Title: Melon Journey: Bittersweet Memories
Developer: Froach Club, Poppy Works
Release Date: April 6, 2023
Reviewed On: PS5
Publisher: XSEED Games
It seems more and more gamers are concerned with a game’s length, but I find it relieving to find a game that’s able to deliver a captivating and concise experience with a more modest runtime. Enter the Froach Club and Poppy Works-developed Melon Journey: Bittersweet Memories, which fits that bill to a T. With the help of its charming presentation and characters, I was eager to learn more about this adventure. Luckily for me, the pacing and gameplay elements further enhanced my overall enjoyment of this seemingly out-of-nowhere release.
Melon Journey: Bittersweet Memories follows protagonist Honeydew who can be given a custom name. She’s an employee for a melon soda factory, which develops a beverage that has become immensely popular. However, one day she wakes up and receives a vague letter from her best friend Cantaloupe, who can also be given a custom name. After clocking out from work, she goes on a journey to find him to get some answers. This journey is certainly a bizarre one, but we’ll get into the why in a bit. Surprisingly, there is a bit of submerged darkness hiding amidst all this happenstance.
Melon Journey is an adventure where the core plotline plays out alongside a variety of subplots that comprise optional interactions and pseudo-puzzle-solving. I’d argue that these scenes are where the game’s heart resides since they often cause you to explore areas more than you are required. Further, you’ll occasionally have to think outside the box on how to solve these overdramatized questlines. The strangest quest I encountered is when one of Honeydew’s acquaintances is accused of eating an apple in the middle of the forest and then put on trial, complete with a jury, judge, and witness stump.
Melon Journey is full of wacky hijinks similar to this where, initially, you’ll probably be taken aback or confused beyond belief. But you’ll eventually get used to it. In fact, part of why I found myself so endeared by this compact world is how it marches at the beat of its own drum. The characters, sense of humor, and progression all follow an unconventional pace that helps make most developments compelling. Because this game takes a handful of hours to complete across one or two sittings, I’d rather not detail any more specific events to save some surprises. Just know that it uses its short runtime effectively as it communicates a broad range of conflicts that keeps players engaged.
Moreover, this is the kind of adventure you really have to take your time with to get the most out of since there are character-focused quest lines to chase and a variety of charming fluff text that breathes further life into the experience. I sometimes found myself lost on how to move forward, so a decent chunk of that text was stumbled upon naturally, which may be an intended part of the design. Although, if I had to nitpick, I do wish that a few character events were more transparent on how to activate since I felt as if I was walking in metaphorical circles. This isn’t a pressing fault since this could’ve just been my own lack of deduction, but I should add that this was only a problem with the optional material, not the required story.
Admittedly, another one of the issues I had for a little while before it was resolved was the navigation speed. Whether due to my impatience or not, Honeydew’s walking rate felt exceptionally slow. Thankfully, you do receive rollerblades near the start of the second Act, conveniently improving travel tenfold. I’m unsure why this feature was made available at this point instead of around the game’s start, but better late than never, I suppose.
Potentially the most noticeable facet of Melon Journey is its presentation, highly representing an original Game Boy release. I didn’t grow up in that platform’s launch era, so the nostalgia of it all is lost on me. Still, I’m sure some audiences will get a kick out of it. The character models and animations are all quite meticulous, especially for the main character. Plus, something about bunny ears on a chibi model is just pretty cute. And the soundtrack follows the original Game Boy era, too, enhancing that deliberately quaint vibe.
For a relatively low-stakes casual adventure with delightful dialogue, Melon Journey: Bittersweet Memories ticks all the right boxes. The way the cast, premise, and text coalesce creates an experience that’ll become a collectively sweet memory as you reflect on the over-the-top quests encountered throughout the journey. Issues with navigation and vagueness aside, you won’t regret spending a day with this witty game.
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