You blink your eyes awake in a haze. Your body heavy; your vision blurred. You’re surrounded by stark white walls and various tubes protruding from you. A hospital? How did you get here? You don’t remember getting hurt. You strain yourself trying to recall until you realize: you don’t remember anything. Not even your name. You frantically pull out your wallet, and hold up your ID in your trembling hands only to gaze upon a stranger.
That is, that’s the situation you would find yourself in playing Genius Inc’s latest choice-based dating sim Android title, Time Only Knows. This anime-inspired visual novel promises mystery, intrigue, murder and more romance than you’ll know what to do with. You awake in a hospital bed with no memory, this much you do know. But the real mystery arises when the nurse calls your emergency contact and three girls show up, all claiming to be your girlfriend, the unconventionally-named Chirol Saotome. Your doctor has informed you that your memory loss is from an attempted suicide, and that the medication will restore your memory in three hours. Just as you ponder why two of the “Chirol”s would lie, knowing you’ll remember everything in a few hours, your phone gets a text: “Do not trust Chirol Saotome.”
Girls, Girls, Girls
Along with solving the mystery of these girls’ existence, your missing memories, and your increasingly-alleged suicide attempt, you must find a way to still your beating heart. That’s right: Love is in the air in this sterile hospital room. It’s the perfect time to find your perfect match. Never mind that two thirds are identity thieves and one third is almost definitely a murderer by process of elimination. I like those odds.
So, naturally, each Chirol is romanceable and has her own unique storyline and associated mystery. Which, honestly, gets pretty confusing. You’ve got Chirol Saotome, the black-haired naive one, too shy to hug her alleged boyfriend in the company of others. Then there’s Chirol Saotome, the pigtailed, loudmouthed red herring with yandere-tendencies and a keen eye for detail. And last but certainly not least, we have Chirol Saotome, the totally innocent cheerleader with dead parents and a tragic backstory. Truly, this is a whodunit for the history books.
The gameplay is simple enough; You read the overlaid text and tap the screen to advance. It’s all standard visual novel procedure. Unfortunately, things start getting tricky once you’re presented with choices. Choices are both how you investigate various mysteries and how you romance the Chirol of your heart’s desire. However, this presents several problems. First off, this means at times you’re forced to choose between getting a crucial piece of information or reciprocating your bespoke Chirol’s affection, thus potentially ruining your chances at successfully wooing your dream Chirol.
Another troublesome byproduct of choice is that you can fail. From the very first choice, in fact. Meaning that, right from the get-go, you have a 50/50 chance of picking the wrong option and having the murderer kill one of the fake Chirols. Thus, spoiling the entire game. Not great.
The last rather large problem with choice is that it doesn’t come cheap. Every romance option requires 25 or so rubies. These are only available via purchase or by spending literal, actual real-time hours of your one finite human life mindlessly tapping a slot machine while being inundated by countless ads. It’s a truly tortured existence I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy. You need hundreds of rubies to finish just one potential ending. May god have mercy on your soul if you feel compelled to solve all the loose threads only tied-up upon finishing every storyline.
Saotome Secret Sidelined
Time Only Knows presents its story as a mystery of why three discrete girls would claim to be your gf knowing you’ll remember the truth in three hours. They all claim to be grade students (creepy) you’ve been tutoring for the past few months. They present this as the main focus of the story. That is, up until the final act when that’s pretty much thrown out entirely when you remember who your real girlfriend is. You’re then presented with the answers to an entirely different mystery you weren’t aware needed solving, rendering the entire experience pointless. Keen readers might notice a recurring theme here.
Now normally I’d be the first to tell you that life sim otome games require you to turn your brain off a little bit. But when your game is a full-fledged murder mystery I expect a little more than that. If your main interest is solving a mystery, do not play this game. If, however, you’re solely interested in romancing cute girls, also don’t play this game.
The Whodunit That Begs The Question: Whydoit
All in all, Android title Time Only Knows stood out and made an impression on me. And really, isn’t that what counts? No. It was a profoundly confounding impression. That being said, the writing was pretty funny at times, if only due to the sheer absurdity of certain plot twists. But the times I gave out a hearty chuckle simply weren’t worth the hours of effort.
Will I come back to play another Genius Inc opus when available on Android and iOS? Time Only Knows.
Is it Hardcore?
Amnesia is beginning to sound merciful.
Time Only Knows provides a delightfully ridiculous, and at times borderline-skeezy, romp for anyone rich enough to blow real money on kissing an anime girl.