Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc is pretty much a point and click adventure game with a murder mystery trial twist. Fans of these types of games may call it an Interactive Mystery Novel or Adventure game in the vein of Zero Escape but with a Phoenix Wright gameplay twist. The game centers around you, an ordinary high school kid who got invited to an extraordinary school for the best of the best. There is a variety of titles for these fellow classmates like the ‘Ultimate Programmer’ or the’ Ultimate Fan Fiction Writer’.
Danganronpa is a Murder Mystery like Clue but everyone is working together to figure out who killed each victim in multiple trials and you are the driving force of the trials. You present collected evidence and logic to refute lies and misunderstandings to bring out the truth. What I really liked about Danganronpa, it is not a normal mystery game where you have to figure out every little detail and then present the whole truth to win. Most of the time you have a bunch of evidence and you are going into to trial not knowing how everything fits together and this makes it engaging throughout each trial.
That same aspect also makes it easier and less tedious, I tried to play Zero Escape and Phoenix Wright and got stumped early in each game and never picked them back up. However, Danganronpa is a great value, it took me over 40 hours to complete with very little repetition or boring gameplay.
The dialog is funny, quirky with little innuendos from time to time. The characters are setup well and they stay true to themselves. I was also very impressed with the variety of unique graphical styles used and the music matches the ever-changing mood from brooding to zany. Danganronpa’s setting, plot and characters keeps you engaged and wanting more and each trial is unique with tons of twists and turns.
The overall mystery of why this is happening and who is pulling the strings is also looming over you. The game also has multiple systems, rules and in-menu data to keep you moving and informed throughout the game. It is a great mixture of helpful and challenging with gameplay difficulty settings to customize how you want to play the game.
The story is mainly conveyed through on screen text with the characters acting out what they are saying with one line emotional statements, like mad or ecstatic. When I hear “interactive novel” I think there is going to be pages of text in it like reading letters in Skyrim, but this system is more active and integrated into the story. It is still a lot of reading with small amounts of voice acting throughout to develop characters and unveil the story. You spend most of your time either conversing with classmates or investigating a murder after they happen. This made for a great change of pace between playing Destiny and Rogue Legacy.
After you have found all of the evidence and spoken to all of the key classmates, the high speed trial automatically begins. The trial has you do simple tasks to show you know what evidence and logic proves what, like shooting truth statement and text that is untrue. This is a nice way to make sure you understand what happened instead of just telling you the answer. Everything was intuitive with only a few instances of frustration and I am not a great puzzle game sage. Another part of this game is the relationship sim, not unlike the down times in Persona 4 or your many conversations with your crew in Mass Effect. You only get a limited amount of times to “spend time” with individual characters in order to get to know them more. Sometimes they can get killed before you learn everything about them. That is a big possibility considering only your fellow students get murdered throughout the game.
All of the characters and items are all 2-D in a 3-D setting and navigation is done from the first person perspective with free movement when traveling the halls. When you enter a room there is a set perspective with horizontal camera controls to better see all parts of the room. At points throughout the game they introduce CG scenes, comic book style re-enactments of the murders and other fun variations of their primary art style. Danganronpa rules, systems and data are all about keeping you moving through the story. While investigating they have a button to indicate all people and items in each room to prevent the game from turning into ‘Where’s Waldo’ for evidence.
Another helpful decision the developers made was to not let you leave a room before you have viewed all the evidence and spoken to the right people. I am the first person to overlook something in an adventure game and have to backtrack through every area before moving on.
If you would like to experience a story of mystery, murder and friendship then Danganronpa is a great experience that is unlike anything I have played and I cannot wait to start the sequel.