Lily’s Night Off Review
Platforms: PC(Reviewed), Mac, Linux, Android
Lily’s Night Off is an unconventional visual novel that follows an intrepid unnamed protagonist as they wake up on the street one night to find themselves sitting on famed idol Lilypad Lily. From their very first interaction with Lily, the story proceeds to branch, expand, and develop in a variety of unique ways. With personalities, character relationships, and the general tone of the game all shifting widely and rapidly based on what option the player selects. One playthrough can be a typical love story about two people who meet and start dating after a while, which can be spun off into a story about the protagonist becoming a murderous stalker hellbent on protecting Lily from all other humans, while another can involve Lily and the protagonist pairing up to become a group of bank robbers.
If this sounds at all familiar, it’s because this title is an indirect successor to Lily’s Day Off. A quirky little visual novel with the same basic premise, but a different execution, to the point where both feel like definitively different games. Changes include the introduction of two other members of the Lilypad idol group, Vicky and Nym, whose personalities go to spice up the sprawling potential storylines, and a concerted effort by the developer to out-do the predecessor with regards to… just about everything.
One area this can obviously be seen is with the writing and general storytelling, which manages to be even more bizarre, silly, dark, and overall entertaining than what came before it, being a concise yet polished comedic affair that has enough surprises to keep players on their toes. All while keeping each route under 10 minutes long, resulting in each storyline being positively filled with quality and laughs, amounting to a roughly 100 minute long package of densely packed Americanized anime-style shenanigans.
This quality is further demonstrated with the presentation, as Lily’s Night Off builds upon the fairly spartan and somewhat limited presentational qualities of the first game. Graduating from filtered stock backdrops and a single character and a simple yet cutesy UI into one of the most lavish presentations I have seen for a visual novel. The entire game looks like an arts and crafts project come to life from its papercraft backdrops with a sense of depth to them, a stylish bulletin-board-styled text box affixed with bits of crinkly paper and a tack to hold a keychain representing the speaker, to background elements that look they were drawn by a child using markers. All while sporting a small cast of adorable and expressive characters and a series of detailed CGs from a variety of talented artists that further reflect the tonal fluidity of this game.
There are plenty of more minor things I could highlight as well, such as the drawn photos used to accentuate things in certain routes, the VHS-esque blur that happens when skipping through the game, which is used frequently due to the lack of a save system, the casual bobbing of the camera, and the introduction of keyboard controls after they were weirdly absent from the last game. In addition to the soundtrack graduating from royalty free Kevin Macleod to something far more unique and memorable.
Lily’s Night Off is a title that caught me generally off guard, as it is rare to see an increase in quality this exponential within a single sequel and in such a short development cycle. Yet the game manages to outdo and outshine what came before it, fix just about every minute grievance I had with the original, and deliver a densely packed collection of humorous and diverse scenarios, all capped with a positively stellar presentation.