High school poses undeniable challenges, a sentiment shared by most. The uncertainties of the future, the daunting decisions about courses and careers can make it feel like the end of the World. Yet, the cool kids of Volcano High seemed more intellectually prepared than I was at the time, perhaps forged by their life experiences and drama associated with the impact of an asteroid, draped with a sense of “do it today, or it may never happen.”
Goodbye Volcano High immerses players in a visual novel, chronicling the life of Fang, a non-binary pterodactyl, navigating through their final year of high school alongside their tight-knit group of friends, Trish and Reed. Together, they form the band Worm Drama, which recently secured a spot in the Battle of The Bands, a gateway to performing at Caldera Fest in front of thousands. Fang’s sole certainty is music; their future unfolds within the confines of a band van, with dreams of playing at countless festivals.
Unfortunately, the future is shrouded in uncertainty, extending beyond academics. The world grapples with the looming threat of an asteroid collision, a concept that can lead to various reactions. Amidst this uncertainty, the residents of Volcano High stand out for their unwavering support and understanding of one another, transcending, sometimes, their convictions and internal debates. A highlight of this adventure is the exceptional voice acting, which impeccably reflects the characters’ personalities.
The story explores significant societal issues, embracing themes of inclusivity, trauma, and friendship. Fang, as a non-binary, navigates the complexities of their relationship with parents who struggle to understand but are willing to change. Trans characters are also featured, highlighting the generational gap in attitudes toward diversity and acceptance, bridging the gap between the virtual world and our own lives outside the realm of video games.
As expected in a visual novel, dialogue choices serve as the primary gameplay mechanic in Goodbye Volcano High. However, rather than choosing options based on correctness, the choices that I had were made to match the vibe of the moment. Yet, it is still possible to opt for either the good or bad Fang’s mood, even though there are no cookies on the latter!
The game introduces rhythm sequences between chapters, while not overly challenging, they demand attention. Additionally, there are geeky moments like the incorporation of Dungeons & Dragons, reimagined as L&L, which will undoubtedly delight board game and storytelling enthusiasts. The music seamlessly complements the narrative and is available on all major streaming platforms.
The diverse cast of characters, even those in the background, is captivating. Though the backgrounds may often remain static, they are rich and engaging, providing a vivid canvas that enhances every line of text and character interaction. The animations are visually stunning, to the point where I would actually watch a Volcano High animated series.
Throughout my 7-hour-ish journey to complete the story, I encountered no graphical or performance issues, save for a few instances where I couldn’t read or see character interactions on a specific slide due to automatic advancement. While not revolutionary, Goodbye Volcano High solidifies its place in storytelling games. It made me laugh, feel melancholic, and, as such, it’s challenging for me not to recommend this title.