In the world of porn games, the Japanese gods reign supreme; when one thinks of the studios behind the big name hentai games, names like Lilith-Soft, BISHOP, Illusion, probably come to mind. You’d be hard-pressed not to run into arousing Nippon creations whenever you search for erotic games. It’s almost unheard of for mere mortals like western developer Dharker Studio (formerly known as AJTilley) to break through into the scene all their own. Is the budding development team capable of ascending to visual novel godhood with Divine Slice of Life? Well, not quite…
Divine Slice of Life is an original visual novel developed and published by Dharker Studio. It tracks the life of university student Taizaki Aaki and his escapades after two demigods force their way into his life. Being written in English first and foremost, it’s accessible to the western market right from the get go. There are two versions of the game: an 18+ version you can pick up from MangaGamer and a “teen” release on Steam. You can download a patch for the teen version to unlock the 18+ content, which is a trend for visual novels on Steam these days that I very much approve of. It would be great if Steam actually let eroge and other professional porn games onto the service with an age restriction; I mean, there’s some pretty extreme violence all over the place in gaming, but if you so much as slip a clit in there? Fuck no, get outta here! Digressing aside, the game is easily purchasable and it’s always a welcome to see western developers try their hand at making erotic visual novels. It should be noted that the developer is listed as Dharker Studio on Steam, but they’re still listed as AJTilley on MangaGamer, so keep that in mind if you’re looking for their work on either platform.
As the ‘Slice of Life’ in the title implies, most of Divine Slice of Life is full of amusing daily life situations for Aaki. After finding two strangely dressed women fighting in a local park, Aaki is struck down only to wake up in bed with both girls. Thus begins his misadventures with Yui Aphrodite and Ryn Athena; Descendants of Greek goddesses who inform him that he is, in fact, the reincarnation of Zeus. The girls are fighting to be claimed as his wife and help him take his rightful place on his heavenly throne. These superhuman women both give Aaki a wish to prove they’re actually magical beings, granting Aaki’s desire to be smart and handsome. Yui and Ryn explain that should he fall in love with a mortal girl, the magic that gifted him with brains and looks will vanish, with the duo leaving him behind. This dilemma is actually used in the plot rather than just brushed to the side: Aaki doubts himself at times, wondering if the girls in his life are only fawning over him now that he has an artificial boost of confidence and good looks. It brings out some amusing bad ends, but most of them are pretty stupid, involving Aaki just blurting out his love after going on a single date with one of the ladies.
The three mortal girls that tempt Aaki from his heavenly path are his close friend Shinobi Taka, his classmate and tutor Sakuya Rue, and finally, the playful class representative Taizawa Akame. Taka is the most interesting in my opinion, she’s supportive of Aaki and they have a sweet friendship overflowing with sexual tension from her end. Rue is a bit generic by comparison, as her purpose in the story is to be the blonde bombshell who’s stolen away by Aaki’s rival, Suritaki Ronan. He interrupts Aaki and Rue’s discussions at any given opportunity. Lastly, Akame is the least fleshed out of the girls, being simply quirky and with a route so short, you barely notice it’s even happening. Her route comes complete with a twist straight out of left field that leads to nowhere and is never hinted anywhere else outside of that ending.
There are a lot of strange arse-pulls for character quirks, which makes it painfully apparent that this game was made in a minuscule amount of time; for example, in one of the early endings where you actually pick Yui or Ryn, Ronan is depicted as some sort of demigod. This is never mentioned anywhere else in the game outside of this 30 second moment, which just leaves me confused; is this even canon? Divine Slice of Life is incredibly short and the lack of fleshed-out content like that damages the game’s quality. More often than not, you will be caught off guard by how fast things wrap up. I managed to complete the game in an evening while unlocking all the artwork. The $16 price tag is definitely stretching its bounds for the content and quality it offers. It might’ve been slightly more reasonable if that price came with a bonus such as the soundtrack, but as it stands, I think the game is far too short and rushed to warrant a purchase at full price.
When it comes to western porn games and their artwork, they’re surrounded by something of a stereotype that the art is always bad. The artwork in Divine Slice of Life is underwhelming, yes, but it’s not completely terrible; the artwork maintains some degree of consistency and some of the simpler elements make it somewhat endearing. Where the game lives up to the expectation of being ugly would be in the sex scenes themselves. Considering the quality of other visual novels, though, it’s obviously not going to drawing eyes away from any of the elites.
There’s clearly some influence derived from Japanese visual novels, the worst part of which lies in Aaki being a faceless protagonist. I understand why such a trope exists: you’re supposed to self-insert into them and being faceless helps the player accomplish that. I’ve personally never liked this approach, but it’s particularly bad here as Aaki has a suitable lack of character for a faceless protagonist. It would’ve been a lot smoother if he was just a generic, brown-eyed, brown hair, begrudging harem owner like in any ol’ anime. A lot of the game tries to emulate Japanese visual novel tropes and naming conventions, which they could’ve easily done away with in favor of their own style. As it stands, the Japanese influence comes off a bit forced, especially due to the English voice acting and Greek mythological overtones.
One of the selling points for Divine Slice of Life is the full English voice acting. As someone who doesn’t read, write, or speak Japanese, it’s not often you run into a visual novel where you can understand the voice actors perfectly. This is a double-edged sword, however, as it’s easier to pick up awkward dialogue when it’s in your native language. Your tolerance for the delivery may vary, but I will say a couple of the character’s voices grew on me, some performances being better than others. I certainly found the voice acting strange at first, but it’s not all bad. Aaki’s long-time friend Taka was easy on the ears, which can also be said for Yui; on the opposite end of the spectrum, Ryn and Rye were particularly awful. There are mouth animations for when a character talks, but they’re so out of sync with the dialogue that I have to wonder why they even bothered. There are some elements that don’t detract from the presentation when implemented poorly, but awful lip syncing is not one of them. It’s a huge mistake on Dharker Studios’ part and only serves to cripple most interactions when you can’t put the words into the characters mouth. I understand some subtle mouth movements for talking, but when the audio has stopped and there are still wild mouth movements on display, it’s a little distracting.
Surprisingly, the music is good, full of catchy melodies and funky beats. Along with the sound effects, like splashes in the pond when Yui is trying to drown Ryn in the introduction, the audio presentation outside of the voice work is solid. I’m actually glad the soundtrack is available on Steam, as I think it does hold up well on its own; I’ve even caught myself just listening to the music in the background while the game in minimized. It’s nice background noise and better than a lot of the things this game offers.
Now we get to one of the most glaring issues plaguing Divine Slice of Life: the sex is crap. There’re no two ways about it, these sex scenes just suck. All the sex scenes ever amount to is a simple character CG in some awkward position, finishing with a poorly overlayed semen texture when Aaki cums on the girls. Some of the leads into the fucking are far too quick and way too short, which just leaves you feeling unfulfilled. This game throws a quick banging in there purely for the sake of it and it’s so lazy. There’s barely any change in character poses when going from some kind of foreplay to full-on sex, making the penetration look bizarre and uncomfortable.
To be honest, the poor quality of these scenes makes me wonder why they even bothered to add them in. This could’ve been so much more comfortable if it was simply more fleshed-out ecchi-level content, with some nipple slips and sexy underwear. The art style and the lack of effort put into making the sex just did not make any of this an enjoyable experience. A threesome with two goddesses. for example, should be an incredibly sexy experience, but somehow they fucked it up.
Divine Slice of Life has some interesting ideas but relies too much on generic anime tropes to support any of them. Combined with the rushed nature of the game and some blatantly unfinished endings, there’s simply too much to pick at to justify the $16 price tag. If you want a short English visual novel to pass the time for an afternoon, then perhaps Divine Slice of Life will be a nice treat, but only buy it heavily discounted: the more you pay, the more disappointed you’re going to be. It’s an “okay” effort at a visual novel, but about $10 too expensive.
If you’re still interested in taking the plunge, you can purchase the adult version of Divine Slice of Life from MangaGamer or the teen version from Steam . Additionally, you can find more on Dharker Studio from their very own website.