App Reviewed on: iPad Pro
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Ten years since its initial release, Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc has finally made its way to iOS. The game comes in with sharp visuals that look fantastic on phones and tablets, though this touch-centric port launched with a few technical problems that rendered certain parts of it virtually unplayable. The most egregious of these problems have been fixed in post-launch updates, so players can now actually solve the mystery of Hope's Peak Academy in this wacky-yet-charming narrative adventure game.
The easiest way for me to describe Danganronpa is as a mashup of several different games. It's largely an interactive fiction experience like Steins;Gate HD, but it also has the investigative and courtroom dramatics of the Ace Attorney games. Sprinkled on top of that are some socializing mechanics that are somewhat similar to modern Persona titles' Social Link system.
Out of these elements, though, the thing you do the most by far in Danganronpa is read. You read about how the game world is one in which students are categorized and ranked, and how only the most elite of the elite get to attend Hope's Peak Academy. You read that you are playing as Makoto, a prospective student who is confused about his invitation because he lacks expertise in anything. And you read about the horrible twist of fate that turns your academic career at Hope’s Peak into a twisted killing game that you must solve along with your trapped classmates in order to survive.
In between all of the world-building, character work, and plot development that you read through, there are free roam moments where you can hang out with your classmates, investigation sequences whenever a murder occurs, and class trials that involve some logic puzzles and mini-games you must complete successfully to reach the right verdict.
While playing, I found the balance between reading and interacting with the game to be a little lopsided, especially since Danganronpa's writing is constantly over-explaining everything that's going on. In it's defense, I'm not sure of a better way to design around the possibility of players taking long breaks from the game and forgetting plot details, but it can suck the momentum out of the experience, particularly for attentive readers.
Trials and tapulations
Regardless of how you might feel about Danganronpa's core gameplay or pacing, this mobile version is now finally playable and mostly issue-free. At launch, this port had severe timing issues with some of its mini-games, making it practically impossible to play once you reached the first trial. That problem has since been fixed, but there are still some minor annoyances that can drag down the experience.
The most common of these issues is a bizarre situation where the game repeats investigations you initiate. As an example, you might tap on a desk to see if there's anything in it, and once the game feeds you the text about what's in the desk, it re-taps the desk for you and serves up the same text again. It’s hard to tell what causes this issue, but it’s easy enough to work around by speeding through the repeated text. It’s also worth noting that there was one instance where the game hard-crashed on me, but thanks to Danganronpa's contant auto-saving I didn't lose any progress whatsoever.
The bottom line
Danganronpa is a fun and weird game that I enjoyed my time with once it was actually playable. It's characters may be a little flat and problematic, and the game's pacing a bit strange, but this weirdness ended up enhancing the appeal for me, and I was happy to have a dense, narrative-focused game to chew through on iOS. This port is still not perfect, but at least now there’s little getting in the way of you completing it.