a new life.

The last few weeks on this blog have felt pretty hectic and heavy. I obviously play quite a lot of stuff for this blog – I kind of have to, in order to keep up my self-imposed weekly schedule – and I quite happily dive into stuff that can be either (or both) lengthy and full of difficult, hard-hitting material. In the last month alone I’ve gotten through Yakuza Kiwami, Death’s Door, The Last of Us, and most recently Hollow Knight. It’s no wonder that when the credits rolled on that last game I felt drained. It has been a real effort to write about these games one after the other, but I can see why – for some reason, without really thinking about it, I decided to play stories that feature incredible violence, the ever-ensnaring life of crime, mortality, the cruelty of humanity, and soul-crushing futility.

Ever since I’ve sat staring at my PS4 dash and my Steam library just aimlessly flicking between titles, barely even starting any. As I tend to do when I’m struck by post-game listlessness, I turned to itch.io and the massive array of games I’ve acquired through their bundles over the years. I’ve found one of my favourite palate cleansers, courtesy of itch, have been short, sweet, and often very exultantly gay visual novels and so naturally when a new life popped up, I figured here’s another one of those. This will be a lovely little game that I can play through in an hour or two and will leave me feeling warm and content, ready to take on another bigger title afterwards.

I’m going to leave you with that thought, and a small content warning because I was so fucking wrong. This game features a whole lot of stuff about death, COVID, mortality, love and loss, and it made me cry my fucking eyes out.


a new life. (Android, iOS, PC [reviewed])

Released May 2020 | Developed / Published: Angela He

Genre: Visual Novel | HLTB: 30 mins

a new life tells the story of August and May. They meet while at college, and the pair quickly fall in love. The game follows them as they bond over art, confess their feelings to one another and settle into a cozy life together. You could end the story there if you wanted a nice time, but in the words of the similarly depressing A Series of Unfortunate Events, that’s not how this story goes. a new life was made in mid-2020, all while the world struggled under the weight of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the events of the time are dramatized here. Honestly, I’m impressed; it’s a hell of a subject to take on. I think it’s no exaggeration to call the pandemic one of the most era-defining moments in modern history, on a par with 9/11.

I don’t know of a single person who was untouched in some way by the virus. I and almost everyone I know have all caught it at one time or another. Me and my wife have seen friends struggling to raise their children amidst it. As an education professional I had the altogether awful experience of trying to teach and support via Teams calls and got to watch what I can only describe as an absolute deterioration of an entire cohort of young people’s social skills. Almost every family I’ve ever spoken to about it has known at least one death as a result of it, and even those who survived it have in some cases seen remarkable reduction in their quality of life.


COVID was a truly global event, at once uniting entire swathes of people across the globe in solidarity and sympathy, but it was also deeply isolating and tragic on a personal level. At the time of writing we’re only 3 years on and the WHO have only just downgraded it from a worldwide epidemic. Iit was also a time of deep political awareness for many, and it seems to have served as an awakening for some to the extreme levels of corruption and incompetence that infests many world governments. Indeed, the actions of my own government here in the UK were undeniably criminal, but they aren’t alone in that, and in many places COVID also served to deepen the divides that have been growing across our societies for the last few decades, with anti-vaxxers and science-deniers being given space to crow across all forms of media and far-right politicians and political commentators sweeping to prominence in the wake of lockdowns and voter isolation. The point of all this is to highlight the sheer weight and difficulty of dealing with a subject like COVID; not only did it drastically alter things on a global scale, but it also had a deeply personal effect on many, and I suspect recalling those times for many will feel hard – it certainly does for me. All this is to say that when COVID rears its ugly head in a new life, you know you’re not in for a good time.

a new life is a visual novel though, and that means you get to make choices along the way. It’s got a fun and intriguing way of telling its story: much of it is done in the form of dialogue between August and May, so we get a cute, unfiltered view into their relationship. I quite enjoy the little sections that are told solely through text messages in particular, partly because it has a lot of choices all at once to pick from, but also because the truncated, emoji-laden messages between the pair are adorable and often very goofy. The choices you make lead to one of seven endings, and the game is pretty clear at telling you where you could make different choices on a replay, so it doesn’t take too long to see all the possible conclusions to the story. That’s if you can stomach replaying it though because by the time I’d cried my way through to finding what I considered to be the “good” ending, I shut the game down and called it a day there and then.


The thing is, August and May’s relationship and the paths it takes touch on some visceral and beautiful themes like love, loss, and death, and it’s done in both a sweet way, but also in an unflinchingly realistic way. The game never balks at displaying the horribly relatable consequences of actions in front of you. One section that particularly resonated with me was during the pandemic when the pair settle into a daily routine. The scene before us plays out entirely in their bedroom, with day and night cycling quickly and each in turn sleeping, waking, moving to a computer to work, and then returning to bed. While they start out in sync with one another, their routines quickly diverge; one is always up before the other or in bed far later, and the differences in their days start to stack up until a difficult conversation has to play out as the pair air their stresses and feelings of isolation from one another despite living in the same tiny space.

It’s a scene that I can remember playing out in my own home. Me and my wife were newly-weds and living in a tiny bedsit flat, having moved in together for the first time just before all the big lockdowns kicked in. We discovered my wife was a late sleeper and I was an early riser, but I also stayed up much later into the night, playing games with friends in America, or losing myself in music, listening to entire discographies of artists over the endless blurring days. This is the reason why a new life hurt to play; yes, it’s often sad, and at times even cathartic, but it’s also brutally real in a way that I wasn’t expecting this cutesy gay visual novel to be at the start.


Still, just because a new life brought the heartache doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth the time to play. If anything, the fact that it forces us to confront these emotions makes it all the better. I think that’s perhaps what I’ve enjoyed the most from the time I’ve spent with these little visual novels; they’re often wonderfully creative as well as being beautifully evocative in a way that big AAA releases can’t afford to be.


Games with a touch of brilliance. It might only just miss out on being an absolute favourite, but you should definitely play this.


2 thoughts on “a new life.

  1. Hadn’t heard of this before but I love the art style and I’m going to put it on my list!

    Interesting to hear your opening thoughts on playing games for the blog. Do you enjoy the deadline of finishing games so you can write about them? I find it’s helpful for encouraging me to play games and not leave them on my backlog forever.


    1. Yeah for sure – having that deadline is just the right amount of stress for finishing and reviewing games, while also knowing that it is still only a self-imposed one so it’s not _that_ important if I miss a week. The longer I go without missing a week though the more I feel like I can’t miss one in future XD


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