Emily is Away Too (2017) is a celebratory return to the early 2000s and a walk through that tumultuous period when teenagers are expected to transition into adulthood. This indie project, developed by Kyle Seeley, is best described as a visual novel that occurs in the context of an instant messenger, EOL. Oh yeah, and there’s Facenook and YouToob too. 😉
Full disclosure, I have not played its predecessor, so I can’t make any comparisons between the two. Although, Emily is Away (2015) is free on Steam, so I’ll probably look into it eventually.
The game begins by asking players to select a chat icon, a username, and a few lines for their online profile before introducing two girls, Evelyn and Emily. This is where the story begins. I’ll avoid any spoilers, but in general, the narrative explores the high school experience, relationships, and the uncertainty and fear of the future.
What helps to make the interaction with emerz35 and punk4eva interesting is that players are always presented with three dialogue options which shape the outcome of the narrative. On occasion a message like “emerz35 will remember that” flashes on the screen reminding players that their choices matter. The game has five chapters, and at certain points, the player has to juggle conversing with both girls at the same time while being mindful of timely responses for both.
It becomes clear from the beginning that Emily and Evelyn are meant to be foils for each other, but this element could have been developed further. Initially, the two seem different enough: one likes to drink and the other isn’t a fan, their taste in music differs, they have opposite plans for the future, etc. This quickly falls flat as the two have similar relationship issues and even succumb to similar behaviors. The distinctions between the two become muddy even as the player has the opportunity to grow close to both. This lack of character development becomes especially noticeable when Emily and Evelyn ask the player very similar, if not the same, questions over the course of a few chapters.
While my care for the two girls could have been stronger, it was entertaining to return to the 2000s by way of the music that the girls shared on YouToob and the ensuing conversations. There were even spoofs of videos that went viral at the time. It was an interesting throwback, and I did not regret the two-ish hours spent with the game.
For $4.99, if interactive visual novels are your thing, I recommend Emily is Away Too. In spite of the somewhat underdeveloped characters, the concept is an interesting one. If you grew up using AOL and listening to Blink 182 or Snow Patrol you’ll probably find Emily is Away Too to be nostalgia inducing. And if you didn’t, you can still get something out of this neat project.
9 thoughts on “Indie Spot! | Emily is Away Too”
Sounds interesting, thanks for sharing! This could also be great for a composition classroom exploring different forms and genres of writing. Interactive visual novels are awesome, but I feel like they are a largely overlooked medium.
Absolutely! One of my hopes for the summer is to get through enough indie games that I can select one for my classes this fall.
I’ll take any and all recommendations if you have them. 🙂
I wish I knew more indie games! The best I have are relatively common: The Stanley Parable and Oxenfree. They’re both pretty interesting, especially when considering different narration styles.
Those two are on my backlog! Maybe I’ll push one of them up on the list.
This definitely has me interested for both fun and classroom resource gathering. I’m going to check out the first game soon!
Sounds really cool! Another great indie game in regards to story presentation is Gone Home. It presents a huge house to explore, and yet the story and level design makes it so, even on a blind playthrough, you don’t “discover” anything before you are supposed to. It’s a great example of good level design and a slowly unfolding story. It presents itself like a horror game, but the story is well worth the “unnerving” aspect.
Stanley Parable and Oxenfree are also great, like Pop Culture Literary said above.
…and I’ve already gone on about Journey… 😉 Along those same lines, I’d also suggest Flower, which is by the same development company.
I haven’t heard of Flower before–I’ll add it to the list! I really should make time for Journey as I’ve heard and read so many great things about it.
I played Emily is Away a while back after reading a couple of posts about it, so I think I’m going to have to pick this one up too. Although seeing the messenger makes me feel way too old!
I know the feeling! I was pleasantly surprised by Emily is Away Too and will be checking out Emily is Away this summer.