Publisher: GB Patch Games
Release Date: November 16, 2020
Our Life: Beginnings & Always follows the main character (named whatever you want) from childhood to adulthood in the town of Sunset Bird and their relationship with Cove Holden. When it starts, you’re eight years old and Cove and his father have just moved in across the street. Naturally, being only two of a handful of kids in the area, you start hanging out. It’s a rough, emotional summer as you get to know Cove little by little and he deals with his parents’ divorce.
Then it jumps ahead to you and Cove being thirteen and spending another summer together. It’s full of new faces and more tense situations and decisions to make. It is shorter than the first part and felt quite rushed. After that, you move onto the summer after the end of high school and all that transitioning into adulthood means. While I liked the story and decisions in this part, I wasn’t fond of all of the characters introduced. They just got in the way.
Finally, there’s full adulthood. This part actually starts after the credits, so don’t leave yet!
Our Life: Beginnings & Always looks great. The backgrounds are simple but really set the scene. The character design is also really nice. Everything is clear and crisp. The characters also have more dynamic faces than I’ve seen in other visual novels. They blink and change expressions when the story calls for it. No one is just static. The main character’s moms are pretty hot for drawings. Child Cove is also super adorable. Although something seems a bit off about Mr. Holden, but I can’t pinpoint what exactly.
There are quite a few different backgrounds. While the main ones are the house and the beach, we do get to see several other places in Sunset Bird. I think my favorites were the golf course and the Redwood forest; they just looked really pretty. The scenes also change a bit to show time passing.
I also appreciated that details mentioned in the text were actually shown in the scene. A character mentions a picture on the wall, and there is actually a picture on the wall. They mention having eight dining chairs, and there are in fact eight chairs at the table. It’s a small thing, but something I’ve been mildly annoyed at in other visuals novels. Why make a very specific reference only to not have it appear anywhere in the scene? Our Life: Beginnings & Always doesn’t have that problem.
Sound Effects + Music:
I was pleasantly surprised by the wide range of musical tracks in Our Life: Beginnings & Always. It’s not the same song on loop, or even the same handful of tunes. Each scene has its own track which fits the mood and setting. Not that they don’t ever repeat, because they do, but there’s space in between so it doesn’t get annoying. I quite enjoyed most of the songs. They’re mostly calming instrumentals.
There’s some minor voice acting. The majority of the story is unvoiced, but occasionally a few words or a line will be voiced by the character. It was a nice touch, but it didn’t make much of a difference to me.
Gameplay + Controls:
Our Life: Beginnings & Always does start with a text based tutorial which explains the ins and outs of the game, like how your choices affect how the story changes. You also customize your character’s appearance, which is quite fun, even though they never actually appear on the screen. You choose their name and pronouns as well, which is a nice touch, since anyone can insert themself into the story.
You get to make quite a few decisions in this visual novel and they do seem to affect what happens next. Previous decisions even get referenced in future text, which was surprising. The choices are all color-codeded (blue, yellow, green). As the tutorial explains, this are just to indicate a common mood/feeling if you want to stay consistent. You absolutely don’t have to though. Pick and choose whatever feels right to you no matter what color the option is. I do think it would be fun to only pick one color to see what happens, then do another playthrough and stick with another color, and so on. For my first time, I just picked whichever option I liked best.
There are also “moments” which are additional bits of story that you can play through if you want. They’re optional, as you can also choose to advance to the next phase of the story without completing them. There are five per phase, with more available as DLC. Since this was my first playthrough, and I wasn’t in a rush, I played through all of them. Each moment is pretty short (10-15 minutes) but gives you more insight into all of the characters. You also get to make several choices, and I wonder if those also contribute to how the story evolves. It seemed like some of these scenarios had “right” answers based on what followed my choice.
Our Life: Beginnings & Always is totally replayable. Of course, you can make different decisions or choose different tones (direct, relaxed, anxious) and feelings (indifferent, fond, crush, love) to see what happens to the story. Or, like I mentioned above, you can stick to one color for the responses and play all the way through that way. Similarly, stick with the same tone for the whole story or the same feeling toward Holden. The Steam version also has achievements that you can go for which do cover most of these play styles.
I enjoyed Our Life: Beginnings & Always. The story wasn’t my favorite, especially during phase two, and the ending was abrupt. Some of that may have had to do with the previous choices I made, so perhaps it’ll be different next time. But overall, I was invested enough to stick with it and learn more about “myself” and Cove. I do think the optional moments are stronger than the main storyline though, so I wouldn’t recommend skipping those.
I also really loved how LGBTQ+ friendly the story was. The MC has two moms, you can pick your pronouns to start with. Later you can choose your birth sex, sexual orientation, romantic orientation, how you feel about your body, and you can even choose whether or not to date Cove. Just because he’s the focus of the story and presented as a love interest doesn’t mean you actually have to be romantically involved with him.