Sometimes you want to drown everyone out, get rid of all the noise, and experience the calm that only that state of mind can bring. Especially if you’re Juniper Paul, a little girl with a hearing aid, and the protagonist in Inductive Coupling. Quite the useful piece of tech, that thing, or at least it would be if not for the fact that her hearing aid has started picking up creepy messages.
Now, first things first: Inductive Coupling is a horror visual novel, although unless I missed something, it does not contain gory imagery. There are scenes that some might still find upsetting, so do keep that in mind before stepping into Juniper’s proverbial shoes. With that out of the way, let’s talk plot. Briefly. So as to avoid (major) spoilers.
As this peculiar tale begins, so does a new day for our protagonist, which means… school! Paying attention in class! Taking notes! Or not. See, unlike most traditional genre entries, this one does things a little differently regarding the branching aspect. The most common way to do this is to drop a list of choices in front of the player, forcing them to pick one before the story is allowed to progress. While I do really like when games attempt something that differs from the norm, something unexpected – especially in regards to narrative branching – the way it’s handled here does, unfortunately, create a bit of a replay-related problem: skipping read text in Inductive Coupling does not pause when a choice is presented to the player. Ever.
If not for the fact that there are no less than five endings, I’d label this a minor issue. But going through the story at least that many times to attempt to reach the route that sends Juniper down the path to a different ending without a way to easily skip through scenes already witnessed does get slightly annoying. Nothing that’ll straight-up ruin the experience, just something to note. Oh, I suppose now might be a good time to mention why it works like that: the branching aspect is related to Juniper’s hearing aid. At certain points throughout the story, it’ll appear in the middle of the screen and you can either click it to turn off Juniper’s surroundings and pick up some creepy noises or do nothing, focusing on the task at hand instead. Interesting.
You know what’s also interesting? The horror aspect of Inductive Coupling, and I say that as someone who’s generally genuinely put off by this particular genre in fiction. In other words, I’m glad I decided to take a chance on this one and see what might happen to Juniper throughout the day, both in school and on her way home. Without spoiling too much, if anything, I will say that the creator definitely described it accurately, claiming it is “a short, spooky visual novel”. Despite my gripe with how replaying is a bit wonky, not being able to simply skip read text until either a choice of unread text appears, it still only took me less than half an hour to experience everything on offer.
Was it worth it, and more importantly, would I recommend taking it for a spin? Without a doubt! Just… well, if you’re anything like me, be sure to keep the lights on while playing.
Inductive Coupling is available on itch.io.