Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Rule of Rose

 Rule of Rose has become for me one of the hardest games to track down for a reasonable price. The game was the unfortunate victim of ridiculous and sensationalist controversy started by politicians looking for an easy target to raise their profile and wasn’t helped by some of the worst members of the press, such as the absolute arse rag of a paper the Daily Mail, exasperating it. False allegations of sadomasochistic sequences involving minors and scenes of a sexual nature between children were entirely fabricated and despite ELSPA, the videogames rating board in Europe, giving the game a 16+ rating and releasing a statement that these allegations were false, publisher 505 GameStreet decided against releasing the game in the UK, which subsequently meant no release in Ireland. The game was released in the US by Atlus but has since become very rare. It’s a real shame that the game didn’t find a wider audience since it’s one of most interesting games on the PS2. I had to resort to ‘less scrupulous methods’ to play the game and am still on the lookout for a copy.

The Red Crayon Aristocrats
The cute Brown sniffing out clues
To say too much about the story of Rule of Rose would be to spoil it so I’ll keep it brief. The game is set during 1929/1930 in England. The protagonist, 19 year old Jennifer, finds herself at an orphanage before being kidnapped and taken aboard a zeppelin type airship where the majority of the game takes place. Throughout the game Jennifer is constantly harassed and bullied by a group of female children from the orphanage that call themselves the Red Crayon Aristocrats. Most of the characters are the other children from the orphanage and the few adults that run it. The story is told in quite an abstract manner but is ultimately intelligently written and isn’t obtuse or ambiguous for the sake of it and comes together in a satisfying conclusion. At the start of each chapter Jennifer is presented with a storybook and must discover the meaning of this storybook throughout the course of the chapter while the overarching story is slowly pieced together. Jennifer is helped by the lovable Brown, a dog that can be used to sniff out clues and items to help Jennifer. The story is what makes this game so special and handles some mature themes like child bullying and sexual abuse in a respectful manner.

There's some very uncomfortable moments in the game and while not explicit it's easy to put two and two together. 

 The game is beautifully presented. It’s a gorgeous looking game, one of the best on the PS2. Character models look great and are well animated and the environments are atmospheric and oppressive, complimented by a low light filter. I really like the small touches to the presentation such as the chapter title cards that are presented like a child’s pencil drawn flip book animation. The game is filled with CGI cutscenes that are of a very high quality, perhaps even bettering the work of Square Enix in this regard, and still look impressive today. The soundtrack is a real standout and is a mix of unsettling ambiance and orchestral and piano pieces that fit with the 1930’s setting; the fantastic title track is presented below. Voice acting is decent and all the characters have English accents, so no jarring Californian accents in a rural English setting thank god!

Combat is usually a total clusterfuck
Unfortunately I can’t say many good things for how the game plays. The puzzle solving is unambiguous and the use of brown to find clues is inspired. However combat is absolutely atrocious. Thankfully the best method for dealing with the enemies is to run past them but there are points where you have to face large groups of unavoidable enemies that can lead to frustration. There’s also a handful of ill-advised boss that don’t work and drag on for far too long. The creative directors of survival horror games like Silent Hill and Resident Evil have explain that the poor combat was a design choice to increase tension but in the case of Rule of Rose it’s just really bad and serves no purpose. I know it’s realistic to make Jennifer attack like the delicate flower she is but it shouldn’t be at the expense of making the game playable. Thankfully the poor combat isn’t a deal-breaker due to just how compelling the story is.

Rule of Rose has some big problems but I feel that, just like with Deadly Premonition, it’s worth sticking out the rough patches to experience what the rest of the game has to offer. It’s one of those games were combat is needlessly added and I feel the game would have been better off as a straight up adventure game and forgo combat entirely. However the imagination and creativity in the storytelling complimented by the excellent visuals and sound design make Rule of Rose a game that is well worth experiencing.


  1. I think you told enough without giving too much away. Can't wait to get my TV, start again and finish it <3

  2. You'll love it although that was obvious from you playing it all the time :) when you getting the TV?