(Potential spoilers ahead? Maybe, be careful!)
So you see the problem with Steam is that once you’ve played a game of one genre, it will recommend you a bunch of similar games and then you end up spending the rest of your year playing visual novels and dating simulators. Although I am a big fan of both of those genres, so it’s not actually a problem but rather a wonderful way to discover great new titles. So thanks to playing Our Life: Beginnings & Always, Arcade Spirits and Monster Prom in quick succession, my discovery queue was filled with colourful anime guys, gals and non-binary pals and after a flick through, that’s where I discovered //TODO: Today. Not as lengthy of a title as the last game I wrote about, but still quite difficult to search for.
Developed by studio Boys Laugh +, //TODO: Today is a game about procrastination, anxiety and depression – which makes it sound quite heavy, but as you play through you soon realise that it’s more about moving through and overcoming obstacles. With the help of an experimental AI (quite a common theme in visual novels this year it seems) and a fun cast of friends, your player character works through those issues to kickstart their previously stagnant life. //TODO: Today is part slice-of-life visual novel, part dating simulator and a whole lot of fun.
You play as Teal who has recently dropped out of art school and works part time in a book store, a surprisingly relatable situation to a lot of young people, myself included. They have a love of art but struggle with motivating themselves to do much of anything, even working when they know their rent is due. Teal has two character models, masculine and feminine but their gender, pronouns and sexuality is chosen by the player. Some other customisation options, such as hair colours and styles or you know, different skin tones would have been nice, but they were heading in the right direction.
This can be said for the rest of the cast as well as other aspects of the game too – heading in the right direction but not quite there. The supporting characters lack diversity, with only one out of the six being a POC. I was however, grateful for the representation of a non-binary character that wasn’t just the player.
The story begins with Teal agreeing to take part in an experimental software test where they install a personal assistant AI on their laptop in exchange for rent money. While they see the AI, named Joyce, as intrusive and annoying in the beginning, as the story progresses they build a friendship that pushes Teal to become a better version of themselves. Their coworker fills the love interest role and their gender is dependent on what you choose as Teal’s sexuality when you start the game.
The dialogue between the characters seems natural and it’s nice to see the growth from awkward smalltalk in the beginning to meaningful conversations as the relationships build. That being said, at points there’s unnecessary dialogue that doesn’t really serve a purpose in progressing the story. For example, Teal and Phoenix may leave work together and the dialogue may go as such:
“Thanks for helping out at the till today.”
“No problems. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Yeah, have a nice night.”
“Thank you, you too.”
So much of the dialogue flows naturally that these moments feel jarring. We as players already understand that Phoenix and Teal are polite characters, the formalities aren’t necessarily required. It’s probably my own gripe with the game.
The art is absolutely stunning and the colour palette chosen is gorgeous, so much so that it makes me want to live in a brightly coloured world or work in a purple bookstore. The upbeat music fits the tone of the game well and I’m certain I’ll be humming Teal’s bedroom theme for months. Plus, I have a soft spot for the font they use for their text boxes (does it look familiar?).
For a game made by two(!) people, it’s incredibly polished and very fun. It’s not perfect but even the dialogue issues weren’t enough of a problem to pull me out of the experience. The story, while not the most groundbreaking, was very true to life, particularly for those of us who pursue creative avenues and I loved that about it.
//TODO: Today isn’t the longest game, I clocked about four hours before I made it to the end but it’s a super enjoyable experience that I recommend if you want something wholesome and cheerful to play. But best of all, it’s free! Totally free on Steam, can’t argue with that.