Henri’s Secret

Henri’s Secret

It’s been quite a long time since I’ve enjoyed a game as much as I loved “Henri’s Secret”. This visual novel has a peculiar way to crawl deep into your heart and give you a warm and fuzzy feeling when you read it. It’s extremely addictive, among the lines of “one more turn” and telling myself that “I will read just one more scene” ended up with me staying up till dawn, way past my normal bedtime.

Even if the story is rather cliche, the writing is absolutely excellent. Not only that it’s fun and playful but also full on emotion and captures extremely well the psychology of young adults.

Our heroine, Lyla, is a high-school student whose life will be turned upside down after she meets the new guy in school, Henri. He’s a mysterious person and an introvert; she’s beautiful, bold, and full of confidence. Despite being a brilliant student, he had to repeat one school year and she’s set on finding out the reason. Getting closer to him makes her discover that the person hiding behind those nerdy glasses is in fact a strong, passionate, romantic and protective guy; she falls head over heels for him, while he struggles with himself to resist the urge to cave in to his feelings because he has a secret to protect. Their touching love story is bound to set you on a roller-coaster of emotions, one that will make you go into a rave when they finally get together and cry rivers when they’re apart.

At the center of the story is also the relationship between Layla and her two best friends, Clement and Jasmine, who have feelings towards each other but won’t admit it. The trio is extended with Henri joining the group, as a result of Layla becoming close to him. The interactions between the four main characters are the salt and pepper of this visual novel. Clement’s sarcastic and witty remarks will always spice up the mood and are guaranteed to make you laugh. Jasmine’s fangirling over her favorite superstar will make you roll your eyes but also excite you for the inevitable spiteful but jocular comments that Clement will make, out of jealousy. It’s a story not only about love, but also about friendship, about friends sticking together in need and having each other’s back.

The gameplay is linear, there are no choices and only one possible ending. The chapters are split into multiple scenes and each of them can be replayed after it is unlocked; however, there is no possibility to skip the read text. There is also no auto option (which means that you will have to click after each text snippet) but on the other hand this allows the player to enjoy the character animations at their own pace. In that regard, the 3D-models are very beautifully designed and their facial expressions change with every new line of text, adding dynamics to the reading process.

Being a visual novel, the main activity will be reading but there are some other mini-games too. Layla has a phone that she uses to take photos of various objects, to store contacts and update information about them and to receive messages from her friends. In order to progress through the story, she will occasionally have to show either a contact or one of the pictures she has already taken in order to trigger new conversations. This mechanic is extensively used during the confrontation mini-game, in which Layla challenges other characters and convinces them to admit a certain fact.

Music plays a huge role in Henri’s life, therefore it’s also a major component of the game. The soundtrack mixes soothing piano and cello tracks with romantic rock ballads vocally performed by the French musician Charly Sahona. The strong French accent that he has while singing in English might be charming for some and annoying for others. For me, it was a mix of both: his interpretation was a bit too mellow for my taste, but it did bring some nostalgia and sentimentality to the gameplay. Looking back at it, Henri’s Secret wouldn’t be the same without it, and I think the artist was a good choice after all.

The game is sadly not bug free. In fact, there are people having issues starting it or even having the characters rendered, this making the game completely unplayable for them. Some of these issues have been fixed already, but there are still some lingering bugs and mixed translations. In addition to that, a third of the achievements do not trigger and the developers are not active at all in the forums; my attempt to contact them via the forums or via their support email address was left unanswered to this date. Despite me being extremely strict with the aforementioned topics, I ended up loving the game so much that these issues became pretty meaningless to me. I had to restart one scene, but otherwise I was able to play the game till the end. One other thing to note is that it seems to require a network connection and there’s nothing in the game that can justify that.

Overall, it’s a pretty lengthy read (30h), but a savory one. A bit cheesy? Yes. But the well developed characters, the fun dialogues, the nice music, the slow crescendo of emotions made it worth every second. I picked it up with a 50% discount but after playing it I realized that I wouldn’t have regretted the purchase even if I had paid the full price for it, despite the game still having some major issues – that’s how much it grew on me. However, I would advice thinking twice before buying it full price, unless these issues will be fixed. With the occasional 50% – 70% discount it’s a steal, given that you’re in for the ride, and not for obtaining 100% in it.

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