“But I reckon that this realm of higher needs, of something more than just forgetting about everyday life, of mere recreation, this realm of needs has been clearly neglected by us.” – Krzysztof Kieślowsk
Beyond Your Window is a short visual novel divided into four very different, yet slightly intertwined, stories, each with multiple endings. The protagonist is stuck, searching for inspiration, leading the player to explore the lives of their neighbours safely from their own apartment, in a narrative experience reminiscent of Hitchcock’s Rear Window!
Developer: Team SolEtude
Released: August 2020
Price: Name your own price
Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux
Available on: itch.io
This game was reviewed as part of the Indie Game Collective Showcase.
The gameplay is pretty standard fare for a visual novel and mostly involves clicking through dialogue and narration whilst making the occasional choice. This is not a criticism, however, as it works perfectly for this style of game and Beyond Your Window is no exception.
There are a few fun deviations from the standard mechanics, including the ability to choose which character to play as during a story about a married couple and some point-and-click style interactions with objects on the protagonist’s desk that provide the player with little insights about them, really helping with characterisation.
Beyond Your Window’s narrative focuses initially on the protagonist, trying to make sense of their notes and conjure ideas! In a bid to help themselves do this, they begin observing the stories going on around them. The protagonist’s isolation and distance from the people they are watching cements the game as a product of the pandemic, with it’s clear lockdown vibes.
By clicking on various other windows, the player visits four different people, each with their own ‘slice of life’ story for the player to help unfold. Whether their tale is about work, love, loss or home life, they all tell stories of self-discovery, exploring who the character is and what they wish for. Each character must be visited more than once in order to complete their story and there is a small amount of overlap, further intertwining the different characters. Though there are only a few choices to be made in each short story they do have an impact and there is definite variation in the multiple endings that can be reached.
Along with the great storytelling, Beyond Your Window’s aesthetics are a highlight of the game. The sketchy illustrations with rough lines give a unique feel, and the use of very deliberate, minimal colour palettes for each story is a nice touch. The music is only present in short bursts but is delivered with drama and impact with intense and moody strings, punky female vocals, funky guitar riffs and punchy percussion.
Although there is no voice acting, both the narration and dialogue are well written and there is a good selection of ambient sound effects to help create a deeper sense of immersion. However, this is somewhat stunted by the fact they are played on a very noticeable loop.
Overall, Beyond Your Window is a thoughtful and emotive experience with a series of personal stories and perfectly matched audio and visual elements. It will take around 30 minutes to 1 hour to play and offers replayability in the form of multiple endings making it easy to recommend, especially given the price tag!
For more visual novels, why not check out the following reviews:
Inkslinger: A Fantastic New Visual Novel and Typing Game – Three Visual Novels from Nikita Kaf! – If Found: A Coming of Age Story with a Sci-Fi Twist