STAFF REVIEW of Melon Journey: Bittersweet Memories (Xbox One)

Friday, May 5, 2023.
by Adam Dileva

Melon Journey: Bittersweet Memories Box art The original Melon Journey released over a decade ago, made simply with RPG Maker and launched the careers of developers Froach Club. While I never played the original, the charming pixelated trailer for this new entry was more than enough to hook me to give it a go. Melon Journey: Bittersweet Memories is the latest adventure for familiar faces with a weird yet delightful plotline, filled with unique and memorable characters. While it may look like a quirky adventure game from its screenshots and trailers, it plays much more like an interactive visual novel.

You are Honeydew, a diligent worker at the Eglantine Industries melon factory that gets up for work like any other day, only to find her best friend Cantaloupe is missing. It’s not like Cantaloupe to skip work and of course she worried about her best friend, so she sets off to find out where he might have went. Determined for the truth, she travels to the nearby town of Hog Town to ask around, only to be swept up in a spiraling mystery that will go deeper than you imagined.

Working at a melon factory, it becomes abundantly clear that there’s something off about the melons your company is using. They make a popular drink, now working on their latest 2.0 version, but why are melons illegal over in the neighboring Hog Town? If the police see you with melons, you’ll be thrown in jail, as they are illegal as any other drugs.

Hog Town is full of a number of interesting characters, and there’s even a mayoral election happening soon, with the front runner vowing to unban melons if elected. There’s a local gang, a Cheese Cult and other quirky characters you’ll meet along the way to find the truth of what happened to Cantaloupe. The majority of your objectives are simply fetch quests, going from person to person to find out what happened or gathering items from them, but the main story slowly plays out over the course of 4-5 hours.

You won’t be able to do this alone, so you’ll make some friends along the way to help you in your journey. Each character is written well and the overall narrative has a humorous tone. Characters have backstories and you want to know more about them, completing their quests simply to find out more. The writing is clever, has a good amount of puns, and never really takes itself seriously. It was hard not to smile throughout Honeydew’s journey to find her friend.

First and foremost, you might think that Melon Journey: Bittersweet Memories was an original Game Boy game simply from its visuals, as it shares the same greenscale monochrome display and doesn’t even stretch out to the edges of the TV, but that was the style is was going for, much like the original game. Played in a top-down view like classic Pokemon, you’ll be exploring and talking to people to find out where you friend is and why melons are considered illegal.

Even though Bittersweet Memories is more akin to a visual novel than a ‘game’ at times, you still can explore the town, talk to people and even choose to fulfil sidequests for certain characters. I’ll admit, I thought it was initially very linear, but after having the credits roll and not completing about half of the side quests, it warrants another playthrough to see everything.

The walking speed is excruciatingly slow in the beginning but you’ll eventually get a pair of roller-skates to wear to help with this. There’s a lot of back and forth to talk to people, so this will help greatly once you lace them up. Hog Town isn’t large, but there’s a lot of talking to one person at one end, then another at the other end, so it feels larger than it actually is.

Not only do you want to talk to everyone you see more than once, but try interacting with objects as well. The humor throughout will surely get a chuckle out of you here and there, like when a dog was admiring a wonderful statue, only to be inspected and understand it’s a regular fire hydrant.

There’s no minigames, combat, puzzles or anything else really aside from figuring out who to talk to, which is why I feel it’s more like a visual novel more than anything else. Your time is spent walking around and interacting with NPC’s and objects until you find the right person and then have to go to the next. It may sound boring, but the 5 hours to complete flew by with how light hearted it was.

I wasn’t sure about my initial thoughts about the green tinted monochrome color palette, but the pixels had just enough detail to know what was being conveyed and what it was supposed to be. Looking as if it was an original Game Boy game surely brought back some nostalgia as I played through. The soundtrack is just as charming and wonderful as the story and adventure, with some jazz vibes and a few really catchy tunes. There’s some awkward transitions between scenes at times as the music changes abruptly, but nothing that was too distracting.

Full of subtle humor, I might not have laughed out loud but I surely chuckled a few times at the puns or situations, the ghost hamster being my favorite character of the bunch. While it’s a short adventure, it’s a memorable one. The world and characters are endearing and even though I’m usually not too interested in visual novels, Melon Journey: Bittersweet Memories is charming and endearing, feeling like one in a melon.

**Melon Journey: Bittersweet Memories was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

Overall: 7.2 / 10
Gameplay: 7.0 / 10
Visuals: 7.0 / 10
Sound: 7.5 / 10


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