Chaos;Child Review - Screenshot 1 of 4
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

The Science Adventure series of visual novels usually don’t share much in common aside from a shared universe and an unusual naming convention, but Chaos;Child is the most direct sequel the series has seen so far. Set six years after the events of Chaos;Head Noah, this game offers a similar experience, with players taking control of a high school student investigating a series of grisly murders.

Unlike Chaos;Head Noah, this isn’t the first time that English-speaking fans have been able to play an official release of Chaos;Child. The Switch version is the newest port by Spike Chunsoft, which you can buy both individually or as part of a double-pack with Chaos;Head Noah.

Mechanically, Chaos;Child is almost a direct copy of its predecessor. Players take control of Takuru Miyashiro, the president of his high school’s newspaper club, as he slowly unravels the mysterious return of the New Gen Madness which was the core of the story in Chaos;Head Noah. Strange murders play out exactly six years after the killings in the previous game, framing the narrative in an interesting way. It's a clever and effective method of introducing key concepts about the world for new players to the series. You certainly don’t need to have completed Chaos;Head to enjoy or follow Chaos;Child, but it does give players a deeper understanding of some of the events and their impact on the game world.

Chaos;Child Review - Screenshot 2 of 4
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

In most ways, Chaos;Child's characters are an improvement over Chaos;Head Noah. Takuru is a much more proactive protagonist, actively seeking the answers behind these new killings where Takumi tried desperately to avoid them. The entire cast of characters is more interesting too, with the game's multiple viewpoints feeling much more fleshed out than they were in the predecessor.

Takuru, like Takumi before him, is a young man prone to delusions, forming the primary way that players can influence the story of Chaos;Child. Prompts appear periodically throughout the game to trigger these delusions, allowing players to view either positive or negative figments of Takuru’s imagination or to keep him grounded in reality. These are largely entertaining but don’t directly impact the flow of the plot until subsequent playthroughs when they can determine which of the multiple endings players earn. This feature, like in Chaos;Head Noah, isn't as well explained as we would have liked but plays out exactly the same manner.

In addition to these delusions, players can help build the school’s newspaper club’s murder board. As the investigation grows, so do the connections between the murders. This stays largely linear and, again, doesn’t directly impact how the story plays out in early playthroughs, but it is a satisfying mechanic that helps to draw players into the kids' roles trying to solve a mystery that feels overwhelming much of the time.

Chaos;Child Review - Screenshot 3 of 4
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

The return of the New Gen Madness brings with it a whole new set of murders with some gruesome imagery associated with them. People die in outlandish and terrible ways and the game makes a point of showing just enough of them to remain intense and frightening without being overly disgusting. The game stops short of showing things like a man eating his own hand live on stream but describes everything in enough detail that we didn’t feel like we were missing out, for better or worse.

There is a lot of story to get through in Chaos;Child. While the initial playthrough will lead players through the main story, doing so unlocks six further routes that can be completed. These follow several of the other characters as they navigate this dark mystery, and the mood and writing for these characters are consistent regardless of the point of view their story is told from. It is fun to see how the events of the story are viewed by those around Takuru and these additional routes fit into the overall narrative better than most games that try these branching stories.

Playing through the initial story will likely take players around 25 hours, though unlocking every route and the elusive “true ending” will require closer to 55 hours of play. It is a hefty commitment, even with the ability to skip previously encountered dialogue. Fortunately, it's compelling enough to stretch to such lengths, but it could be a tough sell to newer fans of the visual novel genre.

Chaos;Child Review - Screenshot 4 of 4
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Handheld/Undocked)

The game's biggest flaw, especially when compared to the polish of other Science Adventure visual novels, is a strange quirk that causes some punctuation to float onto the next line of text or to disappear entirely. It is a small issue that doesn’t impact the overall enjoyment of the game, but in a game that is this text-heavy, it can be jarring. It is surprising that such an obvious flaw seems to have snuck into the final release, and it stands out when other aspects of the localisation are handled so well.

The sound and music of Chaos;Child stand out as one of the biggest improvements over its predecessor. Subtle sounds have a huge impact on creating tension and fear in the player. Whether it is a lock suddenly clicking into place or the repetitive knocking that seems to accompany many of the murders the characters investigate, letting the player experience them so vividly adds to the overall experience. The use of sound is one of the best we’ve seen in a visual novel and makes this feel like a story that wouldn’t work in any other format.

If you like other titles in the Science Adventure series, you’ll enjoy what is on offer here in Chaos;Child. The interface feels updated, the sound and music are perfectly implemented, and the plot and characters feel more compelling than those found in most visual novels. Some minor flaws in the text can be jarring at times but don’t undermine the overall enjoyment that comes with solving this strange and twisting story.

Conclusion

Chaos;Child is, by most metrics, a step up from its predecessor and has every right to stake a claim at being the best game in the Science Adventure series. There is a huge amount of content and it will take several dozen hours for players to get to the bottom of the return of the New Gen Madness case. Despite some small issues with the text's formatting, the story is compelling enough to keep most players invested through the long runtime. With solid characters and some genuinely surprising twists, fans of visual novels will want to get their hands on this one if they haven’t played Chaos;Child before.