“You can run, but you can’t hide” is probably good advice when you meet a wraith. Instead, how about if you befriend it by asking it to play video games together? Meet Gloom, an ex-angel who turned into a lone ghost living alone in an abandoned house. He has only two friends in the beginning, one of them is 2D games from retro console “Sega Genesis” and the other one is a human who claims himself as a time-shaman. On the other side, meet Wynona, an ordinary high-school girl who may look like a harmless teenager but is destined to be the “Doom Bringer,” *insert evil laugh here*. Thus, their fateful meeting is about to start.
Gloom and Doom is a debut visual novel game made in Singapore by Neo Tegoel Games. This game’s central theme is based around the pop culture of the 90’s era, a time when a video store was still one of the most popular places, and people used mIRC for chatting on the internet. Unlike most visual novels, Gloom and Doom does not use anime style for the art. Instead, it takes reference from ’90’s slacker and social outcast movies like Edward Scissorhands, Reality Bites, The Crow, and Before Sunrise, which is new and fresh and may not be known to the majority of players, especially those born in the late ’90s or after. The background music fits with the scenes with a creepy-ish tune around tense moments and gloomy vibes.
As the player, you’ll start with a side character, but as the story progresses, you will meet one of your main characters, Gloom. If one part of a chapter is complete, you will switch between Gloom and Wynona automatically. This lack of choice does not matter as there are times during story progress when both characters will be together. As mentioned before, Gloom is a wraith who was used to being an angel and wanted to return to his home by killing demons on Earth but felt stuck with his eternal life of slaying demons. Wynona instead, the chosen one, will trigger Armageddon to bring the end of humanity but is too fragile to use her power and wants to commit suicide out of despair. This is troublesome per se, but, luckily – little spoiler here -, Wynona is immortal.
All of the side characters have unique roles in the story, such as a skateboarding hobbyist angel, a renegade angel turned devil who loves drinking chai, or a human who can communicate with the “time spirits,” and many more. Each of them has critical elements to understand the whole story.
At first, I thought the story would be disheartening, like the title itself. The game’s writing style is slow-paced initially with serious conversations, but I didn’t get bored. It turns out there are more than just gloomy vibes (no pun intended), but the story has elements of friendship mixed with comedic elements like banter, touches of sarcasm, puns, and adult jokes. However, the game also depicts several sensitive topics such as bullying, suicide, depression, and self-harm.
According to the developers, there are seven endings throughout the entire game. I finished only the first and entirely predictable one, but I liked it as it was a good ending. Without much imagination required, there are also bad endings. Some of them may be relatively easy to find by alternating choices as you progress for the rest of it. But since there are seven endings, who knows what kind of element of surprises we will receive.
The UI uses pixelated fonts to make sure it is suitable for the theme. If you want to return to a previous dialogue because you’ve missed something, there is a “back” button that can instantly make you rewind the conversation. In other games, you have to reload the game to rewind the dialogues. I haven’t got used to Gloom and Doom’s back button because it gives me the impression of losing pace.
Overall, if you’re looking for a mature-themed story with comedic elements and a modern UI twist, this visual novel is for you. But please think carefully before playing it as the game featured various sensitive topics. Will you save the girl, or will you sacrifice her to fulfill your destiny? Find out in Gloom and Doom!
Gloom and Doom is available for PC on Steam. This review is based on a free review copy provided by the developer.