No matter where you are in the world, crime is inevitable. The severity varies, and there are always victims. Male, female, old or young, it doesn’t discriminate, yet we forget that the families of the criminals are as much a victim as the person on the receiving end. Crime Opera: The Butterfly Effect looks at these family bonds and weaves them into a dark tale.
Developed by Crime Opera Studios and Ratalaika Games and published by Eastasiasoft Limited. This is a dark story about loss, family, misogyny, and crime. The first part of a six novel franchise, Crime Opera: The Butterfly Effect allows you to read its prose as either; a Kinetic novel (no story choices), or as a Visual Novel (dialogue choices that alter the plot). I chose the first for my initial playthrough, and whichever you choose; the theme, characters, and plot follow the same path.
Crime Opera: The Butterfly Effect is an uncomfortable tale.
Be warned, this isn’t a Visual Novel that follows the usual happy-go-lucky theme. It depicts a horrid representation of a crime family that views its female counterparts as lesser beings. The misogynistic dialogue runs deep throughout every chapter. Moreover, it isn’t restricted to just the adults of the family. No, every male character has this behaviour ingrained in their DNA, making this a tough plot to swallow.
The story comprises twenty four chapters and tells the tale of the Gallo family. It opens with a BBQ, a chance for everyone to rejoice. From here you instantly understand that this isn’t a normal family. Talk of violence, sex, and crime are commonplace, you instantly know it’s going to be a dark trip from the opening gambit.
The death of the family Matriarch sparks an attempted take over from ex-business partners. Gerald and Xander, who now head the family must defend their honour. The six children witness; murder, kidnapping, and other crimes. The plot revolves around their viewpoint and the strengths and frailties of these family bonds.
I liked the idea, just not the delivery.
I love a good crime drama, the grittier the better, mostly. The idea of delving into the world of two mafia bosses intrigued me. Though, I knew that taking this leap would take me outside of my comfort zone. I predicted this male-dominated landscape would belittle the females. However, I wasn’t prepared for what I read. Honestly, I was shocked from the offset.
The open discussions revolve around; beatings, sexual assaults, and the undermining of every female character. Sadly, it was a tough read. This is before you consider the many crimes the fathers deliver to their front door. I think what got me most was the validation the developers wrote in via the minors in the plot. The boys were accepting of the role they played in the family structure, and happily went along with it. Sometimes, they got off on what they saw. It was all very strange and made for uncomfortable reading.
Let’s put that to one side for a moment.
If I put aside my discomforts surrounding the plot, let’s look at how the game works. With two modes to play, you can take the traditional approach and observe a kinetic novel. Or you can play it like a Visual Novel and feel in control of how the plot unfolds. I genuinely enjoyed the choices, and the developers did well when they made this decision.
I also like the; chapter structure, pace and flow of the plot, and the characters (even if I didn’t agree with their outlook on life.) The chapters were constructed in such a way that you could observe the family bonds forming and breaking as the deep and dark plot gripped you.
The levels of crime were disturbing, as was the way the children dealt with their problems. From the aforementioned belittling of counterparts to the unnerving visions of imaginary friends, and the conversations that follow. It made me uneasy! But I was intrigued to see it evolve.
A grimy atmospheric tale with visual and audio to match.
Visual Novels are renowned for their simple yet striking images. Crime Opera: The Butterfly Effect delivers on this aspect. With well-designed sprites, easy-to-read text, and varied landscapes to enjoy, it was nice to look at. This doesn’t mean it’s perfect, however, because sadly it is not. The developers took the odd approach to fade the characters in and out as they took turns to speak. It was distracting, unnecessary, and cheapened the visuals.
I enjoyed the visual presentation even with its faults, but I loved the emotive audio. No matter its style or tempo, it matched each scene perfectly. Altering from sombre and melancholy tones to aggressive songs, it worked brilliantly with the text. Add in some loud sound effects, and the audio successfully brought Crime Opera: The Butterfly Effect to life.
Relaxing to play and some replay value.
Even with its disturbing plot and character traits, this was relaxing to play. Its simple control setup allows you to turn it on, start it up and watch the story unfold with little effort. I understand that the lack of action won’t be to everyone’s liking, but for a break away from frantic shooters and competitive sports titles, this will tick most boxes.
Visual Novels usually lack replay value. Yes, you get to alter the plot and potentially impact upon relationships. But the outcomes rarely alter. The two gameplay methods, add replay value. Yet, it’s a shame the simple achievement list doesn’t. If you play the game from beginning to end, you’ll have your 100% completion status.
Crime Opera: The Butterfly Effect is a tough sell!
When a game uses a disturbing theme as its driving force, it’s going to be a tough sell. Crime Opera: The Butterfly Effect has taken a gamble, and I’m not sure it’s paid off. I liked so many elements of this game, but cannot overlook the horrific incorporation and acceptance of its misogynistic endeavours. I accept the developers were simply attempting to highlight the overbearing influence that the men have on this male-dominated culture. But it could and should have been delivered more subtly.
If the developers reduce the misogyny, it will make the series much more palatable, while retaining the dark and seedy crime drama. Even with its flaws, I recommend you buy it here! Being born into a life of crime is difficult. Build relationships and find your place in the family hierarchy.