Mystery and Romance
Luna Ravel – Interactive Story promises an adventure full of mystery, romance, and stylish outfits amidst the backdrop of the French Alps. Developer Nutnut’s visual novel delivers on those promises and has a pretty engaging plot. Unfortunately, its aggressive monetization makes it much more frustrating than it needs to be.
Luna Ravel’s premise is straightforward. The titular character is a young private detective returning to her hometown to investigate the mysterious disappearance of its lake. She does so with the aid of her hacker assistant Lily and her own psychic powers. The latter ability, called a Gift, lets Luna mind-control suspects into confessing their darkest secrets. This naturally helps Luna with her detective work, provided she can keep her abilities under control. She’ll meet various colorful characters throughout her adventure and maybe even find love in the quaint mountain village.
Based on the Google Play page, I wasn’t sure whether to expect a dating sim or Nacy Drew style adventure game with hunkier boys. Frankly, I’m not sure it is either. Luna Ravel is light on mechanics even by visual novel standards. There are no puzzles to solve or relationship values to manage. The gameplay primarily consists of choosing between dialogue options and spending premium currency on new clothes and hairstyles. The cosmetic items are somewhat varied and let players create a relatively unique avatar. However, it burns through Gems way too quickly and hardly feels like a core part of the experience. Thus, Luna Ravel sinks or swims entirely on the strength of its story.
Not Quite Branching
Speaking of which, I’d describe the writing as pretty good but not spectacular. The characters are fun and memorable and benefit from Luna Ravel’s highly expressive animesque art style. However, most of them are pretty shallow and rely too heavily on gimmicks. For example, Luna has a coffee addiction and is implausibly bad with computers. Both details come up frequently, as if Nutnut was afraid that players might forget. I also would have liked it if the game offered players more freedom when exploring the narrative. Luna Ravel has dialogue choices and optional scenes but no narrative branches. This is noticeable in the detective segments, where the game significantly limits what questions Luna can ask and what leads she can follow.
The romance storyline is also a mixed bag. Luna has excellent chemistry with all three possible lovers, so their relationships never feel forced. It also helps that each romance option has lives and desires outside of seeking Luna’s affections. However, the developers didn’t do a perfect job weaving the two plot lines together. The mystery and romance often feel like two different stories that the game is alternating between rather than a cohesive whole. The game also really wants Luna to get back together with rival detective Peter, to a frankly annoying degree. There were as many chances to date him as the other two put together. Meanwhile, the female romance option Yasmine has so little screen time that I wasn’t always sure she was romanceable.
Free Game, Premium Story
I might be less annoyed with the game pushing Peter on me if I didn’t have to ration love scenes. You see, Luna Ravel has “Secret” dialogue options that cost premium currency to unlock. These options usually cost between 150 and 200 Gems, or about $2.49 at the micropayment shop. And it’s not just the romance scenes either. Luna Ravel also charges Gems for the better investigation options and almost everything related to Luna’s backstory. Players can unlock Gems through normal gameplay, but only in pitifully small amounts. Fortunately, these extra scenes stay unlocked between playthroughs. However, it will take players a long time to unlock every scene without spending a lot of money.
A big part of the problem is that Luna Ravel is stingy with in-game rewards. However, the main problem is that players need Tickets to access new Episodes. Unfortunately, players can only store two tickets at a time, and they get a new Ticket every eight hours. Meanwhile, most of the 36 Episodes only take between 10 and 20 minutes to complete. As a result, you will never be able to play Luna Ravel for more than 20-40 minutes a day without spending money. And while this is subjective, I never felt like it was enough time to make a satisfying amount of progress.
Frankly, the aggressiveness of the monetization dragged the game down more than I expected. While not above criticism, the writing is decent, and I want to see where the story is going. However, Nutnut is holding parts of the story for ransom with its “Secret” dialogue choices and egregious wait times between Episodes. If you can overlook that, then Luna Ravel – Interactive Story may be worth your time. Otherwise, you might be better off giving it a pass.
Is It Hardcore?
Luna Ravel – Interactive Story has good art and a decently engaging story, but the aggressive monetization and time gating drags it down more than one might expect.