Tech reviews

Review: Universe for Sale – Movies Games and Tech

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Video games can provide countless hours of  entertainment in a wide variety of ways, ranging from engaging stories that keep us on the edge of our seats to giving us a multitude of tasks to complete throughout our day. Indie games are capable of providing a similar experience on a much smaller scale and more often than not, the minds behind these games are filled with wonderful ideas. Universe for Sale is a wonderful example of what happens when a creative idea is allowed to run free when paired with a beautiful art style and simplistic gameplay.

Universe for sale is a comfy visual novel that tells a wonderful story that starts off with a series of events that feel slightly unconnected. We see a child being told a bedtime story that doesn’t really seem fit for children. Once the story gets started, however, we find ourselves in a whole different world-literally. Jupiter is the backdrop of our story and we are introduced to an interesting character right away as we take control of a skeletal being that is left out in the rain. After wandering into a local tea-shop, we find ourselves sitting with a woman named Lila. 

The two seem to have an odd-relationship that is built upon and explored over the course of the game.While the story telling seemed to be disconnected and full of holes, it managed to keep me engaged over the course of my time spent with the game. The questions you will find yourself asking come naturally and aren’t a product of ill-pacing and deliberate misdirection and the answers are always just around the corner. Every time I found myself finally asking a certain question, I was treated to an answer within a timely manner. This made gameplay feel like it was going somewhere and I was being given little rewards here and there for sticking it out. While this might not seem like something that is for everyone, Fans of the Visual Novel genre are definitely in for a treat here. 

Over the course of the game we will learn more about the mysterious character we control known as “Master” as well as the inhabitants of this world. Master is a follower of one of the games’ many religions that focuses heavily on detachment in order to obtain tranquility. The last step in this process is the detachment of one’s name and this information is given to us in an appropriate setting without throwing a wall of text explaining this to us. When we aren’t in control of the Master, we are walking the streets as Lila. She is a merchant in this small town and the product she sells is one of a kind. Lila is capable of creating mini-universes utilizing different kinds of components. She expresses that by using different materials, she is able to bring all kinds of universes to life.

During the course of the story, we will guide both characters across the screen with stereotypical point-and-click style controls. I played through this on the Steam Deck and found no issues with the controller settings so this is a perfect game to enjoy while kicking back on the couch after a long day. As we interact with the world around us, we are occasionally given the option to explore different dialogue options. Selecting different options will take you down different conversational paths while revealing new information along the way. Thankfully, you can gauge which option will progress the story and which ones will provide more context to the world around you so there is no major concern about missing out on anything as long as you are interacting with everyone. 

When we are not speaking with the residence of the town,we will be completing a series of mini-games in order to progress the story. While some of these are very simple and self explanatory, it is possible to miss the instructions and leave you feeling lost without an idea as to what to do next. For instance, there is.a moment where we are tasked with re-routing the power back to a shop in order to get an item we need. I opted to say that this felt wrong and that we should find a different way to obtain the battery but after some dialogue, Lila said that redirecting the power was our best option. The game did not explain how to redirect the power or what I was exactly looking for and I ended up spending 15 minutes just wandering between screens with no solution. After giving up and returning to the merchant we were helping, I found that the other dialogue option would give you the steps needed to solve this puzzle. This information could have been worked into the other dialogue option as well and just felt like an unnecessary extra step.

Along with some strange puzzle solutions, Universe for Sale will often direct you to go someplace with no real direction or indication as to what needs to be done next. Early in the game, I was informed that I had to find Lika after a brief conversation but there was no indication as to where she wandered off to. I searched all the areas  multiple times and eventually found that there was a spot on the screen that I had not moved the cursor to. This caused minor frustrations because I had lost interest in the current moment and wanted to walk away from the game. Thankfully, things got back on track and my frustrations were set on the cub for a little while longer.

One thing that I really want to bring attention to here is the game’s use of a beautiful color palette. Universe for sale has an interesting art style and the vibrant colors are fitting with the character designs. The world feels alive as you navigate through the streets and hear the background chatter of people in the market. Each character has a unique design to them and doesn’t blend into the background. I found myself just admiring the art and taking all kinds of screenshots just to use as a background on my desktop. Watching Lila mix components together to create colorful universes never grew tiresome and I was always eager to find out what beautiful scene lay in wait for me to uncover. 

Overall, Universe for sale is a cute little narrative game that does a wonderful job of bringing you alongside its simple story, even if there are a few frustrations here and there. 


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