A downloadable game for Windows and macOS

It's time to spell trouble.

Séance: Spectral Noise is a supernatural visual novel that chronicles the adventures of a pair of mystery-solving spirit mediums.

Story

A group of recent high school graduates get more than they bargained for when they enlist the services of Zarah, a wandering spirit medium known as The Planespeaker. Zarah's paranormal specialty is the Séance: an occult ritual in which the dead are polled for truth, comfort, and guidance.

What begins as an inquiry into the death of their friend soon spirals into a massive conspiracy that threatens to engulf the sleepy port town of Beacon's Bluff. The truth is buried deep, but with guile, resolve, and a little magic, it may yet see the light of day.

With the cards stacked against them, it'll take a cunning spirit to steer our heroes in the right direction.

That's where you come in.

Join Zarah and her new acquaintances in this supernatural tale about truth, death, and the memories we leave behind.

Features

  • Enjoy a thrilling visual novel broken into five huge chapters
  • Manipulate Spell Cards to guide your summoners towards the truth — or completely derail the conversation
  • Keep tabs on characters, concepts, and events in your trusty journal
  • Flex your detective skills and find carefully-hidden secrets 
  • Use the clues at your disposal to thwart a sinister plot in the town of Beacon's Bluff!

Please give our early access demo a try! We're using this build to gather general feedback and catch early bugs/issues.

Demo Notes

  • There's is currently no save functionality! It is recommended that you block out around 1 hour to play the demo all the way through (maybe a bit longer if you're streaming/recording). Don't worry - in the full game, you'll be able to skip the first chapter if you don't want to replay it.
  • This is still a pre-alpha build - there are bound to be some issues!
  • Speaking of which, some users have reported misc. issues with the "Journal" functionality. Thankfully, that feature isn't required to complete the demo. I'm trying to reproduce this issue so please let me know if you encounter it (our Discord is the best place to do this).
  • You can hold Enter to skip past dialogue at a very fast rate, which is useful if you're playing through the demo a second time to find something specific. Be warned, though, the skipping functionality is has the potential to be a little buggy! 
  • I haven't tested the Mac version too thoroughly - let me know if you run into any issues!
  • A small number of users are unable to progress past the "breathing exercise" early on in the demo. I'm looking into this right now and will post an update when it has been resolved! A temporary workaround is: instead of clicking on the "Read the Light" chapter, scroll down and tap on "Read the Light (no fx)". This version of the Chapter 1 has no background shader effects, which I believe was causing the issue.


CW: Mention of suicide.

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Download

Download
Demo 1.0.4 - Windows 289 MB
Download
Demo 1.0.4 - Mac 313 MB

Development log

Comments

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Good Demo (played 1.0.4).

Exceptional work on the letter-tile layout. I tried everything reasonably possible for comical effect. Liked the shake, mouse-tail and any of the animated UI effects. A+ character blinking.

In terms of feedback, the ending could use a bit of punch towards what is to come. It sets up the premise and mechanics well, but I wasn't left with a "I gotta know what happens next" kind of feeling. A stinger or preview might help (especially if crowdfunding is coming, with the demo as a tool).

Also, using the "X" button to clear 'words-in-progress' wasn't ideal. I tended to try and click on preselected letters in order to "de-select" or "go back to" certain letters in my 'word-in-progress'.

Finally, a real nit-pick, a still image of everyone at the séance table might help pull people into the illusion. Thinking along the lines of Ace Attorney's courtroom shots with all the characters in frame. Seeing the constant table turn left me with this uncanny valley feeling of "is there 4 or 5 people at the table".

Thanks for playing! Happy to hear my "make almost every English word a valid response" shtick didn't go to waste.

Un-select is coming - it just didn't make it in time for this first demo; the "X" was something of a stop gap.  I'm also thinking about what other content can/should be shown in our second demo to give a better idea of what's coming later in the story, though I'm not 100% decided as there are some budget considerations here.

Absolutely lovely so far. Really great, clear characters that won me over pretty fast. Only Molly ended up a bit forgettable. The dialogue was interesting, with enough held back that I got found myself dropping into a puzzle solving mindset pretty quickly. Being able to hear their 'thoughts' added an extra dimension that was appreciated beyond the hints for the puzzles. 

The puzzles themselves were very straightforward. I spent some extra time hunting through the boards for alternate words, but the words I ended up picking each go got accepted without any issues. The narrative structure around the puzzles gives them a really weird feeling - like, the player is almost definitely an impostor here, providing the answers we're allowed to provide by the board. I'm not sure what to take from that. Is it that Zarah sets up boards knowing the answer that'll be possible? Is it that we're supposed to be Eli? It was definitely intriguing. Even in the short segment, I felt a bit guilty deceiving the characters!

I didn't have any issues with running the game, and my machine is on the older side. All the transitions seemed smooth. Only technical feedback:

- The sound when you hover over a letter is harsh and unpleasant, particularly when held

- When the game window is behind another window, hovering the mouse over the locations the UI elements would be triggers their associated sounds

- The screen shake seems very wild, and the mouse-trail in particular creates a giant jagged mess that looks unintended.

Looking forward to see where this goes!

Glad you had fun! This feedback is great, too; you're not the only person to mention the shaking and hover sound are more noticeable/harsh than I'd anticipated. I'll have a look!

I finished the demo, here's my feedback:

Overall? I liked it! I look forward to the full game. 

I played the 1.0.2 Windows version and I did run into two bugs: At various points the screen would start shaking incredibly wildly and I'd need to wait for the shaking to simmer down before I could proceed again, this seemed to happen whenever the game made a loud thwack sound and I assume there is meant to just be a minor screen shake instead. This even happens during the post-séance scene at the café.

The game would sometimes also take incredibly long to load the next scene, AFAIK this happens every time the background art changes, like after the séance, when Cass takes a picture, or when Tessa leaves the café. It's load eventually, but it took a very long time.

The writing in the game reminds me more of AA than the ZE series. Tessa being the skeptic prosecutor/defense attorney, Ari the defendant, Cass and Molly as quirky witnesses and Zarah as the... judge? This isn't a criticism, I like both ZE and AA myself, so the sense of familiarity was a good thing for me. I'm sure things will be more divergent as more and longer cases are added, the ending of the demo certainly gives me the impression it will.

The journal is a nice feature, mostly for the flavour aspect. It helps with getting more in Tessa's headspace. 

It was fun trying to look for silly inputs to give when the cards appear on the table, I'm very glad there was a reaction for "POG". There was one bit where there were a lot of 3-letter words you could form, and only some got a reaction. I'm not sure if I just ran out of Zarah's patience for my antics or only some combinations yield a special result. Generally the hardest solutions were the shortest words. 

The section where there was no right solution had me spending more time than I wish I had spent looking for a word to form, I wasn't expecting the game to make me 'present evidence' without me having the proper evidence to present.

Tessa is best girl.

Glad you had fun! AA was definitely a bit of influence here, so I'm happy to hear that shone through.

If you don't mind answering a few questions (which could help get to the bottom of the technical issues): 

- Did the game seem like it was chugging, or did performance seem relatively normal other than the long pauses/shakes?

- Maybe weird one, but did the "text speed" slider in settings work for you? Would you say the text was unnaturally fast/slow?

Feel free to respond here or Discord/Reddit; whichever you prefer.

Other than the pauses and shakes, the performance was normal. Nothing going too fast, slow or being choppy.

I didn't actually adjust the text speed slider, the default speed seemed alright to me. The only option I adjusted was turn down the master volume to about 80%.

A friend of mine also played the game, and for him turning off flashing effects and table rotation seemed to help with the long pauses.

Thank you very much! That's going to help narrow it down. I'll make the pauses skippable in the next build in case any one else runs into this.

Some feedback:

Under "Features," you call this a "kinetic novel."  My understanding is that this term is for visual novels with no branching paths or interactive elements, which I don't believe applies to this game.  You probably don't want to give people the wrong idea.

You might want to add "Interactive Fiction" as a genre for this game.  All visual novels inherently fall under that category I think, but you probably want this game to show up for people searching by the "interactive fiction" genre specifically.

The text speed setting doesn't seem to work.  It's painfully slow and can't be made faster.  Also, the settings controls are not very responsive.  The game as a whole seems to be rather laggy.

I did encounter issues with the journal.  I didn't see any changes to it after the final update notification for it appeared, and I tried flipping through it to see if the update was on a previous page, but the lag was really bad.  And once I tried using the First and Last buttons, then any of the navigation buttons made the page stick to the mouse in its turning animation, without being able to release it.  Things got more messed up from there.

It's common convention for text history to be triggered by scrolling up.  I would suggest implementing this for your game for ease of use.

Hey, thanks for the feedback (and thanks for playing)!

Regarding the technical issues (in general), were you playing on Mac or PC? I've been getting some reports from Mac players that the text speed option isn't working, so it'd be nice to isolate that if possible.

And noted regarding the tags; I'll get those fixed up. I always took "kinetic novel" to mean "no major branching" but hey, I'm probably wrong!

I hope you had fun in spite of the issues!

(1 edit)

I'm playing on a PC, actually.

SPOILERS BELOW

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I did enjoy playing, even if the lag and text speed issues dampened that a bit.  I'm interested in seeing the rest of the story, though it'll be hard to retain that interest if there are really long gaps between releases.

The game description says it's broken up into "five huge chapters," and this demo is the entire first chapter, I take it?  But it didn't feel "huge" at all, to be honest.  It seemed like it barely scratched the surface of the full story.  A lot of it was just predictable dialog, and I even anticipated that the death was an accident as soon as "snag" was communicated.  It seemed strange that no one even considered the literal meaning until later on.  Though I suppose Zarah (intentionally?) steered them away from that conclusion.  The tree branch being broken was also immediately obvious, at least to me.  Hopefully the future chapters are less predictable.

It does feel like the game is setting up some interesting reveals, at least, with the way Cass seems so unbothered by their friend's death and apparently hadn't spoken to anyone in a while, or the mentions of Elise's bad home situation, or how the DnD party includes an unaccounted-for rogue or paladin (whichever one Ari isn't), or how Zarah was thinking that Tessa doesn't know her friends very well (though no idea what she's basing that off of, or why she was opposed to the suggestion that the death wasn't suicide).  If any of these were given explanations, then I guess I missed them.

However, I feel like there's a disconnect with the core game mechanic.  We're playing as the spirit being called, but we don't have any of the knowledge the spirit is supposed to have, and we have to guess at the answers based on the options the spell cards give us and the character thoughts.  The former makes it seem like Zarah (or some other force) is directly manipulating what the spirit is saying, or at least can say, which doesn't seem intended, and the latter makes it seem like we're not the intended spirit at all, and are simply providing believable answers because of an unanticipated thought-reading ability.

The latter might be an interesting twist, and the possibility of it being the wrong spirit is even mentioned, but you'd think Zarah would be aware that spirits could read thoughts and fake identity that way (or does she in fact know and is misleading everyone?), and we're not presented with any possible motive for a different spirit to do this, especially if they're only supposed to be able to be contacted once.  If you really are meant to be playing as the intended spirit (Elise in this case), then it just doesn't feel very much like we are.  Giving the spirit (you) some internal dialog would certainly help with this, but I have to assume there's a reason you didn't include this.

Another thing is that it can be frustrating to be given a board of spell cards and not know if you're wasting time trying to find an answer because you're actually locked into giving no valid answer, due to plot-required noise or the question being faulty.  Hopefully that doesn't keep happening throughout the game.  I also don't understand why some words were underlined even when they didn't seem to relate to any spell card answer options or journal entries.  One example that comes to mind is "crack," from Tessa's thought.

Sorry if I'm being too critical.  Hopefully you find this feedback helpful.

Nope, this is great! All appreciated. Dang, PC huh? I don't think an itch comment thread is the best for troubleshooting, but I'd be interested in knowing your OS/specs in the Discord.

One thing I might ask you, though, is to maybe move the spoilery bits "below the fold" of your comment (or move it to the Discord, even), just for anyone who hasn't yet played.

Regarding the story/structure/plot devices, I obviously can't say too much about this until the full game is out, but I don't think you have anything to worry about. Think of it like a Phoenix Wright game, if that helps: early chapters are shorter, simpler, and have mysteries that are easier to deduce, but grow in length and complexity over the course of the game.