Bionic Heart Review

Title: Bionic Heart
Release date: 2009-07-22
Developer: Tycoon Games (Winter Wolves)
Publisher: Tycoon Games (Winter Wolves)

So, I was thinking to fire up "Bionic Heart 2" and see what Italian developer Riva Celso has done with a sequel to his early dystopian "cyberpunk" VN, but then I realized that it has been four years since I have played the original "Bionic Heart" and I might not remember everything very well. That led to me replaying "Bionic Heart" in all of its amateur glory.

Technically Mr. Celso has released "Bionic Hearts" under his "Tycoon Games" label, but lately he seems to release all of his games under "Winter Wolves" umbrella, and TG appears to be an abandoned brand. The latest build of the game even removes the TG logo from the opening animation.
Two Face!
"Bionic Hearts" is a dystopian futuristic sci-fi VN. You know, one with corrupt corporations, rogue robots and unfortunate climate changes that ruined weather in all the world except for Italy, which was mysteriously spared >_>. Luke Black - our protagonist - is a high profile programmer inside Nanotech Corporation. He has a girlfriend Helen, best friend Tom and a lucrative job. It all crashes down when Helen raises an ultimatum "Marry me or else...", while at the same time a mysterious robot Tanya barges into his home and demands he lets her hide there. So now it is your job to struggle with your temperate girlfriend, battle your rising attraction to Tanya, discover why she seems to remember more than sixty year old events, even though she was just recently build, and do all of that while escaping the scrutiny of the Nanotech Corporation. Because yes, you guessed it, Tanya was built in Nanotech and managed to escape her creators.

Where do I even start... The game has 24 possible endings, with many of them having different enough outcomes to justify hunting them all. Despite the large number of choices, the game is pretty intuitive and all of the endings are easy enough to achieve even without a walkthrough. The game has two possible heroines and you can juggle their feelings for many different outcomes, including the best - harem - ending. Sadly, BH was written back during the time when Mr. Celso was still writing his own scenarios (he appears to outsource these days) and let me tell you that he is a very poor writer. For example, the aforementioned harem ending is actually a huge deus ex machina cop-out.
Make up your mind, baldy.
The character portrayal is so terrible and their interactions are so unbelievable that it begs for an Ed Wood award. Actually, here "Winter Wolves" managed to create the cast made of the most unlikable schmucks I have ever seen gathered in one place. Luke is a prejudiced sexist freak, his girlfriend is depicted as a perpetually angry caricature, Tom is a backstabbing little bitch, Mark is a transhumanist mad scientist with an emphasis on "mad", and Richard is a murderous corrupt corporate executive. Not to mention that everyone in this game have such ridiculous mood swings that any competent shrink would diagnose them with a bipolar disorder. It's highly ironic that Tanya the robot appears to be the only sane person in the game (slight yandere tendencies notwithstanding).

Tanya's arc is the most realistic, where she as a robot suffers identity crisis and tries to establish her own place in the world. She doesn't know what she is and desperately seeks answers only Nanotech can provide. Her characterization actually shows glimpses of above mediocre writing.

Helen has only three different moods: angry, clingy-jealous and unreasonably hysterical. And Luke actually has been dating this... thing for ten years already?! Gag me with a spoon. If he didn't manage to see his girlfriend for what she is in all that time, he really needs a visit to an ophthalmologist.
Catfight is always hot.
Luke himself is also a tool. Maybe Helen kept him in a dark room somewhere for all those ten years, because all it took was for Tanya to appear and suddenly he started growing feelings for her... while at the same time throwing jealousy fits at Helen. And even after he agreed to help Tanya with her information gathering, he is only one choice away from giving her into the police. Make up your mind dude: do you want to bang her or do you want to see her in gaol! But the thing that fucking annoyed me the most is this: if Luke manages to find how robots like Tanya are actually made, he proclaims that now he will never be able to find Tanya attractive. Dude, that's just not cool!

And don't even start me on Tom. One moment he is best buds with Luke, the next one he is stabbing him in the back. The little shit doesn't even deserve to call himself Luke's friend.
» Click to show Spoiler - click again to hide... «
Your jokes ain't funny, Tom.
If you haven't already guessed, the plot of this VN is definitely not Oscar material. The author tries to explore some heavy themes, like what is a difference between a human and a human-like robot, but a mediocre writing doesn't manage to bring the point across. The narrative is disjointed and made up of poorly connected fragments. Sometimes characters know things they have no way of knowing in that particular route and sometimes information appears completely out of the blue without any foreshadowing.

The worst thing, however, is that the game tries so hard to be taken seriously, but three chapters out of four are devoted to the sappiest love tria square I have ever seen. The game has more in common with a soap opera than with a noir techno-thriller. It's all about jealousy and hissy fits and bitchslaps, but plot doesn't move at all until the last chapter. The writing itself is almost painfully ridiculous in some parts, mostly due to numerous Captain Obvious moments. Take this example: murderbots break into Luke's apartment and try to kill Tanya, but she destroys them instead. After that she says: "They must have found me". Luke's response is: "No! Can't be!"... That was not a snark or a sarcasm, by the way. And the game is full of such responses.
More fanservice, please.
I also just have to mention a single instance of scientific nonsense of Tanya leaving Luke a message burned with a laser... onto a mirror. Right... So laser... light... mirror... reflection. I wonder if any of those ring a bell. Maybe Tanya has a military grade super laser which can actually damage a mirror? If so, it would still reflect about 99 % of the light and burn everything else in the bathroom. And if it's not a super laser, it wouldn't be able to heat a mirror enough to melt words into it.

Okay, we have to find something positive in this VN. It... is fully voiced. Yeah, not only the protagonist, but the narration too is voiced. And it's the worst voice acting I heard in a long time. And it's not an acting which could be labeled as so bad it's good, like in "Resident Evil or "Knights of Xentar". No, it's just plain bad. Luke sounds like a zombie reciting his lines and everyone else either overacts or underacts. Additionally, Tanya's seiyuu used a bad microphone and her lines have lots of background noise. BGM is even more unimpressive as the tracks are very scarce and do not really fit the atmosphere.

Maybe we'll manage to find something worthwhile about the graphi... *sigh* This is exactly what I called "wapanese" graphics in my "Unteralterbach" review. A cancer within the OELVN community. Developers, please, stop using such ridiculously animesque graphics for your games if they are not set in Japan. The art itself is not that bad, maybe, but it really doesn't fit the theme and the setting of the game. Cute colourful style clashes with dytopian sci-fi setting, and not in a good way. Luckily from the few glimpses I had of "Bionic Heart 2" it seems that "Winter Wolves" rectified this mistake.
We don't need cops - we need bug exterminators.
Now, a few years back I played BH for the first time and I don't remember experiencing so many bugs as I did now. Can it be that the version 1.0 was less buggy than the current v1.21? Oh, my... During this playthrough I saw Tom's sprite minimize and freeze in the centre of the monitor, Tanya's sprite slowly descend from heavens, actually saw half of Tanya's face floating on the right side of the screen during many scenes and experienced wrong lines playing during the corresponding text.

OK, let's not torture this dead horse any longer. "Bionic Heart" was a valiant but amateurish effort. I actually enjoyed it when I played it for the first time, but now I am much more critical and my requirements are higher too. BH cannot withstand the test of time and deeper scrutiny. I just hope that it's recent sequel is not as bad as this.

Links of Interest

Visual Novel Database
Official site
But the game at Winter Wolves, Desura, GamersGate.
Walkthrough for the game

Final Verdict: 44%


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