Indie games have delivered some innovative and revolutionary gems over the last few years. Sometimes it’s one central mechanic, sometimes it’s the entire game. In We should talk, these are the same thing. Its central mechanic is the entire game, and it works so well I’d like to see it implemented more in the future. Unfortunately, due to its small size, the overall game feels more like a tech demo for something greater rather than a fully-fledged experience.
We should talk opens with blisteringly loud music played over a small title menu. After clicking start, players are introduced to a rather friendly bartender addressing them as their “favourite regular”. It is here where you are given the opportunity to respond. The bartender’s speech is blue and mimics a text speech bubble, where yours is pink. You can scroll up and down until you find the appropriate response. Naturally enough, I got meta and asked about the text I see on my screen where the bartender sort of just went with it. The big meta text option is by far the most interesting and eased me into a brief tutorial. Very smart. This is where the text gets much more interesting. You can change one of two/three choices in a sentence and add them together to make a full response. This means the start of a sentence and end can be chosen independently of each other. Generally, each dialogue choice can give you anywhere between 10 to 30 options to choose from when added together.
Upon getting back into the conversation, I chose to flirt with the bartender just to test what We should talk would let me say and where that would lead. After three or so flirtatious sentences, I received a text from my girlfriend. This made me feel guilty, oddly guilty. This is how I knew We should talk had natural writing. If I didn’t, in some way, connect with the game, this might not have bothered me. Knowing I was flirting with the bartender whilst getting texts from a significant other felt like a real betrayal I had to go out of my way to fix.
This connection isn’t formed through realistic visuals or even close to human-looking characters. The game itself looks rather cartoony and blocky, not too dissimilar to Roblox. Characters have strange proportions and don’t really move as such. They instead tend to only change position after crucial moments in dialogue. This could be an ex-partner being told to leave you alone or a stray text catching your eye. As We should talk has different ways it achieves its central narrative, individual moments don’t flow together in a natural sense, feeling like a string of parts. Thankfully, the small bits of conversation are so intriguing that this doesn’t really hinder the overall experience.
Despite the characters and graphics not looking great, the overall presentation is good. The chat system has a rather sleek finish, fitting with the club the game takes place in. Whilst the furnishings of the club are rather bare-bones, you forget that rather quickly. The pulsing music and sometimes rather strange conversation immerse you. This immersion goes a long way to appreciating the story as it unfolds. It is helped by the fact that you get different endings and conversations based on your choices throughout We should talk. This makes going back and discovering different routes much more interesting. It takes the intrigue of repeating a visual novel and pushes it to a new level as you choose the options you were too afraid to choose the first time around.
Unfortunately, this brings us to one of We should talk’s biggest weaknesses. While a playthrough only takes 10-20 minutes, it isn’t clear as to which dialogue options achieve certain results. It is fun to go back and try out the stranger choices but when these see you receiving the same ending as the time before, it loses that shine. Occasionally it can make you feel like your choices and conversation don’t really matter. When choices don’t matter in a game like this, it loses a great deal of charm.
Despite the fact that it’s very short, rather bare and occasionally doesn’t respond naturally to your decisions, We should talk on Xbox One is an interesting experience that’s easy to recommend. Its dialogue system is great and makes you care. In something longer, this mechanic could be wonderful, but for now it’s just a sign of things to come.