I Was A Teenage Exocolonist Review
For your peace of mind — this review is spoiler-free, aside from vague mentions of what occurs in the game.
I Was A Teenage Exocolonist is a massive amalgamation of titles, including visual novel, RPG, life simulator, deckbuilding, and mild management elements. Take control of Sol (or whatever you name your main character) and grow from a 10-year-old to a 20-year-old in the first exocolony from Earth to Vertumna IV.
Disclosure: Before I start the review, I'd like to mention a couple of things that shocked me about the title (that isn't mentioned on the store page) — I Was A Teenage Exocolonist has a criminal amount of trigger warnings. Although they can be laced with mild spoilers about how the game evolves in the future, make sure that you check out our in-depth look at the game's trigger warnings. This is relevant because, upon booting the game, my wife and I were paralysed at the sheer amount, and it might be a dominant factor in whether you'll want to purchase the game or not. With that out of the way, let's start with our review:
What starts off as a wholesome adventure quickly turns into a surprisingly complex and intricate storyline spanning many topics, many of which I don't feel comfortable sharing because of the spoiler-free nature of this review. As you land on Vertumna IV to form a brand-new colony on an alien planet, you'll need to map out what you want to do for the next ten years of your life, with 10 characters to romance, over a dozen skills to learn and master, and 25 colony jobs that you can take up that affect who you interact with, what your skills look like, and which type of ending you might get.
If you've read what the store page has to say about I Was A Teenage Exocolonist and want to buy it, then close this review and doubt no longer: this is an experience best had when you know nothing about the game — your adolescence in Vertumna IV will be all the better for it. It's worth mentioning that, personally, I'm not too fond of visual novels — their writing or plots tend not to sway me the way I wish they did. That said, the writing in the game is one of the best I've seen — with minimal grammatical errors to be found for even the keenest of eyes — and characters that can be both infuriating and lovable, oftentimes both at the same time (except for one specific one; you'll know who I am talking about once you play). I didn't know where the story was heading, and even in subsequent playthroughs after I didn't know what I'd affect, despite knowing how my previous endings had unfurled.
You will spend a total of 10 years in Vertumna as you age from 10 to 20 (weird, considering you aren't technically a teen until 13, but I'll let that technicality slide). Being an alien planet, Vertumna has a total of 13 months, and you'll use one of your months with each activity you do (whether it be working, growing a skill, or relaxing). With a total of 130 activities to do, you'll need to pick and choose wisely to select which type of skills you want your character to have as you level them up.
Jobs and characters can be associated with several skills, such as Tangent's (Tang, as the colonists lovingly call her) affiliation with mental-based skills. By interacting with a certain character enough times through your work, you will slowly raise your friendship, and you'll be able to enter relationships at a later date with them, giving you specific and unique endings depending on the choices you made (things such as whether you want to be a parent, how many people you got in a relationship with, and the ending you got can affect your final relationship status with any given character).
Each major event in your playthrough unlocks a card of one of three different colours (one for each of the skill categories — mental, physical, and social). You use these cards with every interaction you do, whether you're working or surveying Vertumna, to try to reach a specific goal set by the game. Failing these events isn't a "defeat", as losing these oftentimes lead to different outcomes (though they can still be negative). If you dislike the card-based gameplay and think it's rubbish, I Was A Teenage Exocolonist offers an alternative — using a coin flip system implemented to dictate whether you succeed or fail. Contrariwise, you can also increase the difficulty for fans of the deck building elements, though I was too numb-skulled to partake in the harder setting.
I Was A Teenage Exocolonist is a deceptively large title that initially seems tiny and meagre — with 29 different endings to uncover, you'll want to replay this game precisely because of a unique feature — and likely my favourite part about this title — the roguelite-esque elements incorporated. With each passing "life", your character can learn unique dialogue options that they can take advantage of in the next playthrough, making previously inevitable situations change and affecting, in no small part, the overall events that occur throughout your playthrough. Not only will you (as the player) learn new ways to manoeuvre the Strato Colony, but your character will also unlock new dialogue options with each new discovery you make.
This alone warrants a second playthrough, but by no means is this the single element as to why you should replay the game — I Was A Teenage Exocolonist had me hooked, unlike any other title of its genre(s? Does it count as a deckbuilder?) has ever. Getting to know any of the characters more personally reveals dialogue options unique to them that allow you to sympathise with otherwise unlikable personalities. It is a genuine pleasure to explore how each character and their stories unfold. Hating a character in one playthrough only instigated me to try to romance them because I knew that there was a deeper reason behind their complexities that I could uncover if I spoke to them enough.
That said, this title isn’t entirely flawless. Although I was smitten both gameplay- and narrative-wise, it is a shame that I Was A Teenage Exocolonist’s triggers can be a bit too drastic — this title isn’t for the faint of heart. With harsher themes being touched on, I do wish that this experience was more accessible to those that are more sensitive to these touchy subjects, as they can become omni-present in later years and might gate certain routes for those that wish to avoid it.
If the trigger warnings aren't enough to sway you off, then I cannot recommend I Was A Teenage Exocolonist more. With 10 years of angsty adolescence to live through, hundreds of events and options to choose from, and 29 endings to uncover, this might just be the title to keep you hooked for dozens of hours to come.
I Was a Teenage Exocolonist (Reviewed on Windows)
Outstanding. Why do you not have this game already?
I Was A Teenage Exocolonist is not short of becoming an exemplary title in fantastic writing and storytelling, and easily my favourite entry into the visual novel genre thus far.