The Kids We Were, from the folk at Gagex, is a narrative-driven game that started life on mobile platforms. It’s now out for the Nintendo Switch and I felt compelled to give it a look. I have a history with mobile gaming (I used to write for an Android blog), I love a good story and I’m also a sucker for anything that makes its way to the Switch. So how did I find this time-traveling tale? Let’s find out!
The Kids Aren’t Alright
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So, this might be tough to write. Here at Thumb Culture, we have a review guide that states how we should approach our game reviews. Normally, that’s all fine and dandy, but then sometimes a game comes along that doesn’t quite fit the mold. Is that good or bad? It depends…
The Kids We Were is a ‘narrative’ game – which means I don’t have any ‘real’ gameplay to mention here in this section. You move your character around the 3D world, but there’s nothing to do except hit checkpoints that move the story along. Aside from this, you search the world for items, but they do nothing except fill out your catalogue of items. Once you’re done searching for items, you also search for coins, but all they do is let you have a spin of a gashapon machine. Items received from the gashapon machines get added to the previously mentioned item catalogue.
There are occasionally dialogue choices that you have to make, but they’re actually more like a test. Genuinely, there’s a part of this game where you have to select the correct answers to prove you’ve been paying attention. There’s no branching narrative here, so when the ‘wrong’ dialogue is selected, the game asks you to try again.
And that’s gameplay.
Graphics & Audio
When it comes to visuals, I have to say I found the style of The Kids We Were quite striking. It’s a voxel style that’s been seen before, but it’s done well here.
The main issue is that this style just doesn’t seem fit for purpose for this type of game. The characters, due to the nature of the voxel rendering, aren’t really animated at all. They can’t convey any emotion and it makes scenes of characters talking to each other (which really all this game is) seem stilted and quite boring.
On top of this, the bold and charming visuals are totally at odds with the narrative itself. The Kids We Were is a story about abusive households, runaway children escaping violence and fighting fate. Seeing all of this play out in a style similar to Minecraft is just – odd. It’s like a pop-up book about Jack The Ripper – the style doesn’t suit the content.
This being a narrative game it won’t shock you to hear that you play this once and you’re done. It took me about 6 hours to play through. There’s then one bonus chapter, which took me another 20 minutes.
I always hate being negative about games, but I also hate dishonest reviews. So here we are.
The Kids We Were has no gameplay to speak of, makes poor use of its lovely visuals by making them tell a story they’re not fit to tell. On top of this, the story is very ‘anime’ with dialogue that says in 50 words what it could in 5. It handles heavy subjects without any real softness of touch, wildly swinging from ‘kids having fun together’ to ‘oh no, my Dad’s murdered my Mum’. This genuinely happens.
As sad as I am to say it – The Kids We Were is a poor story poorly told and receives a Thumb Culture Bronze award.
Disclaimer: A code was received in order to write this review.