Dan Kaplan is an aspiring writer who decides to leave behind his everyday life and go on a summer vacation. Living in a coastal house for the next three months along with his wife, Linda and his son, Tommy he tries to overcome his writer’s block and finish a masterpiece while attempting to fix his marriage and be a good father. However, someone is waiting for them: you are also present as some sort of ghost, capable of influencing people’s minds and reading thoughts.
This interactive story can be played in stealth mode which means you have to hide out of sight or you may scare a member of the family, losing some of the available choices. Hiding in lamps makes this quite easy so it’s almost pointless. Story mode lets you float around freely, exposing yourself without consequences.
Gameplay is quite simple: every week you must discover the house and by finding clues and reading the Kaplans’ thoughts you get to know their wishes. Some events like unexpected visitors or an opportunity for Dan make these decisions important. Basically, you decide between Dan’s writing career, rediscovering their love with Linda (who also has an ambition of becoming a painter) or spending time with Tommy.
Finding all three choices, you may also choose a compromise with another family member. By selecting an object relevant to your choice you advance time to midnight. You may decide to compromise or not then whisper in Dan’s ear to complete the chapter. You get the results of your decisions in the form of a few short paragraphs. At the end of each month some more text describes the way the Kaplans’ lives have changed.
The Novelist’s visuals are quite modest but in this case they have no significance. The melancholic piano music heard throughout the game is really good and I also liked the voice of Dan and Linda reading some letters and diary entries.
I think everyone comes to a point in their lives when they have to make decisions similar to Dan’s in The Novelist. That is why this game is so moving and it easily makes you think over your real-life choices. It starts to get a bit boring after the third playthrough or so as most of the text and clues remain the same. Still, it is an interesting example of story-based gaming.