Emily is Away is more of an interactive story than a typical game. Using a very simplistic interface that imitates the screen of a chat application, you as the player are tasked to select one of the multiple choices of answers in order to reply to Emily, your colleague and your crush, and make the conversation, as well as the entire story, progress. People seem to like this story-rich simplistic game, yet I'm one of the fewer ones who the game failed to impress.
To the more querulous ones, Emily is Away might look like it's attempting to bank on teenage angst and pretentious themes like the futility of our feelings in order to appeal to a special type of players, the ones that would really enjoy discovering more profound topics and ideas in the games that they play. Unfortunately, it ends up feeling superficial and pretentious, as the main character, Emily, is rather unlikable and shows neither traits that would justify the protagonist's crush on her, nor any kind of connection or similarity with the protagonist's personality. Plus, it's really hard to create a plausible relationship story just by showing a snippet of a conversation that happens once a year.
Anyway, the thing that bothered me the most about Emily is Away was the typing simulation. There's no option to sped up that simulation, and it's a real ordeal for impatient players like me to watch as one character at a time is displayed in the chat window, regardless of what I actually type, and especially of how fast I type. It's, simply put, agonizingly slow, and that's surprising, as often pure brutal keyboard mashing is all that it takes to “play” this game. There's no “skip” button either.
Another problem about the game is that the dialog choices that you make don't actually really count as they're supposed to. The ending will be pretty much the same regardless if you're constantly a nice guy to Emily, or the opposite.
The visuals are utter simplistic, as the game only emulates a chat window of an old app, in the style of the 90s. To the nostalgic ones, Emily is Away might look quite appealing.
Anyway, to conclude, Emily is Away is a short and simple indie game, offered for free, that some people love and others hate. Some call it a great story-rich typing simulator, others the worst visual novel that they ever experienced, and the only clear thing is that only by trying it yourself you can choose a side.
- Very small download size of around 60 MBs on Steam and 12 MBs on itch.io
- Successfully re-creates a nostalgia-inducing retro chat client
- Can be played in full screen or windowed mode, and on different screen resolutions
- The same ending regardless of the dialog choices
- The slow typing simulation cannot be sped up or skipped
- Unrelatable characters
- Couldn't find any option to turn the volume down or turn off the game's sound