Video Games: Blooming Panic

Image of character NakedToaster from ‘Blooming Panic’. Copyright goes to ‘robobarbie’ and itch.io.

Hi! It’s Annie!

I don’t think it’s been much of a secret on this blog that I’ve been getting into more romance-drama-like content. Between K-Dramas, similar plot lines in books, and even other international dramas; it was only a matter of time before I tried out a dating sim. I’m not a huge fan of the phone downloadable games and it can often take me a bit to be convinced to play a dating sim; but recently two fell in my lap that I absolutely love. My sister has briefly mentioned ‘Andromeda Six’ on here, which is a computer downloadable dating sim that’s based in the far future. It’s a sci-fi game with five male love interests and two female love interests so far, that takes place on a mercenary spaceship. All in all, pretty awesome! But while I really like games with those full stories; I really find a game fascinating when it can succeed to completely immerse the player. And while dating sims are fun, not many of them really succeed in that part in particular. There’s no exploration of the world in dating sim type games and only so many options you can choose as a player. But when dating sim creators came up with the idea of a chat room type of game, suddenly these games became that much more immersive. The most notable of these examples being ‘Mystic Messenger’. Not only is ‘Blooming Panic’ one of these types of games, but it’s also completely free and absolutely amazing! This is incredibly immersive and also feels really real. The game also has an impactful message in each storyline. So I’m going to go through the four storylines we have so far from my least favorite to my favorite. MASSIVE SPOILERS AHEAD!!! And keep in mind that this game is fairly recent and one of these storylines was recently added; so they may add even more romances soon! But so far, there are three love interests that go by he/him pronouns and one love interest that goes by he/they pronouns. LAST SPOILER WARNING!!!

Summary: You as the player are unhappy in your exhausting job in finance. In order to escape, you usually immerse yourself completely in weekly uploads of the webcomic ‘Blooming Panic’. A webcomic about a college student caught in between three love interests (initially the game was only supposed to have the three), and also transforming into some sort of human-plant hybrid. One day you see a mysterious post on Twitter to a discord for fans of the comic that mysteriously disappears right after you click it. It does take you to the discord, where a select amount of fans who had a similar thing happen to them all share fan art and discuss this comic. But none of them are allowed to share their real names or any personal information whatsoever at the risk of being kicked out of the server. In the game you both talk to the members of the server in the chat and you get plenty of one-on-one video calls with whoever you’re romancing to make it feel even more real! The calls are voice acted and everything!

4. nightowl:

A twenty-five year old college student who is passionate about architecture and stays up far too late, sometimes drinking. He is the shortest of the love interests but also the most playful. nightowl is known for his snappy responses and bright personality…for the most part. When you romance nightowl you learn that there’s an entire other side to him that he often tries to hide from everyone else on the server, but many of them know it anyways. Though nightowl is really passionate about architecture and loves what he’s studying, he has the worrying habit of getting extremely drunk the night before exams and has failed several times in the past as a result. As you get to know him you realize that his parents are completely unsupportive of his dream to be an architect, frequently put him down, and even refuse to come to his graduation. In romancing him, you become his sole support. And this is where I wasn’t as big of a fan of his route. Because he quickly comes to rely on you as his only support, he becomes extremely jealous and off put if you ever even slightly disagree with him on something or suggest that there’s something wrong. This is purposeful and a known character flaw within the game! Yay, characters with flaws! But I don’t think it entirely excuses the way he cusses everyone out in the chat, including the player character. While he’s sweet; he’s the type I would definitely see more as a friend. I think he might need a bit before he’d be a great boyfriend. But either way, he’s a sweet character! His character equivalent is Damian; a former boyfriend of the main character of the webcomic who broke up with her because he wasn’t attracted to her appearance. (They acknowledge how messed up this is!) But nightowl relates to him because he’s flawed and wants a second chance. This romance is one of the first two that you can get, though admittedly the more difficult of the two to fall into. I love the depiction of how much everyone truly needs support in their lives and, despite the fact that he isn’t my first choice, I love that he’s flawed!

3. Quest

This is the second of the first two romances you have to play in order to unlock any of the other stories. And, admittedly, this is the one everyone gets the most. And that’s because Quest is the sweetest human being. A six foot puppy who works an office job. It doesn’t take much to endear Quest to you and after you begin to romance him, it takes a lot to get a bad ending. Did I mention you can get a bad ending in any of these storylines? Though, don’t worry! It’s usually pretty obvious within the choices what will get you a bad ending (with a couple exceptions). Quest is the Dad of the server. He’s the moderator and the first person to ever receive the mysterious invite to the server. He’s constantly protecting, defending, and just engaging in some lighthearted and pleasant conversation. His character equivalent is Xander, the sweet baker who is supportive of the main character every step of the way and just wants her to notice him. He’s the endgame of the comic. And Quest is just that sweet. His storyline involves the player character’s stalker ex-boyfriend finding them on the server. And Quest, being the moderator, helping you to deal with the problem both emotionally and quite literally through the server. As your stalker ex-boyfriend realizes that you might be having feelings for Quest, he does some digging and drops a huge bomb on everyone in the server. Quest, who you’ve already seen has some hidden tattoos and unexplained scars, used to be a convict. But obviously, he’s an absolute sweetheart now and sometimes people get into trouble when they were teenagers. He’s turned a new leaf, which is a story I wish we could see more of in media. I actually knew someone kind of like this, who got into trouble when he was a teenager and turned it around to become one of the sweetest guys you’d ever meet. It blew me away and made me unexplainably happy to see this story in here! My only gripe with Quest is that it feels like your choices mean a bit less because he’s so accepting. The only way you can get any sort of bad ending is if you deliberately tell him that you only like him platonically. Why would you do that playing a dating sim? But other than him just being too darn accepting; Quest and nightowl have shorter stories because they were the first written. But I love Quest with my entire heart and it was difficult to not choose him as my favorite romance. Which is a testament to the others!

2. xyx

xyx’s character equivalent isn’t a love interest, but is instead the main character’s best friend Celeste, because the writers never really intended on giving him a romance at all. He’s the most recent romance added into the game, which makes me wonder if maybe we’ll see romances with some of the other server members sometime in the future. xyx is a pretty big presence from the beginning though, because he’s the resident server troll. He’s actually the first person you ever see a message from while playing the game. His profile picture is a kawaii filter Ben Affleck in a flower crown. And it only gets better from there. When you first see him and his sarcastic team ups with NakedToaster, you’re expecting someone who you might usually picture as being an internet troll. What you aren’t expecting is an extremely handsome Australian POC complete with an almost too attractive accent. Also, get this, he’s a lawyer. And not a small-time one either. He’s a rich lawyer who deals with celebrity clients. He’s also a huge flirt. Between his flirtatious behavior and hilarious antics (such as creating a bot on the server that hypes up certain people who interact with it and ignores others), you’d expect a pretty lighthearted story. What you don’t expect is that xyx is dealing with a pretty difficult stint with his mental health where he’s been coping by doing increasingly reckless and dangerous things on his motorcycle. This is partly because his beloved cat is sick and he doesn’t really have anyone there for him besides his cat. Apparently it’s really easy to get his bad ending, which is also apparently extremely sad, so I would recommend using a walkthrough for this guy. His route is literally the epitome of ‘will make you laugh, will make you cry’. But I do like what it has to say about mental health and also not forcing people into doing something that might trigger them when they haven’t reached that level of healing yet. This is one of the most in depth stories here. And it also manages to not be too much of a downer either with how consistently hilarious xyx is!

1. NakedToaster

Though I loved xyx’s storyline (and his was my sister’s favorite), the character I actually thought would be my favorite was Quest. He’s my type in a lot of ways, even if I thought that xyx’s story may have been crafted slightly better. So it says a lot that this very tall adorkable doofus was the one who ended up being my favorite in the game. He completely caught me off guard! What I will say, is that you’ll want to play this storyline no matter what and no matter which character is your favorite. NakedToaster is the true ending of the game. His storyline solves the mysteries of the server and your choices impact both your relationship with NakedToaster and the future of the server as a whole. This isn’t the first time you see NakedToaster. If you’ve gotten here, you’ve probably already played Quest and both NakedToaster and nightowl video chat you on his behalf in that storyline. Which made fall in love with this character in the first place; because when Quest was gone it was NakedToaster that subsequently became server Dad for a while. NakedToaster goes by he/they pronouns, is a rich CEO gamer, and is also one of the funniest members on the server along with xyx. The two of them can be an unstoppable force. But by themself, Toasty (which is what you end up calling them), becomes the cutest and most easily flustered character in the game. Not only does he feel like a comfort whenever he comes up because he looks after you so much, but he’s also the most sincere to talk to in my opinion. In one case you have a conversation with them about how you don’t like sad endings in your escapist fiction. Which is a conversation that I have actually had with people and related to so completely that I was blown away the conversation happened during the game. You’re constantly talking about fiction and things that mean the most to you. And Toasty relates to your character because you both have trouble letting go of things important to you. There’s even an adorable moment with the resident server Grandfather where he advises both you and Toasty on grief. And in the end, Toasty does everything he can to make sure that you can meet in real life because you grow attached to each other while you’re detaching and dealing with change in other elements of your lives. It felt so raw and real! I should also mention that his character equivalent is Nathanial, a sweet ex-boyfriend of the main character who during a dip in his mental health snapped at the main character causing their break up. Both you as the player and Toasty talk about mental health here too!

That’s probably enough of this, but I highly recommend you play this game! It feels so immersive and real and has some of the best messages I’ve seen in any game, never mind a dating sim. This game completely blew me away! Please check it out if you have the chance! I know I’ll be obsessing over it for a while just like the player character obsesses over the webcomic. Though I don’t think I’m going to find a ‘Blooming Panic’ server with Toasty in it, which makes me a little sad.

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

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