Forgive me if I start to plagiarise myself on this one. Pesterquest is the sequel to Hiveswap Friendsim. As such, it’s a visual novel set in the Homestuck universe which, I’ll be honest, I’ve not dug much into. The same themes apply with an alien on a quest for friendship but this time there’s a time travel twist. What Pumpkin Games remain at the controls but there’s more darker themes to explore which at least helps distinguish itself from the cheerier predecessor.
The plot picks up exactly where Hiveswap Friendsim left off. Dissatisfied with the game’s last conclusion, our alien protagonist is launched back into a mission for something better. That ultimately means being on the lookout for more beings to befriend. Rather than exclusively dealing with trolls, Pesterquest opens with a few chapters involving human children. It’s a group already familiar with each other and you slot in, albeit neatly into the group.
It’s in these opening exchanges that Pesterquest aims for more adult themes and warnings are viewable in the menus. Anyone easily triggered by discussion of alcoholism, domestic violence or animal abuse should be especially aware. The game is structured in volumes with a couple that give off a false illusion of a branching narrative. I mean, they do branch but only in terms of success of failure. There are a couple of rare instances of interaction beyond text. I would’ve liked that to have been explored more. As it is, it provides a minor novelty.
Volumes remain on the short side, allowing for bite-sized sessions. They only concern one friend and, in that respect, Pesterquest feels like a shorter experience. Each volume involves two or three decision points, usually with binary choices to make. The object of each chapter is to befriend the person in question and failure results in an abrupt end. Friendships themselves are largely tied up neatly. It’s not very realistic and is very mechanic in execution. Some choices present a fairly obvious choice and makes progression pretty simple.
The personalities can feel pretty varied, although they all seem to be aimed at a young adult crowd. That’s a little tricky considering the human kids are all thirteen years of age. Thankfully, there’s not any sexual content involving those characters. When it comes to the older trolls, there’s definite flirtations and innuendo.
The writing remains cheeky and it does lay it on thick with the humour. I did grow tired of it but it’s pleasant and inoffensive in small doses. There is a lot of swearing, too much for my comfort. Maybe I’m out of touch with teens and how they swear but this seems overdone for the sake of it. Another hurdle is when some trolls venture into l33t speak. That can be difficult to read and, as such, those chapters don’t flow as well.
The visuals remain charming. There’s a cohesive look to the portraits and backgrounds. They seem varied with very little repetition. It does help make the world seem bigger than it is and the cast can cement their personality in the settings they live in. Some of the art can be childish but it helps establish a more relaxed, upbeat tone.
The soundtrack is really enjoyable. It’s light-hearted and combines well with the tone of the writing. There is very little peril to it and I felt it provided great accompaniment to the experience. I do feel it’s Pesterquest‘s strongest aspect and the score is very catchy. As with the predecessor, there’s a nice victory fanfare that plays when friendship is achieved.
Pesterquest feels like a fine enough continuation of the series. It’s shorter than Hiveswap Friendsim but the time travel does add an extra layer to the experience. The soundtrack remains stellar and the whole vibe seems very relaxed. There is a trend more towards the adult. Swearing feels prominent as well as some darker situations. With some of the younger characters, that could’ve been risky but I feel it works out well enough. It doesn’t really raise the bar of the genre but it’s a decent entry.
+ Great soundtrack.
+ A varied cast of friends to pursue.
+ Mostly twee and easy going in tone.
- The more illiterate trollspeak can be hard to decipher.
- Conveniently wrapped up friendships.
- A fairly rigid narrative with binary decision points.