I boot up Across the Grooves on my Switch and I’m immediately greeted with striking artwork and a lovely, calming piano melody. I’m instantly drawn in. We’re off to a good start.
Across the Grooves is an interactive visual novel developed and published by Nova-Box. I won’t say too much about the story, because I don’t want to spoil it for potential players – and the experience is an enchanting one that should not be spoiled! It’s set in a universe of magic realism and follows the character of Alice, whose journey begins when she discovers one day that her music buff ex partner, Ulysse, has sent her a strange-looking record in the post. It takes you on a journey through Europe to discover the truth about the record, and about the fate of your ex.
When you start the game for the first time, you receive a short tutorial that will guide you through the basics. It tells you that your choices will affect Alice, her personality, and ultimately her fate. Yet, reassuringly, the game also tells you that there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to play the game, which for a wimp like me is a lovely thing to hear the developers say(!). When you make a decision, there’s a possibility that up to two of four symbols will light up at the top of the screen. These symbols are the ‘spiral, ‘lightning’, ‘flower’ and ‘skull’ and are indicative of different attitudes, styles and personality traits that have been engaged in Alice through your decision.
The story is all about music, and the developers deliver super well on that front. Decisions made by the player are greeted by all sorts of melodies, sung exquisitely and accompanied with both touching and haunting lyrics. You’ll probably also learn a thing or two about music along the way. The developers even made a handy little menu that’ll remind you of musical trivia and terminology that you’ve discovered along your journey. This is a handy feature if, like me, you’re not all that ‘up’ on your musical knowledge. It’s features like this, along with the beautiful music and artwork, that make Across the Grooves such a pleasant experience.
The artwork in this game, simply put, is quite beautiful. As described by the website, the art is in a hand-drawn European comic book style that is warm, inviting and conveys effortless emotion. The character designs are gorgeously crafted and lend such individuality to each person you meet along the way.
Across the Grooves is also highly replayable, with the opportunity to make new decisions and unlock new achievements and paths. I think in the future a cool feature would be a statistics screen that shows how your decisions lined up with those of other players, à la The Lion’s Song, which I also reviewed recently. Obviously the game has not been out that long, so this would likely be something to be implemented in the future. I’d be really interested to see how my initial choices lined up with those of other players.
If I had any issues with the game, one would probably be that despite being conveyed in a number of chapters, there’s no system that allows you to backtrack to a certain point to choose within those chapters again. I think this would make it a more enticing game in terms of replayability and would be a good quality of life change to make for players who are interested in exploring new avenues. This didn’t spoil my experience of the game though. It’s also quite a short game, but I don’t feel that this takes away from it. If anything, it just makes it a little less awkward to go back and replay – it also means you can easily finish it within a few hours depending on how leisurely your playthrough is. Simply put, it doesn’t really need to be any longer than it is.
This is a lovely visual novel, and one of the best I’ve played in recent times. It’s overall a beautiful and emotional experience, if quite a short one. It’s available on Switch, and PC, Mac and Linux on Steam and itch.io. If you’re into gorgeous visual novels, please don’t pass this game up.