“Floret Bond Demo” Review
It was several months ago I saw this novel creep through my Itch feed. Several months ago it punched me in the heart and attached to my brain as a topic of some intrigue. It said it was — well, as the summary says — “a free fantasy otome Visual Novel/Crafting Sim that’s super cute and all about developing a polyamorous relationship between the main character and the male leads”. All the characters were beastly creatures. You got your bird. You got your moon – elf looking chick. And you got horse boy. What would turn very gay very fast in a lesser novel instead goes into a slow burn with slight knots along the wick hiccuping the experience and making its initial punch – in – the – heart synopsis force my heart to be a little more cynical.
This is the first “thing” I’ve reviewed in four – and – a – half months. I had written about other “things”, and I had entertained some short “reviews” but one month ago. Though as for anything proper with stars and all, this is what you get. And I’ve found there really is no best way to come off a writing sabbatical; I’ve sabbated many times, and each time coming back is like trying on an old pair of shoes and wondering if they ever really fit you at all. You end up, like an animal in the corner where its writing desk sits, obliged to write something — anything — that will reinforce the craft you had deluded yourself into thinking you were skilled at. So you write, and then you write a little more, and whatever happens, does.
And there is no best “thing” to review coming off a break. You might think you want a simple thing, but finding meaning in simplicity is to break apart a rock and suck the sweet, bloody life from its interior pores. To review complex work is to fry the brain before it could even get warmed up in the pan. Mostly, you want what won’t make you resort to hackneyed metaphors like these. It turns out the best thing to take a look at is a thing you’re most interested in. Before Floret Bond’s demo, I was interested. After, I was enchanted. And now the onus is on me to explain why.
This is a visual novel for the type of people who draw their sketches with pink ink on white paper, slapping glitter and collages from public – domain books onto their reinventions of arts and crafts, and who may also be dirty hippies who aren’t so dirty after all. My synopsis above should be collapsed, but there is a link to the novel’s page if you wish to spoil the verdict of this positive review; if a picture is worth a thousand words, can I express those thousand words to create the same beauty as any picture within that page? You will notice it is like a storybook, and though the story thus far is simple, it is complete, and to use digital art to create a facsimile of traditional art is a brilliant bit of creativity I wish to see more of, yet don’t, and so I appreciate it here.
The novel shows its first major flaw by trusting the player to not name the main character something dumb. Peony the alleged elf is forever known as Pingu, from The Bing Bong Theorem. Given how most fantasy names are syllables thrown together in a vaguely – pronounceable way, I can feel proud it’s not as innately awful as that Eminem ageplay fanfiction I accidentally created. Pingu is what we call a “Naturalizer”, which is some magic bollocks that makes other magic go bye – bye, except for some magic cursed upon the two bois who show up to your brick hut somewhere in… a field? A town? I haven’t caught a whiff of her objective location, though there is always the possibility I have the reading comprehension of a fruit salad, but only if it contains no pears. Pears are smart creatures. You must respect them.
They’re cursed by a magic bond that makes them stick to each other, but the mechanism of how is never explained, so it’s magic all the way down. The horse also wears flowers, so from here we can see the title is accurate. The whole plot in this demo, and for an alleged 8,000 words it does have the trappings of a demo that needs a full version, is you snuff a candle, the boys come, your magic pisses itself and dies, the bird boy does some trespassing in your noggin, your magic dies again for a second go at it and really cheeses it this time around, and the bois run away in shame at your incompetence and you have to harass them even though they already paid you in hair. As the boi’s lives are mutually incompatible and you wore them down enough to make them like you, you bastard, they agree to stick around until you can unbond them, which will occur sometime in 2018, time and money permitting.
This is more or less what happens
As with all reductionism, it’s a bit dishonest to say this is literally what happens — it’s almost like it was a joke, eh? But along these vaguely – accurate beats I can the value this title offers, for though Pingu is a bit of an awkward girl, the characterisation of the other two appear as sly and subtle as one could expect without making it all feel forced. The pacing is fine and the dialogue is readable. From start to finish my time had gone by, and I didn’t feel it drag on at all. It might have taken me thirty minutes to read the thing, and it didn’t feel like a chore at all. Though readability is not the surest sign of a good book, it is up there. And with the substance of the work being so charming, I feel it’s all good, after all.
Those knots I was talking about? They’re two big ones, engulfing much of the work proper and stopping it from being recommendable to all men — or women, or else. The first one is simple; the concept is for the type of person who likes all this gay furry t r a s h, even though nothing gay happens in this demo. I’m disappointed! They didn’t even have the decency to end on a sexy cliffhanger! It’s also for those particular types of people who enjoy fantasy and flowers and fields and all what makes straight dudes run away in fear because they’re worried Mother Nature will give them The Gay — especially when they’re far away from their ingenuine porn lesbians and they have to deal with MMF bisexuality and not the MFF “bisexual” they see on the screen.
Fellas, is it gay to be so confident in yourself you can willingly enjoy the type of media you want to see without having to worry about the preconceived stereotypes and opinions of your innately insular cultural group and politically – motivated prejudices of the society you live in as well as being blissfully ignorant of any notion of “cringe culture” that prevents innocent people from having the sheer arrogance to avoid artificially limiting themselves to only the smallest slice of the smallest subset of the entirety of human culture, the human condition, and every depiction of what it means to live as a human at all? 🤔
The dismal arts
The second one would be the amateur nature of the prose. Writing, along with its sister discipline typography, is an invisible art: you are unaware of the importance of quality until it is absent, and unaware of how to make that quality until you spend more time learning about it than any reasonable person should. I have been cursed with knowledge in this way. Consider Pingu’s following exposition:
“I sigh happily as the scent of my drink wafts towards my face. There is hardly anything better than sipping on a nice cup of tea on such a lovely day. The only way this could be better is maybe having someone to share it with”.
To fledging writers, I will give you the chance to determine what is wrong with this piece. It looks inoffensive, doesn’t it? It looks fine and proper — and all the words are even spelled right. But for a gentleman like me who has been doing this for far too long, spending his time in this medium where we are all apprentices and there are no masters, I can see all the flaws before me, and I see them all as time goes on and I read them further.
So you’ve had a go at this mental exercise I’ve given you. Let me spoil some of my own thoughts. The fundamental problem is in how much it tells without showing us; to “sigh happily”, to express how the tea is “nice”, and to say that this tea is nice without describing the characteristics that make it nice. There’s the crass foreshadowing of the plot through saying how the protagonist wants someone to share it with. This unrefined piece of prose is even less refined when you realise she never drinks tea with anyone else — only eating breakfast with the boys.
Then there are the “details” that aren’t when you think about them, such as the undefined “scent” of the tea, the “lovely” day without elaboration, the theoretical “someone” who she would like to share it with, and what circumstances it would take for it to be better. Obviously, writing excessively detailed prose will drive the pacing into a brick hut and bog the reader down in ultimately pointless drivel. But the surest sign of a writer who knows their shit comes from packing details into words that only comes when you read between the lines and infer them rather than having them be expressed to you directly. Consider the following paragraph:
“The Black Assam steaming from my cup reprieves me of my own stale atmosphere, the sun’s gaze an acerbic parody of weather worth stepping out in. My sigh goes unanswered, for the contentment I’ve eked out of this pleasure is made wanting by my empty seats.”
This bit I’ve hacked out shows more competence in the same amount of words than the whole of the novel’s mechanical prose proper. In just two sentences this character has been drafted, painted, and is ready to be shipped out for a dime – store romance novel. Their Assam tea shows they know enough to describe tea but too apathetic to try anything exotic, being satisfied with bitter blackness. Their house is “stale”, we know it’s their house because it’s “their” atmosphere and their seats are unlikely to be anywhere else, and though I have not described what “stale” means, we all know what is is, as opposed to intangible concepts like “lovely”. The weather outside describes their personality, for though it’s nice enough for sunbeams (“the sun’s gaze”) to show up, it’s also too harsh, too acerbic, for the protagonist to bother with this parody of finer weather — and even using such words shows they are someone of literary sophisticated.
They are also shown to be a tad miserable, for although they express that what they are doing is a simple pleasure, they had to eke it out of the situation, rather than taking it gratis. They’re also not too proud to express their dissatisfaction with themselves, and so they sigh readily out loud, giving the audience a bit of sympathy viewing this sad sack, for they really must be out of it to sigh out loud. Notice too that they say “contentment”, not “happiness”, showing they’re either over the idea of happiness or mature enough to realise they don’t need it — either way showing they’re unsatisfied with their life. And we know that, despite all this, they still have seats at their table ready for visitors. Visitors, we presume, who never come, and who they never expect regardless.
The depth of character for this unnamed protagonist took only 46 words to express, and all that without needing the author to tell them how they feel. Meanwhile, all we get with Pingu’s paragraph is that she’s happy with her tea and would be even happier if she could share it with someone — which describes damn near anyone. And comparing the way that each is written… without going into pedantries, I will bet you will enjoy a book written in my style more than you will one written by the anonymous collective of programmers and artists known as GBPatch.
Ultimately the prose isn’t terrible. It’s functional, it works well, and I wasn’t distracted by it past a few minutes once the main characters showed up and became persons of interest to me. I will say though, that if you are inspired to write a novel because of Floret Bond, then allow me to proofread it before publication, so that you may drink from the well of Froge, and imbibe the knowledge within.
The box art says the full version will be 40,000 words long with partial voice acting and also feature some gameplay elements such as foraging and crafting. Whether this will make the novel turn into one of those rare VN – gaming hybrids that still maintain their charms despite the mutual incompatibility, such as Cherry Tree High Comedy Club, or will turn it into a sticky mess that compounds the frustrations of both with few of the benefits, such as everything else, is to be seen.
I enjoyed this demo. I enjoyed its atmosphere and the way it looks and even the characters within. It did not rock my world, but it caused me to appreciate the privileges we have to consume work that can look unlike anything else and still imbue in us the familiarity of fantasy comforts. There was no romance, and so its main draw is lost on me, so all I am left here is the idea of something greater — a tragedy that most demos have.
I liked it, but I did not love it, and it did not leave me very much to think about at all. I will keep an eye on it. But as for you? Well, I suppose you’ll have to find out for yourself.