Who’d be a henchman? Morons, mainly. At least, that’s what I thought heading into Henchman Story, but this visual novel has turned my thinking upside down.
You’d think that henchmen get a raw deal, being punched by superheroes, dropped into shark tanks and working for a boss who prizes ridiculous contraptions over practical weaponry. But Stan, Henchman Story’s protagonist, has it all figured out. He’s mastered the fine art of being just competent enough to do his job, but not standing out so much he gets noticed. What could possibly go wrong?
There’s a change in management, that’s what, which is where you come in. Henchman Story sees you struggling with the attention you’re getting from both your new co-employer and a new worker. No, it’s not a dating sim, though romance does figure into a couple of the endings. Stan is someone who’s avoided the big choices for a long time and now opportunity has come knocking. How you handle that is entirely up to you.
Surprisingly for a visual novel, every line (aside from Stan’s internal monologue) is voiced, which works really well. The actors who voice Henchman Story’s supervillains, in particular, are clearly having a whale of a time hamming it up. Yes, this tale of superheroes and suspect decisions has its tongue firmly wedged in its cheek; sound effects, for example, are used sparingly, but hearing Lord Bedlam’s stage lift squeak cracked me up every time.
In fact, if Henchman Story doesn’t have you chuckling, you might want to check you still have a pulse. There are gags aplenty but they’re rarely out of place and most of them land. That said, you can take Stan down a dark path, and the tone shifts appropriately; with around ten endings to explore, you can be assured that your choices count. You can finish Henchman Story in about an hour an and half, but it never shunts you down an unwelcome path.
The tale that Henchman Story weaves is, for the most part, excellent. You’ll spot plenty of superhero tropes but it delivers a fully-formed story, instead of just riffing on DC and Marvel characters. I could spot one twist coming a mile off, however; tweaking the game’s audio would have put paid to that but, as is, it’s too obvious. There are a few typos as well, but it’s nothing that tears you out of the game.
My biggest gripe, however, has to be that, at times, it gets a little too quippy. Given that it’s lampooning superhero comics and its like, it has more right to take that tack than other visual novels. But there were a few moments where the dialogue just felt too unnatural, too rehearsed; if you’ve ever watched Friends or Buffy the Vampire Slayer (the series) and thought “Real humans don’t speak like that…” you’ll know what I mean.
But for the most part, Henchman Story is a funny, fulfilling ride though the frequently silly, occasionally grim world of supervillains and the poor, overlooked souls who serve them.
Henchman Story Review – GameSpew’s Score