What is Chaos;Child?
Chaos;Child is a visual novel - essential a choose-your-own-adventure book in game form - that follows the socially-awkward teenager Takuru Miyashiro as he investigates a series of bizarre murders taking place in his hometown of Shibuya. These rather gory killings, just some of which see victims eating their own fingers in a trance, slicing open their own stomachs, or having their necks rotated until they snap, are eerily reminiscent of a set of serial murders from six years ago, which culminated in a mysterious earthquake that almost levelled the district. Determined to stop history from repeating itself, Takuru takes on upon himself to get to the bottom of things - however, the more he learns, the more he discovers that things aren't quite as they seem, with government conspiracies, mysterious powers and secrets galore along the way, as the murders start to threaten his life as he knows it.
How do you play Chaos;Child?
The main draw of Chaos;Child is its story. Much like a good book, Chaos;Child is a game you'll curl up with and read, as you make your way through the dark and gruesome tale it weaves. There's no quick-fire action scenes, no platforming to be done and no battles to fight - just a great, interactive story with plenty of text to make your way through, which branches in several places. Periodically, you'll be tested on how well you're following the story so far, adding key bits of information to a deduction board of sorts in the school newspaper club's classroom, matching pictures of crime scenes to their respective murders and attaching the correct information to each case.
The main character, Takuru, also has a bit of an over-active imagination, and during conversations he will sometimes experience what the game calls 'delusions'. When this happens, two circles appear on either side of the screen, and tilting the analogue stick to one side or the other will trigger either a 'positive' delusion, or a 'negative' one, while doing nothing will keep you routed in reality instead. Positive scenes tend to be something silly or risqué - a rogue gust of wind lifting up some schoolgirls' skirts, someone pulling down a fellow student's trousers, and even some that put you in a rather chesty friend's body, and see you admiring your newfound curves. Negative scenes veer a bit more into the disturbing, perhaps accidentally murdering a fellow student, watching as some psycho frogs kill an entire class by bursting out their chests, or getting accused of sexual assault by a female friend. While they may seem like harmless little distractions, these delusions are actually how the game determines which branches you'll follow, as they'll change Takuru's opinions and feelings for other characters, sometimes sending you down a path to a different ending.
How easy is Chaos;Child to pick up and play?
As Chaos;Child asks very little of you in the gameplay department, the main issue is likely to be the sheer volume of text involved. The entire game is voiced in Japanese only, with English subtitles throughout, so a good reading ability really is a must here, especially as the English here is a little bit more complex than in other games. It's also worth bearing in mind that a lot of the story and dialogue is based around references to popular culture in Japan, although there's no prior knowledge explicitly required here. While a working knowledge of Japanese culture would be a plus, most keywords and references are explained in the TIPS section of the menu, accessed by pressing the Select button while playing. Needless to say, it's well worth checking these out as and when they appear (relevant words are highlighted in blue the first time you come across them).
- "With a perceptiveness that belied her ridiculous appearance, she led us to a seat near the entrance, far from our usual spot."
- "His lips had turned purple from lack of oxygen, but were stained red with blood from his severed thumb, which he had chewed himself."
- "Evidence found later indicated that she'd slit open her own stomach with a utility knife she got at a convenience store, then stuck a Bluetooth speaker inside."
A murder mystery story at its heart, Chaos;Child is aimed at an adult audience, with plenty of guts and gore, as well as quite a few disturbing scenes along the way.
Violence and Gore
Murder scenes depict large amount of gore, with blood splattered on and around corpses, as well as mangled fingers, dangling entrails or exposed brains. Bodies are often pictured in somewhat distressing situations - a corpse strangled and twisted by ropes until its neck snaps, a young girl sliced up and put in boxes sitting in a sea of blood, another character ran through by a sword and left to die in a large pool of crimson. Wordy descriptions often add to the gore factor, with details of characters eating their own severed fingers, someone eating people's brains with a spoon while they lie strapped to a table, and a character stabbing themselves in the stomach, before sealing up the wound with duct tape. Some scenes involve characters threatening each other with swords and knives, often ending in injuries to one or both parties, accompanied by blood splatter effects and close ups of wounds. A somewhat creepy sticker - known as a 'Sumo Sticker' - features quite heavily in the story, and looks like two fat faces merged together, with three eyes and two mouths. In some scenes, the middle eye will open to reveal a creepy bloodshot eye staring back at you, accompanied by a blood-curdling scream, which provides many a jump scare.
Sexual innuendos and risqué images/text crop up fairly frequently - some scenes see two female characters comparing breast sizes ("Hmmm… you've got big breasts, don't you Hana?"), others are dream sequences in which characters grab breasts and crotches ("Was I really dreaming about someone rubbing my crotch?"), and a rather prolonged sequence involving someone suggestively licking an ice cream cone ("I saw her tongue flick seductively for a moment before her tiny mouth swallowed the whole thing."), as well as the odd conversation about sexual fetishes and masturbation. A handful of scenes see the teenage guys trying to get upskirt views of their female friends, thanks to a gust of wind, and while the pictures don't actually show you any underwear, the dialogue does discuss the colours and designs of said underwear. A few still images show partially exposed breasts and buttocks.
In terms of bad language, pretty much every curse word gets a look in at some point, with words such as f*ck, sh*t and p*ss appearing alongside the milder a*shole, crap and bitch, to name but a few examples.