Please note that this game received its rating of O for a gory Halloween costume, profanity, (non-explicit) sexual content, and a lot of alcoholic consumption.
Winter Wolves tends to go big with their visual novel games. Saving the world from ancient evil, surviving a shipwreck, even solving a murder... but with Roommates, they get back to basics... college life. Depending on what version of the game you choose to buy, you'll play as either Max or Anne, both freshmen with their own hopes and agendas. Whoever you're playing as, the basic gameplay remains the same. The game will take you through the daily life of campus, allowing you to make decisions that influence how people look at you and the way things play out. You'll be able to create your schedule for each day, choosing what to do and where to do, which influences your money and energy levels in addition to improving your grades and your character traits. Rather than traditional statistics, Roommates uses things like Rationality, Spontaneity, and more, which are important when it comes to getting along with your fellow students. And I do mean getting along, wink wink, say no more, say no more!
It wouldn't be a Winter Wolves game without romance, of course, so naturally there are four romantic options for both Max and Anne, including female/female and male/male. While it's disappointing that there's only one gay option compared to a straight player's three (is one choice really any choice at all?), Winter Wolves has always stood out from the pack by making an effort to begin with, especially with Loren the Amazon Princess, which offered multiple gay and straight options for players to pursue. As for the characters themselves, they're a diverse and extremely likable lot in many ways, and the different personalities liven the game up considerably. They have a lot more depth than it may seem at first impression, from Isabella's unexpectedly earnest and generous charm, to Rakesh's mad fits of occasionally dangerous artistic fancy... well, I mean, of course the best way to decorate is a hacksaw! Everyone is very well-written, and Roommates might be the first Winter Wolves game that really made me want to scour every single path to see all of the content with all of the characters and scenarios. Both Anne and Max's storylines offer a lot of different content and interactions to boot. At the same time, however, it did lead to some inconsistencies... at one point, Anne was asking Max to play guitar for her while saying she'd never heard him before, when just a few days ago I'd played a scenario where she'd helped him busk in the park.
By keeping the overall story comparatively drama-free, Roommates delivers a mostly light-hearted tale with some seriously funny dialogue and endearing moments... mayonnaise bath anyone? The gameplay is going to be extremely familiar to anyone who's played a Winter Wolves sim, right down to the grinding for grades and statistics, but the little colour commentary your character offers for each activity provides a lot of charm that breaks things up. That the game also clearly displays what traits each romance option looks for, and at what values, allows you to focus your efforts without flailing around in the dark. It's the sort of relaxing yet engrossing experience that seems to manage putting you in a good mood with ease. Roommates doesn't drastically shake up the life simulation visual novel formula, but it is proof positive just how much fun a simpler storyline can be when done right. Roommates is warm, funny, and definitely replayable... all the earmarks of a genuinely fun visual novel that will make the time fly. Though its stories aren't as complex or dramatic as others, Roommates is certainly my favourite Winter Wolves visual novel to date, and maybe one of my favourites in the genre, period.