[Nintendo Switch] Charade Maniacs Review
Charade Maniacs from Idea Factory International and Otomate is a visual novel in which you’ll have to perform and act in order to save your life. Learn more in our Charade Maniacs review!
Charade Maniacs from Idea Factory International and Otomate is a visual novel in which you’ll have to perform and act in order to save your life. The game was originally released for the PlayStation Vita back in 2018, but it was only available in Japan. It’s now 2023, and we’re getting a localized version of this visual novel on Nintendo Switch, bringing along dozens of hours of entertainment thanks to having so many different branching routes along with a beefy main route that sets the stage.
You’ll be taking on the role of sophomore high school student Hiyori Sena. She was getting ready for the summer break when a mysterious masked figure appeared before her and her childhood friend. This individual ends up abducting the two and transports them to a strange world known as Arcadia. On top of that, they find themselves alongside eight other abductees. It’s then that the mysterious figure speaks:
Welcome to Arcadia!
In this world, if you perform for us, your wildest dreams can come true!
This is when the game’s main gameplay twist is introduced: in order for the group to have a chance to find a way to return home, all members must work together. What will they have to do? Perform and act out a variety of scenes in a drama. Oh, and to make things a bit trickier, the group is informed that someone among them is actually a traitor. This is weird because if someone is a traitor, why are they also being forced to act out the scenes? What are the intentions of said traitor? Who can you trust?
If you’re new to visual novels, games in the genre can be explained as elaborate stories that you experience as you get to know other characters a bit better based on the choices – or lack thereof – along the way as you move deeper and deeper into the lore and experience each setting. They may or may not feature voice acting since this is a feature that usually requires a considerable chunk of a game’s budget to be set aside for the voice cast. The good news for Charade Maniacs is that all characters feature voice acting. The bad news is that unless you know Japanese, you’ll end up doing a lot of reading!
On top of that, this particular visual novel is of the Otome variety. What’s an Otome visual novel? It’s a visual novel in which you will play the main character as you get to know a variety of characters who end up acting as potential love interests. Your main character will be a female, while the potential suitors will all be male characters. For Charade Maniacs, that means that you could end up finding love as you work hard and perform the scenes in the drama… even if that means you could end up getting too close to the traitor!
Since this is a visual novel, you’ll either be pressing the A button a lot to move from dialogue to dialogue as you progress through the game’s story or will press the ZR button to activate the autoplay so that text moves on its own at a steady pace. When you get a special term in a dialogue box, it will be highlighted for you. Just press down on the D-Pad so that you can check some valuable information about that term. All of these will be added to the Dictionary section in the pause menu. You can also play the game by using the console’s touchscreen when playing in Portable or Tabletop Mode or if playing on a Nintendo Switch Lite.
The potential suitors in the game are Kyoka Akase, Tomose Banjo, Mamoru Chigasaki, Mei Dazai, Keito Ebana, Ryochi Futami, Souta Gyobu, Takumi Haiji, and Mizuki Iochi. You’ll get to learn more about each one of them during the main story path and will then get to learn a lot more when taking on each of their specific story branches. There’s Kyoka Akase, a student from Ariake Technical School, who is an honest, athletic, and energetic individual.
Tomose Banjo is the protagonist’s childhood friend, which is why he’s a bit overprotective of her. Mamoru Chigasaki is a soft-spoken and respectful man who is always ready to lend a hand when needed. He’s a very peaceful person. Mei Dazai might seem a bit distant, but he has a very kind heart. Oh, and he loves cats! Keito Ebana is someone who is always getting himself into arguments, but even then, he’s someone who is very grounded. Ryoichi Futami studied art before being abducted, and he loves to do silver crafting.
Souta Gyobu allegedly also attends Gekkei High School like the main protagonist, but she’s never seen him there. He’s someone who loves old games. Takumi Haiji doesn’t speak that much and always seems to be staring into space, but what you can certainly tell is that he loves ice cream! Mizuki Iochi is the last one in the group. He’s the oldest one of the bunch and is a pretty bold person who is usually acting as the host of the disorderly gang.
Since all characters will at different times be acting during the drama segments as they all try to get some good reviews so that they can hopefully end up back home, you will get a chance to see them in a different light. They might react differently during a scene than they would during the story proper, completely changing their personality to better fit what is being asked of them by the mysterious entity known as the Director.
As for the drama scenes that you’ll be acting out, as not to spoil things too much, I’ll talk a bit about the first one you’ll be thrown into: Find True Love Episode 9. These dramas are going to be recorded and streamed. Do well, and you’ll earn points. Don’t give it your all, or refuse to perform, and you’ll lose points. If you’re at a negative balance, then you’ll be erased… for good. For this particular scene, the genre is romance drama, and you’ll be acting alongside Tomose, who, right before being abducted, had asked Hiroyi to see him as a man, which means he’s totally got feelings for her!
For this drama scene, Hiroyi will be playing Rui, while Tomose will be playing Minato. Rui and Minato are friends. After school, Minato tells Rui his feelings and declares his love. After Rui understands what is going on, the two embrace and kiss. And scene. You can realize why this can be a bit of a predicament for Hiroyi and Tomose! Suddenly, both are transported to a classroom that feels all too familiar. The sun is shining outside, even though it was nighttime a few seconds ago.
Tomose follows the script since it’s too early to tell what would happen if someone refused to play along. At least he has some experience with acting since he’s part of the drama club! After acting out the scene, Tomose – as Minato – pulls Hiroyi – as Rui – closer to him, and their lips touch! To make things even weirder, it turns out this is Hiroyi’s first kiss! Since the scene won’t end until Hiroyi says her line, she’s forced to hesitantly say, “I also… like… you” to be able to end the scene. As expected, she’s quite shocked about what has happened, and you can tell this is exactly what the Director wants. What else will happen with Hiyomi and the potential suitors? You’ll have to play the game to find out!
Charade Maniacs will place you in a peculiar scenario in which you’ll find yourself along with nine other individuals who have been kidnapped and brought to Arcadia. Your task will be to perform a series of drama scenes as you get to know each other a bit better so that you can hopefully get a good enough score to be granted your wish: to return home. There are 9 potential suitors for this Otome visual novel, which means you’ll take on a main route and 9 branching routes for dozens of hours of content! Oh, and if you can find the traitor – who happens to be the show’s Producer – everyone else will instantly win their freedom. The twist? You can only accuse someone once. If you accuse anyone besides the Producer by mistake, then the entire cast will be disqualified and dealt with accordingly. Will you risk it? Charade Maniacs is out on Nintendo Switch with a $49.99 price tag. If you act fast, you can purchase the game on the Nintendo eShop and take advantage of a 15% discount.
This Charade Maniacs review is based on a Nintendo Switch copy provided by Idea Factory International.