Developer/Publisher: Cheritz Corporation
Platform(s): Android, iOS
Price: Free, with IAP
Discovery: Suggested app in Google Playstore
Playtime: Approx. 6 hours
From the company that brought you Dandalion – Wishes Brought to You – and Nameless ~ The one thing you must recall ~, comes Cheritz’s third title and first mobile game, Mystic Messenger. MM breaks away from the usual otome dating-game style in that the story is experienced via chatrooms, texting, emails, and even phone calls!
Quite frankly, I downloaded the game because it was free and only took a quick look at the screenshots, haha. But once I realized who developed it, my bar was set a liittleee higher. And boy did they deliver, with this following intro:
The premise of the game lies in the fact that you, led to an apartment by a mysterious “Unknown,” have suddenly become involved with a group of people all belonging to the RFA, otherwise known as Rika’s Fundraising Association. The RFA members would use their various positions and contacts to bring people and host a large, extravagant party meant to fundraise money in order to donate it for good causes. At the center of it all was Rika, who has now passed away – and you are expected to take her place. Each of the remaining members – “V,” “Jaehee,” “Jumin,” “Zen,” “Yoosung,” and “707” – have yet to recover from the gap that Rika has left. Will you be able to live up to her reputation?
First thing, I like how for my portrait I can chose from some okay photos of women…OR A PONY. Of course I chose the Pony. (You can actually upload a real photo if you’d like, as well.)
Warning: this game is pretty large – and for good reason, but you will download it all in chunks as you progress.
Now let’s take a look at all the “candidates” you’ll be interacting with:
Jumin’s assistant, who, more often than not, is relegated to taking care of Elizabeth and cleaning up after Jumin when he’s off with his crazy cat ideas. Yes, she’s actually date-able! Thing is, Jaehee…really, really admires Zen with the passion of a
rabid loving fan girl. Any hint of you getting close to Zen often catches her attention, and she makes it clear not to get close to him romantically. However, if you insist on only, uh, “admiring” Zen from afar, all is welcome. +__+ I guess Jaehee doesn’t actually like Zen romantically, but is one of those “he’s for everyone” fans, haha. The best thing about Jaehee is that she’s very earnest and hard-working, and will appreciate it if you notice her efforts and stand up for her when Jumin’s being a meany. Her color is a mustard yellow.
The youngest, and quite possibly most average out of everyone in the group. Yoosung is a university student who’s known for joining a ton of (weird) clubs and playing a lot of games, specifically “League of Loneliness of Losers,” aka LOLOL. Yes, you will see a lot of other references throughout MM, which makes it amazing. Anyway, another defining feature is that Yoosung is quite naive, and one of my favorite moments in the game is when you team up with 707 and trick him into believing that he has a terrible coffee-related disease, lol. He really wants a girlfriend (well all the people kind of do), but don’t point out his singleness too much or it’ll break his heart. (Warning: his most used emote is that crying face…) Yoosung’s color is highlighter green. Oh yeah, he is also Rika’s cousin, so a blood relative. He does not trust V due to the actions he made after Rika’s passing, and was quite possibly the hardest hit from her death, after V. They say he used to be incredibly studious and was even offered a position at Jumin’s company after graduating, but as since lost motivation.
And up-and-coming actor/model who quite good-looking and knows damn well that he is. Really, just feed into his narcissism and he will love you in no time, lol. Like Jumin, he’s pretty busy, and is always off doing gigs and looking oh-so-hot while doing so… Every now and then you’ll hear Zen sorta mope how he can’t have a GF despite being so handsome due to being famous or something, blah blah, scandal, you know the drill. To be honest, he’s my least favorite of the bunch just because there’s not character to him, at least based on the common route. Well, at least he’s……he’s definitely hot. His color is silver.
Note: Jumin and 707 can only be dated in Deep Mode, which costs 80 hourglass.
The lovely chaebol/Mr. Moneybags/idkwhatfriedchickenis who has a “gap moe” in that he is obsessed with cats, specifically of his beloved Elizabeth 3rd. In fact, half of his gallery is actually pictures of her, lol. So, to win his heart, just keep talking about cats. :> Jumin’s a pretty busy guy, actually, and always off working, especially on business trips. Personality-wise, he’s very matter-of-fact and business-oriented to the point that it’s pretty funny, but seems to have a not-so-obvious interest in internet slang and pop culture. Jumin actually has a desire to try to be funny and make others laugh – he admits it’s the only thing he lacks as an otherwise perfect being, lol. His color is lavender.
Whose real name is actually Luciel (!!). He is the hacker of the bunch, and was the one who designed the app that everyone uses to communicate. Despite his age and demeanor, 707 is incredible at what he does and is often working on top secret, classified jobs that probably require hacking country databases or something, lol. He’s a huge jokester and will often play pranks and tease other members, especially Yoosung. But behind all the laughs is someone who must handle very important and sensitive information, which can often take a toll. 707’s color is red. (I actually dislike his voice acting as it doesn’t seem to match his character.)
There is also V, who is not dateable (as far as I’m aware of..) but plays a pretty big role. He was engaged to Rika, and is probably the most affected out of everyone from her death. V rarely appears but is the one handling the logistics of the party and bringing it together. He is childhood friends with Jumin and actually came from a wealthy upbringing. V is highly regarded for his photography skills, and auctioning off his photos at the parties often drew in a lot money.
TIP #1 – SAVE EARLY, SAVE OFTEN. (as if you haven’t learned by now….)
For actual gameplay, it’s pretty simple. Talk to the RFA members. Chats occur throughout the day in real time, and if you miss any, then you can pay 5 hourglass (the premium currency of the game) to revisit the chat and make dialogue choices. I initially thought there was a time limit to read a chat, but it turns out so long it’s the latest one available, you don’t have to pay hourglass. So if you “miss out” by having a newer one appear. Otherwise, you can read the messages but it will be as if you were not there, and that means missing out on heart points.
One thing I realized is that while you have to visit each “story” as its own instance, they are actually meant to all be in one chatroom – so technically everyone is supposed to be able to scroll up and read everything, I guess.
Anyway, the choices you make in the chatroom, texts, and phone calls will determine how close you are with everyone and eventually, the type of ending you get. A good choice with someone will have a little heart of their color. Really good = giant fluttering heart. Really bad = giant, broken heart. A lot of times your choice will affect either one person or the other, so choose wisely. (Jumin smirk emote.) Every now and then you will also get hourglass. The number of good/really good choices will accumulate into what I call heart points…and practically serve no purpose as the game makes no effort to tell you what they do or how many you need. Lol. Just keep it high, I guess.
Completing a chat will open up both text messages (where members will reach out to you one-on-one), phone calls (hnnnggg voice acting), and eventually emails. Remember, as the MC your main role is to bring on as many quality guests as possible to the party. Your main contact with them will be through emails, just make sure to select the right choices. (Consider who they are and what they are into. General trivia knowledge goes a long way here.)
TIP #2 – If at any time a member mentions a group they’ve associated with, ask to INVITE THEM. ALL OF THEM. EVEN THE BIG FOOT TOEIC CLUB OR WHATEVER. Don’t worry about the thought of university students hanging out with oil princes and fujoshi ladies; the more the better – trust Lyn. 😀 At the end of the 11 days, you will get a rating based on how many guests you were able to convince (strangely, even the ones I failed appeared as well) and I believe the ending slightly depends on your rating. The first time around I got 18 guests and an A rating. The only reason I would not offer to invite a guest is because at times you may earn a heart point for a character that doesn’t like said group – but really, it’s minor since you’ll be drowning in hearts anyway.
This is a Dating Game, Right?
The dating part starts by Day 4. Note you will not be able to choose the route you go on. It’s whoever you have the most heart points with and it’s kind of hard to keep track as there’s really no indication beforehand.
As of writing this, I’ve only cleared one route. Naturally, I got Yoosung first because you actually have to try not to get him. His route basically starts out as the two of you getting closer. The initial conflict comes from the fact that Yoosung still deeply misses Rika, and for a while even mistakens, or at least sees you as practically Rika/her replacement. Ouch. Anyway, try your best to support Yoosung and convince him otherwise, and he will eventually learn his mistake and resolve to become a better person. Yoosung used to be very smart and studious in high school, but things fell apart after Rika so all he did was barely pass his classes in uni and play games all day. However, he since found motivation to try again and prove to you that he is a man worth dating. :^)
The two of you actually become a couple around day 6… and it is sooOooOoo sappy. Yoosung is such a puppy and your relationship with him is filled with very, very sweet dialogue. But before the party is about to launch, problems arise that threaten its success and even the RFA and the safety its members. This is Yoosung’s chance to be a man…! (I’m trying to avoid major spoilers here.) Anyway, I ended up getting the good end (which, again, you’d have to try not to get). The epilogue (which costs 20 hourglass) takes place a few years after and is super adorable ~
After you clear the game for the first time, you are treated to the closing credits and then are able to unlock the “After” and “Extras” modes. After mode pretty much allows you to buy and view the Epilogue of your route, plus a nice session of thoughts from the voice actor. Extra is where you pretty much unlock everything from your route, including texts, calls (even if you missed them) and chats. Note, for the chats, you can only view what you actually participated in. So if you were there, you can view it again. If you missed it, you can only view the “absent” version, and if you paid hourglass, you can view both.
TIP #3 – Another thing of importance is the guest list under Extra mode. From it you are able to see their “story,” which is a quick cutscene with a observation of the guest from an RFA member’s point of view, and you will get a free hourglass for the first time you check.
How This Game Makes Money
Okay so like, I was blown away by how much content this game offered for free. I knew that hourglass was the premium currency but didn’t find much reason to use it other than to revisit convos I missed. It turns out that there are two “modes” to this game. Jumin and 707 aren’t actually dateable in the first one, and you have to unlock “Deep Mode.” Wao, I really wanted to date Jumin lol. It costs 100 hourglass, so save up!
Epilogue also costs 20 hourglass, and there’s the unlimited calling cards which you can by per member or for everyone – though I really don’t see a reason since you can just revisit without restriction after you clear the route through Extra mode.
(Note, the game was going through so many updates and so much instability that I was gifted 200 hourglass and then some during my first playthrough, lol.)
I also found out that the company offered (offers?) a special “VIP Package” that for a whopping $79 comes with a TON of stuff – yes, including physical items. So it’s like a collector’s edition, and more info can be found here. They didn’t really do a good job advertising this, though, and I have no idea if you can still purchase it.
+ Dialogue. This typically make or breaks a visual novel type game, but with MM even more so as it’s done mainly through chatrooms. And boy does it deliver. It’s amazing just how genuine, fun and refreshing these conversations are and it’s what really makes this game shine. I’m not sure how Westernized the original game in Korean was, but mad props to localization. At times it can get very meta, lol.
+ Art. *cough*
+ Stands out from a lot of other dating games. Seriously. All dating games should take a look at this model, of you know, not cock-blocking me every time I progress in the story. There isn’t BS party/cooking/whatever points I need to rack up, and really I never cared much for dressing up my character. There aren’t any checkpoints or “PAY FOR AN EXCLUSIVE, STEAMY SCENE” either. However, I can only imagine how profitable MM actually is as it really lacks a clear reason for me to spend money other than to just support Cheritz and how awesome they are.
– Clunky UI. I’m not sure how to exactly put this into words, but the general UX navigating through the menus is pretty bad. There’s a lot of delay/lag switching from one menu to another, and at times it will glitch and show me the previous menu when I’m trying to go to a new one. The biggest example I can give is if I’m checking the text messages and want to go to a new chatroom that opened. Often it will glitch back to text messages. I also don’t like how I have to go through so many menus and close a ton of windows in general. Also, please make the options in the settings bigger. They are very small in font size so I’m scared of pushing “Start Over” when it’s so close to “Mode select.” (Yes, I know there’s confirmation, but still.)
– Inconsistencies in story and minor things that break the immersion. I got a phone call from either Zen or Yoosung saying how he couldn’t wait to hear my voice when…we’re having a phone call..? Lol. Minor thing. There are some things that also contribute to breaking the immersion but not something I can recall from the top of my head. Sometimes there is a big delay from one chat message to the next and I’m pretty sure it’s in that moment the game is trying to load the next set of messages lol. There are also times when the characters instantly reply when in reality it would make no sense.
But the biggest issue nagging me… I’m not sure if it’s explained in the game but everyone treats me as if I’m forever stuck in Rika’s apartment. Like the RFA members can’t ever meet me because “we’re barred from entering Rika’s apartment” when you know, there’s OUTSIDE. And how creepy is it to just start living in a dead person’s apartment. And what about my family/friends beforehand? (Endless ranting~)
– Constant updates. I have to update this game at least once a week. Hold your horses! However, things have smoothed out since I first played the game so it’s not so bad atm.
– Rika. Totally personal preference but seriously. I know she played a big role in all y’alls lives but hearing Rika this, Rika that, really takes a toll at some point. Holy crap it’s even called Rika’s Fundraising Association. Hopefully with the Deep Route I’ll get some more closure on what actually happened…but I can’t help but have this nagging feeling that Rika was actually a pretty manipulative person, seeing what she did to V and all that (shrugs).
• Exit from choices. Sometimes I get thrown into making a choice before I even have time to process the information beforehand, so I’m just like huhwut but can’t exit….so that leads to me making bad ones. lmao. Most visual novels have a history option but I can’t seem to access that, not even for the chatrooms.
• Loading screen background is not centered. Uh, super minor. But I notice every time I see it.
• Spelling. Yes, I know this game has a lot of lines. Thousands. Tens of thousands (?). But toward the end of the route I started seeing a typo pretty much every third convo. 😥 And I’m not talking about the times the members actually make typos in the story. (Which is pretty funny, btw.) UPDATE: Having started Jumin’s route, the typos pretty much increased ten-fold and they are everywhere.
*STANDING OVATION* This game…THIS GAME. Is beautiful. Okay, I’ve seen better stories out there but what makes it incredible is that MM really sets a new standard for how mobile dating games should be. As much as I’m “okay” with some of those party-style apps out there, I really do hope more come to the market using a similar model as to what MM has done.
What really makes this game shine, as I’ve pointed out already, is the banter and comradery expressed through the chatrooms that really emulate how real ones are. It shows a painstaking amount of attention to detail to time emotes, select certain text styles, etc. And the writing is just excellent. I have to remind myself at times at this is all just pre-programmed and not actual conversations.
• Gameplay – 6/10 Like with most dating games, there’s hardly any. I rate this based on the dialogue choices and the difficulty, so to speak, in convincing guests. The choices can be hit-or-miss, though fairly easy (and funny at times). Apart from enjoying the story you actually have to recruit guests. Whether or not a guest will reach out to you completely depends if you were there when an RFA member brings it up in a conversation – I guess if you want to recruit ’em all, that’s how they pressure you for premium currency? lol. Once you’re in contact, the email responses are a matter of how much various trivia you know relating to their interests…or how much of their type of weird you are, hah.
• Story/Concept – 8/10 Chatrooms. Text messages. Emails. PHONE CALLS ♥. Very engaging and with plenty of pop culture references. Overall pretty fun. Actual story is a bit overdramatic/absurd for my taste, but I’ll happily go along.
• Graphics/Art – 7/10 I don’t know why but the UI really bothers me. It seems like it can be done…better. A lot better. But dem 2d art doe….
• Audio/Sound/BGM – 10/10 Any game with a cool intro theme/credits song pretty much wins in my book, haha. Voice acting. Yas. Varied BGM. Okay, but nothing that stands out. I can make my notifications be Yoosung speaking? Wow.
• Bang-for-your-buck – 9/10 I’m…totally riding off the fact they compensated me with a ton of hourglass… so that I didn’t have to pay a single cent to enjoy all these features. However, if I had to start out with none I feel like the game grants enough for you to make it worth playing without having to shell out money. And if you decide to anyway, good on you, because this game makes it worth it. I was able to immediately unlock Deep Mode after my first run but I *think*, being totally F2P, you could earn enough hourglass after clearing all three routes in Normal Mode.
FINAL SCORE: 8/10
I’ll be posting summaries – if you know me you know what they’ll be like lol – of each route, save for Yoosung’s cuz I already did his. No bad endings (hopefully).