot

Info:

  • Massive thanks for the free copy of the game go to - Top Hat Studios
  • Formats - Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PS5, PS4, Switch, PC
  • Version Reviewed - Xbox Series X
  • Release date - 29th March 2022
  • Launch price from - £TBC
TXH Score

4/5

Pros:

  • Interesting theme with plenty of action
  • Character growth
  • Great soundtrack
  • Two very different endings

Cons:

  • Lacking choices/interactions
  • Erratic character behaviour and lulls in plot

Info:

  • Massive thanks for the free copy of the game go to - Top Hat Studios
  • Formats - Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PS5, PS4, Switch, PC
  • Version Reviewed - Xbox Series X
  • Release date - 29th March 2022
  • Launch price from - £TBC

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