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'Variable Barricade' Review: A Romance Story Of Flawed Perfection

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'Variable Barricade' Review: A Romance Story Of Flawed Perfection

When you see or hear the name Variable Barricade, it initially provides little clue as to what lurks inside. The word 'barricade' may give visions of a shooter, a tower defence title or even RPG. But as a wizened visual novel enjoyer, I know exactly what this is. An unusual adjective matched with a non-sensical noun and you have the makings of an otome; a girl meets boy romance.

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And after playing 20 hours of Variable Barricade I learned what the titular phrase supposedly means. The barricade is the one surrounding our heroine's heart, and its variability depends on how much she learns to love. You see, our protagonist is the heiress to an empire, and the four men chosen by her grandfather to live with her represent potential husbands. The barricade is there to protect herself. All just in case they are there for the money, not her heart.

Variable Barricade / Credit: Idea Factory/Aksys Games, the author
Variable Barricade / Credit: Idea Factory/Aksys Games, the author
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The problem is the intrigue of the story ends there. She goes to school, sees her friends, hangs out with the guys and her strikingly handsome butler, and that's about it. I have perused a few other romance games, and they're often bolstered by their settings. A girl searching a town for her lost brother, a cop on the case of a serial killer, or perhaps souls trapped on the plane of existence between life and death; all perfect settings for a romance to blossom. By comparison the Tokyo home the cast of Variable Barricade is forced to share feels boring. There's not even the slightest chance of a brutal murder. The best Barricade offers is that it's broken into bite-size chunks.

Variable Barricade / Credit: Idea Factory/Aksys Games, the author
Variable Barricade / Credit: Idea Factory/Aksys Games, the author

Where things do blossom is when it comes to our suitors. Instead of being showcased by their strengths, the game does all it can to highlight their flaws. We have the perfect cook and gentleman, who is clearly an experienced pick up artist. Then there's the street-smart orphan with a heart of gold, who is also a thug and gambling addict. Maybe you fancy the gorgeous and deeply cultured model, who has spent his time with sugar daddies and is now useless at life. Or the absolutely dependable and athletic bodyguard, who is as daft as he is clueless. Not one of them is perfect, but that is what makes the choices so hard.

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Variable Barricade / Credit: Idea Factory/Aksys Games, the author
Variable Barricade / Credit: Idea Factory/Aksys Games, the author

That's not to say that Variable Barricade gives a realistic view of romance just because the dudes have their flaws. All of them are madly in love with you no matter how cold you are; but this does make it interesting. Perhaps this isn't the best the genre has to offer, then, but it's one for members of the otome armada who fancy a bit of a change from more extraordinary stories surrounding relatable matters of the heart.

Pros: gorgeous art style and some nicely flawed bachelors; breaks its story into nice snacky pieces.

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Cons: music is a bit repetitive and the scenarios on the dull side

For fans of: Otome games (obviously), especially those like London Detective Mysteria or Amnesia: Memories

6/10: Good

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Variable Barricade is released for Nintendo Switch on February 25, 2022. Game tested with code provided by Aksys Games. Find a guide to GAMINGbible's review scores here.

Featured Image Credit: Idea Factory / Aksys Games

Topics: Nintendo Switch

Georgina Young
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