You’ll find none of those things in the one-horse town of Cow Stone Bell, as Jo will be the first to tell you. Raised by her slob of an uncle on the far edge of the Wild West, she suffers from endless boredom and longs for the action and excitement on display in the “dime novels” she spends so much time reading.
But after a letter arrives from the President addressed to her no-good and nowhere to be found father, fate conspires to give her exactly what she wished for—wrapped up in a journey that will take her further from home than she ever expected. Unfortunately, Jo is about to learn that a life of adventure may not be all it’s cracked up to be.
★ ☆ ✰ Rating: 8.5/10
Though it took me awhile, I have finally completed Dead End Junction. This game is a pure visual novel and calls itself a “digital dime novel”, which means that there are no choices given to the reader to choose from — they are simply reading through Josette’s story. While, it took some time to get used to, Josette has a great adventure in the process of finding her parents with a lot of funny and sad moments, as she makes new friends and and grows out of her past expectations of what the world is like outside of Cow Stone Bell. However, it should first be said that this visual novel has some really lovely art in terms of both character designs, background art, and the occasional CG. All the characters look different from each other and relate back to the work that they do, while having a throwback to the environment –like the Wild West– that they live in. At the same time, the character designs do a good job in showing the differences between species in terms of both clothing and anatomy. The environmental background also does a good job in showing the differences in greenery and desert landscape as Josette moves into a completely different world.
The story is split into four chapters that immediately follow each other in terms of the narrative. In the first section, the reader is introduced to Josette who resides in Cow Stone Bell with her uncle, having never been raised with a mother or a father. A letter addressed to her father sparks her journey to the capital she has so longed to see and she meets all sorts of new people, as she comes to the realization that she needs to help save her world from the God of Death — Akasha. Josette and co. struggle to make it to the “edge of the world” as they comes to learn more about the current state of their world and the obvious need to protect its new caretaker. Though they struggle, all of them are able to find what they are searching for and move forward to find a way to protect their world — though that it is a story for another time.
The writing of the story does a good job in explaining what is going, but without giving too much information at one point. It keeps feeding the reader information here and there to keep them invested in the game and allowing them to make their own conclusions as they move along. There are some really good character dynamics, as there are some relationships that start of on the “wrong foot”, such as with Jo and Inaho, but they slowly become friends and depend on each other. The connections between others are also done well because as they meet new people and say goodbye to older friends, they are aware that they are still friends just waiting to meet once more with new stories to be told at a later point. Although they are small, everyone has interactions with each other and seem to care about one another through the course of the story.
The writing also does a good job in world-building and explaining what has been going on outside of Josette’s world and how it is connected to all the others, though with its own set of problems. The cast, though primarily female, is diverse and shows how different the world can depending on one’s perspective, as well as their own motivations to keep the world going and fighting against Akasha. At the same time, the story is really centered around family since that need of Jo to find her parents pulls the story forward, but her new makeshift family come together to save their world, despite all their differences. The split into 4 parts might make the story seem a little longer than usual, but it does a good job in not overwhelming the reader with too much information by going from one location to the other since each section takes place in a certain area of the world. While, Josette is the main character, there are times were others’ stories take the spotlight and she works well as a supporting character since she just wants the best for her friends, though she does have a penchant of teasing Bizkit a lot. However, the one thing that bothered me was how quickly the fighting against Mad Dog was resolved and what she does in order to help Josette, which seemed sort of out-of-character for her compared to everything she had done up to that point and her own reasoning.
The theme seems to be centered around not giving up on your dreams because even though the journey might be perilous, you’ll get there eventually. Josette has a dream of meeting her father and mother one day and though she get dragged into a lot of situations along the way, but she eventually gets to meet both of them! If you’re interested in trying a “digital dime novel” with a interesting story and interesting set of characters, consider giving Dead End Junction a try!