Emily is Away is a visual novel game developed by a single developer, Kyle Seeley. The game was released for free in November 2015 and uses the popular visual novel game engine, Ren’Py.
The game takes place in a classic MSN chat window, with your friend, Emily. Gameplay is very simple. You are offered a selection of responses as to what you type to Emily and she will respond accordingly. This is done in such a way that you actually have type out on your keyboard (you can also type out complete garbage and the game will still type out your response.) I wish I could type as fast as you do in this game…especially back in those days.
There isn’t much to say about the graphics, you are simply just sat in front of a Windows XP computer and your UI is the computer screen. It is clean and easy to navigate outside of the chat window. You can check out other character’s MSN profiles, and see their good ol song lyrics that they have on there…but sadly you cannot communicate with them. I would of personally liked to have seen that as a feature, especially with the other characters which are key to the plot.
Emily is Away has a story which is somewhat interesting, if anyone has ever had some sort of “one that got away” relationship with someone, this may strike a familiar tale with you. Personally I found it to be somewhat cringy in the way it plays out and the character Emily, comes across as someone who I wouldn’t want to associate with, but I given that it gave me such strong feelings towards her, it means it is a well fleshed out character though. The story can be a little frustrating at times, since you only have three dialogue options at each interval, your feelings can not always be portrayed in the manner in which you want them to, which funnels your responses into three categories, one being pleasant, secondly being an on the fence response, or finally a blunt/unkind response, mainly you have one of these generic choices to make. The story does have a few elements that can change each time you play it, I played it through about six times and always saw something a bit different every time. Without wanting to spoil too much, there is only one effective ending to the game, the way you get there can differ, but the outcome is always the same.
The audio in Emily is Away has very satisfying sound effects, the key strokes from typing come from that glorious sound of a mechanical keyboard, to Windows XP bootup/shutdown theme. There is no sound track, but you could always load up some Coldplay and get in the zone of your inner teenager from 2000 if you wanted….
A single play through the story will take you roughly 15-20 minutes, the game is split into six chapters spread out over six years. This is a short game, but given that it has a couple of different storylines you can explore via different options and choices, you can easily get about ninety minutes play out this if you wanted.
Technically Emily is Away is problem free. Obviously you are going to be wanting to play on a keyboard given that it is set in a chat client, and the game can run on a potato if you wanted it to.
To sum up, now the game is Free to play, I can recommend people try it out, it’s a short enough game that you aren’t really going to miss those twenty minutes if you don’t enjoy it. Visual novel fans will definitely enjoy it, and like I said above, a certain group of people will certainly want to check it out if they have ever found themselves on the wrong side of the friendzone.