Review: First Bite
By: L. Sahara McGirt (DarthSagaSwag)
Developer: First Bite Games
Available on: PC (Itch.io)
It's not every day that we cover visual novels here on Stack Up dot org, but it's also not every day that I find myself intrigued enough by them to play very many of them. Surprisingly, though I am an avid reader and have a Creative Writing degree, I don't always have the patience to play through VNs. However, I was interested in First Bite from the moment I heard of it. Mostly because it is not every day that a new visual novel with vampires comes out.
And I do like vampires. Not the Twilight kind (nothing against anyone who favors the Twilight kind) but the Dracula/Carmilla/Underworld kind. Which is where First Bite is adjacent to in the spectrum of vampire stories.
First Bite has players put themselves into the shoes of an oddly specifically relatable character, at least to myself. As someone who wrote fanfiction in the past, there are moments when I feel a little called out for what I *once* enjoyed writing. I will freely admit to writing fanfics with vampire, werewolf, and witchy characters. I had to get my passion for writing started somewhere.
Players don't design or see their protagonist. They choose a name and a pronoun and go. While normally, I like playing around with a character of my design, the focus of First Bite is much less on the player's character and more on the trio of vampires they stumble upon in the house at the end of Dead End Drive.
The vampires themselves are of 3 seemingly very different personas. Ilyas is a big muscle-head who is the more beastly of the vampires, Valeria is hard-to-impress but loves to talk about herself, and Laurel seems generally interested in causing mischief, whether that's for his friends or the world, he appears to be indiscriminate on who he'll play games with. All three are vain and very into themselves, but I guess if an immortal has to live with themselves for several centuries while the people they know die around them, there would be a point where they have to get comfortable with who they are.
What Valeria, Ilyas, and Laurel all have most in common is that they do like to kill. And the point of First Bite? Is to try to survive this throuple of vampires who are willing to kill the protagonist and drain them dry at any given time. Whether or not they get to die by all 3 or 1 and when is up to your choices.
What's fun about First Bite is that the game itself has a Death Tally located in the gallery, which keeps track of how many 'dead-ends' players meet. With 26 possible dead-ends in this game, First Bite is the game that will make players want to pursue death over and over again. The Death Tally is unique in not only that it wants players to pursue each potential dead-end, but it also encourages them to see what the other 'good' endings could be.
First Bite is the game that will make you want to pursue death, over and over again.
The above screenshot is from my first day of playthroughs, and while I have more on my Death Tally now, I know I will be looking to get in all 26 of those deaths at some point to explore where all the options lead and complete this tally. It's like getting achievements for dying.
First Bite makes it a little easier to pursue dead-ends with a save system with plenty, and I mean plenty of slots to fill up. I almost wish the developers made it a little more punishing by forcing players to go back from a checkpoint, but then, people would probably get frustrated with that quickly, and rage quit. It does add a layer of convenience for First Bite to have so many save slots.
Aesthetically, First Bite is nice to look at. The visuals use a color pallette quite typical of vampire stories. Reds and blacks, and darks work to set the mood of the visual novel. There are collectible scenes for players to find that show almost oil-painted visuals of the vampires, and these painted images are added to the gallery when they're encountered. Which adds yet another reason to pursue other branches within the narrative.
Sound-wise, the game's track works to set the tone of a scene. It's nothing flashy, but the soundtrack works for a vampire visual novel.
While the characters' expressions didn't have a wide range of emotion, the voice-acting did the heavy-lifting to convey how characters were feeling. I almost wish there was more focus on variance in the visual scenes, but this is a visual *novel* and there is a lot of reading to do in a game like First Bite.
"A very stupid deadly game." is a quote within First Bite that is almost accurate, except that First Bite has done the smart thing and made players want to pursue death. I almost wish the game and story were longer and more robust, but for what it offers in replayability. I really appreciate the Death Tally, and I hope to see more features like that in games across all genres.
Thanks to First Bite Games for providing the code to review First Bite.