Library Story, the creation of Latissa and Xaljio, features Gaston from Beauty and the Beast as he tries to seduce Belle with the power of reading.
Porn parodies based on Disney properties are one of the hot commodities of H-games right now. I blame and thank AKABUR mostly, since he created Princess Trainer, but like a merry band of ducklings we’ve seen games like The Dark Lord Rises pop up as well. The game I’m talking about today, Library Story, is not only another training simulator based on a Disney property, but one with direct ties to Princess Trainer. This is because Xaljio — one half of the team making Library Story — has previously done code work for AKABUR.
In case it wasn’t clear, Library Story is a porn parody of Beauty and the Beast, the 90’s Disney Classic that has a remake with Emma Watson in the works. Sadly, this game doesn’t have an “Emma Watson mode” to toggle to, but I promised myself I wouldn’t take points away from the game for that.
The premise is that Gaston, the braggadocious villain of the movie, is planning to turn Belle into a sex addicted vixen by pretending to be a new bookstore owner and purposefully giving her ever more erotic books. It’s a pretty novel idea for a training sim, and it gives the game a feeling of uniqueness at the start, which makes it easier to overlook some of the game’s flaws. Some of the game’s many, many flaws.
When one is confronted with a truly amateurish product, you can see what you’re getting into from first glance. It’s the house with part of the roof caved in next to a barred up drugstore. When a game is really excellent, it normally doesn’t take you very long to notice. It’s the comfy home down the street from a Trader Joe’s. What about a game with all the hallmarks of competency that is ravaged by mind boggling bad creative choices? That’s the house that looks lovely on the outside, but the floorboard will break under your feet as you walk inside. This is that game.
As I mentioned, at first glance on a basic level the game looks like a really high tier amateur product. The artwork is very nicely done, and really matches the Disney aesthetic that they’re going for. Belle looks like Belle, Gaston looks like Gaston, and even the random village people look like they’re ready to pick up torches and try to bring home a beast pelt.
In fact, it still even looks Disney-esque during porn scenes. The sequences where you, as Gaston, can do things like lift her dress while she’s sweeping in your cottage look like they come out of a Disney comic from the 90’s. A part with a particularly nasty plant has a similarly whimsical feel. The actual image quality is good not great, but in managing to capture the tone and feel of the material they’re parodying really do their best to hold up the rest of the game.
While the writing is pretty decent, it is a bit reliant on meta-fiction and bad comedy at times. Though, the porn is mostly a visual affair, so it doesn’t really get in the way. The most fun I had with the writing is the titles and descriptions of the books you can sell to Belle. Most of them are at least amusing, if not a bit on the nose. 101 uses for a magic wand, as an example. On a programming level, the game also plays basically correctly. I had one or two small bugs while I tried the game out, but it’s lack the outright incompetence in programming that would really make the game unplayable.
Now, you may be asking yourself, “T51b, if you’re okay with the art, the writing, and programming, what was your problem?”
The answer is, of course, the game design.
Some of it is just the result of not being a finished game. For instance, the magical forest hub basically lacks almost all functionality, which is fine because they can just add that in later. Plus, there are simply not enough books you can give to Belle to last the length of the game. I’m hoping that selecting between different books that offer competing bonuses can become more of a gameplay element as the game pushes closer and closer to the Version 1.0 launch. The game could do more with a genuine choice between a book that makes Belle more submissive versus one that increases her lust faster.
Less likely to be corrected, yet more forgivable, is the relative slowness of the first segment of the game. It could use more of a hook, but it’s clear they designed for a gradual increase in the tonnage of sex as the game goes on. That said, the whole book concept, while clever, means that you don’t automatically see the sexual result of your daily training actions, which is a less efficient porn delivery service than the “do an action, show porn CG” approach of many adult games.
A lot of my scorn is reserved for the game’s mechanics. An example is the fact that many of the ways to increase Belle’s submissiveness outside of books cost relationship points, which themselves are hard to get, and often require a bit of grinding. In fact, let me take a moment to elaborate on the grinding.
The game has an entirely horrible mechanic where you go out into the woods and fight random beasts in order to gain hunting levels and cash. The cash is needed to get many of the sex scenes, and the hunting levels are needed for actions such as touching Belle sneakily or breaking into her house. Unfortunately, these fights are really bad. They look bad, they play bad, they epitomize bad. They really are the nadir of Ren’Py fighting mechanics. These fights are also required if you want to progress into the game. That’s right, mandatory combat grinding in a training simulator. Unless you have spent a lot of time and energy making sure that your combat system is fun, forcing players to do it to proceed in a game is one of the quickest and most surefire ways of making them dislike your game.
For the purpose of this preview, I did contact the creators of the game, who have assured me that revisions to the combat mechanics are in the works. They explained their intentions as being about making it more tactical and puzzle-like. Which is nice, but frankly the entire system is so atrocious, my advice would be to cut it out entirely. However, I recognize that it’s possible that future iterations might manage to spare the game from the worst of the issue.
Additionally, the quest detection and the way of knowing what to do next at any point is often really badly designed, leading to lots of frustrating “now what” dilemmas. The game does actually need to fix that, but a bit more hand holding isn’t terribly difficult to implement, and the creators seem to have acknowledged that improving guidance and interface are on their to-do list.
In general, I felt that the game was all over the place in terms of what it wanted you to do. Most of the early game is about giving Belle the right kind of book, but that falls more to the wayside later. There are different girls you can fuck, but all of them have different mechanics too. There is the aforementioned terrible hunting mechanic, and then lots of poorly placed adventure game mechanics in the town square. The creators mentioned a desire for a more standardized stat tracking system for the other girls, but the entire thing is still a mess. It feels like they couldn’t decide if they wanted to make a full on adventure game, a training simulator, or an RPG. The end result is a poor adventure game, a poor training simulator, and a poor RPG.
If I am to be relentlessly and brutally honest, Library Story is a below par entry into its genre as of the current release. That’s not to say it’s impossible to enjoy, because it’s not. It’s also not to say that the creators are anything but excellent game devs, because I think they both have lots of potential and creativity. However, while it has charm in spades, and the right style, Library Story is genuinely just not very fun to play in its current form. While some of this can and will be alleviated by further development, my concern is that without a deep dive to simply eliminate stale mechanics, the game can’t be easily fixed.
Unless they add an Emma Watson mode. Then it’s perfect.