[dropcap size=big]D[/dropcap]eveloper InvertMouse is no stranger to the crowdfunding game. In 2014 they were able to raise funds for two visual novels via Kickstarter: Bermuda and Unhack:Destruction. Over time they’ve managed to gain a fan following which is why a campaign for Without Within launched in December. Positioned as a holiday gift to fans, InvertMouse was effectively giving away the game entirely free. If anyone wished to support their future development efforts (and receive past games as compensation) they could pledge or vote on Steam Greenlight. Folks responded in kind and Without Within was quickly Greenlit, and has since arrived on Steam. Just as during the campaign the title is completely free to play.
It starts a young woman named Vinty who loves calligraphy. Ever since she was a small child she adored creating her art and decided that would become her career. Unfortunately, things have not turned out as she always dreamed, with fans lining up and fainting just to see the artist in person. Instead, she must go out every day and attempt to sell her wares on the sidewalk while pedestrians ignore her – or worse – chastise her for even trying. It’s a challenging lifestyle to be sure, and even when she goes to her “real” job those funds barely manage to pay the rent!
With all this weighing on Vinty’s shoulders she questions whether that original spark of passion she had for calligraphy still exists. As you play through Without Within there are multiple choices presented. Depending on which you choose the player pushes her down either a positive path or toward a multitude of bad ends. In fact, there are a ton of bad ends as opposed to one “good” ending, although whether it is actually good or not depends on your outlook. In any case, if you play as a realistic person when making each choice it’s entirely possible to get the best ending on a first playthrough. For whatever reason, it took me rummaging through every single choice to finally end the parade of bad ends.
Without Within is a very short visual novel, though. If you have played some before then you might assume a short length is about 1 or 2 hours. Actually, Without Within took me only 20 minutes to fully complete. This is not the shortest, but certainly one of the shortest games I’ve played of any sort. Of course, one can’t start complaining about price because this game costs nothing to download and play. Despite being so brief I still enjoyed my time with it. Vinty is an interesting character and it was nice to see a snapshot of her life. Beyond that, the art is quite cute and there are more ‘screens’ than you might expect.
InvertMouse has been listening to players and has actually announced a continuation of Vinty’s storyline because of what folks have said about gameplay length. It has not been decided whether it will be released as DLC or a second standalone game, but this is great news for folks who wanted more from Without Within! In the meantime, for those who wish to support this visual novel they can buy the Extra Edition for $2 which includes the soundtrack, artbook, and three cards (all digital of course). Without Within is a neat little look at artists losing/regaining passion for their craft and is great for a quick burst of visual novel storytelling.