As a child, I loved choose-your-own-adventure books. The stories could take so many more twists and turns than the standard adolescent fare, with the Goosebumps titles in particular having interesting pathways leading to near-inevitable death scenarios. With the relative ease of coding a branching story, many first time developers will experiment with the choose-your-own-adventure format, a great testing ground for game ideas. Be You is one such project, the first game by solo developer Louis Morel. With some nice art and quirky writing, Be You shows potential, but the experience ends all too quickly. If you would like to play the game yourself before heading into spoiler territory, it can be downloaded on its Steam Page here.
Be You opens on a kind of personality test. The narrator explains how they are feeling kind of green today, the colour of nature, Disney villains, and nausea. They then ask what colour you feel like today, with a choice of five colours. Further choices are used to build the player’s profile – favourite book, time of day, what cereal to eat. These choices are used to generate the appearance of the protagonist, who has woken up on their twelfth birthday to a mysterious package at the door. Opening the parcel, the player falls into a mysterious dream realm. Approaching a strange sobbing figure, the player is attacked by a monster. They feel their soul falling away, but luckily the experience was all just a dream. Or was it?
A playthrough of Be You is brief, lasting around 10 minutes or so. Multiple playthroughs unfortunately only show minor differences, changing the aesthetic of the main character and which epilogue is obtained post-dream. I would have liked a larger variety of endings, perhaps dependent on befriending the sobbing creature or defeating the monster. The game itself admits ‘it was all a dream’ is a cop out of an ending, but having the cliché as one of the endings would be fine if other options were available as well. In a story game, making the player feel as though their choices matter is important, even if in the end they really do not. Telltale was the master of this balance, giving the player a sense of agency as the story is internally manoeuvred where it needed to go.
Be You has an effective child-like aesthetic, with colourful line drawings and a high energy, bouncing-between-topics narrator. I particularly liked the creatures in the dream world, strange beings that clearly do not belong in the same universe as the protagonist. Music is minimal, and I feel the title would benefit from a more extensive soundtrack, helping to complement the cheery tone of the writing.
Overall, I think Be You is a good start, but it feels incomplete. Some more forks in the path and different endings would help flesh the title out. I also wish the creator would stop putting themselves down within the story. Not feeling up to drawing a crowd scene does not make them a terrible person. Creative work is a difficult thing, and you need to be kind to yourself throughout the process.
OnlySP’s Editor-in-Chief Rhain also played through Be You, and had quite a different perspective on the experience.
Be You is a metagame—it does not exist as a fully, fleshed-out title, nor does it operate exactly as a typical visual novel. Instead, Morel’s work is a brief piece of artistic vision, one that confuses the player until it impresses them.
Some years ago, I directed a short film for a class. I spent hours filming the footage, selecting the best takes, deciding on appropriate music, and editing everything together. After several attempts, I was happy with my end product.
When I showed my film to the class, they were confused. The visuals looked great, the music fit nicely, and the editing was among the best—but what does everything mean?
I knew what the film meant; those who read the script knew what it meant; but first-time viewers were oblivious to the meaning. Upon repeat viewings, they began to understand elements of the film, but the overall themes and narrative was unclear. They enjoyed watching the film, but they did not understand its entire meaning—and I grew to love it for exactly that reason.
Be You will have a different meaning for different players. I may have a very different view of the game than Amy, and both of us may have a wholly contrasting idea to Morel’s intention, yet we enjoyed our experiences nonetheless.
The game is far from perfect—the music cuts out during one scene, the choices have minimal overall impact, and some scenes would be improved with additional visuals—but it is a piece of art from the mind of a talented developer and should be commended for that. I am really looking forward to seeing what Louis Morel gets up to next.
Thank you for your thoughts Rhain! I’m off on holiday for the next few weeks, but the other lovely Only Single Player staff will be looking after the Friday Freebies for the rest of June. Next week, Amy Campbell will be taking a look at This is Your Life Now, a choice-based platformer where the player lives an entire lifespan in five minutes. The game can be downloaded from itch.io here. Discussions are, as always, happening on the OnlySP Discord Server, or get in touch via email.