At heart, I think I will always be a poet. I love to write it and I love to read it. My tastes in poetry have always tended dark and gritty, which reflects in both my writing and reading. So what better game for me to play than a dark and gritty story filled with sorrow and written with lots of poetic prose?
Venus Meets Venus follows a disillusioned college girl named Lynn who struggles through studies and sleeps around at the local bar. One night, she meets a girl named Macy and finds herself oddly drawn to her. Her attraction doesn't go away when Macy reveals that she's transgender, but it does complicate things, as this is a culture with which Lynn has no experience. That plus alcoholism plus standard relationship issues breeds a whole bunch of problems for the new couple. And, after all, the game warns you that this isn't a love story.
The characters are pretty much limited to Lynn and Macy. Lynn is not necessarily what I'd call a likable protagonist, exactly, but she does feel very real. She's not doing so well in her studies; she sleeps around in bars to try and get some measure of fulfillment; she's not entirely sure of what she wants. In short, she sounds like someone you'd meet. Macy quickly gives off the impression of being very likable but also hiding something. Her being trans...I wouldn't say it's handled gently, not exactly. But it is handled realistically from what I can tell. (I fully admit not being hugely knowledgeable about this subject.)
The actual interactivity consists mostly of clicking on words or phrases in order to read side scenes. You can skip them and just continue through the story, but the backstory is just as worth reading as the main story. With a text-based game like this one, you obviously have to have pretty strong writing to hold things up, and on that front this game delivers. The prose pulls no punches whatsoever; your main characters' relationship ends up getting pretty fucked up, and the game doesn't shy away from telling you that. Poetry is often mixed in with the prose, mostly as a way to punch you in the gut, and it works quite well. In addition, at the beginning of each chapter, the game compares stages of a relationship to numbers. It was mostly good as well, although at times it felt...not really gimmicky, but a bit unnecessary. Like too many of something.
The whole time, everything is building up to an explosion of sorts. While not wishing to spoil the ending, I must admit that it took me completely off guard. I guess I had a certain thought on how the ending would go, but that thought turned out to be incorrect; how it really ends may surprise you.
I feel like I'm running a bit shorter than usual, since I don't have any art or music to talk about. But this game doesn't really need it. It's simple and bare and it gets its job done very well. Getting through it is difficult in the best way. Very highly recommended. Just don't go in expecting a happy story.
Venus Meets Venus is available to play for free on ifarchive.jmac.org.
Final verdict: A stark and realistic portrayal of a tough relationship, Venus Meets Venus combines careful prose with painful poetry and creates an amazingly touching picture...but, of course, not a love story.
Venus Meets Venus is written by kaleidofish. The opinions expressed in this review are my own. I was not compensated in any way for this review.