Bad Writer Review: Experience Existential Dread from the Comfort of Your Own Home
Are you an aspiring writer? Have you ever wondered what it might be like to be an aspiring writer? Well, if you’d like to experience that level of existential dread without having to actually put your own finances and mental health on the line, life-sim Bad Writer from mazette! and Riddle Fox Games might just be the game for you.
Follow Your Dreams
Bad Writer tasks players with taking on the role of Emily, a struggling writer who recently lost her job and has decided that it’s time to chase her big dream of being a professional writer. With the loving support of her wife, Cleo, Emily has just a single month to determine if she’s got what it takes to make it as a writer. And honestly, that’s pretty much the whole story. If I really had to boil the story down, you either make it as a writer, or you don’t, simple as that. So if you’re looking for a deep plot or a compelling narrative, definitely look elsewhere. Bad Writer is also an incredibly short game – you can probably beat the game in less than an hour without trying too hard, and if you actually put some effort into it, could probably beat it (or lose!) a couple times in just an hour.
Short length and shallow story aside, Bad Writer is oddly compelling and addicting. As is the case with most life-sim games, repetition is the name of the game. Every day for thirty days, you’ll wake up and have some choices to make: will you hunker down and write? Will you spend the day in bed? Will you just lounge in front of the TV with your loving wife? Maybe go for a walk in the park? Should you do some research on a short story idea? Or just waste the day browsing social media? Making these choices is where this game really shines.
The Daily Grind
In Bad Writer, everything revolves around choices. On the right side of the screen is your happiness meter, and if you let it become completely depleted, it’s game over. You’ll be forced to return to the daily grind of corporate life. So everything becomes a balancing act. Spending all day in bed might feel like a necessity some days, but it will leave you depressed and the happiness meter will be lowered. Cooking a meal might sound like a good idea, but then the mess will get to you and you’ll spend the day deep cleaning the kitchen again, which, you guessed it, depletes the happiness meter. In fact, you’ll start to notice that most of the choices available to you will deplete your happiness meter; however, the trade off is that you’ll usually develop ideas for short stories.
Coming up with ideas is crucial; without any ideas, you won’t be able to write any stories. Writing a short story is one of the best ways to increase your happiness meter, as the sense of accomplishment will give you a boost of endorphins. Once you’ve written your short story, it can be submitted to one of several different publications. Submitting your story, of course, doesn’t guarantee that it will be accepted. The acceptance and rejection rate seems to be entirely random (as far as I could tell), which, while frustrating, feels realistic. You never know what any given publication might be searching for on a given day, or why they may or may not accept your piece. Sell enough of your stories in the given time limit, and you’ll be successful.
Comforting Art Style for a Discomforting Game
Aesthetically, Bad Writer is charmingly pixelated. The soundtrack is enjoyable, though it does get repetitive after a while. Still, it’s hard to find fault with the aesthetic presentation of the game. Really, my only complaint is that the world of Bad Writer is incredibly small, limited to just a couple of rooms in your house. Even spending the day in the park with Cleo or going for a walk in the woods behind the house isn’t ever shown. It makes me wish there was a little more to do or that there were more places to go. But it also gives an uncomfortably realistic feel of working from home. As somebody who spent the better part of the last eight years working from home, I can say that it can turn you into a hermit, shrinking your world down to just your house and a small handful of locations.
Bad Writer feels uncomfortably realistic at times. Sure, it sometimes feels good (or maybe even necessary) to spend all day in bed or chilling in front of the TV, but the depression that follows afterwards can be all too real. Although it feels perhaps a little too short, there’s something oddly special about Bad Writer; the dread and excitement of trying to follow your dreams, the anxiety of waiting to discover if your work was accepted or rejected, and the daily struggle are all surprisingly poignant. If you’re looking for a unique life-sim that won’t always be particularly relaxing, Bad Writer might be the game for you.
Final Verdict: 3.5/5
Available on: Nintendo Switch (reviewed), PC; Publisher: mazette!; Developer: Riddle Fox Games; Players: 1; Released: May 26th, 2022; ESRB: E for Everyone; MSRP: $5.99
Editor’s note: The publisher provided a review copy to Hey Poor Player.